Your wedding is the biggest — and certainly the most expensive! — party you will ever throw, so it can be more than a little intimidating to start planning. There’s just so much to think about! From crafting a guest list to choosing a theme and making sure the menu makes everyone happy, each detail counts.
And the biggest detail of them all is the venue. You can go as lavish or as simple as you want for most of your choices, and you can even skip out on traditions like bouquets and cake, but you have to get married somewhere.
Fortunately, choosing a wedding venue doesn’t have to be hard. Once you know what’s available, you can follow a few simple steps to help you come up with an initial wish list and narrow things down from there.
3 Options for Choosing a Wedding Venue in Australia
When it comes to finding the perfect wedding venue, you have three basic choices:
- All-Inclusive: These venues often specialise in weddings and provide nearly everything you need for a wedding reception. A large number of these venues also have dedicated areas that you can hire for your wedding ceremony. They typically offer meal and drink packages, tableware and many also provide some decorations. Some packages include a DJ and/or MC to keep the party moving. All-inclusive venues often provide a basic wedding coordinator service to help you with some of the wedding reception planning, and they take care of all the logistics.
- Indoor Venues: These venues are a building, historical house, vineyard barn, art gallery, dance hall, or other large space where you can hold an event or party. They provide shelter for your event but not much else (if you are lucky the venue may have tables and chairs available); you’ll need to coordinate the other vendors. Most venues of this type have hosted many weddings, though, and they can provide you with a list of suggested vendors to help streamline your planning.
- Outdoor only Venues: Certain locations are ideal for outdoor weddings, and you can get pretty creative about where you host your wedding ceremony and reception. Like indoor venues that aren’t all-inclusive, you’ll need to plan catering, tables & chairs, tableware, music and other vendors on your own — including a marquee for shelter, and perhaps even lighting and amenities such as portable toilets.
Your Step-by-Step Guide for Choosing a Wedding Venue
1. Know Yourself
Only you can decide exactly how much time and energy you want to spend on planning your wedding. If the idea of trying to track down a caterer, bar service, tableware and glassware, tables & chairs, venue decorations, and lighting; all on your own makes you feel panicky, then don’t! Either spend the additional money to hire a wedding coordinator or choose an all inclusive venue. There’s a reason why all-inclusive wedding venues are hugely popular in Sydney.
If, on the other hand, you want the freedom to make every creative decision on your own, you may be more comfortable coordinating the event on your own. If you’re a highly organized person, this is very doable but time consuming.
2. Determine Your Budget
Time for a reality check: Weddings are expensive. It’s important to go into the process with eyes open so you can plan appropriately. That means figuring out what you’re comfortable spending on your big day. If you think you might get help from parents or grandparents to help foot the bill, now is the time to have an honest discussion about that. Once you have a number in mind, you’re ready to shop around.
In general, the venue, food and rentals (if needed) typically take up about half of an overall wedding budget. If you’re using an all-inclusive venue, bear in mind that decorations and music typically take up another 15 percent of the budget, so your total venue cost might be up to 65 percent of your budget if these items are part of the package.
3. Create an Initial Guest List
How many people do you want to invite? First, make a master list of everyone you’d want to invite. Then make a secondary list of everyone you absolutely must invite. You now have a range to work with when shopping for your venue. This will help you narrow your search to locations that can accommodate your guests. You’ll also get the most realistic estimates when you have a good idea of how many people you’ll invite.
4. Make Your Long List
Time to hit the internet! Google is your friend when it comes to making an initial search of venues. If you are looking for a wedding venue in Sydney this blog post lists the Top 105 Sydney Wedding Venues. As you begin to look over the websites of wedding venues, add places to your long list that:
- Are the right size for your guest list.
- Includes a wedding ceremony location, if that’s your preference
- Is in a location that works for you (inc being close to the wedding ceremony location)
- Are all-inclusive, if that’s what you prefer.
- Fits within your budget
- You like the style of.
You can also ask friends, family or your social media circle for recommendations if you’re having trouble finding venues you like online.
5. Call for More Information
Once you have your initial list of venues, it’s time to narrow things down. Many venues don’t publish their rates since there are many variables that affect the price, so give them a ring to get more information. Whether you call or email, you’ll want to find out:
- The price for your estimated number of guests (a range is fine).
- Exactly what’s included (food, alcohol, decorations, DJ, etc.)
- If your preferred date and time is available.
If any of these answers is a deal-breaker for you, cross that venue right off your list.
6. Visit the Venues
Now that you have a more manageable list of venues that you know will work for you, it’s time to vet them. Set up an appointment to scout the location and speak to the manager or event coordinator. When you get the tour, listen to your instincts: Does it feel right when you walk in the door? Can you envision your wedding reception here? Don’t try to talk yourself into anything if you get a bad vibe.
Of course, you’ll also be gathering information on your visit. Ask about menu options, seating arrangements, decorating packages, etc. If possible, see if you can sample the food and drink selections. Be sure to check out accessibility if you are inviting older or disabled guests, too.
What else to look for on your venue visit:
- The various rooms/spaces you will need (ceremony, seperate room for the bridal party during cocktail hour, cocktails, reception, and dancing). The importance of each of these spaces will be different for each couple.
- Check out the venues lighting – with the reception area and the possible ceremony locations (if you are looking at having your ceremony onsite)
- Wet weather options, particularly if you are choosing to have an outdoor ceremony onsite
- Ask what role the wedding coordinator will take towards assisting you in planning your reception
- Determine if there are any vendor restrictions or decorating restrictions
- Determine the venue’s closing hours, particularly if you want a reception that finishes after 11pm
- Ask if you will have the venue to yourselves, if you value a private affair
- Ask if there are any restrictions on putting your own special touch for your wedding – eg. do you want a sparkler exit, fireworks, or smoke machine? If your having a ceremony there as well, can you throw confetti or rose petals?
- Consider transportation options for your guests – eg. amount of onsite parking, access to public transport, taxi’s or Uber (particularly if your venue is more remote). Alcohol consumption at a wedding can be fairly high in Australia, so ensure your guests have a way of getting home safely.
7. Narrow the Field
After visiting, you’ll be able to narrow your list down to the top two or three contenders. From there, you and your partner will have to decide which is best for you. Since you already narrowed your list to include places that fit into your budget and are in a great location, you can’t make a mistake. You just have to determine which one has the best features and gives the most bang for your buck over all.
Once your wedding venue is taken care of, it’s time to book your photographer and plan your theme and outfits for the big day. To find your ideal wedding photographer, read this blog on the best tips to find your dream wedding photographer.