Finding the Perfect Venue [And How to Transform a Venue into a Perfect Fit]

A couple of months ago two separate lovely Instagram followers (thank you @lexsturdy and @feliciaams21) asked me a couple of really wonderful questions about wedding venues, and it boiled down to this two-part question: "How do we find the perfect venue for us, and if we can't find one that is 'perfect' how do transform a venue to fit our vision?" And so today this blog post is devoted to covering the topic of "Finding the Perfect Venue" in totality, and how to transform a venue that might need some finessing to fit your vision!

Carly Michelle Photography, The Wequassett Resort

Carly Michelle Photography, The Wequassett Resort

Perhaps the most daunting wedding planning task is finding the perfect venue for your wedding day. As a planner, I help my couples find their venue within one to two months of booking with Always Yours Events and I see firsthand how stressful it can be when there is so much emphasis on finding the perfect venue that checks everything on your list. Some of my brides have described it feeling as though you're sprinting towards a finish line, and you must find your venue with your ideal date and within your agreed upon budget range before another couple does. It can also be a little challenging to envision how your wedding will look in an empty space! But, with a few tips, a little creativity and visualization tricks that I have outlined here, you can find the perfect venue for your wedding day without the stress!

Carly Michelle Photography, The Wequassett Resort

Carly Michelle Photography, The Wequassett Resort

A little side note -- For couples who are hosting at a private estate or home in a tent (as Sean and I are doing this September), you might be able to go ahead and skip through the next section of this blog post. However, take a peek at the second section entitled "Transforming a Venue Into a Perfect Fit."

Finding the Perfect Venue

I tell my clients the same thing at the beginning of the venue selection process: Set parameters, do your research, listen to your intuition and visit only 2-3 venues at a time. The key is to prevent overwhelm, so try not to visit every single venue you've come across in your search. It is most likely that there are 2-3 truly viable venues that you LOVE for your wedding!

To find your perfect venue, follow these steps I follow myself with my couples when booking their wedding venues:

1. Set parameters. Create criteria that your venue will eventually need to meet. Answer these questions to create your venue criteria:

- How many guests will you need to be able to host at your venue?

- Ideally does your venue need to have a ceremony location, cocktail reception location, and dinner and dancing location?

- What are the most ideal dates for your wedding?

- Are their parking areas and restrooms on site? Does this matter to you?

- Is the venue close by to hotels and/or a town or city? Is this important to you?

- What is your total budget for the venue, catering and beverage itself? 

- What are some additional non-negotiables that your venue must have (ie: dinner and dancing in the same room, must have accommodations on site, etc)?

2. Research. Put together a list of 5-7 venues you are interested in with an aesthetic you love or you feel you can work with! My favorite resources for finding venues are the Venue Report and Style Me Pretty. Style Me Pretty's venue list includes vetted and highly rated venues with a gorgeous aesthetic. And for my brides out there looking for unique venues that are a little bit off the beaten path and outside the box, the Venue Report includes so many unique venues you might not have even thought of! Finally, the Knot is a good resource if you'd like something offering a more broad venue search. Get a little creative with this part as well -- look at venues such as greenhouses, vineyards and historic homes with an option to put up a tent!

3. Make Contact. Email each venue, and follow up with a phone call. Speak with a venue sales manager at each venue, and ask them to send over dates of availability (or check to see if your ideal dates are specifically available), a rate sheet AND sample proposal for your review.

4. Organize Your Thoughts. Sit down with all of your information and begin applying your parameters and venue criteria to each option. Does this venue have your ideal date? Can it hold your guest count? Can it accommodate all aspects of the day necessary (ie: ceremony, cocktail reception, dinner and dancing)? Is it close to nearby hotels where out of town guests will stay? Does fall within budget or very close to it? Can it accommodate all of your non-negotiables?

5. Refine. Which venue(s) meets ALL or almost all of your criteria? Which venues meet the least amount of your criteria? Make a list of the top 2-3 venues that are the best fit, and set the others aside. You can always visit the others later if your top 2-3 don't pan out. Schedule tours with your representatives for all of them, and take notes of what you love and what you don't love as you walk through. Try to visit all options in one day, or over the course of two days.

Tip: Ask any and every question that you can think of during your tour. No question is a silly one, and venue representatives want to answer these questions for you as fully as possible! Being the most educated when making the decision to book a venue will make it that much simpler.

6. Listen to Your Intuition. After your tours, sit down with your fiance and review the options, what you love and what you don't love. Listen to your knee-jerk reactions and intuition. There is most likely one (or two) that you feel the most excited about! If you're deciding between two venues, weigh the pros and cons, and visualize your wedding at the venue. I recommend asking yourself these two questions: Does this venue "feel" like us? Can I envision myself walking down the aisle at this venue or having my first dance at this venue?

Once that venue option just seems to "click" in your head and heart, call your venue sales rep and get your date locked in with a contract and deposit!

Transforming a Venue into a Perfect Fit

For some couples, they find venues that are almost perfect; the venue might be a very blank canvas where everything must be brought in OR the venue might have the right foundation but need some finesse. An example of this is an empty tent, where you have SO much blank space to work with. Another example of this is a venue with an aspect such as carpet you don't love. If you're reading this and feeling this way about your own venue, I know it can be difficult to visualize what can be done to transform your space to fit your vision. But do not fear, there is so much that can be done and ways to visualize to ease your worries!

When Working with a Very Blank Canvas: When you're working with a venue or tent that is very blank, the first thing I recommend doing is having your wedding planner (if having one), venue coordinator, or caterer provide you with an ideal floor plan of the space with your guest count. This will help you see your wedding from a bird's eye view and stop overwhelm in it's tracks! It's like decorating a room in your home -- if you can see all of the pieces outright that you must fit into the room, you can begin visualizing how to make it all fit well and then go about decorating and accessorizing it. Knowing where your dance floor, stage/dj booth, tables, chairs, bars and entryways are going to be allows you to see the space with all of its key components. Expanding your vision from here will be so much easier, less overwhelming and much more successful!

If you wish the venue had something a little more visually interesting, speak with your planner, coordinator or caterer about adding lighting such as chandeliers, add a photobooth, add a backdrop, add statement bars that are focal points or maybe a huge impressive head table. There are endless possibilities so do not be afraid to ASK! From there, start working with your wedding planner, coordinator or caterer piece by piece -- pick your lighting (maybe you want chandeliers or greenery on existing lighting), then select your table shape, then your chair style, then your linen style, then your place setting, then your centerpieces, then your bars and then your entryways (maybe you want flowers, draping or signage by the door for a grand entrance)? Work piece by piece, step back, look at it, finesse, repeat. 

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Carly Michelle Photography

Carly Michelle Photography

When Your Venue Needs Finesse: When you're working with a venue that has elements you aren't completely in love with (ie: heavy drapes, patterned carpeting, colorful walls, ornate light fixtures that do not fit your aesthetic, very dim light, etc), my biggest piece of advice is this: bring in a professional creative vendor for a site visit. If you don't have a wedding planner, bring in your floral designer. Having a creative vendor "walk through" the space with you and your venue coordinator and share with you all the possibilities to "hide" something or transform it is one of my best kept secrets. Trust me on this one. A professional creative can take something you don't love and find ways to make it work within a design.

Something I experience regularly (often in hotel ballrooms) is that my couples don't love the wallpaper and carpeting in the reception space. Chat with your floral designer about her ideas, and then consider calling a local rental company and have them add floor to ceiling white gauzy draping around the room to transform the space into a romantic, luxurious, and airy space. This can also work if you don't like a carpet in a room -- drape the room and add a bit of uplighting to shadow the floor, which will draw your eyes upwards towards the draping and ceiling. Even draping the longest wall in the room can transform the space. And if budget wont allow for draping, feel free to skip the draping but keep your uplighting, adjust your centerpieces to be tall centerpieces on every table and maybe even add some floral or greenery to your overhead light fixtures to draw your guests' eyes up! I promise they will be looking at those impressive florals and ceilings over what is under their feet.

And there you have it! I know that is quite a bit of information to take in, but my hope with these posts is to cover topics as fully as possible and give you detailed responses to your biggest wedding planning questions. When it comes to selecting a venue, it can feel like a such a big decision to make. And I hope that this post will serve you well in finding a venue that is perfect for YOU so that you may celebrate this milestone day to the fullest. 

Carly Michelle Photography

Carly Michelle Photography

And something quickly to remember before I bring this post to a close -- no matter where you, what color the walls are, what pattern the carpeting is, what the drapes look light, how high the ceilings are, what the light fixtures look like or what the weather is, the most important thing on your wedding day is that you are marrying the love of your life. No matter where you choose to say "I do" the constants are your partner at your side and the incredible marriage you are about to embark on. Wherever you are, it will be remarkable.

Until next week my friends!

xoxo, Keri

Photography by Carly Michelle Photography|| Planning + Design by Always Yours Events || Venue: The Wequassett Resort || Couple: Whitney Bischoff + Ricky Angel || Stationery by Amanda Day Rose || Floral by The Wild Dahlia || Hair by Jennifer Tawa || Makeup by Amanda McCarthy || Band: Boston Common Band || Videography by Brighter Lights Media || Dress by Audrey Grant || Bridesmaids Gowns from Brideside || Calligraphy by Design by Laney || Linens by La Tavola

Newly Engaged? Here’s How to Start Planning Your Wedding

Hooray, Gorgeous! You're getting married. You've made the announcement, you’ve posted a photo of your beautiful ring on Instagram, and you’re receiving hundreds of phone calls, texts and Facebook notifications with sweet messages from your family and friends congratulating you! And already a curious relative has asked you, "so, when's the wedding?" Cue the planning anxiety. 

Megan Braemore Photography

Megan Braemore Photography

To get you on the right track towards your big day, I have put together a short guide featuring the “First Six Wedding Planning Steps” to begin your wedding planning journey. And, if you're interested in a little more wedding assistance from Always Yours Events, read through to the bottom of the post for access to another planning tool from AYE!

At AYE, my intention during a couple’s initial consultation is to essentially start them off on the right foot, lay down a good foundation and, most importantly, prevent stress. Many of my brides tell me that the first thing they do after they get engaged is hop onto Google and Pinterest, beginning the endless search for venues, caterers, photographers, stationers, etc.  And every one of them says that within a few days, they are completely overwhelmed. So when a bride books with me, my goal is to skip the overwhelm and get her on the right track towards a gorgeous wedding. Below is my “First Six Wedding Planning Steps” guide, outlining touch points I use during my initial consultations to help my couples start from scratch.

Megan Braemore Photography

Megan Braemore Photography

1. HAVE A LITTLE REVERIE

You’ve been dreaming about this day since you were seven, so don’t stop now! Have a little reverie about the aspects you hope to incorporate into your Wedding Day. Jot down these ideas and take a good look. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you will see the makings of a wedding style/theme starting to form. Farm tables, flower crowns and floral garland -- you might be dreaming of a botanical, rustic affair! Pink peonies, gold rimmed glassware, black and white striped linens -- you’re on the Kate Spade chic track!

2. THE “WHERE”

Do you have a general location in mind? Will you get married in your hometown? Or maybe your fiance’s hometown? What about where you spent the Summer as a child? Or are you are you dreaming about jetsetting for an intimate destination wedding in Bora Bora? You don’t have to specifically pick your venue at this point. Just hone in on your ideal location.

3. DEFINE YOUR BUDGET

I know, this is the scary conversation. But trust me, you want to do this now. This is going to allow you to set parameters, which, believe it or not, will actually make the journey easier and wedding-related decisions less daunting. If you haven’t already, speak with both sides of the family about whether or not they feel comfortable contributing to your Wedding Day budget. Then sit down together and come up with an estimated figure. Here is one of my favorite resources that will help you generate a budget: http://theeverylastdetail.com/first-things-first-setting-a-wedding-budget/

4. CREATE YOUR GUEST LIST

You’re thinking, “this is going to be tough” (cue Steve Martin in Father of the Bride ruthlessly cutting names from his daughter’s guest list). But it doesn’t have to be! Create your list with your fiancé by working from the core outwards. Start in this order: immediate family, close relatives (first aunts, uncles and cousins), best friends, distant relatives, family friends, work friends and colleagues. You can refine later, but at this point you will have a pretty good handle on your estimated guest count.

5. NARROW YOUR VENUE OPTIONS DOWN (THEN BOOK!)

Now take your dreams, general location, budget and guest count and do a little research. Go to review websites such as thevenuereport.com or theknot.com and review venues in your ideal location that will work with your guest count and overall wedding vision. Call all of your venue options and set up a time to chat with your venue representative about potential dates. Set up site visits with each venue that has availability. And once you find one that you love, consider booking immediately so the date you desire is 100% yours!

6. BOOK YOUR WEDDING PLANNER

This step can come before booking a venue OR after. Some brides book a wedding planner before reserving their venue, therefore their wedding planner will be very actively venue scouting with them. When looking for a wedding planner, look for experience, good recommendations and take a gander at his or her portfolio. Most importantly try to find someone that you connect with immediately. A personal connection with you planner will make the experience that much more enjoyable.

Megan Braemore Photography

Megan Braemore Photography

And there you have it! AYE’s six "next steps" that will help you jumpstart the wedding planning journey and lay down a fantastic foundation for your the big day. I hope you found this guide helpful, and I hope you feel more confident moving forward with this very exciting experience! 

In the comments below, share with me ideas for posts you would like to see in the near future! And for more gorgeous wedding inspiration, design ideas, tips and tricks straight to your inbox each month, sign up for the AYE Monthly Newsletter here!

xoxo, Keri

Photography by Briana Moore Photography

Wedding Planning by Always Yours Events