If you’ve started to consider prospective reception or ceremony-and-reception venues for your wedding, your head is probably spinning like a dreidel. The number and variety of venues can seem endless. There are things you like about each one, and things you don’t. Every single venue sets their fees differently, so it’s nearly impossible to compare apples to apples. On top of that, there are a lot of details to understand, and even more questions to figure out and ask. What’s a person to do?

I’m here for you! We’re going to spend the next few columns together working through everything venue, big and small, so you know how to make a good decision and get the wedding you want.

It’s tempting to launch right into the facts and figures. Capacity, cost, and all of those unsexy little matters want to take center stage. And they should. But that’s not how human beings work. We don’t choose partners that way – at least not initially – and we don’t shop for venues that way, either.

So let’s go with the flow. We’ll start with look and feel. Later on, I promise, we’ll go deep into all of the facts and figures that will reveal the inner beauty – or the warts – of what we find.

Start with what attracts you. Does it look good? How does it feel, even if only – right now – from photographs? Consider the architecture, the interior style, the gardens and grounds,     and the larger setting. What do you like? What kind of experience can you imagine creating there for your guests? Let your gut feeling be your guide. Look and feel will be your key criteria in making your final venue selection, all other things being more-or-less equal. 

If you’re like most couples in this modern age, most of your search thus far has been online. That’s fine. There’s plenty you can accomplish that way, and it saves a huge load of time. The amount of information that venues publish online varies widely, but at the very least you can get a sense of how the venue looks, and you can usually gather some of the facts and figures that we’re going to talk about later on. 

Speaking of later on, you need to go see a venue – in person, très chic boots on the ground – to really know what it’s like. Humans are visual and visceral. We have difficulty visualizing spaces from afar. You’ll want to go and stand in the space, feel it, smell it. 

Being there in person also lets you fact-check the website, which is a nice way of saying that how things look on the web are not always how they look in person (see: “online dating”). A visit will help you understand how the space works – or doesn’t. 

By the way, this is a good time to talk about keeping track of your impressions, and all of the facts and figures, that you’ll collect in your venue search. Believe me when I tell you that after you see two or three venues, it will all start to mush together. 

Making notes is good! Do it before you see the venue and while you’re there. 

Afterward, too, when you’re in the car talking about it with your sweetie. Better still, turn on the dictation function in your phone and let the words flow! And, if you’re inclined, take some pics and maybe even shoot some video with your phone while you’re touring the venue. We’re talking more memory-tickler than documentary. You don’t want to get so wrapped up in recording images that you miss the experience of being there in person!

A lot of the data you collect can go into a spreadsheet. Then, as you narrow down the finalists you can sort the whole thing, venue by venue, with all of the (easily forgotten) details right in front of you.

More next time on how to choose a wedding venue!

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David Egan
David Egan
David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit Chasecourt.com, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook.