How To Pick A Wedding Venue
From A Photographer’s Point Of View
I often wonder how a couple picks the spot to hold one of the biggest moments of their lives. From a photographer’s point of view, I am sharing what I look for to find the perfect place for a wedding. Remember, picking the wedding venue is normally the first step when planning a wedding and everything else is pivotal upon when and where your wedding will be. The wedding venue sets the vibe and backdrop of your event. So, it realistically needs to be the very first item on your to-do list. Let me share with you how to pick a wedding venue from a photographer’s point of view.
With the lifting of restrictions from the pandemic, it’s crazy how quickly the venues have fully booked in Western Washington and the Puget Sound area this year. To get into these coveted spots, couples are challenged with picking different days other than the weekend or pushing out their day even years from now.
Consider Your Timeline:
In general, when you pick a wedding venue, you should secure your venue nine months to a year in advance. Many of the venues in my area like Twin Willow Gardens, Gray Bridge Venue, Rein Fire Ranch, Thornewood Castle, Laurel Creek Manor, and Ravenwoods Farm are fully book for the year and some are fully booked for next year, too. With the shutdown, you shouldn’t be surprised if you are forced to go 2 to 3 years from now or pick a date that isn’t typical of a normal wedding season. If you just got engaged, don’t procrastinate to nail this piece of the wedding puzzle down.
As a photographer, I am all about the details. I often ask my couples what they envision. This helps to narrow down the best spot when picking a wedding venue. Pick a theme. This is a great way to tie everything together for your special day. With that in mind, I recommend asking these questions:
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- What type of backdrops or backgrounds do you picture? Such as: Indoor or Outdoor, Beach, historical city building, forest meadow, landmark, etc.
- How many guests will there be? Does the venue have the capacity to match the guest list?
- Is it a destination wedding? If so, what accommodations are available?
- What’s the theme?
- What’s the budget or cost?
- When will the wedding be and is the venue available?
- Are there any deal-breakers?
These questions will help to narrow down your venue list. As a photographer, I look for great places for epic shots. I am the first one to tell you to be yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t the place for your big day. I believe in listening to my gut instinct. Just like knowing who your person is, you should have the same feeling about the venue.
How to pick a Wedding Venue:
You might ask, how do I even find a venue? My first advice is to do a Google search. You would be surprised by how many come up just by typing in “Wedding Venues Near Me” or “Wedding Venues near Seattle” in a search box. However, if you are a non-traditional type and like to think outside the box, there’s always places that are not typical venues such as an Airbnb, a park, a backyard or even a winery. Just keep in mind the type of wedding you are going for and who you are inviting. Once you have a list of places, I suggest you schedule a time to visit the venues on your list. There is no magic number of places to visit and you can narrow your list by asking about their availability before you visit.
Photographer’s Advice when deciding which wedding venue is right for you:
Visit The Venue
- Visit the venue site and have your photographer visit it as well. If you can visit it together, that’s even better. Often times, the venue will show you some of the hidden gems for epic shots but regardless, it’s always good to scope out a venue for the set up of the first look, wedding ceremony or couple shots.
When Is Your Wedding
- Consider the weather and time of day of your event. Some venues allow less time at their location than others. Also, some venues have indoor options just in case of inclement weather. As a photographer, I want to know when the sun will set and where to set up a group shot that’s not full on sun to avoid harsh light.
Venue Parking or Shuttles
- Where will the guests park? I ask this question because if you don’t have adequate parking, cars often end up being part of the photos. It can also cause for delays if traffic is bad or if guests need to be shuttled to the venue from an off-site location.
- Check out the bathroom options, getting ready facilities and designated smoking area for guests. I can’t tell you how many brides neglect to consider where and how they are going to use the bathroom at a venue. If your venue doesn’t provide a place to put on your dress, this could be an issue for you. Are you ok with using a port-a-potty in your wedding dress?
- Does the venue have a vendor list? You are going to need an assortment of vendors including caterers, DJ, florists, wedding planners/coordinators and of course, a photographer. Some venues insist you use their list of vendors while others can give recommendations. In my opinion, pick vendors that work well together. Don’t be afraid to use vendors that connect with you.
- Curfew and noise restrictions are often not thought about. You don’t want the noise level to be the highlight of your event so keep this in mind no matter what you have planned. And, know what the penalty is for going late.
- Reception options are important. Last year, we had times where we couldn’t even have a reception. Now that things are opening up, we can actually cut the cake and have a first dance.
So, I recommend checking to see if there’s enough lighting for photos. Check out the dance floor. As a vendor, I check the area for places to cut the cake, where to stand for the first dance or the best place for a sparkler send off.
Set up and Breakdown
- Find out what the set up and breakdown policy is. I’ve often been surprised what is expected but as long as you are prepared, it’s super easy to follow a venue’s rules.
- Check out the venue’s reviews and make sure you are comfortable with any of the nuances given from the venue.
Read the Contract
- Read the contract thoroughly before you sign it and know when the deposit and final payment are due.
As a photographer, I’ve been asked how to pick a wedding venue. For me, I like variety. I am not afraid to travel to new places. In fact, sometimes an unusual place is even better than a tried and true location everyone covets. I prefer to check out the locations prior to an event. But, if that’s not an option, I am pretty creative about where to shoot. Honestly, if I have been to a location before, I will already know where to get the epic shots. Truly, part of the creative fun is finding new photographic spots.
I consider the time of day and the season of your event. For example, during my trip to Nebraska, I knew I wanted to try to find a ripened wheat field close by to do the couple shots. Or, at a recent engagement shoot, because the bride-to-be had pink embroidered roses on her dress, I wanted to take photos under the pink rose arbors at the park we were at. Check out the pictures at the venue. This will give you some ideas of what to expect on your wedding day.
I believe my job is to get epic shots of your special moments and to capture a timeline of shots that represent your day. I truly want you to feel that your wedding day was the best day ever and give you documented proof of just that.
If you have not found your venue, contact me. I have a list of some of the best places to tie the knot. And, if you have found one, I would love to be your photographer for your wedding day.