One of the most vital decisions you’ll make while planning your wedding is the location. The venue largely determines the overall style, mood, and experience of your big day. With so much riding on this choice, it’s important to go into the selection process with clear dos and don’ts in mind. Here are seven key tips to keep in mind as you evaluate potential wedding venue.

1. Do Visit Venues In Person

While websites can give you an initial sense of a venue’s style and options, there’s no substitute for visiting in person. Make appointments to tour venues you’re interested in and be sure to bring your partner along. Walk the space together and explore how it might suit your needs. Discuss pros and cons openly and honestly with each other after leaving to determine if the venue should stay on your shortlist or not. Only by experiencing a space firsthand can you get a true feel for whether it’s right for your wedding.

2. Don’t Forget Your Guests

It’s easy to get swept up in venues that you find gorgeous or romantic but remember your wedding is about the guests too. As you visit venues, evaluate them from a guest’s perspective. Consider things like adequate seating, bathrooms, parking, lighting, and flow between ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception spaces. Think about venues that suit the style of wedding you want while also accommodating your guests’ needs. A stunning space won’t make up for an uncomfortable, crowded, or disorganized guest experience.

3. Do Ask About Availability And Pricing

Check the availability of venues you love before getting your heart set on them. Many popular wedding venues in Phoenix book up to a year or more in advance, especially for peak wedding dates. Ask about the booking policy and timeline along with pricing for your potential wedding date. Make sure their schedule and budget work with your plans. There’s no point wasting time on venues that aren’t actually available or affordable for your wedding.

4. Don’t Skip The Fine Print

Don’t assume anything when it comes to venues—get details in writing. Ask to see venue contracts, terms, and policies before putting down a deposit. Check for any restrictions around things like catering, rentals, decor, music, overtime fees, and more. Make sure you understand exactly what’s included in the pricing along with your responsibilities as the client. Verbal promises can be forgotten so only rely on what’s specifically outlined in the venue’s written materials.

5. Do Envision Your Wedding Decor

Think about how you will decorate and set the overall mood in any venue you tour. Consider spots for key elements like an altar or chuppah, aisle runner, guest seating, tables, dance floor, cake table, and bar. Determine if the venue allows for the placement and decor you want. Ask what types of details they prohibit so there are no surprises. The more you can visualize your wedding design within the space, the easier it will be to determine if that venue is your perfect match.

6. Don’t Ignore Venue Style

Pay attention to the architectural style, ambiance, and aesthetic of different venues. A dreamy garden venue won’t suit a chic modern wedding theme and an industrial space may not match a formal black-tie affair. Choose a venue whose overall style complements your wedding vision. If the styles seem mismatched, your wedding may end up looking haphazard and not thoroughly cohesive. Consider venue style along with your theme, guest attire, and other factors for an all-around unified feel.

7. Do Explore Photo Locations

For your wedding photos, consider venues that offer striking backdrops and spots ideal for portraits of the two of you and your wedding party. While decor and details can be added to a space, the venue itself needs to be photographed well. Outdoor venues, historical buildings, gardens, and estates often make stunning photos. Ask what areas you would have access to for photos on the wedding day and if any permits or fees apply for certain locations.

8. Don’t Settle For Less

Take feedback from your wedding planner and loved ones, but ultimately trust your instincts. You’ll be envisioning your big day at this venue during the entire planning process, so it should feel perfect for you. Don’t settle for something less than perfect simply for the sake of convenience or because others pressure you. Trust that you know best what would make your wedding day truly special and memorable for you. At the end of the day, you have to be confident and happy with your venue choice.

9. Do Have A Weather Backup Plan

When incorporating outdoor spaces into your wedding plans, make certain there are accommodations for varying weather conditions during both the ceremony and reception. Options like tent rentals, indoor ceremony locations, and covered patios provide useful alternatives in the event of rain, extreme heat, or cold. Do not simply hope for good weather during your outdoor wedding; instead, have a backup plan in place.

10. Don’t Hesitate To Hire A Wedding Planner

If venue research feels overwhelming, hiring a wedding planner can streamline the process through industry expertise, recommendations, and vendor connections. They possess insider knowledge of venue reputations, tips for obtaining quotes, and scheduling tours quickly and efficiently. Additionally, many planners have negotiating power to secure discounts. A wedding planner can help narrow your options based on your priorities and budget, setting up targeted venue tours and taking much of the legwork out of finding the right fit for you.

11. Do Keep An Open Mind

Don’t get attached to one venue type or aesthetic too soon in your planning process. The venue that ultimately feels best suited for your wedding may not match your initial concept. Keep an open mind during venue tours and visits, allowing the options to inspire you. Stay flexible in identifying the venue that provides the perfect setting. You may be pleasantly surprised by options outside your original vision. Focus more on finding the venue that helps you visualize and create your ideal wedding day, regardless of its category or aesthetic.