Now that you’re engaged, it’s your turn to embark on the exciting endeavor of wedding planning. The first major task you need to complete? Booking the perfect wedding venue.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to get married in your family’s place of worship. Or maybe you envision yourself saying “I do” on a white-sand beach under the sunset. There are endless venue options to choose from. No matter which one suits your vision, you should book it early in the wedding planning process.
So, when exactly do you need to book your wedding venue? Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about how to choose a wedding venue along with the timeline, including:
As soon as you’re ready to start the wedding planning process, there are a few steps you should take right off the bat:
Determine Your Budget: Weddings can be expensive. The average cost of a wedding in 2019 was $33,900. If you don’t want your special day to break the bank, it’s important to come up with a realistic budget beforehand.
Hire a Wedding Planner: If you want to hire a wedding planner, you should do so right from the start. Your wedding planner will guide you through the planning process, share their insights, and help you choose reputable vendors. Most notably, they can help you find a wedding venue that matches your vision and your budget.
Book Your Venue: After completing these initial steps, the next step is to lock down your wedding venue. Even if you’re bursting at the seams with ideas for flowers, cake designs, and invitations, you should focus your attention on finding a venue before you do anything else.
So, why is it important to book your venue early in the wedding planning process? Here are a few reasons:
As soon as the initial excitement of getting engaged settles in, you may start daydreaming about various aspects of your wedding day. Maybe you have an awesome band in mind for the wedding reception venue, or maybe you’re eager to try on wedding attire with your close friends.
Before you can start planning these details, you need to decide on a venue. Why? Well, your wedding venue lays the foundation for all other wedding logistics:
You want to compile a guest list? You need to know your venue’s capacity.
You want to send out beautiful invitations? You need an address for the wedding.
You want to select meals for the reception? You need to know whether or not your venue includes catering services.
You want to book your favorite photographer or band? You need to know the exact date of your wedding, which is highly dependent on your venue’s availability.
You want to book a wedding party bus or limo? You need to know the address and official date.
You want to relay the dress code to your friends and family? You need to know if your venue is indoors or outdoors.
As you can see, your venue impacts almost every other step in the wedding planning process. Thus, it’s important to finalize it first. Otherwise, you may have to re-do some of your initial wedding plans down the line.
Not only is your wedding venue logistically relevant, but it also serves as the jumping-off point for many stylistic decisions. Your venue’s vibe will impact everything from your choice of floral arrangements to your invitations.
For example, a gothic cathedral wedding calls for an entirely different set of decorations than a wedding hosted at a local vineyard. Likewise, you’ll most likely choose different attire for a swanky hotel than you would for an outdoor wedding at a rustic ranch. By choosing your wedding venue first, you can allow it is distinct aesthetic to guide your wedding design in the right direction.
Once you’ve booked your venue, you can find beautiful wedding invitations to match at Zola. We offer a premium collection of invitations, enclosure cards, and save the dates. Whether you want your invitations to exude black tie elegance or rustic charm, we have a category of cards that’s right for you.
Over two million people get married each year in the United States. With so much love in the air, wedding venues can book up fast. Some popular venues get booked years in advance.
The level of competition for your dream wedding venue will depend on your:
Location: Is your wedding taking place in a major city? Or are you planning to tie the knot in a small suburb? Wedding venues located in densely-populated cities often have less availability, due to their increased demand. In turn, if you want to host your wedding in a Hollywood hotspot, you’ll need to do so well in advance.
Venue Type: Even in smaller towns, some wedding venues are highly sought after. Maybe your city has one hotel where every newly-engaged couple wants to get married. Coveted wedding venues often have longer waiting lists than lesser-known options, such as an off-beat art gallery or a historic estate located a few miles out of town.
Season: If you want to get married during peak wedding season, you’ll face more competition from many venues. June, September, and October are the most popular months to get married, followed by August, May, and July.
If you want to enjoy balmy summer weather on your wedding day, you may need to book your venue earlier than you would otherwise. In contrast, if you opt for an “off-season” winter wedding, you’ll face much less competition. Better yet, some venues may even offer a discounted price.
Finally, booking your wedding venue in advance can help you save money. Last-minute bookings often result in higher rates.
Likewise, many venues’ availability will be limited if you wait too long. With fewer options to choose from, you may have to settle for a more expensive venue than you would have otherwise.
As you can see, it’s essential to book your wedding venue early. But how early is early enough? As a general rule, it’s a good idea to book your wedding nine to 14 months in advance. Depending on your preferred wedding month, you can adjust this timeline as follows:
When it comes to booking your wedding venue, there’s no such thing as too early—only too late.
Booking your venue early will take a lot of stress off your plate. You’ll be able to relax, knowing you have the cornerstone of your big day all figured out. You’ll also have an official wedding date to share with your wedding vendors and guests.
With that being said, booking a venue more than two years in advance is probably unnecessary, unless you’re trying to score a spot at a world-famous venue during peak wedding season.
While you should book your wedding venue a year or so before your wedding date, this timeline doesn’t take into account the research process. Chances are, you’ll need to research, tour, and compare several options before you decide on a venue.
In turn, you should give yourself a month or two to find the best venue for your budget.
At Zola, we make it easy to search for different wedding venues in your area. We’ve pre-screened a variety of venues and categorized them by their price, capacity, setting, and availability. Our venue options span from traditional to unique, including:
Before you start scheduling any venue tours, you should determine a few basic requirements for your big day. This way, you can conduct your venue search strategically and efficiently.
Sit down with your fiance and brainstorm your dream venues:
General Location: Do you want a destination wedding or would you prefer to host your wedding close to home? Are there any important travel considerations for your guests? Narrowing down the general location of your wedding venue can streamline your search significantly.
Capacity Requirements: Even if you haven’t finalized your guest list yet (don’t worry—it’s much too early for that), having a general wedding size in mind can help you look for venues with appropriate capacities.
For example, if you have a big family and tons of friends, you may want to look for a larger venue. If you prefer to keep your wedding small and intimate, you can scale down your search accordingly.
Review the following questions with your fiance to flush out what you want:
With these parameters in mind, you can search for venues that encapsulate your vision.
Season: As we mentioned earlier, your wedding date will ultimately depend on your venue’s availability. However, you can still look for a venue with a preferred season in mind. This way, your potential venues can check their availability, offer some open dates, and discuss any seasonal weather considerations.
Budget: Most importantly, you need to embark on your venue search with a clear budget. It may be tempting to book a few venue tours that are way out of your price range for curiosity’s sake. However, neglecting your budget is not recommended.
Touring out-of-budget venues can set you up for disappointment. Once you look at a venue you can afford, it may not meet your newly inflated expectations. It’s a lot like test driving a Ferrari when you’re in the market for a Honda—it may be fun and exciting, but it can also affect the way you look at your new Civic. Instead, conduct your venue search within the confines of your budget.
As a rule of thumb, you should allocate around 15 percent of your total wedding budget to your venue. Of course, if your venue includes catering services or an in-house photographer as part of their wedding package, you can increase this percentage accordingly.
With these general requirements in mind, you can compile a list of potential venues and start reaching out to them about scheduling tours.
As you reach out to venues by phone or email, use this opportunity to ask them a few questions. This will help you verify whether or not a tour is worth your time. Wedding planning is a ton of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. You don’t want to waste any time looking at venues that can be easily ruled out.
Some important questions to ask include:
Based on each venue’s response, you can decide if you want to schedule a tour. You can also use this interaction to assess whether or not the venue’s staff is friendly, accommodating, and easy to work with.
Once you’ve found a list of promising potentials, you can go ahead and book some tours. During these tours, make sure to get the full rundown of important details.
As we mentioned earlier, your venue will have a logistical domino effect on your entire wedding day. The more you learn on your tour, the easier it will be to make an informed decision.
Some nitty-gritty questions to ask during your tours include:
In this scenario, you should inquire about transportation services to and from the parking lot, such as golf carts, shuttles, or a valet service for guests who require extra assistance.
Next, don’t forget to ask if the venue allows for overnight parking. If any of your guests drive themselves to your wedding and have a few drinks, they may want to catch a safe ride home. If your venue doesn’t allow cars to be left overnight, you’ll need to inform them in advance.
What Are the Catering Options? Some venues include catering in their wedding package, while others leave the catering arrangements up to you. Occasionally, a venue may require you to work with a list of pre-approved caterers. Before you book a venue, make sure you like their catering offerings and menu options.
Can They Accommodate Dietary Restrictions? While you’re on the topic of food, ask your venue about their meal options for guests with specialized diets. Some of your guests may be vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or keto. Other guests may have food allergies. To ensure that no loved one is left behind at the dinner table, make sure that the caterer has appropriate meal accommodations.
Do They Have Bartenders on Staff? Depending on your venue’s catering options, bartending services may or may not be included. Some venues may also have you purchase your alcohol, whereas others will provide it for you.
If It’s an Outdoor Venue, Do They Have Options for Inclement Weather? After pouring your time, money, and heart into planning a wedding, the last thing you want is for bad weather to rain on your parade. Fortunately, many outdoor venues have backup plans for these circumstances. It’s important to ask about these options to make sure they’re up to snuff for your special day.
Who’s Responsible for Setup and Breakdown? Many wedding venues provide all of the labor for setting up and breaking down your tables, chairs, dance floor, and everything else involved in your reception.
Other venues require you to take care of it yourself. If you want to relax on your big day, you may consider hiring a team to do it on your behalf. Since this can be inconvenient and costly, you’ll want to know ahead of time and factor it into your venue budget.
By asking all of the right questions, you can choose your wedding venue with confidence.
Once you’ve booked your favorite venue, you can share all of the important details with your guests on your wedding website. They’ll be equally interested in learning about your venue’s parking situation, meal options, weather forecast, and dress code.
At Zola, we make it easy to create a beautiful wedding website and share it with your guests. We have hundreds of stunning website templates to choose from, so you can customize your website to showcase your wedding’s style. After that, you can use our drag-and-drop builder to organize all of the important information about your big day.
When it comes to booking a wedding venue, the earlier you can start the process, the better. Doing your research and asking the right questions can help you score the setting of your dreams while remaining on track with your budget.
Once you have your venue ready to go, everything else will gradually fall into place.
If you’re eager to begin the wedding venue research process, start with the home of all things wedding (that’s us). Here at Zola, you can compare venues, build your website, create your wedding registry, send out stunning wedding invitations to your guests, and so much more.