In the Details: A Practical Guide to Navigating Wedding Venues

Mia Corkum – February 4, 2024

Let’s say you found a wedding venue you absolutely love. Exposed brick walls? Check. Perfect spot for sunset photos? Check. Romantic reception lighting? Check. Sounds great, right?! Now, what if said venue only has one bathroom for your 200 guests, and there’s actually no heat in the building even though your wedding is in February? Does it still sound so great? It’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics when selecting a wedding venue, so here’s some things to consider before you book.  

What does the venue provide?

At the very least, your venue should be providing tables and chairs for your event. Whether or not they’re the tables and chairs you want for your wedding is a different story. Some venues do provide really nice tables and really nice chairs, but more often than not, they’re just going to be plastic. Of course you can rent the tables and chairs that you want, but that’s going to be an expensive additional cost. Also, do you want round tables or banquet tables? Some provide one or the other, and some provide both. What else do they provide? Do they provide linens, an arbor, any decor, a coordinator? What services are being provided along with just the space? Will your day-of contact be on-site, or are they going to be close enough nearby that they can come at a moment’s notice? Will they set up the tables and chairs where you want them, or will you need to hire someone else to do it? At the end of the night, do they have a clean up crew? Know what the venue provides so you know who else you may have to hire to fill any gaps. These might not be deal breakers for you either way, but it’s good information to know before signing on the dotted line.

Approved vendor list

When it comes to booking a venue, a lot of places will have preferences on the other vendors you book. Sometimes they just have suggestions, but other times their approved vendors are required. Before signing with your venue, make sure there aren’t any issues with any vendors you’ve already booked, or are planning on booking. If you already hired a catering service, and it’s not on the venue’s approved list, some venues will be flexible; however, if they’ve had issues with them in the past, they may not let you book. Similarly, some venues work hand-in-hand with a coordination service. This isn’t quite as common, but it can be very helpful because the coordinator will know what works and what doesn’t in that space. 

Guest count

When looking for a wedding venue, you’re going to want to keep your guest count in mind. A venue having a capacity of 250 does not mean you want 250 guests in that space. Yes, you can technically have that many people, but it will probably be more cramped than you expected. The max number of people you can have in a room is different than the max number of people you can have in a room while still being comfortable. If you’re expecting a high guest count, ask the venue to show you a picture of what the space looks like at their max capacity. On the other hand, you might not want a venue with a capacity of 300 if you’re only expecting 75. The space is just going to feel empty. So, when you start looking at venues, think about how your guest count will fit in that space. 

Rehearsal and set up

Find out when rehearsals usually take place and what you’re allowed to do during them. If your rehearsal is the night before your wedding, ask if they allow you to load in decor and leave it overnight. Even better, see if they allow you to get started on setting up decor and tables. If your wedding is on a Saturday, this is going to be less likely because there’s probably a wedding on Friday. If your rehearsal is on a Thursday and the wedding is the next day, on Friday, this may be an option. The more set up that can be done the day before the better. It’s also important to know when you and your vendors can arrive on the wedding day. Some venues only allow people to arrive 2 hrs before the ceremony, which can be very hard to do. 

Parking and loading

You want to make sure that parking is plentiful and convenient not only for your guests, but also for your vendors. A good rule of thumb is at least one parking spot for every two guests. You’ll have those who carpool in a minivan, but also those who travel alone. So if you have 150 guests, make sure there’s at least 75 spots (plus additional spots for vendors). If the venue is in a city and they don’t have their own lot, will you have a valet service? Is there a parking garage nearby? Is street parking free? Whatever the parking situation, if it’s not free, are you going to cover it or are you going to have the guests pay for it? In consideration of your vendors, where do they load in? How many vehicles can load there? How long can they load there? How far is it from where they need to set up? Will they be able to discreetly pack up at the end of the night? When the caterers start loading their truck, is it going to be a disturbance to all the guests who are still partying and having fun? The logistics of parking can easily be overlooked when selecting a venue, so ensure it’s something you keep in mind.


Especially when looking at barn venues, knowing what the amenities are is very important. Not all barns have air conditioning, and not all barns have heat. Actually, a lot of them don’t. Depending on the time of year, you might not need either one; however, if the wedding is in July, in a barn, without air conditioning, you need to be prepared and you need to have a plan. You might need to have some large fans at the ready, but know that these fans can also be very loud. If it’s cold, make sure you have enough heaters. You can also have a basket of blankets available for your guests. Apart from temperature control, make sure you know whether your venue has a source of drinkable water. It’s fine if they don’t, but you have to be extra sure you won’t run out of water bottles half way through the event. Lastly, what is the bathroom situation? I like to have one bathroom for every 50 guests. If there are only two stalls for 200 guests, I would highly recommend getting a bathroom trailer. 

Rain plan

If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony, it’s crucial to have a plan B in case of rain. All outdoor venues should have a contingency plan, whether it be a tent or available indoor space. Make sure you genuinely like the alternative plan. Falling in love with the outdoor setting but disliking the indoor space could lead to disappointment. 


While the appearance of a venue is undeniably important, there’s so much more to consider than just ‘it looks pretty.’ You’re not expected to know all the questions to ask because you’ve (hopefully) never planned a wedding before! This is precisely where the experience of a professional wedding planner comes in handy. The best piece of advice I can give you is to hire a planner who can guide you through the nuanced decisions and offer insights and advice tailored to your unique vision. 

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