How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Venue

Engagement season is upon us, and that means newly engaged couples everywhere will soon begin wedding planning! This exciting process typically begins with choosing a wedding venue. The venue typically represents not only your largest financial investment, but also influences every other facet of your wedding day. Needless to say, it’s a HUGE choice! Here are a few things to keep in mind while selecting your wedding venue!

Hire your planner BEFORE committing to a venue.

You might not have expected this tip to come first, but it’s truly one of the biggest mistakes I see couples make while planning! Your wedding planner should be the very first vendor you hire, even before choosing a venue or committing to a date. A planner is an expert in all things wedding, and they exist to advocate for YOU. They’re likely to be intimately familiar with the venues you’re considering, and they know what questions to ask and how to best allocate your budget in order according to your priorities. Time and time again, I hear from couples that have spent way too much of their budget on their venue, meaning they have to sacrifice in every other area of their wedding. A wedding planner would help to avoid this tragic misstep!

Carefully consider your preferred aesthetic.

As mentioned above, the venue very much dictates the overall feel and aesthetic of your wedding celebration. Ask yourself: how do you want your day to feel? What kind of images are you drawn to? For example, if you’re dreaming of wedding photographs with a bright and airy, fine art aesthetic, a dark barn isn’t going to be the right venue choice to achieve that throughout the entire wedding day. Instead, you’ll want to tour venues with tons of natural light, white walls, and ample green outdoor space for portraits.

Seek out full galleries from past real weddings.

Much like you’d request to see full galleries from your photographer, you should also request them from venues you’re considering! Whenever I receive an inquiry from a prospective client with a venue I’ve never worked at before, the first thing I do is to search “VENUE NAME wedding” online in search of blog posts from other photographers who have worked there. This gives me a better sense of the space, how it photographs, and what to expect before I ever set foot on the property. Get in the habit of doing this yourself while venue hunting, and DO NOT just rely on the wedding venue’s own website!

Oftentimes, and understandably, they’re highlighting the very best about their venue. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited a venue’s website only to find a stunning venue photo that was clearly taken at sunrise – a time we’d almost certainly not have access to it, and therefore couldn’t possibly replicate on a wedding day. What you want to see is what the venue actually looks like in use on a real wedding day, in order to ensure that it matches your overall wedding vision.

Read the fine print.

Again, this is where having a wedding planner in your corner during venue selection is CRUCIAL. A common mistake I see when creating timelines is that the venue only allows access a certain time before the actual ceremony takes place. Since 90% of my couples choose to do a first look, this often means we need to have access to the property as much as 3 hours in advance in order to create all formal portraits before the ceremony begins. Make sure your venue allows access to the space when we need it, and remember, this is something that can be prevented by selecting an all-in-one venue!

Guest experience is everything.

While your wedding day is ultimately about celebrating you and your partner, don’t forget to think about those you’re celebrating with – your guests! Is the space climate controlled? Will they be squinting into full sun during your ceremony? Are there hotels nearby for out-of-town guests? Is the location easy to find, with convenient parking onsite? Is there a rain plan (more on that below)? These are just a few things to think about when choosing a wedding venue.

What’s the rain plan?

No one likes to think about rain on their wedding day, but it’s a potential reality that must be prepared for. Be sure to ask about your venue’s rain plan, making sure that even the “Plan B” is aligned with your wedding vision. An ideal wedding venue will have a solid rain plan in place, along with portrait space that can be used in both fair and poor weather.

There you have it! I hope this advice is helpful when choosing a wedding venue. Below are direct links to my favorite local wedding venues in Maryland, Virginia, and DC:

Herrington on the Bay

Chesapeake Bay Beach Club

The Inn at Perry Cabin

The Pavilion at Weatherly Waterfront

DAR Constitution Hall

The Hay Adams DC

Potomac View Terrace

Larz Anderson House

Stone Tower Winery

Morais Vineyards

Great Marsh Estate

Pippin Hill Farm

Red Fox Inn

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Hi, I'm  Amanda.

As an internationally-lauded wedding photographer with a decade of experience, Amanda brings her signature timeless, editorial style and classic, romantic aesthetic to modern love stories. 

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