Since everyone in the land knows how “Type A” I am, it should come as no surprise that immediately after getting engaged, I was itching to set a date and a venue for our wedding.
Earlier in our relationship, I told Alex I’ve always dreamt of an outdoor wedding. I grew up in the Episcopal church (so did Alex), and I consider myself to be a faithful person, but I have imagined walking down a green, lush aisle for as long as I can remember.
I think we had only been dating for months when I dropped this bomb on Alex, who has always wanted a traditional church wedding. It actually may have been the first time we didn’t 100% agree on something. Lucky for me, Alex was amenable to an outdoor ceremony.
Since Alex wanted to get married in the Richmond area, we made a list of a few venues to tour in our area. I used theknot.com and borrowedandblue.com to hone in on other nearby areas (I highly recommend borrowedandblue.com for the venue search. I love the featured weddings links for each vendor).
Our priority list for our area’s wedding venues included:
- The Country Club of Virginia James River Clubhouse
- Mount Ida Farm
- Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
- Tuckahoe Plantation
- Upper Shirley Vineyards
It was important to me to set a date and a venue as soon as we found something we loved so we could relax and plan the rest in the long engagement period we have. We started touring in December, shortly after getting engaged, which meant our outdoor ceremony locations weren’t exactly looking their best.
Fortunately, we’ve got some imagination.
And we stalked plenty of wedding photos from each venue, so we somewhat knew what everything looked like before we saw it in person.
I went into these tours blind. With each tour, I learned what to ask and which details to gather. I kind of wished someone had prepared me with all the questions I needed to ask ahead of time.
For any couple embarking on their venue tour, I’d recommend the following quick tips:
- Do your research. Look up other weddings at that site on their website (if available), Pinterest, and Google. Make lists of what you don’t like, and ask the event coordinator if it’s something you can change.
- Know your must-haves and non-negotiables. You won’t know if the venue is the right fit for you if you don’t have a vision for wedding. Try to look up other weddings and make lists of what you want on your special day. Know you want a sparkler send-off? Ask if they’re allowed at that venue.
- Learn the backup plan. If you need to have an outdoor ceremony, find out the rain plan, and make sure you like it! Finding a rain plan I was okay with was so important to me. I don’t want to be crying over rain on my wedding day.
- Take a small notebook to make a pros/cons list as you tour, and take way more photos than you think you’ll need. As soon as you leave, you’ll forget details. Videos help, too!
- Ask about the bridal/groom suites. How many can fit in each suite? How long do you have access to them?
- Learn all guest accommodations. How close is the nearest hotel? How far is that hotel from the airport? Do you have guests with special needs at your reception like air conditioning or a place to sit?
- Inquire about venue insurance. Some vendors require you to obtain it before your big day.
- Request a preferred vendor list. Some venues require you to book vendors from their list only. Some purely offer recommendations. Make sure you know the difference for each venue if you have particular vendors in mind, because I did! Also, vendors who are used to working at that venue might be extra helpful for you.
- Find out everything that is included and what costs extra. Some things will shock you, trust me! At some places, seating and tables are included. At others, you need to source and supply just about everything other than the grounds.
- If the venue is willing to offer them, ask for e-mail addresses of couples who have been married there before. I know people who have connected with those who have previously gotten married at their venues, and it served as a major help in the wedding process. Simple tips in how to interact with the venue staff are very helpful!
And so you can keep this list handy, I’ve created a graphic for you. Feel free to pin this to your Pinterest board, print it out, etc.!
For those who have yet to search: What are you most looking forward to in the venue hunt?
For those who have already selected their wedding venue: What were your deal-makers and deal-breakers?
I can’t wait to share our actual venue with you (coming soon)!