Things to Consider When Choosing a Venue For Your Wedding Ceremony
There is a saying I have over the years as a wedding photographer. “You don’t know until you know”. Until you have planned a wedding, you do not realize all of the decisions and details you have to take into account. It can get overwhelming! Even some of the seemingly easy decisions can become difficult and frustrating. Take venues for instance. Most people think choosing a venue is a pretty simple process. You find one you love, make sure they can accommodate all of your guests, and BOOM… you’re set! But there are many other things to consider when choosing a venue for your wedding ceremony. In this post, I am going to cover a few of those things which are often overlooked.
General Public Access: This applies to many wineries, golf courses, resorts and other types of public venues. Most businesses do not close down for a wedding day and will continue to serve their regular guests. Some wineries will not allow guests to arrive early as they will be busy with wine tours and other groups. Some golf courses will not allow wedding couples to have access to the greens for photos because their members will be using them at the time of the wedding.
For public gardens, parks and beaches, you may be competing for space with other people who are enjoying the area as well. Some spots can be blocked off if you are renting a space through your city or municipality. But even so, the public could have access right next to you, and chances are pretty high of having strangers in your photos.
So if you want a venue to yourself for your wedding day, you can always ask to see if there are any options for this, although you may have to pay a higher fee. If you don’t have a problem with the venue staying open to the public, then be aware that you will have strangers watching from a distance while you say your vows. Most of the time however, it isn’t a problem and there is little, if any distraction.
Noise: While strolling around an outdoor venue you are considering, take a minute or two to just stop and listen to your surroundings. Are there any noises that could interrupt your ceremony or reception? Are there airports or train tracks nearby? If so, what times are they active? Can you schedule your wedding around their schedules? If you are having a beach side wedding, will the public have access to the area? Will there be boats in the background? Will wind or waves drown out your voices? Basically, is there anything that may interrupt your vows or cause your guests to be unable to hear you?
There is one way to ensure you are heard on your wedding day and that is to have a sound system onsite. Some venues may have options for you, but if not, this is something you will have to factor into your budget. Another option would be to ask your DJ about sound system options for the ceremony.
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Washrooms: Venues that are built for weddings, conferences and other events will have enough washrooms for all of your guests. However, I have worked a few places that were not equipped for larger groups and therefore, couples have had to rent portable washrooms for their big day. This might seem strange and you would think it not necessary, however, legally, an event must have a certain number of washrooms to accommodate a certain number of people. Depending on where you are getting married, this may be something you will need to know before booking.
There are companies that rent out portable washrooms for just such occasions. Some are simple portable toilets you may find on construction sites. Some however, are larger, and can accommodate a few guests at a time. They also have generators for power and water use. Honestly, I have been in some of these washrooms and they are nicer than ones I’ve used in many businesses! As for public venues such as gardens or beaches, take a look around the location you are considering and see if there are any public washrooms close by for you and your guests to use.
Weather: Outdoor weddings are so beautiful, especially here in the Okanagan where we are surrounded by amazing views. However, outdoor weddings are also at the mercy of the weather so it is important to prepare accordingly. For those hot summer days, look for a shady spot for your ceremony and provide hand held fans and water for your guests to make sure no one gets overheated. For indoor venues, inquire about air conditioning. You wouldn’t think this is an issue in this day and age, however there are some historical venues with older buildings, that do not have air conditioning in place, as well as venues in cooler climates that may not accommodate for a few hot days a year. For these venues, see if they have options for making sure people stay cool, like electric fans.
In the spring and fall, prepare for rain by providing umbrellas and perhaps a covered area such as a gazebo or a place with a lot of trees to provide some shelter. Outdoor winter weddings are less common but they do happen because they are very beautiful. Usually though, they are quick and situated around a camp fire or portable heaters, which just makes good sense. Be sure to plan for this if you are getting married outdoors in the cooler months.
Lighting: Great photos need great light. For ceremonies held inside, it is important to take a good look at how much light the space has. Venues with large windows that allow a lot of natural light are perfect for photos. If there is not a lot of natural light, take a look at the lighting options. Now I know low light is romantic, but it is a nightmare to photograph, so the more lights that can be turned on, the better…. except for a few cases. Avoid harsh spot lights at the front of the aisle. Also, lights that have different hues can clash in photos and leave skin tones looking unflattering. These things however, might be totally out of your control. When the lighting is in your control though, just remember that even lighting is best.
Photos with low light may be grainy and/or a bit blurry due to the settings your photographer will need to use on their equipment, so it’s best to keep all the lights on. When lighting is an issue, most photographers, like myself, will have flashes and other lighting they can use to compensate. However, check with your venue first to see if they allow flash photography. Some churches or museums do not allow flash as they either distract from the ceremony, or can harm the artwork hanging in the venue. If this is the case, be aware that your photos will be on the darker side, and can be grainy or pixelated.
For ceremonies outdoors, make sure you pay attention to what time the sun goes down on your wedding date. Some people prefer later weddings, which isn’t a big deal in the summer when the sun goes down later in the evening. But in the shoulder seasons, this can be an issue, especially in hilly regions like the Okanagan. Here, once the sun is hidden by a hill or mountain, it gets dark quickly.
Policies: When chatting with a venue about their wedding services, ask to see all of their policies regarding weddings. Depending on the venue, there could be restrictions on the types of decorations you can or can not use and where to put them. How much time will you have to decorate beforehand? How long can your dance be and are there any noise bylaws in the area? Are there any restricted areas for you and your guests? Are there any areas on the property where you are not allowed to take photos? What are the Health and Safety protocols at the venue? And one often overlooked: what are the guest etiquette and behaviour policies? Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the wedding couple, and anyone else paying for the venue, to ensure guests follow any rules or guidelines laid out by the venue. Make sure everyone is aware of any important rules beforehand to avoid awkward conversations or situations, and/or legal complications.
There are so many types of wedding venues to choose from, and so many things to consider when choosing the right one. Each one is unique, and each one comes with “pros and cons”. As you start looking for a wedding venue, make sure to get as much information as possible. Having a clear understanding of how the venue operates during a wedding day, gives you a better chance of avoiding the unexpected. That way, you can stay focused on the more important things, like celebrating with the love of your life!