Wedding Week: Picking the Perfect Venue

At our wedding, one of the biggest questions we got from our guests was “How did you find this place?” It was seriously in the middle of no-where but was set on gorgeous property with sprawling orchards, goats, and red paneled barns.

a main selling point of our venue

a main selling point of our venue

When we started the wedding planning process, we knew one thing was for certain – we would not have it at a banquet hall. Not that there’s anything wrong with wedding receptions at banquet halls, we’ve actually been to some really beautiful receptions that took place at a banquet hall – but we knew ourselves and knew that this wouldn’t be “us”.

One of our biggest inspirations was John and Sherry’s (from Young House Love) 2007 backyard wedding. Classic? Check. Fun? Check? Informal? Check. It was truly something that gave us a big smile and the biggest push to do something similar but to make it our own. Like J + S, a lot of the elements of our wedding were DIY. And even though we didn’t have a backyard to host our reception – we tried to incorporate as much of “us” into our day as possible.

As we started researching venues, we noticed that a lot of the “wedding” venues in our area were completely out of our budget. We live semi-close to Chicago (about 22 miles) so of course the prices are “Chicago-prices.” Anything trendy or different either didn’t fit our budget or our headcount. And anything near where we lived would be a typical banquet hall wedding which we decided was an absolute “No” in our book. With inspiration from John and Sherry, we knew we wanted the ceremony to be outdoors, so thinking outside of the box we started researching vineyards. We found a potential site in Galena, IL that had a beautiful property and a nice area in their wine shop to host guests. We loved that we could purchase their wine directly to use for the reception, but didn’t like that you had to use required (pre-approved) vendors for food. We had an appointment scheduled with the vineyard anyways, but decided to cancel last-minute. Something was telling us “No.”

After we nixed that idea, I thought maybe we should research orchards. JP and I had visited a pumpkin patch/orchard that fall and thought it might be a neat idea to see if there were any nearby orchards that would host weddings. I found out through a basic internet search that there was an apple orchard about 45 minutes away from where we lived so we made an appointment to visit the site and gather more information. When we arrived, we immediately fell in love with the venue. Not only was it beautiful but it had everything we wanted – early set up, no preferred vendor list, within our budget! We picked the venue without looking at any other venues in-person because when we left, we felt that it was “the one” right away. Now, I wouldn’t recommend that approach to everyone.

venue when we first visited

inside of venue when we first visited

Some important things to remember when selecting your venue:

  • Stay within your budget! Maybe it’s the perfect venue for you, but if it’s out of your budget, it won’t leave you room to get other very important things you want for your big day.
  • Ask lots of questions! You’re more than likely paying good money to host one of the most important days of your life. Ask the vendor questions on catering, times you can be at the venue before the wedding, insurance policies, etc.
  • Think about your guests. Yes, it’s your day, but think about how accessible your venue is to – anything! Our venue was about a 10-15 minute drive from the nearest town. It was literally in the middle of nowhere farmland. But our hotel provided a free shuttle for our guests to and from the venue all night so our guests staying at the hotel could enjoy drinks without having to worry about navigating home in the pitch dark of night!
  • Practice your imagination. Does it have a perfect outside but you can’t imagine what the inside would look like? That was a problem for us. But then we started trying to be creative and imagine what the space could look like with some TLC. We loved how it all turned out.
  • How much DIY do you want to do? Ask yourself this. At our venue, nothing was provided except tables and chairs. We had to bring in linens, plates, cutlery, decorations, everything! It was hard work the months and weeks leading up to the big day. If you do not have the time/patience for this I’d recommend finding a venue that will be easier to decorate/set up at!
  • Learn the power of No. If you visit a venue and feel pressured into putting down a deposit, but it doesn’t feel like “you” or you can’t imagine your day there – DON’T DO IT. Save yourself some grief in the end but researching alternative venues and pick the one that makes your heart smile and your wallet happy.
  • Learn to negotiate. Do you need to be at the venue at an earlier time? Do you think that something (perk, service) should be thrown into your venue selection? Ask and learn to negotiate prices and services with vendors. The worst they can say is “No,” and even if they don’t then SCORE! You got a deal! So practice negotiating – almost everything in the wedding business is negotiable!
venue when it was decorated for our wedding

venue when it was decorated for our wedding

I hope this helps with your venue searches for your big day! Remember that the most important thing is that you’re joining your partner in a lifelong journey and this is a big day for you! Do what makes you happy!



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