Tips For Finding Your Wedding Venue | Wedding Wednesday | Happily Ever Glasbrenner // Heyyyy, y’all! One of the things I was MOST excited for when our wedding planning began was VENUE HUNTING! This is something we wouldn’t have gotten to do if we had won the giveaway, so we were super excited and ready to make the most out of shopping for our wedding venue! Anyone that knows me can tell you I am the most indecisive person in the WORLD… so I knew that this was going to be a challenge. To add to that, we knew we were going to be on a VERY tight budget and were going to have limited options! So I just wanted to walk you all through how we conducted our venue search and kind of the whole process behind it! :)
Wedding planning is, in and of itself, an emotional thing. You have this vision in your head of your wedding day for years and years and when it finally comes down to it, there’s almost a pressure you put on yourself to make it PERFECT because this is your one and only wedding day you’re ever going to get! Um, no big deal!! Haha!! Doubts begin to swirl in your head, like… What if my dream venue is out there and I never see it? What if I visit a venue, fall in love with it, and then realize there’s no way we can make it work financially? What if we choose the WRONG venue and our entire wedding day is affected by it? The list of questions in your head can go on and on. One thing I’ve found immensely helpful so far in my wedding planning is to take it all one step at a time. So here are three tips that you can follow in order for finding your wedding venue! :)
Tip #1: Determine your budget FIRST! Before you do anything with wedding planning, you have to figure this number out, or at least have a pretty good idea of what you’re willing to spend. You don’t want to blow your entire budget on the venue! You need to think about other VERY important expenditures like catering, photography, videography, flowers, etc. Once you figure out what you can spend total on your wedding, you can expect to easily spend half of it on venue + catering. Now, for Justin and I, we knew that our catering budget was going to be pretty tight. We knew there was NO way we were going to be able to drop $7,500-$12,000 on dinner for our guests. So in that area, we’ll be getting creative! This meant that we had to find a venue that had NO catering minimum, which is less common. Most venues either require you to do in-house catering with a set minimum you have to reach, or they have a list of “preferred” caterers you need to choose from. Therefore, one of our budget criteria was finding a venue that would let us do something else. We knew this because we had looked at our budget first and were able to start our venue search from there.
Tip #2: Pin your heart out. You’re probably thinking, wait a second… didn’t we just say we determine a budget first so that we can search strategically? Yes. But pinning what inspires you and what you LOVE will eventually help you narrow down your options! If you’re searching on Pinterest and find yourself pinning tons of barn/farm wedding venues, you can be pretty sure that despite your budget, you’re going to be happy with a venue that has a more rustic feel. I started my search first on The Knot, then migrated to Pinterest, narrowed down my favorites, then hopped on Google to find some real photos of a FULL wedding day at those venues, which helped me envision even further what can be done there!
The Knot is a great place to start if you want to conduct a specific search. You can set limits for pricing ($-$$$$), distance from a city of choice, “type” of venue, guest count, etc. Their search tool will come in handy if you want to get an idea for what is actually doable. However, you might find that The Knot feels more like one big advertising column (see the “featured” venues?) and you might miss out on some AMAZING venues that haven’t paid to be on The Knot’s storefront!
That’s when I hopped on Pinterest!!! I simply searched for “Virginia wedding venue” and the pretty pictures had my heart fluttering. I also did some more specific searches, like “Virginia Fairytale Wedding Venue,” “Virginia Barn Wedding Venue,” etc. If I saw one that I really liked, I went ahead and pinned it to my board, “Virginia Wedding Venues.”
Once I had a good number of venues pinned (I think I had about 20-30), I went ahead and went to Google to see more of them. If you search “(Venue Name) Wedding Photography Blog,” it will bring up tons of blog posts for REAL weddings that photographers have shot there! This might also help you find a photographer in the long run if you don’t already have someone you’ve already connected with! [[ The photographers who come up at the top are likely to be the more popular and “busy” photographers, and it might be a good guess to say that most of the times, the ones that pop up first are probablyyyy going to be a little higher in price then the ones on the 7th or 8th page because they have more blog hits, a bigger following, and likely more inquiries. This is just a total guess, but I would think it to be true the majority of the time… at least that’s what I have found! Either that or they know what they are doing when it comes to SEO!!! :) ]]
Browse as many photos as you want, find 5 of your favorites, and then do some more research on actual cost. You might have to contact some venues through their websites to get an exact price, but you can also check the dollar sign rating on sites like The Knot and Wedding Wire. Our amazing wedding planner Lacoya put together an Excel spreadsheet that listed: venue price for Saturday, Sunday, and holiday weekend Sunday; catering minimum; distance from DC; kitchen area; indoor ceremony site; etc. It really helped us narrow our options down! Once you have some realistic venues to work with, you can start planning your venue visit day(s)!!! Which leads me to…
Tip #3: Have FUN!!! Make a day out of your venue visit(s) and think of it as a date! I looked forward to our venue visiting days for WEEKS and was so giddy I couldn’t go to sleep the night before each one!! I was SO chipper and up bright and early before the sunrise on our first visit day… haha! You guys are going to be looking at your potential site for getting MARRIED and there is nothing more exciting than envisioning that in the very spot it’s going to happen in a few short months! I prayed that God would make it clear where we were meant to have our wedding and He totally did. When we stepped foot on the grounds of “the one,” we just KNEW. Nothing else compared! I hadn’t expected to like it at all and I fell in LOVE. Here are all of the venues we visited… see if you can guess which one we picked!
Khimaira Farm, a rustic, cozy venue in a valley between the Shenandoah Mountains with tons of patio space and land for our guests to hang out!
Big Spring Farm in Lexington, Virginia with a beautiful barn complete with twinkle lights, tons of gorgeous willow trees, and clear, blue spring as well as one gorgeous bridal suite…
House Mountain Inn/Irvine Estate hidden up in the quiet of the mountains with tons of rooms for our guests to rent out and have a retreat in the mountains for the weekend…
Stevenson Ridge in Fredericksburg, Virginia complete with chandeliers and a restored European chapel…
And the super unique National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA with museum exhibits open exclusively to our guests and a more modern feel… with a beautiful chapel on site!
So, what venue do YOU think we picked?!?! The answer will be revealed VERY soon!!! Maybe you already know?! ;)