Only a few weeks into our 7-month engagement, Mark and I had settled on a Michigan wedding. We both love the outdoors and knew we wanted to have an outdoor wedding if at all possible. June in Michigan is temperate in a good year, chilly in a luckless one.
My family home, nestled on land in the middle of National Forest 90 minutes away from a major airport provided us with the perfect backdrop for the simple yet elegant wedding we wanted to create. A tiny church nearby and the ample space inside the house and barn provided us with backup in case of inclement weather.
The wedding site ended up being more perfect than I had even hoped. The rehearsal dinner took place on the front patio of the house; we organized the reception and ceremony in the back of the house.
We had a brief brush with inclement weather – a few raindrops started to fall right as the bridesmaids were beginning to walk out of the house and down the deck stairs towards the waiting guests. But the drops had stopped by the time the piano had played the last notes of Canon in D. The clouds blew away and the reception was held under a partially sunny sky.
It was so special to get ready for the wedding in my family home, to eat lunch with the wedding party in our family kitchen, to chat for a few minutes with my bridesmaids and sisters in the rooms where we have all spent so many hours together through the years.
Although not everyone is able to organize a reception or ceremony in their home, no one needs to settle for a venue that is simply functional and effective.
When searching for a venue, frantic brides often feel a little trapped and often settle for spending substantially more money or a less inspiring location than they originally hoped for.
The venue selection will affect almost all other aspects of a wedding. Venues often have rules about catering, drinks, and guest numbers that will limit your ability to make your day your own.
Peace of mind on your wedding day is priceless. If you sense that your choice of venue is causing substantial stress, creating financial strain, or is severely limiting your ability to make your wedding your own, consider being more flexible about your choice of venue.
Here are seven guidelines to keep in mind when you are seeking out a venue for your wedding.
1. If you plan to be married outside, have an indoor backup ready nearby.
Our indoor backup for the reception was on-site; if it rained, we were prepared to move all of the food and guests into my parent’s home. The church a mile away was our ceremony back-up and the woman who has the key to the building was one of our dear friends who helped extensively with the wedding, so there was no chance of suddenly losing access to the building.
2. Consider unusual venues rather than the traditional hotel or country club locations.
An art gallery, museum, or historical home all make lovely indoor venues. If you plan to be married outside, consider a local barn, public garden, city park, or state park. Even if the area is technically open to the public, the flexibility of a non-traditional option often provides you with more flexibility to make the wedding your own.
3. Don’t underestimate the value of using the home or property of a family member or friend.
The peace of mind that can come with a venue where the rules are more relaxed is often worth a little extra clean-up. Beautiful homes and yards often offer a backdrop and atmosphere that money can’t purchase, especially for a small wedding.
4. Consider having your ceremony and reception in the same place.
Even if this means that you sacrifice some backdrop or atmosphere, your guests will appreciate the convenience and ease. The reception will be more comfortable and enjoyable for everyone if it doesn’t require the bride, groom, and guests to fight traffic or spend a long time rebooting after the ceremony.
5. Keep the lighting in mind.
Remember that lighting changes the look of an event and your photos. A garden might be lovely during the day but if you have an evening wedding and the area is not appropriately lit, your event could be dampered by darkness. Be sure to check out the venue during the time of day for which your ceremony is scheduled.
6. Using a venue that is already decorated will save you money on flowers and other decorations.
Mark and I were married against a backdrop of green fields and trees. During the reception, we were surrounded by open space, deer, green fields, and wildflowers. Because we selected a lovely place for our wedding, we were able to stress and spend less on the decorations. For instance, we didn’t have any kind of backdrop (an arch or table) behind us during our ceremony. We simply didn’t need the added elaboration.
7. Don’t fight your location.
Your location will, in many senses, determine the style of your wedding. If you are having a ceremony or reception in a modern art gallery or a new building with a lot of stone and clean lines, then try to incorporate those into your decorations and wedding-day style, rather than trying to battle against the look that is already present. Our wedding was outside so we tried to incorporate a lot of natural hues and textures.
A bonus tip: Relax and prioritize.
Remember that the blessing of being surrounded by family and friends and the memories of a relaxed, special day are far more important than the decorations or the backdrop. Frankly, few will even remember your venue in a few years, but everyone will remember whether the day was stressful and frantic or relaxed and gracious.
The meaning of a wedding ceremony and the love you share with your guests on your wedding day trump. Focus on finding a venue that allows everyone to focus on what is actually important on your big day.
Need more inspiration? This book provided me with so many wonderful ideas during our planning process.
Want some more wedding insight? Check out the entire series below!
Part 1 – an overview of our day.
Part 2 – our DIY invitations.
Part 3 – outfit inspiration from our groomsmen and bridesmaids.
Part 4 – our magical barbecue rehearsal dinner.
Part 5 – how to re-create our DIY burlap flag banners.