How to choose the best outdoor wedding venue can vary greatly by what you value. I personally love how the great outdoors becomes the background and context for the refreshing weddings I photograph. Choosing a wedding venue is often the first thing a newly engaged couple begins to research for their celebration. Selecting a venue is also one of the most important decisions you will make (aside from choosing your photographer…)
Consider the typical weather and choose a wedding date range that works best for your preferences. A range of dates will also make it much easier to find a venue than limiting your wedding to one set date.
Rather than immediately touring venues, start your search at your fingertips. A general web search is the best place to start. Take a quick flip through a wedding site like The Knot or WeddingWire or search Facebook/ Instagram to begin searching for your perfect outdoor venue. Do you prefer a lake setting or moving water, gently rolling fields or a deep forest, is the background mountainous or agricultural? Once you have the broad starting list begin to narrow the list by selecting venues that fit some basic criteria such as:
A. Fits in your budget
B. Has the guest capacity you are hoping for
C. The venue is available for your date range
Touring over several days or weeks can get quite exhausting so save your time and wellbeing by making a focused attempt to tour each venue on the same day. Make sure to bring the important decision makers in the venue expedition – especially the person who is paying! Before setting out, have a list of questions ready to go.
It is crucial that you ask questions and not forget anything. A good tip is to print out your questions with space for answers to take to each venue. Make sure the venue remains in the budget and then ask these particularly good questions:
A. Is there guest parking available?
B. Are the tables, chairs, linens, etc. included or available? If available, how much is it to rent them?
C. What happens if it rains?
D. How do you minimize stinging/ biting insects?
E. Are there any required vendors?
F. Is there a total rental time or set rental hours? What are they?
G. What is the earliest vendors can arrive/latest they can stay?
H. Do vendors have enough time for set-up & clean-up?
2 – 3 hours is recommended for set-up, depending on your design, and 1.5 hours for clean-up. After your exit have your wedding planner request help from guests in cleaning up for the family. Lots of hands makes the work light! You will want to know all associated venue costs up front before you are surprised later!
When you get home, you may find out that some venues have required vendors. In order to stay on budget, you will want to do three things, grab a cup of tea or glass of wine and:
A. Contact the Required Vendor List to inquire about their pricing to make sure it fits in budget and preferred style, taste and aesthetic.
B. If the venue does not provide an amenity, look into the additional costs that you will need to get quotes for such as linen, tables, chairs, power, tenting, etc.
If you are still in budget after doing all of this, then your venue is close to being a reality. You now have the confidence to sign that dotted line! Almost…
Additional decorations, flowers, fabric, etc. can transform your venue and can also quickly put you over budget. The best part of an outdoor wedding is that your space comes pre-decorated in the right style for any particular day/ season of the year! When visiting each venue evaluate the “look” of the venue:
A. Is this venue us?!
B. Is this venue beautiful + stunning the day we visit?
C. If we got married here tomorrow, would we be happy?
Ok, now you have found your “perfect” venue but before you sign the contract, have it reviewed. Contracts are legally binding and directly affect your planning process and wedding day. Find an experienced wedding planner to double check the venue contract, total venue costs, and let you know of anything you may have missed. A wedding planner can help you make sure that catering has enough time to set-up before the reception or that you can dance for more than 1 hour in the case of a noise ordinance beginning at 9 p.m.! Wedding planners are professionals for a reason, at a minimum have them review your venue contract.
Your decisions are set and you can simply sign that contract – Hooray! And that is how to choose the best outdoor wedding venue!