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Choosing the best wedding venue for you and your fiance’s wedding day is not an easy choice. The venue you choose will set the tone for your entire wedding and can impact everything from your decor to the attire of you and your guests. So how do you narrow it all down without feeling overwhelmed? This wedding venue checklist will not only show you what to consider in your venue, the questions to ask your wedding venue, but what I recommend for better photographs and why.

Alternatively, you can skip ahead to see my list of the best wedding venues in Tampa, Fl.

What makes an ideal wedding venue?

Ideal wedding venues are:

bring home


Don’t worry about awkward poses or feeling weird in front of a camera.
No pressure in the moment photography for laid back couples.
  • Large enough to house all your guests
  • Has spaces for on-site photography locations so you can stay in one location
  • Have lots of natural light
  • Either has a space for your ceremony or is within 10-15 minutes of your ceremony location
  • Has a bar service or allows outside vendors for alcohol
  • preferably single wedding locations (or large enough that you wont run into other weddings)
  • Has a style that you LOVE. (my personal favorites are modern, garden, vineyard, or industrial wedding venues)

Wedding venue checklist

How to choose your wedding venue step by step

Choose your destination or city.

Choosing your city first can help quickly narrow down your venue choices. You can choose the city you live in or anywhere in the world, just keep in mind certain countries do not allow you to bring vendors from home.

Set your budget.

You need to have some kind of idea as to how much you are able to afford for the wedding as a whole and for the venue itself. The venue and catering is typically about half the total budget of a wedding, but it can be more or less depending on your needs. (This is very different for elopements!)Selecting a venue outside or at the highest end of the budget can cause tremendous stress and typically results in skimping on other details that you would have otherwise loved to have had. 

Estimate your guest count.

While you don’t need an exact number for your guest list, it’s good to plan ahead. Having at least an estimate will help you determine if a ceremony & reception space can accommodate your guests.

Pick a main date & 2-3 backup dates for your wedding

You’ll find that a lot of venues book out significantly in advance, so I would choose three backup dates if possible.If you are absolutely set on having your wedding on an anniversary date or a specific date you can stick to it, but you may need to be flexible with your venue choice.

Choose a type of Venue Style

Think about the look and feel of your wedding day the way you have always dreamed it. Are you going for a formal, casual, or something in-between vibe? Decide that and then look for venues that fit that style. Look through Pinterest for some inspiration!

Research & Tour Venues

Take some time to go through venues in your city and tour your top 5 venue choices. Make sure to ask if they have availability on your main date + backup dates. If you really love the look of a specific venue, tour it anyway. You may decide to change dates based on the venue alone.

Questions to ask your wedding venue.

So you’ve researched your venue, you’ve read the reviews, and scheduled your tour. You need to ask questions while you’re on the tour. The coordinator giving you the tour is going to be the most reliable source of information for the venue. I would highly recommend taking notes as well because you’ll be comparing multiple venues after the tours. These are the must-ask questions for the venue coordinator.

  • What is your availability? (Double-check the dates you want! they could have booked that day.)
  • Will I have the same person throughout the entire wedding process, or will there be one person helping me through the planning process and a different person running my wedding?
  • What is included in your package including additional fees?
  • When is the full payment due?
  • Do you have off-season or off-peak pricing for non-Saturday dates?
  • What is your capacity?
  • Where will guests sit and where will the dance floor be?
  • Do you have onsite parking, valet, or nearby public transportation?
  • Who pays for the parking?
  • Is there an in-house caterer or can you bring outside vendors?
  • Is there an approved list of vendors or can I bring my own? (also a good time to name-drop me as a wedding photographer 😉
  • What is the rain plan? This one is CRUCIAL for outdoor ceremonies or receptions.
  • Do you have A/C or heat?
  • Are there any additional rules I should know about, like noise policies or rules against certain types of décor?
  • How long will my vendors and I have access to the venue before and after the wedding for set up and break down?
  • Will other events or weddings be happening onsite on the day of?
  • Can I review the contract before signing it?
  • What is the cancellation or postponement policy?

What is next in the wedding planning process?

The next step after booking your wedding venue should be booking your wedding photographer or wedding planner. These are the two next crucial vendors who are also the most likely to book up the fastest. Depending on where wedding photographs land on your list of priorities, I would most likely opt for this next. I have had some couples book over two years out and this could mean a scarcity of wedding dates.

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