Deciding on your wedding venue is big.


The fourth step


We have given you the First Step to plan your perfect wedding in our ‘Bride-to-be Just Engaged and Completely overwhelmed. Read This’ (here) and the second step of ‘Guests First, Budget Second (here), our third step which is talking about the all mighty budget planning (here). Now we are going to fourth step: the venue. 

There are so many factors to consider when choosing where to hold your wedding reception and, if even one doesn’t suit your wedding requirements, it’s usually enough to have that reception centre, garden or church hall struck off the list.

Selecting a wedding venue is one of the first (and biggest) decisions you’ll make as an engaged couple — it will influence your vendors, budget, décor, and even attire. Here, pro planners break down everything you need to know when weighing different options.

The venue and food combined will take up 30-50 per cent of your budget. Until you pick your venue (and in doing so, pick your date) you can’t move onto the fun stuff like seating charts and flowers.


The easiest wedding shoot is in the day time. If, however, you’re getting married in a dark church or having an outdoor wedding reception, it’s really important that you specifically look for a photographer skilled in those lighting environments. Don’t assume that experience equals skill in low lighting. Love how the hanging bulbs turned out 💛💡 @santoriniglamweddings Working with their favourite team @santorinievents & @weddingswhimsy_santorini@rocabellaweddings .


While most venues will have images of their website, taking your own photos can give you another perspective. This can also help you to visualise where you’d like to place objects such as the photo booth, DJ, live band and any other styling decoration you might like to bring.

See this Santorini Wedding here Photographed by Anna Roussos 

Loving this #iphonepic and this beautiful Sicilian atmosphere created and designed by the talented @chicweddingsinitaly with a super team @cinziabruschini @larosacaninafirenze @shhhmydarling

When looking at venues keep a spreadsheet of the basics:

  • Name of the venue
  • Location
  • Dates available
  • Rates
  • Websites


Things to consider:

  • Capacity
  • Restrictions
  • Parking and transportation
  • Facility extras
  • Extra fees, extra hours
  • Caterer
  • Alcohol limitations
  • Kitchen space


You need to remember your venue is there to make money; when they say maximum capacity they really do mean as many people as possible – and sometimes, their maximum capacity could be calculated without room for a dance floor.

All-inclusive venues provide the function space; the catering; the wait staff; and all tables, chairs, linen and crockery. All-inclusive venues usually have a set way of doing things, with not a lot of wiggle room. Lots of set packages and set times etc etc. However, you benefit from all the inclusions, and lack of additional organization and responsibility being on your shoulders (and, in some cases that means the liability being on your shoulders. We’ll talk about that in the public liability extra in this phase).


Additional fees with all-inclusive venues include:


  • extending the hours you hire the venue for


  • lying down flooring to create the dance floor area


  • upgrading food and beverage packages


  • cake cutting fees for bringing in an external cake


  • corkage fees for bringing in external alcohol


Alternative venues are more complicated. Think warehouse spaces; live music venues or community halls.


With an alternative venue space you usually pay a function hire fee for the space, and that’s all you get. You’re responsible for bringing everything else in.


Additional fees with all-inclusive venues include:


  • external catering suppliers


  • furniture and crockery hire suppliers


  • council permits required to hold your event (your venue should know but always ask)


  • public liability insurance (again, your venue should know)


  • responsible service of alcohol (RSA) requirements (again, see additional extras at the end of this phase for more on public liability, permits, RSA requirements.


Questions to ask when doing a venue walk through:

How many hours included in the rental?

Is it possible to add time to the rental and if so what cost?

Is it possible to have the ceremony on site?

Talk about load in and load out. How are rental companies going to get in and unload etc

Is there room to get ready on site?

What sort of lighting is included?

Are there any alcohol restrictions?

Where do the caterers set up?

Are there décor restrictions?

Are there any volume restrictions?

Are there any additional insurance costs?

Venues that only allow particular caterers can get pricey quickly and venues that let you bring in your own booze can often save a lot of money. Keep in mind that any venue that minimises your need for rentals will save you on both additional cost and trouble.

Consider the flow of the day. How do your guests arrive and where do they go?

If you’re looking at a non-traditional space such as a barn or your backyard it’s important to look at the following. Research permits (food, alcohol permits), research parking, research noise coordinates, check with the neighbours and get event insurance.

The figure we now need to calculate is your reception venue hire costs PLUS your potential maximum catering costs.

This is where my budget management process comes in to play. This total figure.

LTD should ideally equate to roughly 30% of your overall ‘want to spend’ budget figure. 

Now this will differ for those of you having to hire furniture and crockery rentals as well.

Generally, the closer to 30% you can get the better.

If you’re catering and venue combined costs are pushing 50% of your middle overall ‘want to spend’ budget. It is highly likely you will find yourself having to cut back on other areas to stick within budget OR start pushing into the ‘can afford to spend’ bracket later down the line.




    When any supplier asks you to pay installments in addition to a deposit amount, ask yourself: have they provided any service in the interim to justify this?


    A deposit locks in your booking. It is usually non refundable because the supplier is turning away business for that date.


    A caterer/venue isn’t purchasing food and beverage from you until around 4 weeks prior, so won’t require any further payment at that point. So if they ask you to pay installments, try your best to negotiate out of an installment plan. It is very hard to get your money back if the supplier suddenly shuts up shop.



    The area that will require a little more brainpower is your minimum catering spends commitment.


    Both catering companies and all-inclusive venues use the term ‘minimum spend’ to refer to the minimum amount of food and beverage that must be purchased. If your venue is charging a venue hire fee, this will be in addition to the minimum spend (most of the time).


    A minimum spend can be expressed in a number of ways:


    • A minimum number of people you have to pay for: for example a minimum of 50 guests


    • A minimum dollar amount per person you have to pay for: for example a minimum of a $110 per person


    • Or both a minimum number of people PLUS dollar amount per person you have to pay for: for example a minimum of a $110 per person with a minimum of 50 guests


    • Or finally it can be expressed as an overall amount you have to pay: for example a minimum spend of $10,000.



      Want our easy Wedding

      Budget template to keep track of your spend?

      Luckily, we created just such a tool for you: a wedding budget spreadsheet! We’ve made it available as an Excel file. This is hands-down the best way to make sure you avoid the kinds of nasty surprises that can ruin the big day. We have two free downloads to help with your planning. Need help planning your guest list? Downnload our free template here or our negotiables list plan here.
      Need to keep track of how to organise your wedding venue. Download our 3 page wedding venue checklist here or click below.