In about eight weeks, James and I will be standing in that very spot, saying “I do.” Is this the point in the wedding planning process when I panic? Or maybe just drink a lot of wine? Luckily, we have most of the details of our big day nailed down (the benefits of a year and a half long engagement).
Of all the wedding planning decisions we’ve made, one of the first — and most important — was where to hold our ceremony and reception. The venue you choose will be the backdrop for one of the most important days of your life.
Long before I got engaged, I thought I knew exactly where I wanted to get married in my hometown of Normal, Illinois. I dreamed of having a wedding and reception at a gorgeous, historic mansion called the Ewing Cultural Center. But, once James and I started talking about what we wanted most for our wedding, I realized it wasn’t the right fit. As beautiful as the venue is, it just doesn’t go along with our more rustic, laid back style.
Instead, we landed on the Davis Lodge along Lake Bloomington. It’s a simple building that will serve as a great blank canvas, allowing us to incorporate all of the special touches we find so important for our wedding.
We did a lot of research before landing on the right place. Here are the questions we asked ourselves to help find our dream wedding location:
Do we want to have our wedding and reception at separate sites or in the same place?
We knew from the beginning we didn’t want to have a traditional wedding, so getting married in a church wasn’t a priority for us. We were specifically looking for a venue that could accommodate both our ceremony and reception, which is easier on guests. The Davis Lodge has a beautiful outdoor space for the ceremony and dance floor, as well as ample space inside for dinner and seating. If you choose to have your ceremony and reception at different locations, consider their proximity to each other and how easy it will be for guests to get to and from each place.
What’s included with the venue?
This varies greatly from place to place. We’re lucky enough to have a venue that includes chairs and tables with the cost of rental. That’s not the case everywhere — some places you only pay to rent the space. Obviously, this can have a huge impact on your budget. If your venue doesn’t include things like seating, table linens, lighting, etc., you’ll have to pay additional money to have your venue or another rental company provide those necessary items.
What restrictions does the venue have in place?
Some venues require you use certain caterers and liquor providers when renting their space. This limits your food and cost options, but can be convenient. Be sure to look over the menus thoroughly and taste the food before selecting a venue with vendor restrictions.
Another important factor to ask about is how much time you’ll have the day of the event. Can you or your wedding planner get in the night before the wedding to setup? What time do you have to be out of the reception venue on the night of the wedding? Are there noise restrictions after a certain time? These are all questions that should be clearly outlined in any contract you sign.
Of course, have a clear budget in mind when you’re looking. The venue is important, but you don’t want to spend all of your money in one place.Decorations can go a long way in turning a simple space into something magical— and something much more personal.