Choosing a Venue

Providence Cotton Mill | Winston-Salem Wedding Photographer

Wedding Planning Tips: Choosing a Venue

Have you heard the saying, “Location, location, location?”

Well, I’m not sure who the first person to say it was, but when it comes to wedding planning this saying could not be more true. Your venue will be the place that some of your best, and most long-lasting memories will be made. This makes choosing a venue one of the hardest decisions a couple can make when planning their wedding.

But wait! It doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. Let us help you figure it out!

1. Does the venue fit your wedding vision?

Before you look at any venues, you need to have a Wedding Vision. What do you want your wedding to look like? smell like? sound like? taste like? feel like? Having a vision for your wedding day plays a huge part in choosing your wedding venue. In fact, if you don’t have a vision for your wedding yet, this is not the time to decide on your venue. Instead of enjoying looking at venues and sampling what they have to offer, you will just become frustrated and overwhelmed. Having a clear vision will help guide the decision-making process, and make this big decision, that much easier.

For example, if you know you want a rural wedding in a barn surrounded by wildflowers and hay fields, you don’t want to be looking at venues downtown. If you want an upscale, chic industrial feel with exposed brick and iron pipes, a backyard wedding probably won’t make you happy. Knowing how you want your wedding to look and feel and comparing that to any options that come your way can help you to easily remove any venues that just don’t fit.

Choose a venue like the Providence Cotton Mill

With all this talk about vision, we can’t forget about destination weddings! If you are planning a destination wedding, your venue is going to be one of, if not THE, most important parts of your wedding planning process. For something like this, we highly recommend hiring a wedding planner who is local or (at the very least) very familiar with your chosen destination. Many venues specialize in destination weddings and will offer “all-in-one” packages for the couple. Finding a venue that offers something like this is a great option for those considering a destination wedding.

2. What does the venue offer?

Venues come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their services. When choosing a wedding venue, you need to consider all of your options.

Just the Space

With some venues, you will simply be renting space. These venue spaces usually require the least investment in money (at least for the location), but the largest investment in time. These venues are the “bare bones” of your location.

Over the years we have shot at many of these venues and are always amazed at the creativity of our brides and their ability to bring their vision to life. When you rent a “bare-bones” venue, you will need to make sure that you have selected a great team of professionals and loved ones to pitch in and make things happen. (Go #BrideTribe!) Most of these venues do provide your basics like tables and chairs, but sometimes you will need to find a vendor for this as well (which can lead to more money spent!).

We have had many brides who wanted a more meaningful and sentimental venue and so hosted their weddings on the family property and even in their own backyard! These weddings are usually very personal and intimate ceremonies, but have amazing afterparties! Being at home makes everyone relaxed and comfortable and these receptions tend to creep way into the night.

The main benefit of having a “backyard wedding” is obviously the rental cost – it’s free! But, there will be other costs. To host a large event with lots of guests at home, a rental company will be your best friend! Tables and chairs will be a must, but there may also be a need for a tent or even a dance floor rental.

All-Inclusive Venues

On the other end of the spectrum are the all-inclusive venues. These are the places that offer a “one-stop-shop” for a couple who wants to be in control without breaking a sweat.

A few years ago we had the opportunity to photograph Josh’s little sister’s wedding in New Orleans. They decided they were going to have a very short engagement and didn’t feel they had a lot of time to plan. Instead of bringing many wedding professionals together, they chose a venue that could create a wedding experience all under one roof.

The venue they chose was able to offer a package that included a reception and ceremony space, rentals of tables and linens, chairs, catering, entertainment, and staff to care for the bride and groom as well as all of their guests. They even took care of all of the decorating! For my mother and father-in-law, this was a dream come true! So much of the stress of wedding planning was handled by this vendor so they could really enjoy their daughter’s wedding day.

We hear you, But all-inclusive venues are so expensive! We’ll never be able to afford one!

Don’t stress! Even if your budget is small, don’t count these all-inclusive venues out yet. When you compare the cost of a “one-stop-shop” with quotes from multiple vendors, you may find that you can actually save money by choosing an all-inclusive venue!

Faith-based Venue Options

Another option, especially if your faith is a central pillar of your relationship, is to hold your wedding at your place of worship. This is a very beautiful and symbolic option for couples that want to keep a special emphasis on their spiritual beliefs and remain traditional. Many places of worship offer their space to members of their organization for no charge or simply ask for a donation.

One thing to consider if you are leaning towards this option: you may want to choose a second location for your reception. While many larger places of worship do offer spaces for receptions, keep in mind that certain activities like dancing or consuming alcohol may not be permitted on their grounds.

3. Does the venue fit your guest list and your budget?

Knowing what your limitations are will give you solid boundaries in your planning. The last thing you want to do going into a marriage is overextend yourself. Instead, develop a plan that will help you prioritize where your money will go.

Choosing your venue can be one of the largest investments you make toward assuring your wedding dreams come true, especially if your venue is providing you more than just space.

It’s okay to think outside the box when it comes to choosing your venue. National and State parks, as well as community centers, can provide absolutely beautiful and affordable spaces for your wedding day.

Another major consideration when choosing your wedding venue is your guest list. If your vision for your wedding includes 500 of your closest friends and family members, there are many venues that will automatically be removed from your list of options. The same applies if you want a very small, intimate wedding. If a venue “comfortably” holds 150 guests, but there are only 50 people on your guest list, your wedding is going to feel very empty. You want the venue you choose to feel full, but not bursting at the seams.

Really take time to go through your guest list and decide who you want to share this day with. Don’t feel as though you have to invite everyone you have ever met (and every cousin you haven’t!), but do be realistic with your budget. What do you want most out of this day? If you are struggling with your guest list, go back to your vision.

4. How do you feel when you step onto the venue’s property?

It sounds cheesy as hell, but when you set foot on a venue you are considering choosing, what vibes does it give off? Does it feel fun? Can you sense the history? Are you able to envision saying “I Do” there? Does the texture speak to you? Does the landscape breathe life into you?

Or does it feel like every other place you have toured.

The location for this session has become one of our absolute favorite venues. It is such a blank slate, all while being so rich with history and texture! There is such opportunity, such potential – it makes the creatives in us burst with inspiration!

That feeling is what you should be looking for when choosing a venue.

No matter how large or small.

How simple or extravagant.

If it’s expensive or free.

Does it breathe life into you?

And that’s probably the most important factor of all.

If you would like to see more of this session, check out where we were published:

Colorful & Tropical Elopement Inspiration | Queen City Wed

Boho Vibes with The Babe | Bustld

Lush Urban Wedding Inspo for Bohemian City Babes | Bespoke Bride

Hailey + Brandon Davis
Insta – @haileyinwanderland & @brandon_davis704

Elizabeth McHenry
Insta – @ermc_hairstylist
Email –

Antonia Scott Beauty
Insta – @antoniascottbeauty
Email –

Creative Designs Floral & Gifts
Insta – @creativedesignsflowersandgifts
Email –

Ring Box
The Velvet Garden
Insta – @thevelvetgardenringbox

Wide Eyes Paper Company
Insta – @wideeyespaperco
Email –

The Magnolia Bride
Insta – @TheMagnoliaBride
Email –

Insta – @asos

Social Event Design
Insta – @social_eventdesign
Email –

Neon Sign
Sketch & Etch Creative
Insta – @sketchandetchcreative
Email –

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