How To Find The Perfect Venue For A Wedding

How To Find The Perfect Venue For A Wedding

You’re engaged! Congratulations! Now it’s time to plan for the big day. No matter if you’re just beginning your research or still in the middle, by now you’ve probably discovered that finding the perfect venue for your wedding day is one of the most important choices you’ll make throughout the entire process. If possible, it’s highly recommended to make this decision very early on in your wedding planning. That way you can begin making other choices such as your color scheme and wedding catering company. The venue and location greatly influence everything else about your wedding, including the theme, decor, what you’ll wear, and even the ideas and options you have for creative wedding catering ideas and entertainment.

Whether you’re more in the mindset of finding specific wedding packages already included in a venue location, or pulling it all together on your own and looking into using free wedding venues, keep in mind that choosing the ideal place that checks all the boxes of your dream wedding is more difficult than you might think.

Here are some useful tips and ways to help you on your venue search select the ideal location as well as a summary of some of most popular venue types available so that you can be aware of the best options.

Finalize Your Guest List First

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This may go without saying, but many people make the mistake of just estimating while on the hunt for wedding reception sites. Despite the fact that you may have somewhat of an idea of what your guest roster looks like, you’d be surprised how quickly the guest count grows as you begin to consider all the people you want to be in attendance on your special day.

It’s a very good idea to sit down to make your list and get an official headcount (prior to sending out invitations) before you even begin to look at venues, that way you’ll be sure to know the exact capacity limit needed at your venue. A seemingly perfect wedding location can very easily turn into a not-so-perfect location if it can’t accommodate all your guests because you didn’t get an accurate headcount to start. One of the worst things is having to go back to cut people from your list (no matter how much you’d love to not invite your very unpleasant Aunt Helen).

Budget Budget Budget

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Now that you know how many people will be attending, the next step is to ensure that you’ve allocated all the costs before you book a venue. Most everyone has at least a basic idea of how much they want to spend on their wedding, but many unexpected expenses can creep up and cause major issues if you’re not prepared. When it comes to budgeting, start by categorizing each of the expenses and prioritizing them by level of importance and checking those off your list first as you go so you can cut less important expenses if needed.

Every venue is different, so when budgeting for this you must make sure to consider not only the price just to rent the space, but for other expenses that you may not have thought about until after you’ve paid your deposit and signed on the dotted line. This can include anything from decorating the venue to staffing, the deposit refund policy, transportation and parking, among many others.

Lauren Sullivan, senior event coordinator at Eco Caters in Los Angeles, says one important factor many people often overlook is the fact that certain venues require day-of personal insurance and/or insurance for each vendor that you bring on site. This is one of many unforeseen expenses that can easily wreak havoc on a budget and could be a make-or-break factor in deciding on a specific venue. Just being aware and prepared of all those unexpected and hidden expenses can save you a big headache later down the road in your planning.

Here are some additional helpful suggestions from Lauren for questions that many forget to ask when deciding on a venue:

  • Can I bring in my own alcohol?
  • Can I leave things overnight or the day before?
  • Does the venue have any policies regarding candles? (e.g. no-flame candles, required distance between flame and top of votive, etc.)
  • What is the defined required end time for the reception?

Match the Venue with your Vision and Personality

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It’s very easy to get caught up with the opinions and ideas of close friends, family and even your wedding planner when it comes to what they envision for your wedding and where it’s held. This can happen to the best of us no matter how much you think you know what you want for yourselves. Planning the details of a wedding, while very exciting, can also be extremely overwhelming and stressful and can make you lose sight of your original vision.

The best thing to remember is to follow your hearts as a couple and forget what everyone else thinks when choosing the right venue. If you’ve always wanted to get married near the beach, at the top of a ski slope, or that corner bar where you sing karaoke show tunes together every week, don’t give into pressure from others or feel the need to choose something different in order to impress. Or, maybe you don’t care so much about the venue itself and prefer to choose one of the first places that comes up from typing in “cheap halls for rent near me” in an online search. Whatever best suits you and your spouse-to-be. The most rewarding thing you’ll hear guests say as they’re leaving is “everything about that wedding was so them”.

Types of Venues

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When searching for wedding venues, it’s helpful to know what options are out there. Most of the venues fit into one of four main categories. Once you know the basics and main features of what each has to offer, you can start to narrow it down from there. If you’re on a budget and need further inspiration, be sure to check out our list of affordable wedding venues in San Diego.


Hotels are a great option, especially for destination weddings and large groups since the accommodations, furniture rentals, staff, and major essentials are all conveniently available in one location. The downside is that they are typically not as flexible and there are usually restrictions with using the hotel vendors for food, flowers, decorations etc.


Good food, professional staff, and an intimate ambiance are reasons to choose a restaurant as a wedding venue. Space limitations can be a major downside as well as time and noise restrictions. Many restaurants also have limitations based on neighborhood and city ordinances that can inhibit you from playing music or a celebrating later into the evening.

Private Event Spaces

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Private event spaces tend to offer the most flexibility in terms of the food, decor and options for a unique setting. While this can sometimes lead to higher decorating expenses to transform the space the way you want it, it allows for for more of a customized wedding. Here at Eco Caters, we provide organic, sustainable, and locally-sourced cuisine for any type of wedding, working with some of the most fabulous venue locations in Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington DC to help make your wedding the very best it can be.


There’s something very special about an outdoor wedding. Mother nature is the ultimate decorator and there’s no competing with that. From beaches to mountains and desert landscapes, depending on the setting, it sets a dramatic mood. Unfortunately there’s a downside when it comes to weather unpredictability and having to haul everything with you to the location.

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