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How to Choose a Wedding Venue

Wedding Planning Tips

We’ll just say it: choosing a wedding venue is hard! Other than making the decision to have a wedding, choosing your venue is going to be one of the biggest decisions you will make, as well as being a huge part of the budget.  

Elegant Wedding Venue in Minneapolis - Machine Shop
Photo by: Rachel Lahlum Photography / Venue: Machine Shop

Along with being a big decision, choosing a venue is time-consuming. Research, contacting, touring, quotes…it’s tough when there could be a hundred venues in and around the Twin Cities that fit in your parameters and budget. Here are some of our insider secrets to think about when choosing a wedding venue:

1. All venues have a top level of capacity they allow in their space. This could be based on actual fire marshal codes, or just on how many chairs they own. Ask questions about the capacity and how they came up with that number but also what’s comfortable in the space. Most venue managers know how many people the space can fit but get their opinion on how many it should fit. What’s their sweet spot? For the comfort of your guests, your venue should be able to hold 15-25% more than what you expect your final guest count to be.

Minneapolis Institute of Art wedding venue reception
Photo by: Rachel Lahlum Photography / Venue: Minneapolis Institute of Art

2. Make sure your venue has the space for everything you want to do. While most people only tend to think about the number of guest tables it can hold, don’t forget that you need spots for all of your ancillary tables, stations, booths, etc. You may not know if you will have all these things at the time of booking but if there’s a chance you will have them you will want to make sure you have space for them.

Photos by: Whitley B Photography / Venue: Pinewood

3. Ask about the flow of the event and walk it with your tour guide so you can experience what your guests will experience. Look for any possible spots where there could be a bottleneck or confusion for guests and ask how your event will flow from one part of the day to the next. If there are any back hallways or if restrooms are far away, ask how that is communicated to guests.

earl and Wilson wedding venue reception mn
Photo by: G Marie Images / Venue: Earl and Wilson

4. This seems like it should be an easy one, but if your venue does the food and/or bar in-house, or they only have one catering option, get a quote before you sign. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a venue, signing a contract, and then discovering the food is not a good fit for your budget or tastes. The venue or their exclusive caterer should be able to provide you with a sample menu with all the fees and taxes on it and if they don’t, ask for one.

5. Don’t ever assume. Always ask who does everything: setting up of tables and chairs, linens (if they provide them), flipping the space from ceremony to reception, trash, maintaining the bathrooms, busing the tables, cleaning up and tearing down at the end of the night. Every venue is different and even though the venue may have the catering or bar in-house doesn’t mean they do all those things. Ask specific questions.

windows at Marquette wedding venue reception
Photo by: Teri Ziegler Photography / Venue: Windows at Marquette

6. While some venues may give discounts based on the time of year or have different pricing for different days of the week, one thing most of them don’t price the venue fee on is your guest list. If you are using their space at a specified date and time, it doesn’t matter if you have 20 people or 200, they will charge you the same rental fee. If the venue has different-sized spaces, like a hotel, they can certainly offer ways to cut the size of the room down for you but if you want to use the main space that holds 300 for your 100-person wedding then you will need to pay the fee to rent that space.

the Saint Paul hotel wedding venue intimate reception
Photo by: Leah Fontaine Photography / Venue: The Saint Paul Hotel

7. Don’t make an appointment at a venue that you don’t know at least the base pricing for. If they won’t send you the pricing until you tour the space, then they are likely out of your budget anyway and there’s no reason to waste anyone’s time. In this same vein, don’t make an appointment to see a venue that’s out of your budget “just to go see it”. You will either end up booking it then causing yourself to become venue-poor for the rest of your planning, or you will always be comparing the venue you did choose to it and it may take the bloom off of it. This is very much a case of you won’t miss what you never saw. 

8. Don’t tour ten venues. Make a spreadsheet, look at the costs and amenities, and have an honest conversation with yourselves about what is important to you. Tour your top two or three choices and there’s a 90% chance you will pick one of those and you can be done.

essence event center ceremony in Minneapolis
Photo by: Adam Kennedy Photography / Venue: Essence Event Center

Politeness tip: If you have inquired about a venue, but especially if you have toured with them, and you choose a different venue, let them know. This way they won’t keep emailing you and they can make sure your date is open for selling. It’s the professional thing to do and they can take the rejection. 

Does this sound overwhelming to you? Don’t worry we’ve got you! We offer a Venue-Searching service if you aren’t quite ready to book a wedding planner but know you want help with this important decision. We will do all the research on fifteen different information points for venues you are interested in after we help you find some great options and narrow the list down. We will go on the tours with you if possible and make sure you have all the information needed before signing the contract. If you decide you can’t live without us for the rest of your planning then your fee from the venue search is used as your booking fee for planning services and we can keep going! If this sounds like a great fit for you or you have more questions, feel free to reach out!

To get you started, we have created a series of blog posts where we interview venues to give you an inside look into the space. This is incredibly helpful in directing your next steps on what venues you like, and which ones aren’t a great fit. We have interviewed spaces like the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Machine Shop, but you can view the full (and always growing) list HERE! Also, be sure to drop a follow on our Instagram so you know whenever a new venue interview gets published (or just to keep up with us ;)).

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