How to Shop for a Wedding Venue Online
Navigating wedding planning in the time of COVID-19 is a challenge, but it’s also shown us just how much we can accomplish using virtual tools. That’s one of the things that recently inspired me to launch MAD About Weddings, together with my friend and fellow wedding planner, Debbie Geller. Our 12-video program walks couples through every part of the process, from finding the perfect vendors to making the day uniquely yours. And of course, that includes advice on finding and booking the perfect venue, even when you can’t visit in person! Want to know how? Here are my top tips for how to shop for a wedding venue online.
Work out your must-haves. When you shop for a wedding venue online, the choice can be endless, so it’s important to narrow the field. Sit down as a couple and work out your priorities and expectations. For example, do you want a relaxed, outdoor feel or a ballroom reception? Is a late-night dance floor a must? Are you set on a particular caterer? What is the size of your guest list and budget? Elements to consider include the venue type and capacity, location, ceremony options, catering, and the availability of on-site and local accommodation. Consider the time of year too – that may help to narrow down the where due to weather.
Do the (virtual) legwork. Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to start researching! You can find venue options in a number of ways. For example, Google searches, local blog guides and directories (where you can often filter listings according to your needs), and recommendations by local vendors as well as family and friends. And of course, your wedding planner! Get active on social media and check out real weddings using destination or venue-type hashtags. Then cross-reference venue information with your search criteria. It can all get a bit overwhelming, so be sure to make comprehensive lists or enter details onto a spreadsheet, and break up the search into different days and blocks of time so the venues don’t all start to blend into one. Finally, narrow down the longlist into a few top choices to explore further.
Browse reviews and real weddings. Once you have a shortlist, it’s time for some more in-depth research. Start by checking out reviews on wedding boards and social media, as well as the venue websites (if you aren’t working with a wedding planner). Know of someone who chose the venue for their wedding? Reach out and ask about their experience. It’s also a good idea to look for examples of weddings at the venue on blogs, social media, and on local photographers’ websites. These will give you a good idea of what the space looks like with different types of décor and in different seasons. It’s also a great idea to check into the venue’s location using street view on Google Maps, and to check how easy it is to get to.
Set up a virtual tour. Once you’ve taken some time to look at your shortlist in-depth, it’s time to make contact. Start with general pricing. You can rule out a lot of venues simply based on price (and capacity). Then dig deeper. While couples were once limited to brochures and PDFs, you now have access to some fantastic tools when you shop for a wedding venue online! Many venues now offer virtual video tours, so you can get a real sense of the space, even from your laptop. These might include drone footage and footage from past events, as well as live walk-throughs. You may also have the option to record the tour, so that you can watch it again later or share it with others like your parents. It’s also important to ask questions (both before and after) so you have all the information you need to make a decision.
Go with your gut. Once you’ve looked everything over (including the contracts), it’s time to make your selection. Of course, logic is important, and you need to make sure that your venue meets all your non-negotiables. But when it comes down to it, the final decision is often based on how you feel. Sit down with your partner and compare notes. Think about the venue itself, as well as the team members you have been in contact with. Has the communication been good? Do you feel they are open to your ideas? Did they make you feel like they were excited to work with you? If your gut feeling isn’t good, it may be worth going back to your original list.
Want more advice on how to shop for a wedding venue online, as well as other important wedding planning tasks? Be sure to check out my course, MAD About Weddings!
Image by Norman & Blake