Picking a wedding venue (for both your ceremony and reception) is often one of the first things couples do once they are engaged.

  1. What kind of wedding do you want.

Before you even begin to look at venues, decide on what kind of wedding you want to have – formal or informal, religious or not religious, lunch or dinner time frame, what kind of styling and theming etc. Once you have these answers you can start to narrow your search

  1. Set a budget.

When you start to look for a venue, you need to consider what your budget is – you can then say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to venues once you receive a price list – most venues will email you a price list or at least a guide so that you can further narrow your list

  1. How many guests do you want to have:

Every venue will have a maximum number of guests it can hold. If you have a huge extended family or if cultural norms demand a guest list of 500+ people, you will have to alter your search parameters – as not a lot of venues can hold this capacity. On the flip side, venues will have a “minimum number” or “minimum spend” to make it viable. If you want to have an intimate wedding of 30 people, a venue that holds 200+ people is going to have a minimum spend/number that far exceeds your numbers so it may not be financially viable for you. Also keep in mind that you don’t want to be lost in the space – if it seats 200+ people and you only have 30 the room will seem huge and you will lose that intimacy and may not be so in love with it on the big day.

  1. Are you religious or not? Do you want to get married in a church or not?:

This answer will alter how you search. If you’re having a chapel wedding, consider where you want to hold your reception – how far is it for guests to travel? How much time will you have between ceremony and reception? What will your guests do during this time? What modes of transport are available to them?
If you aren’t getting married at a church, do you want to have an outdoor garden wedding, a beach wedding or at your reception venue itself? A lot of venues these days will have options for you to get married on site too- whether it is a chapel or garden space. Remember to find out the capacity, set up inclusions, and costs involved with this. If looking at a garden or beach location, make sure you check out the local council guidelines and rules – do you need a permit? are only allowed access at certain times? what are you allowed to bring/set up? What are the costs involved?
Always make sure you have a contingency plan for wet weather or a heat wave – it is after all Melbourne and the weather is notoriously unreliable.

  1. What does the reception venue include? What are you allowed to do?

Are you having your reception in a barn, in a hotel ball room, in a backyard or a reception venue. Each one of these locations will have different inclusions and rules when it comes to what you bring in & set up. Some venues will have fully inclusive packages that cover your furniture, linen, crockery & cutlery, decorations and more. Other venues you just get the four walls & roof over your head and you are left to organise the rest! Make sure you know what you are getting yourself in for and that you are prepared to take on the work if you go for the later.

  1. Seeing is believing

Try to visit the venue at the same time (and even better if possible – the same time of year) you are looking to get married so that you can see exactly what it will be like on your wedding day. If you visit during summer but you are planning to marry in winter – what will the gardens look like? What are the wet weather options etc. Know what you are going to get so you won’t be disappointed on the day.

  1. Location, location, location.

Remember to consider your guests even though it is your big day. If you aren’t getting married locally or if you have interstate or international guests, find out where nearby accommodation is and let guests know. If holding your ceremony at a different location to your reception, keep in mind travel times etc to get from A to B and if you are wanting to make multiple location stops inbetween, give guests enough time to head home/to accommodation for a break or organise a pit-stop location (you could include a TAB at a bar, or have afternoon tea nibbles at a café

  1. Exclusivity

Does the venue hold more that one wedding at a time? Or more than one in a day? If they hold more than one wedding in a day, what are the timing restrictions etc? Either way, you only have the hire of the venue for ‘X amount’ of time, so as long as you have assurances that everything will be in its place and there is no overlap of guests etc are you happy?
Some venues or hotels have multiple function rooms – therefore they can hold more than one wedding at a time. If this is the case, how does it work – are you only allowed access to certain areas (are these the areas you want?), how does photography work (are you restricted by locations or time constraints? Do you have to line up and wait for the previous couple to finish first at each spot – doesn’t feel quite so special…), what about parking space? What about accommodation? What about the décor? How many kitchens do they have? Do you have to wait for the next room to be served before your guests can be served? Can you hear their music during your speeches?
These are all questions that you need to ask, and you need to decided what answers you are happy or not happy with. Non-exclusive venues are often cheaper as you have to compromise – are you willing to compromise on your wedding? Sometimes it is easier to pay a few extra dollars for that peace of mind.

  1. He said, she said.

Word of mouth is an amazing thing – you can find out a lot about a venue and what you will get from talking to people you know. Especially if a venue has been running for many years – ask how the food was, did the guests enjoy themselves etc.

  1. First in, best dressed.

It is important to remember that popular venues can book out months and years in advance – especially during peak season and on Saturday evenings. So it is vital to keep this in mind if you have your heart set on a Saturday evening wedding in Spring of this year – chances are, a lot of venues will already be fully booked (possibly even for the next year too!!) You may have to wait an extra year to say “I Do” or reconsider the month or day of the week you are after.
Picking a venue is one of the harder things to tick off your wedding checklist, but when you fall in love with ‘the’ venue, it will all be worth it!
Good luck!