Setting your wedding day priorities
The most important advice I can give you on how to choose your wedding venue is to check your wedding day priorities. Find a venue that fits your highest priorities!
Is it a high priority for you to have your ceremony and reception in the same location? If your guest count/list is a high priority, you’ll want to find a venue that accommodates that. Is the option for an outdoor ceremony a high priority? Look for venues that have beautiful outdoor ceremony options (with good indoor options for inclement weather!). If style is a high priority – like rustic or modern – that will be a huge influence on your venue.
If you nail down your priorities first, you can easily cross off venues before you look. And you can curate a list of venues that truly fit what you are looking for before you visit them.
Side note: We’ve worked at venues that don’t have a liquor license, so if drink types are important to you, make sure you check that before booking a venue.
Other things to consider before visiting a wedding venue:
- Does the venue have kitchen facilities for your caterer?
- Do they have rules or restrictions on caterers (some venues allow only certain caterers)?
- Do they have any restrictions on other vendors (like a required vendor list)?
- Do they have getting ready options? If having your entire day at one venue is a high priority, this is an important one! Make sure you check that not only do they have a getting ready area, they allow you into the venue early enough to get ready. We know of venues that have nice bridal suites, but don’t allow you into the venue until 11 a.m. That’s usually not early enough for our couples to start getting ready.
- What time do they let you start setting up? Will that be enough time?
- Do they let you clean up the next day, or do you have to have everything out that night?
- Make sure you get transparent pricing on everything – do they charge you to set up early? Do they charge you to start getting ready earlier? Do they charge you to use vendors outside of their preferred vendor list? Do they include any rentals? You can start to calculate your total costs of using that venue, because more often than not, it will be more than the base rental price!
How to choose your wedding venue and your wedding date
If you have a specific wedding date in mind, and securing that date is a high priority, then you’ll need to be flexible in your venue search. A lot of wedding venues book up to (or more than) two years in advance! If you are flexible on your wedding date, you can be pickier about your venue!
Ask yourself: Do you want to get married in a certain season? In Wisconsin, most people choose to get married between June and October. In southern, warmer states, your “ideal weather” will be in different months – like September through November, and February through April. If having a “warm, but not deathly warm” date is important to you, you’ll need to stay flexible in your venue search.
You also might want to check on major event dates in your area. For example, people who have weddings in Green Bay, Wisconsin might be deterred from having their wedding on the weekend of Packer home game. I’m from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and every summer, we have this huge aviation event called EAA. It’s literally impossible to find a hotel or reservation during that week. And if you do, the cost will be astronomical.
Many venues have discounts on off-season dates. If saving on your venue is a high priority, this might be a better option for a venue you really want!
Having your ceremony and reception at the same venue
We will always be proponents of having your wedding ceremony and venue at the same place, for a few reasons.
If our main goal is to lead our couples to the most relaxed, stress-free day possible, and allow them to be as present as possible, this is it.
Eliminating travel time on your wedding day is a big deal. Traveling on a wedding day is a bit more complicated than hopping in your car to run an errand on any other weekend. Even just gathering your things and moving to the car is a process on a wedding day. Then multiply that by the number of bridesmaids you have, or moms that are making the trek, or even kids that are part of the day.
Almost everything is SO MUCH EASIER if you can stay in the same place all day. Travel time takes away from just hanging out with your girls before your ceremony, or from your portrait time, or from mingling with your friends at cocktail hour.
Adjusting for travel on your wedding day
Now, if your ceremony location is a high priority on your list, there are definitely ways to make this work without having everything at the same place. We have plenty of couples who want to have their wedding at their church, or at the church where their parents got married. In this case, we highly recommend finding a venue as close to your ceremony venue as possible. Less than 15 minutes makes for the most ideal timeline.
We’ve had a few weddings that have a travel time from 30-45 minutes between the two. It’s worked out, but they have all had to make major accommodations in their timeline. They have also all paid us for extra hours of coverage (beyond 8 hours).
If your ceremony and venue location are that important to you, that’s fine! But just know that you’ll have to give and take a little in other departments. You might have to pay a little more for extra hours of coverage from your photographer and videographer, and you might have to add a little extra time to your cocktail hour.
Once you narrow down your list of possible wedding venues, make sure you visit your top choices! I think it’s key to be able to envision your wedding and get a real feel for the space. Sometimes venues feel or look a different in person than they do online!
Featured Wisconsin wedding venues in this post: