Wedding Planning 101 – How to Choose the Best Wedding Venue (Part 1)




Ok, when looking for a venue for Ashley’s wedding, I have to say it was truly an eye opener. There were so many factors to consider that it was giving me a headache. We were being told that the most popular venues book up well over a year in advance, and costs could end up being ridiculous if you didn’t ask the right questions. At one point, a destination wedding was looking better and better😊

Looking back, it’s become clear that the best place to start is:

  1. Pick a wedding date and a couple of viable alternatives (in case the stars don’t align!)
  2. Set a budget and stick to it
  3. Size of wedding (approx. number of guests) – It does matter!
  4. Style of wedding- formal, informal, outdoor, church, etc.

Wedding Date

Pick a date as a starting point. Most couples still pick Saturdays as their first choice, but must keep in mind that these are the dates that book up wedding venues and vendors fastest and cost the most. Saturdays are obviously the most popular choice because it is in the middle of the weekend and allows guests a day of grace to either travel or rest before starting the next work week.

That said, Fridays and Sundays are becoming more popular as Saturdays book up so far in advance…. sometimes up to two years. Apparently, there are also some savings that could be very beneficial and worth looking into if having a wedding on a Saturday is not a must have. In our case, Saturday was the preference.

Another thing to consider is flexibility with the date. This is to align the venue/church/officiant/photographer. They aren’t always available for the same date.


Setting a budget is the first thing that should be done when planning a wedding. Why? Because unless you have unlimited funds, it will determine everything else. The most important question is: Who is paying? The bride and groom? Parents? A combination of all of the above?

Once it is determined who is paying, the next step is to confirm how much money will be in the wedding pot to pay all the bills. Setting a budget is essential in keeping spending in line at an affordable level. For us, setting up a spreadsheet to record all expenditures was instrumental in keeping on budget….similar to when you go on a diet and write down everything you eat to stay honest and true to the diet.

We were fortunate in that both sets of parents as well the bride and groom contributed financially to wedding costs.


Having a tentative guest list or an idea of projected guest numbers is essential when going through the initial planning phase as you will want to look at venues that would best accommodate your numbers. You aren’t going to book a hall that holds 350 people if you are only going to have 50 guests. You are also not going to want to book a venue that will overextend your budget.

Style of Wedding

This is a tough one, but very important when considering a wedding venue. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you want a traditional church wedding? Outdoors wedding? “One-stop-shopping” wedding where you get married and have the reception in the same place? Destination Wedding? Themed Wedding?
  2. Small and intimate with immediate family or large with family, friends, co-workers, etc.?

Wedding styles are personal and something to consider in determining how your wedding venue will accommodate your personal style and desires. The following styles will give you an idea of what some of the trends are. Nothing is written in stone and many of these styles can be used in combination, which my daughter did:

    1. Traditional
      • Married in a church/chapel and reception in a separate location
      • Bride wears ball-gown type dress with lots of bridesmaids, flower girls, etc.
      • Groom wears tux with lots of groomsmen, ring bearer, etc.
      • Traditional wedding photos, cutting of wedding cake, special dances, garter/bouquet toss, etc.
      • Use of religious or cultural traditions
      • Receiving line, formal sit-down dinner, speeches, first dance, etc.
    2. Contemporary
      • Less formal than traditional
      • Elements of a formal wedding but with a contemporary flair in a more relaxed atmosphere
    3. Vintage
      • Old fashioned styling reminiscent of the early 1900s.
      • Theme is expressed via dress, hair, makeup and through venue decorations, flowers
      • May or may not include a sit-down dinner, but is more conducive to cocktail parties and finger foods
      • Music style is generally jazzy and from 1920s era
      • Use of era type props including vintage photo booths, cars, etc.
      • Can be formal, but may not incorporate all the traditional formalities
    4. Romantic
      • Vineyards, museums, conservatories, etc.
      • Visual celebration in non-traditional setting
      • Styling elements will incorporate surroundings whether they are indoors or outside
      • Formality depends on the couple
    5. Rustic
      • Inspired by outdoor living and simplicity in any setting
      • Incorporates rustic elements like wood pieces, metal, canning jars, burlap, natural in-season flowers, etc.
      • Held in venues like barns, sheds, vineyards, parks, etc.
      • Weddings generally have the ceremony and reception in the same location
      • Some formality, but this style is typically very relaxed and laid back.
    6. Nerdy/Geek/Fantasy
      • Incorporated elements of the above styles, but with designated theme
      • Reflects the personality of the bride and groom and the things they love
      • Themes range from movies, TV shows, comic books, toys, electronics, fairy tales, books, etc.
      • Incorporates geeky elements like movie props, costumes, fonts, music, poetry and quotes, lighting, etc.
      • Wedding location is generally matches wedding theme
    7. Beach
      • Relaxed occasion with informal dress code near water
      • Destination wedding
      • Ceremonies are generally held on the beach with reception at a nearby location that incorporates as many or as little traditions as desired by the couple
    8. Country/Farm
      • Held at a farm or somewhere in the country
      • Usually has a country theme in a rustic style
      • May incorporate country elements like wearing cowboy boots or using trucks/wagons for transportation
      • May use many elements of the rustic styled wedding
      • Usually sit-down occasions with dress codes ranging from casual to semi formal
      • Couple decides on which traditions to follow
    9. Garden/Outdoors/Backyard
      • Ceremony held outside in a casual to semi formal atmosphere
      • Reception generally held at same location or can be moved elsewhere.
      • Celebrations can stay outside (pending weather) and include, barbeques, finger foods, buffets, food trucks, outdoor games, pool party (if there is a pool), etc.
    10. DIY (Do it Yourself)
      • Many of the decorations (from centerpieces, flowers, favours, etc.) to the styling elements have been hand made by family
      • Dress code can vary from smart casual to semi formal
      • Can be a sit-down dinner to a casual cocktail party style
      • Great way to keep costs down to keep within budget
      • Wedding may include as many formalities and traditions as desired

In the end, Ashley and Thierry wanted a DIY nerd wedding with an outdoor ceremony incorporating traditional/rustic elements in a country setting. With their choices in mind, we began our search for the ideal wedding venue.

To be continued…………


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