Limit Stress By Nailing Down This Element of Your Wedding First

When Matt and I got engaged, it seemed like it was roughly 9.8 seconds before people were asking, “When’s the big day?  Where do you guys think you will get married? Have you started looking for a dress yet?”  No clue.  No idea.  Hard no.

Relish in the moments following your engagement.  Celebrate big, spread the love, and enjoy the beginning of an exciting journey.  There is no set amount of time allowed for simply being engaged, so when the dust starts to settle and people start to ask, “What’s the date?” Don’t stress.  You’ve got as much time as you want.

When you guys are ready to start planning, I suggest starting with what I would argue is one of the most fun aspects of wedding planning, and also one of the most influential factors in creating the entire ambience of your day.  Choosing your venue.

Look at it this way: once you have your venue, a lot of things (can) automatically fall into place.  You then have your wedding date, possibly your caterer, bartenders, tables, chairs, rentals, potential ceremony space-the list goes on depending on the type of environment you are looking for/what the venue offers in its rental package.  You also have the foundation that will influence the rest of your planning.  If your venue is outdoors in October, then nature may play a big role in decor or color scheme.  If you decide to have a destination beach wedding (pls invite me), then you may choose to go for big white tents with romantic bistro lighting to set the mood.

Solidifying a venue provides direction for the rest of your planning.  

LondonHouse, Chicago

LondonHouse, Chicago

And let me tell you, a solid sense of direction is a GIANT stress relief when it comes to planning your wedding.  There is roughly an infinite amount of ways you can plan a wedding, and having so many different ideas and influences from family, friends, and pinterest can sometimes be more overwhelming than helpful.  But once you find that venue, things start to fall into place.

So, where to start?

A good ol’ fashioned brainstorm sesh.  Order some take out (#pennysnoodles), grab some vino, and crank out all the things you guys are looking for in a dream scenario.  Make a checklist so when you start visiting venues, you can keep track of which venue had what.  For me, starting is always the hardest part, so I put together a few guiding questions in no particular order to get the ball rolling:

  • Are you looking for an indoor or outdoor venue?
  • Are you looking for a BYOB venue?
  • Are you looking for a more traditional venue (banquet hall, hotel, country club) or more unique (theatre, beach, garden, art gallery, museum)?
  • What time of year do you want to get married?  Obviously seasonal weather will influence indoor/outdoor venue choices.
  • Do you want a venue that provides catering or a venue that allows outside vendors?
  • Destination or local?
  • Ceremony and reception in the same location?  
  • Big wedding or small?
  • Urban, suburban, rural? (think art gallery vs. banquet hall vs. barn wedding-what feel appeals to you?)
  • How much decorative freedom do you want? (are you looking for a blank canvas (loft space) or what you see is pretty much what you get (hotel, banquet hall, country club)

Once you have a preliminary idea of what you both are looking for, start doing some research.  Wedding Wire and the Knot are good resources, but so is a straight up google search.  Once you have a list of a few places that look exciting and inspiring, shoot ‘em a call and set up an appointment to do a walk through.  At the walk-through, go through your checklist and ask any questions you may have with regards to the space, staff, or otherwise.

Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee

Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee

Here’s my last little piece of wisdom.  Don’t overload yourself.  Stop while it’s still fun.  Sometimes venues look differently online than they do in person, or you may find the language used in outlining the packages was a different story than the one you were presented with in person.  That’s okay.  It’s great you went and looked.  And I know it sounds hokey, and I want to punch myself in the face for saying this, but when you find the right one, you know.  You know immediately.  You get the butterflies in your stomach and a strong sense that this is where you want to get married.  If you don’t have that feeling, keep looking.  If you feel like you’ve been looking for what seems like forever, have another brainstorming session.  Go back to your list and see if any of your feelings have changed.  Maybe you surprise yourself and end up going in an entirely different direction than you ever thought you would.  But keep it fun.  Keep it light.  Take breaks when it gets to be too much.  

I’ve put together some examples of different types of venues.  This list is not exhaustive by any means.  You can get married virtually anywhere.  Also, most of these venues are Chicago and the surrounding areas, but they’re just to give ideas and inspiration.  Click on the venue type for a link to the type of space outlined.

Different venue types:

Happiest of planning to you!  If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will get back to you ASAP!