Choosing your wedding venue is likely your first step in this lengthy, confusing process - and it's impossible to be able to picture every possibility that could come up! These are some questions you should keep in mind while you're searching for the perfect place to host your big day.

What's Included in the Cost?

What’s included and what do you need to rent or purchase; tables, chairs, table linens if necessary, gift/card/dessert tables, and ceremony benches/chairs or even an arch to use, are all things that may or may not be included and would be an extra cost to you OR, you may want a certain style which could prompt renting regardless of what the venue offers. You'll also want to ask about the bathroom situation - some venues will require renting a portable bathroom service, EVEN if they have a bathroom, depending on your guest count! Be sure to be up front and honest about your expected numbers and needs so neither parties are blindsided.

Where are we Getting Ready?

Be sure to explore options for preparation, especially if your venue is farther than 20-30 minutes from home. Many venues have on-site options, but some may only have space for one party, or minimal people. Be sure to discuss how many individuals can comfortably be in the spaces, and what time you can use that space, as well as what amenities it includes (power, water, bathrooms, etc). If getting ready space is not available or doesn't suffice for your needs or party size, you may want to explore local lodging. A common solution is booking a couple of hotel rooms. Look for things like window light and mirrors available and somewhere photogenic for getting in the dress!

Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, WA, has a beautiful wooded ceremony area with a hexagonal arch, chairs, stump posts for decorations, and string lights ready to go!

Where are we Staying? What about our Guests?

Explore the area and if lodging is close enough for out of town guests to be able to easily get to a hotel after the wedding if they are staying, and also what the taxi/Uber/Lyft situation is for that area - not all areas offer these services, or may have such a minimal market that it won't be dependable.  Also, consider what the two of you will want to do before and after your wedding day - check if lodging is included (some venues have options for staying on-site), or close for you, and how many people can stay if not just the couple if you want to expand – if expanding, take into account who may need to stay most for being out of town or state, or if you want your wedding party, just family, or a mix – it may be helpful to make a list and be sure enough viable space exists if it is something you want.

This airy, window-lit room was perfect for the girls to get ready! All the natural light really made it so much easier for the hair and makeup artists to work, and to showcase the end results.

What is the Parking Situation?

Be sure to check with your venue what their rules are on parking; you may need to encourage carpooling. It's also worth noting, state parks require a Discovery Pass to park, and usually you can pre-purchase some for your guests or encourage them to carpool or get a day pass themselves – some lots for state parks also have a limit on how many people can park/mixed in with the public so you will want to see if that number works with your guest list. 

What is the Venue Layout Like?

Discuss distances and accessibility within the venue for walking and your guests – Do you or any guests have limited mobility? Make sure the venue has a solution (like golf carts at Gold Mountain Golf Club) to assist with longer walking distances between sites for events or even ground, or getting ready spaces only accessible by stairs, etc.

Hors D'oeuvre served by Kiana Lodge in Poulsbo, WA, a beautiful wedding venue inclusive of their own catering and bar service.

Can we Hire our own Vendors?

Is the venue all inclusive of their own vendors or can you hire your own? Consider what you envision - do you just want food and drink taken care of by the venue vs. having to search for your own vendors? Or do you have your heart set on a specific business? Sometimes, costs can be lower when you can hire your own vendors - but be sure to find out if that is an option at your venue, or if anything is not allowed; for example, not all venues will allow, or have space for parking a food truck. Additionally, ask if your vendors have to be approved by them or if you can hire anyone you’d like, or if they require them to have certain credibility like liability insurance or a business license. 

Beautiful tablescape that was set up the morning of this Tanwax Country Chapel wedding in Eatonville, WA.

What Time can we setup? What time do we have to Clean up?

Be sure to find out what time the venue will expect you to be out, what time the doors open for you to come in, and if desired - whether you can set up the night before and have the next day to take down - and discuss how important each of those things are to you.

What is your Wedding "Vision"? Does it Match?

Take into account that the style of venue will mostly reflect the style of photos you get (in addition to factors like weather and décor rendering and photographer's personal style, etc.)  - for example, if you want light, bright photos and it isn’t something you’d be flexible on, you don’t want to select a location that will take place inside a dimly lit, brick walled building with no window light – and remember, even with walls of windows, if the inside of a venue is dark walls and ceilings, light will be soaked up instead of bounced, and will require flash as the evening comes – but don’t be afraid of flash! It can actually add clean, dynamic, dramatic lighting to images and be punchy and fun.

I hope all of these tips help you just a little bit more with your search for the perfect space for your big day!