The 13 Best Ways to Compare Wedding Venues
Wedding venues cost couples anywhere from $1,800 to $13,400, on average. Make your investment count and learn how to compare wedding venues the right way. See what questions you need to ask, what tools you need to get the job done, and how to narrow down the best possible options with our tips below.
How do I pick a good wedding venue?
You first need to get clear on your vision of your ceremony and reception. Determine what you want it to look and feel like. Then, bring in your big picture concerns such as budget and location. After you narrow down your options, compare key elements of your final three to five wedding venue choices side by side.
Discover 13 steps to help you compare wedding venues the right way:
The best way to compare wedding venues is to focus on the things that matter most, use the right tools, and think creatively about what it is you really want. Here are the best ways to compare wedding venues, along with key takeaways you can use to narrow down your top choices and pick the space of your dreams.
1. Nail down the essentials.
Make a list with the following information: total budget, top choices for location, top choices for wedding date, approximate guest count, and activities you plan to do. Do you want a separate ceremony and reception space? Or are you going to explore the possibility of a destination wedding?
Do this: Write all of these details down to add clarity to your search and avoid overwhelm.
2. Make a wish list.
Ask your partner to make a list of their top one or two wedding venue must-haves. Then, make your own wish list. Compare those and see if there are any competing items such as a desire to host the reception in a grand ballroom and a request to keep the party more intimate. Combine and finalize your lists into one to three total venue requirements.
Do this: Eliminate all wedding venue options that do not fit the criteria of your combined wishlists.
3. Check availability.
Don’t conduct your search without knowing your desired wedding season, month, and top one to three specific dates. Add at least one Friday or Sunday date into the mix to find some great wedding venue deals at otherwise pricey spaces.
Do this: Automatically filter out wedding venues that aren’t available on at least one of your desired dates.
4. Create a chart.
Make a spreadsheet in Excel or on paper with each of the following categories: wedding venue name, location, availability, estimate, capacity, style, amenities, and wish list criteria items. Add a section at the end of each row for individual notes. If you use a digital spreadsheet, link to each venue’s website within the chart for easy reference.
Do this: Organize key data for all your top wedding venue choices in one easy-to-read space.
5. Ask the right questions.
Use your answers to the following questions to help compare wedding venues:
What are the restrictions at this venue? Look for key areas such as rental time, vendor usage, cake policies, and bad weather alternatives.
What potential fees are or are not included in the price estimate? See if the venue charges for parking, outside vendor usage, or post-event cleanup.
What are the financial details of the contract? Explore whether or not the venue can provide a discount for certain items. Also, consider the available payment plan options, cancellation fees, and deposits.
Do this: Think practically about event planning needs when you compare wedding venues.
6. Choose the best interior design scheme.
Know which style best suits the tone of your wedding to set the mood and save some money on decor. The most popular wedding design styles include modern, rustic, and boho.
Modern wedding venues are often minimalist, use lots of black and white with dramatic pops of color, and rely on clean lines. Rustic spaces use natural textures, wood fixtures, and handmade accessories to complete the look. Boho venues focus on muted yet colorful palettes, a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces, and eclectic accents.
Do this: Keep your favorite design style in mind when you compare wedding venues and cross off those that are too different from your top ideas.
7. Consider theme.
Have an idea of what your wedding theme will be as you compare wedding venues — chances are that even if you have more than one theme idea in mind, there will be some overlap or similarities. Try to find a wedding venue that will work with either option. Or, if your themes are completely different, choose the wedding venue that has the most basic or plain designs so you have a blank canvas to work with once you do make a decision.
Do this: See which wedding venues best match your top theme choices and drop any that don’t.
8. Visualize your dream guest experience.
Consider what you want your friends and family to feel, see, and do when they attend your wedding. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what it would be like to enter each wedding venue having never seen it before. What is your eye drawn to first? Do you feel calm and happy or energetic and celebratory? Do the colors, textures, and patterns all make sense with the chosen wedding theme?
Do this: Change your point of view to better compare wedding venues.
9. Get accurate quotes to compare wedding venues.
Know that wedding venues use fees for things such as parking, rentals, and catering that may not all be part of the given price or dollar sign range. Reach out to venues individually to see what is or is not included in the advertised rate. Or save time with a free tool such as Wedding Spot that provides wedding venue quotes with all major fees right in the listing.
Do this: Discover the true cost of a venue by noting what fees are or are not in the estimate.
10. Come up with an ideal event flow.
Decide how you’d like guests to move around the space with event diagramming. Create a 3D diagram in 10 minutes with a user-friendly tool both beginning and advanced wedding planners utilize to visualize venue setups. Add doorways, emergency exits, and major focal points such as a sweetheart table or dance floor to your diagram. Then, include custom table and chair measurements to plot out seating. Consider where guests will eat, drink, and mingle.
Do this: Test out various wedding venue diagrams to see which work best with your ideal event flow using a free tool such as Social Tables. Eliminate wedding venues that seem overcrowded or have too much unused space in your design.
11. Think about amenities.
Figure out if there are any amenities that would elevate the convenience, look, or feel of your wedding. Some of the most common wedding venue amenity searches include dance floors, dressing areas, coat check rooms, kitchens, and shuttle services. You may also want to look at day-of coordinator services and useful rental items such as furniture and dishes.
Do this: Delete any wedding venues on your list that don’t have the amenities you desire.
12. Decide on vendors.
Choose whether or not you will use vendors the wedding venue provides or ones you will bring in yourself. Then, compare the vendor policies of your top wedding venue picks — some may charge extra fees or flat out reject the use of outside service providers.
Alternatively, you may even save money by asking your top wedding venue choices if they have onsite or preferred vendors. For example, see if they can offer you a discount when you use their in-house catering team or even their event wait staff. Drive the price down further with catering quotes that include buffet-style dining or a heavy appetizer course instead of a sit-down meal. Have all these numbers in front of you as you compare wedding venues to get a more accurate picture of the investment you will make.
Do this: Decide if you want to use your own vendors or ones the wedding venue provides to narrow down your choices.
13. Compare wedding venues side by side.
Use a tool like Wedding Spot to compare wedding venues right next to each other. View wedding venue estimates and get accurate custom quotes with per-person breakdowns to help you digest the information. Look at photos of the spaces side by side and see which one speaks to you the most. Review key details such as capacity, amenities and more in one searchable place.
Do this: Use Wedding Spot to find the best wedding venue options with at-a-glance comparison charts.
What is the most popular wedding venue?
How much should you spend on a wedding venue?
You should spend 50% or less of your budget on a wedding venue.
Now you know how to accurately compare wedding venues!
You can now compare wedding venues like a pro with plenty of exercises, tools, and suggestions to help you. Next up, continue your virtual wedding planning journey and order some of the best wedding planning books for your e-reader to come up with great ideas for how to decorate your chosen venue, coordinate venue plans with vendors, and more.