Picking a venue is hard.
Not like solving a physics problem hard or building your own kitchen cabinets hard, or even living through a pandemic hard (side eyeing 'RONA). It’s actually relatively simple compared to those challenges. But that does not mean it is not a hard decision for the engaged or soon-to-be engaged couple.
Couples want their reception space to reflect their style and vision. As the bride or groom, you may have been waiting for this moment since the first time your watched “Father of the Bride” so you think finding your space would be an easy decision. But not everyone can have their wedding in their parents’ backyard.
So why is it so damn difficult to choose your reception venue? The answer is easy – because at the end of the day, you’re picking the one space that is going to be the memory you always carry with you of your happily ever after. It will be in pictures that you look back on for years and will flash in your mind when someone mentions your date, so you want it to be everything you dreamed of. And while it may not be the only happy moment you have for the rest of your life (nor should it be), trust me, you do not dream about the first time you give birth, and you get no choice in what color your bed sheets are in the delivery room. So you might as well make the details count where you do have a say.
When planning my own wedding, I was TORN on what venue to pick. We were in love with multiple spaces but the budget and the feelings were not adding up. At the end of the day we chose what we believe was the perfect space for a celebration of our love. A place we will be able to take our kids to and revisit on any given anniversary or, really, any given day.
But getting to that point took a lot of talking, a lot of cocktails, and a lot of back and forth decisions. To help you avoid a similar bout of indecisiveness, I am sharing what helped us choose. You’ll notice that it’s not logic – like location or capacity - but a little more mental practices that can help you both make the choice.
This is you and your fiance's day. It is not his mom’s or your sister’s or the event planner that sits across from you at work’s day. PERIOD. Stick to your guns about what you want. It sounds cliché but it is so true.
In being determined there are actions you can take. If you are set on a barn reception, spend a week (or three) just looking at all the options in the area. Do Facebook searches, look at wedding website guides, Google different phrases to get a variety of options. Look up, down, and sideways to find the space you want. If you have a simple view, it might take an hour, if you have a specific view it could take a month. But don’t stop until you feel like you’ve found an option or two.
When you have built your list of possibilities, the easiest thing to do is take all the ones out that do not fit into your budget. I know this sounds backwards from some of the other tips that exist, but from this perspective it can help. Kicking spaces off the list makes you feel like you have accomplished a task. You were able to narrow it down because it didn’t fit into your budget. It is kind of like a diet – if you restrict yourself from eating certain foods then the cakes, candy, and bacon look much more tempting than what you have allowed yourself to eat, so dietitians often recommend not restricting food but limiting the amount you take in. Your long list is the sugary food, the budget is the moderation.
When looking at what is in your budget, you do not want to forget to look into the catering options they offer, rentals you need, and anything they do not allow as it can all play a part in your budget.
Another place where determination comes in is pushing past is everyone else’s opinion. This is something that you will hear over and over: “Everyone has an opinion on weddings.” What’s funny is the people saying that are usually the ones forcing their wedding wants down your throat. This problem was a big contributor to our indecisiveness. There were many places our families wanted us to look at and really consider - in face they went so far as contacting the spaces for us (like a said, many cocktails). We eventually sat down and had a real conversation about spaces not being our style, not being within our budget, or being so under budget that we’re clearly giving up the opportunity to have a nice looking wedding for what we want. Be damned determined to get your style, budget, and wants for you day because it is really YOURS.
Sometimes there are pieces that are holding you back from having the dream space you want.
Factors like dates or policies on alcohol or food can be a big hurdle from keeping you making your decision. My dream was to have a June wedding but the wedding venue that was pulling at my heartstrings had no summer options -let alone any open dates for the remainder of the year. So I waited - impatiently - and contacted the space once or twice more to check in and see is any contracts holds had been released or dates had been dropped. After about two weeks a date opened up. It wasn’t summer, but it was the year we wanted in the space both my fiance and I loved. We were sold.
If there is a space that you love that fits in most ways, chances are you will have to give something up, like bringing in your own alcohol or having a balloon arch. There also might be the option for you to fit it in a different way. Maybe you wanted to bring your own alcohol which is against their policy but your grandfather's homemade wine is something that has is important to the big day. Instead of serving it at the bar it could be the favor for everyone to take home or maybe your caterer allows it as the "shot" for the dollar dance tradition. It is always worth the brainstorming session and asking a few questions to see if you can make those extra touches happen, especially if you're really in love with a venue. That being said, sometimes rules, or dates, will not be what you want and that's why flexibility is key in picking a space.
Follow Your Heart
I am a firm believer that your heart is always guiding you in the right direction. If you are absolutely torn between two spaces that have similar offerings and might be comparable in cost, then it's time to ask listen to whatever your heart is telling you.
We were down to two spaces. They were a couple hundred dollars different in cost and each one had some factors we loved, like Option A allowing us to choose our own caterer, and some we were upset with, like Option B not being able to start the ceremony until 5:00pm. After a few weeks of back and forth conversations between my fiance and I, our families, and our close friends, I was losing my mind. Both venues I was nervous to commit to because I really liked each space but I was nervous for what I may give up. Finally, one day at work I had both information sheets open and I felt the tiniest tug in my chest towards Option B and I knew that was it. I could see my pictures being there and envision my fiance and I walking in to the room and being so excited. So we had finally made our decision, and that was the right choice
Lean On Love
Being that you stumbled across this post, you’re most likely the one leading the wedding planning initiative. Sometimes it’s easy to take matters into your own hands, I get it. But sometimes you need to rely on your partner a little more.
Your getting married for a reason - you have this awesome human as a partner who is willing to love you for the rest of your life and you want to celebrate. Lean on each other. If you are really stuck between two great venues maybe let your fiancé make the final choice. Or maybe you are not stuck on decision making but you need some serious reflection like choosing between spending a certain amount on a wedding vs saving money on your future together. You and your partner should work on making those decisions together.
Deciding on a space does not have to fall on the shoulders of the partner taking the lead on the planning. In fact, no decision should only fall on the person who's taking the reigns. WORK TOGETHER. It is great practice for how you will continue to spend the rest of your lives coexisting. And if no one likes the cake, then you can blame each other!
As you move forward in your decision making, I challenge you to listen to your heart and your partner a little more than your pinterest board. Take as many deep breaths as you need, a few sips of something strong, and be confident in your choices. At the end of the day, wherever you decide to get married and celebrate will be perfect for your love story.