How to choose a wedding venue

5 Things to Consider

The first two vendors a couple chooses is the venue (which determines the wedding date) and the photographer. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your venue(s).

There are quite a few things to look at when you are choosing your wedding venue. A good place to start is to decide whether you would like to have a couple of venues - one for the ceremony and one for the reception - or stick with one venue that can host your group for the full event.

Here are a few of the top priorities when booking a venue:

  1. Number of guests
  2. Budget
  3. Food options
  4. Alcohol options
  5. Extra charges

Number of Guests:

The first item to be sure of is the size of the space. Is there enough room for everything you would like to do? Is there a large enough space for your ceremony? If you are having an outdoor ceremony, will your guests be able to hear. Are you going to have a DJ and dance floor? Make sure you have enough space for people to dance the night away if you so choose. Think through your event from beginning to end to ensure you have space for all the necessities such as a “getting ready room” if you and your bridal party are getting ready at the venue.

Budget + Extra Charges:

A big deciding factor in choosing your venue is how much it will cost. Oftentimes there is a base price and then extras added on, so keep your eye open for those. Extras can include: chairs, tables, food serving tables, sweetheart table, A/V, setup time (setting up the day before?), getting ready rooms, and more. You may be able to negotiate based on your needs, but remember, if your wedding is during peak wedding season, you may have to pay more for those highly sought after dates. In Phoenix, Arizona, you will very likely pay more for a Saturday in April or November compared to Thursday in June. Similarly, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, you may have to book your venue a year or more ahead of time if you are really wanting your ceremony in one of the popular downtown venues on a Saturday in the summer.

Food and Alcohol Options:

Many of the dedicated wedding spaces in the Phoenix Area require that you use their food and alcohol caterers or pick off a list of preferred caterers. Many do not have pricing on their sites, so you have to do some digging if you are on a food budget. Our suggestion is to go with a venue where you can bring in the food and alcohol that you would like. For our wedding, we chose a venue that allowed us to bring in our own food and alcohol so long as we had insured bartenders. There are more moving parts when you take the catering into your own hands - making sure there are enough serving dishes, tables, labels, etc.

We were able to use a local restaurant (La Pinata) that Brian’s family has been going to for years. There are also venues where the venue pricing is reasonable, but when you look at the catering pricing it is outrageous and not that great of food. Weigh your options and ask for a tasting so you can pick food that adds to you and your guests’ experience.

When it comes to the alcohol, you can have an open bar, signature drinks, free beer and wine only, free cocktail hour and then a cash bar, or whatever you prefer. If you are paying for each drink, your bar tab can add up quickly. We decided that we wanted to use local vendors so we chose a blonde and an amber beer from Phoenix Ale Brewery and signature drinks using local liquor from Arizona Distilling Company. The signature drinks were a hit, so we would definitely suggest choosing something fun and tasty that your guests will enjoy and show a bit of your own taste or personality. Keep in mind that this is YOUR wedding, so choose what you think is best - if you’re having an early ceremony and party, maybe go with coffee and mimosas or just a cool coffee bar.


Think outside the box (venue label).

Once you start deciding on the location you’d like to host your wedding, keep in mind that there are some unique places that aren’t typical “wedding venues” that are great for hosting a large gathering of people. For example, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is a reasonably priced venue when look at what is included and if you don’t mind using their food and alcohol. Salt River Fields provides everything you need to seat and feed your guests. This location also has ample space to accomodate a very large wedding or a small intimate wedding and it is the size of the wedding that has the largest impact on price. Some restaurants have great views and are open to private parties as well.

In the end, remember that this is YOUR party. People are gathering to celebrate you and this union. Choose a venue that you will look back at fondly and not just because it was a trendy place. Does it reflect you and your significant other? Do people look at this space and think, of course ___(your name here) would choose this venue!?

Brian and I chose a multi-purpose space in Downtown Phoenix: Unexpected Art Gallery. This venue serves as an art gallery, film/photography/music studio, party space, wedding venue, performance venue, etc. Tons of events happen here. The best part is that we had access to just about anything on the property and they didn’t have specific food and alcohol vendors we had to use. We were able to add decorations of our own, request certain colors be used in the artwork on the walls, use the pews outside for an outdoor ceremony, and then tables and chairs indoors for our reception. We used round and rectangular tables, speakers and sound system for our DJ, the room upstairs for Brian’s part of the bridal party, and the Bridal room for Loralee’s part of the bridal party to get ready in. Best of all, there was enough parking, outdoor and indoor space for all of our loved ones to celebrate with us!