Choosing a wedding venue is typically the first thing you’ll do after getting engaged – which totally makes sense! Venues tend to book up super fast (especially in the spring, summer, and fall here in Pittsburgh), so most couples feel the pressure to make sure they lock one in for the season they want quickly!

 But before you commit to a venue, a word to the wise: be careful not to book too fast, without getting the most important pieces of information from your list of potential venues. There are six specific things that I often see overlooked when couples book their venues that are important to remember before signing on the dotted line!

1.     Rain Plan

If it rains on your wedding day (God forbid!), are you happy with the rain plan your venue provides? Do they have a rain plan? Will it cost extra? Where will the ceremony be moved to, if you were planning on an outdoor space to say your vows? And are you okay with that option? Are there any locations you could use for photos if there’s a downpour on your day? (Overhangs, indoor spaces, etc.) It’s important to have an idea of the rain plan before you book so you can make sure you’re okay with it, in the case of inclement weather!

2.     Event Location Proximity

Are all of your wedding day events (getting ready, ceremony, pictures, reception) taking place in the same location, or will you be driving between locations for different parts of your wedding day? From personal experience, one of the BEST decisions we made in regards to our wedding day was the decision to have everything happen in one central location – which meant no traveling between different locations. This reduced stress, was cost effective (we didn’t have to pay for additional transportation, or pay our photographer for a 20-40 minute drive), and saved a ton of time!

3.     Mandatory Vendor List

Does your wedding venue allow you to choose your own vendors, or does it require you to pick from a pre-made list? Many wedding venues have working relationships with vendors local to their area, and if they love working with them, they’ll add them to a list of preferred vendors. While many venues will allow you to bring in other venues and only offer the list as a guide, some venues will require you to choose from those specific vendors. Which is great – unless you have another company in mind for that specific vendor category. Be sure to ask so you aren’t caught off guard after already signing a contract!

4.     Amount of Shade

This might seem like an odd one to throw in, but it’s one of the first things I look for when I’m checking out a venue as a wedding photographer! Why? Many times, portraits of the bridal party and bride and groom will take place at times of the day that aren’t typically known to be the best for photos (a few hours before sunset is typically the best time, while mid day and mid afternoon can be the brightest/most unflattering time for portraits!). Having a plethora of shade to work with for mid-day portraits ensures that your photos will be evenly lit and flattering!

5.     Guest Travel

Where is your wedding venue located in proximity to where most of your guests will be coming from? Or, if the majority of your guests are coming in from out of town, is your venue within close proximity to hotels in the area? Some wedding venues are far out in the middle of nowhere, which means lots of extra driving. If you have a lot of guests coming in from out of town, consider choosing a venue within close(r) proximity to a hotel to accommodate them!

6.     Set up & Clean Up Timeframe

If you are decorating parts of your ceremony/reception, when are you allowed to come in and start decorating? And likewise, if you are required to clean up the decorations from your own venue, how much time will you be given to do so? My husband and I opted to get married on a Friday so that we had the entire day before to set up! The couple whose wedding was held at the same venue the next day only had that very day to set up their décor. For us – we didn’t want to have to deal with that on our wedding day. We just wanted to relax and be present with friends, family, and each other!

Thanks for reading through, and happy planning! 💛