Tips on how to select your perfect wedding venue

How does a blushing bride-to-be go about choosing the perfect wedding venue for her special day? There is a lot more to choosing a wedding venue than you may guess.  I first discovered how difficult this can be when I was asked to assist a family member with their choice.

Being married and a blogger for a wedding site, and reviewing wedding venues, I have some good insight into how to choose a wedding venue.

My top pointers for choosing a wedding venue are:

  1. Make a list of what you expect from a venue.
  2. Start exploring your options as soon as possible. 
  3. Decide on your wedding date.
  4. Make a list of what you expect from a venue.
  5. Consider your guests.
  6. Decide on the theme of your wedding before choosing a venue.
  7. Determine your budget before making a decision on the venue.
  8. If you’re using a wedding planner ask for their advice.
  9. Review your options.Calderwood Hall in the KZN Midlands

Make a list o

f what you expect from a venue.

Wedding venue’s come in all shapes and sizes and a wedding reception can be held in just about any environment or location.  There are custom designed wedding venues that include a chapel, locations for the wedding photographs, a reception hall, a variety of décor options and catering facilities as well as service staff. 

On the other end of the scale you may want to do something really simple like book out a restaurant or reserve a picnic location.  You could even pitch a marquee tent in your parent’s garden.  Almost all large hotels and even some guest houses offer wedding facilities too.

You probably already have an idea of what type of wedding you want and who you want to invite.  These are two great places to start.  With this information you know the size of the venue and the location and/or the style of the venue.

Start adding other items to this list.  If you want the ceremony in the same location then you may want a chapel.  If it is out of town then I suggest you make sure that there is accommodation on site too or at least enough accommodation in surrounding areas to cater for your guests. If you want a special cake or stylised décor make sure that the venue is accessible to these service providers.

As your fiancé will probably be contributing to the wedding expenses, make sure that you find time to discuss your ideas before going any further.

Start exploring your options as soon as possible

Most popular wedding venues are booked months or even years in advance.  If you are planning to get married sooner rather than later then you need to find a venue fast. 

The easiest place to start is with Google. Type in wedding venues and your location and Google will give you a long list of potentials.  Visit bridal fairs and make site visitations.  When making sites visits to venues, find out the dates that they have available.

Have your fiancé on hand when making site visits and be sure to discuss the pro’s and con’s of each venue.

If you are using a wedding planner then have an open discussion with them on their recommendations.  They may know just the place to meet all your requirements.

Many venues provide their own wedding planner for on-the-day management.  Ask them to pitch there ideas to you when visiting sites.

Decide on your wedding date

Do you decide on the date first and then find a venue that can accommodate you or do you find a venue and plan your date according to their openings?

Hmmm.  Sometimes choices can be rather difficult.  However, if you have a specific theme, location or even a particular venue in mind then you will probably want to work your date around the availability of the venue.

Perhaps you’re not too fussed about the wedding theme but just want to have a fun filled ceremony with your family and friends.  In that case you will want to determine a date that is convenient for as many of your favourite people as possible.

Whichever option you choose, book and pay the deposit for your venue as soon as possible.

Make a list of what you expect from a venue

As I mentioned earlier, some venues will provide everything you need.  The less specialised venues may need some outside assistance.

Regardless of the type of venue, you need to decide on:

  1. Where do you want to hold the wedding ceremony? At the venue or off site?
  2. Do you want a dance floor?  If so, is it built in or do you need to hire the floor.
  3. Is there an operating location and power for the entertainment?
  4. How loud and until how late can the entertainment continue?
  5. What is the closing time of the venue?  If you are having a morning wedding, what time do you need to vacate the venue for the afternoon wedding?
  6. What kind of bar facilities do you expect and what drinks, in particular, do you want to serve.
  7. How many service staff do you require?
  8. What are your décor requirements?  Can they be provided or do you need to hire them?
  9. Do you need accommodation and for how many people?
  10. Does the venue offer a location where you can spend the day preparing for the wedding such as a spa.

Keep in mind that most off-site suppliers will travel to your wedding venue even if they have to travel an hour or more.

Can I bring my own alcohol to a wedding venue?

For couples who really want to keep a firm grip on their wallets, there is the option of stocking your own bar for your wedding reception. Of course this option will depend on the regulations of your wedding venue as some do not allow for this.

There are a lot of things to consider when bringing your own alcohol to the wedding venue. Firstly you need to check with your venue if they supply alcohol as part of their service. While some venues may allow you to bring your own they might charge a corking fee per bottle. Your caterer might also prefer to stock the bar or supply their own liquor.

If you can bring your own booze it’s a good idea to understand some of the laws involving alcohol and get additional insurance for your venue – you never know what might happen when your guests have had a little too much fun.

Depending on your bar type (open or limited), you will need to know how much alcohol to buy. It is more likely that an open bar will run out faster than a limited one, and you want to make sure you have enough to supply your guests for the entire evening.

If you’re lucky you might even be able to return any unopened bottles for a full refund. This will depend on where you buy the alcohol and their return policy.

Consider your guests

Who to invite and who to leave out?  This happens to be one of the most stressful considerations for any bridal couple.  However, once you have your guest numbers you can decide on the size of the venue.

Try not to inconvenience your guests by your choice of venue.  Yes, it is your big day and people should do all that they can to make it just so.  However, frail grandparents and friends with young children or babysitters may not be able to travel far or stay overnight. 

If these people are important to you, take their disposition into consideration.  If your venue is really inconvenient you may find some people having to decline the invitation.

If your venue is out of town and you are serving alcoholic beverages then you may want to consider a venue with accommodation.

If the venue itself does not offer accommodation find out what is on hand in the immediate area.  You will not be the first person to ask this question.

The venue may also offer a shuttle service.

If your venue is in a built-up area then you may want to consider secure parking facilities or valet parking.

Decide on the theme of your wedding before choosing a venue

You, like most other brides, probably already have an idea of your wedding theme.  Great, it makes the choice of a venue far easier.

Don’t let this stop you from exploring a variety of venues.  Wedding planners and event organisers have the ability to wave a magic wand and create something quite spectacular in a rather drab looking venue.

If you want something rather exotic then best you find a wedding planner who can put your idea into creation.

Determine your budget before making a decision on the venue

Do you work your budget around the venue or the venue around the budget?  Planning a wedding involves a myriad of unexpected costs and it is probably best to work out your budget – and your priorities, before you even start looking for venues.

Most wedding budget calculators advise that you spend about 20% of the wedding cost on the venue.  This should include the venue rental, service fees for the staff, parking costs if any, security if any, dance floor rental if required and cutlery, crockery and catering equipment if not available from the venue.

This does not include drinks, food, entertainment and accommodation.

The budget will determine the top end of the scale of the venue that you can choose.

Keep in mind that 20% is a rough guide.  Weddings held in restaurants or at a wedding venue but for a morning reception will be less expensive than those held in specialised wedding venues for an all-night party.

Ask a wedding planner for advice

The bigger and more complex your wedding the more you will need the assistance of a wedding planner.

Not only do they have plenty of experience making a wedding come together beautifully, but they also have plenty of experience with wedding venues.

A referral from a wedding planner can be priceless.  The location of a venue may be perfect but if the venue management do not come to the party, literally, then your wedding can be spoilt on one simple omission or error.

Wedding planners know what to expect from venues and they can fill in any blanks that the venue management can’t resolve.

Review your options

Even though I have always had the ability to sit back and make an unemotional decision based on the facts, this was not the case with my wedding.  It’s just such an emotional event.

Make a list of positives and negatives of each venue that you liked and decide which of these points carries the most weight.

These are my top ten points for choosing a venue:

  • Not too far away for wedding guests to drive
  • Provides most of the décor and eating utensils
  • Includes professional catering and trained waiting staff
  • Has a great dance floor
  • Has onsite or near-by locations for photographs
  • Has its own chapel
  • Offers safe parking
  • Has overnight accommodation and a bridal party preparation area.
  • Is licensed to sell alcohol and provides barmen
  • Has loads of atmosphere


When all is said and done, stay true to yourself and your vision. Many couples choose a venue because they fell in love with a specific wedding style, and the venue ties it all together. It’s important that as a couple, you both choose a wedding venue that feels authentic and has a design that perfectly represents what you two are.

Make your wedding a magical one with the perfect venue that meets all your expectations and fulfils your dreams!



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