Along with the date and the dress, the setting is arguably one of the most important aspects a bride and groom must decide on when planning their wedding. From a rustic barn to a balmy private beach or a family member’s backyard, there is certainly no shortage of options. Still, that doesn't make picking your wedding venue any easier. After all, you'll always remember the place where you said “I do.”
It’s a decision that tends to require some seriously careful consideration — and it makes sense, too: The venue is the most costly element of a wedding by far, according to research conducted by WeddingWire. Selecting the perfect venue depends on a number of factors, of course, including the couples’ budget and personal tastes. Yet certain types of venues have remained consistently more popular than others. TheKnot’s Real Weddings Study revealed that banquet halls are the most common choice, with 17 percent of couples hosting their receptions at these types of venues. Following closely behind are farms, barns, and ranches (15 percent) — which TheKnot notes have increased in popularity since 2009.
Picking the perfect place to celebrate your wedding requires serious patience and plenty of research, but most couples agree that once they found their spot, it was well worth the effort to make their big day memorable. Here’s what five newlyweds had to say about their experience choosing a venue.
She couldn’t pick one venue… so she used two.
I would say all in all I probably spent 50+ hours looking at just venues online over the course of a couple months. We had a pretty tight budget to try to accomplish a wedding in Boston, so that also narrowed things down a lot. I had the idea to try and pick somewhere that was stylish to begin with so that I wouldn’t have to worry about too many decorations, so I was looking at a lot of historic places, gardens, etc. I always loved the Harvard Museum of Natural History and assumed it would be way out of my budget but looked into it anyway and was pleasantly surprised that it was affordable for us!
The one hiccup was that the museum didn’t allow for dancing, and it was important to us that our friends and family get to let loose a little, so we ended up having to pick a second venue to do the reception. That involved a lot more scouring of the Internet. When we went to visit the Cambridge Boat Club we realized it was really close to our ceremony venue and had a big kitchen that my chef fiancé and some of his friends could use to whip up dinner, which enabled us to cater the affair ourselves and saved us money. It was a beautiful location on the water, too, so it ended up being perfect.
— Emma, 29
She went back to her original pick, and it was meant to be.
This took us so long. We looked at so many places, trying to think of what look and feel we wanted for it. Ultimately, we sort of narrowed it down by eliminating ones that we had major issues with (too far away, not big enough, etc.) and decided on our spot.
However, it ended up changing management about nine months out. We weren’t happy with the new policies they had, so we canceled and ended up going back to a golf club we originally said no to because of a few big reasons. They had just partnered with a hospitality company with a great rep that was actually going to be fixing everything we had issues with! They had our original date open and we booked right away!
She prioritized convenience.
I made a list of venues in the greater area where we live, then hubs and I narrowed it down based on distance, convenience, all-inclusive vs DIY-heavy, etc. We visited only one, which is a local hotel/resort/conference venue, and decided on that. It was convenient for us, parents, local friends, and travelers (good room rate for the wedding, 20 minutes from the airport, close to a church, etc).
To boot, it’s pretty and has an excellent reputation. Got married a couple of weeks ago and have no complaints, it was fantastic!
She settled on imperfect perfection.
We decided we hated everyone and needed to elope, so we narrowed it way down to anywhere not in our state. We thought about what we envisioned our wedding photos to look like and agreed we needed natural beauty. We wanted someplace that it was easy for our parents to travel and narrowed down to about four continents. We fought about whether I should freeze or he should be hot and narrowed it down to about two continents. He won and we looked at Europe.
The Alps seemed to have the majesty we were looking for, so we started Googling. Swiss and German Alps appealed to us the most. We spoke to two travel companies and our normal travel agent and changed our minds 5,000 times until we just got tired of fighting and decided on six different towns. From there, the availability of a place with flowers outside and a view of the mountains on our inside backup that would allow a party of eight narrowed us down further.
We found a beautiful castle on the water and decided we didn't care if it was perfect. It was a travel wedding and unexpected twists go with the theme. We booked it. Now, we are happy to debate much more important topics such as whether he needs to use a knife and fork to eat his pizza.
She discovered a hidden gem.
I saw our venue in a magazine, and although we are native Houstonians, neither of us had ever heard of it. When we got there we knew right away it was special. It was a historic building in the heart of downtown Houston built in 1929 that had been recently renovated with chic and stylish finishes. It had so much character and was a great mix of old and new. The ballroom had large windows, exposed brick, and a green living wall that was really unique and right away we knew that this was 'our place.'
We were able to transform it into what would become the most magical night of our lives. I’m so glad we went to look at this place we had never even heard of!
— Jennifer, 37
The setting of your wedding is obviously a key component: It sets the scene for the start of an exciting new chapter in your love story. While the geographic location, cost, lighting, acoustics, and so many other elements will factor into your decision, at the end of the day, selecting your ideal venue often comes down to a matter of gut instinct. As they say about finding “the one,” when you know — you know.