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For my wedding I defied all the rules and planned a wedding in six months that was 1/3 of the average wedding budget in my area! And I did it all without compromising from my vision and signature style. Since then I’ve been helping other brides break the rules and create the perfect wedding for their style and budget. If you’re in the opposite situation with a long time before your wedding, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to give you all the details on how to time your wedding perfectly including if it is too early to look at wedding venues.
As a general rule, when looking at wedding venues it is never too early. Picking a wedding venue is the very first step on most wedding check lists and for good reason since they can book up 18 months to two years in advance.
You can look before you’re even engaged to get a sense of what venues cost and what packages include. But don’t book your wedding venue until you’re ready to set your date. There are some factors to keep in mind when first looking at wedding venues to determine how soon a local or destination vendor is likely to book up. Here’s a detailed step by step list on how to start your search, what timing you need, and why you should pick your wedding venue before you do anything else.
When Should You Start Looking at Wedding Venues?
Finding the perfect wedding venue is key to your wedding planning journey. You can research online to make a short list of dream places to get married but ultimately you’ll want to see them in person or at least talk to someone who works there to get a sense of how the packages work, how much they costs, how full service or DIY they are, and if you like the person you’ll be working with throughout the process. Most wedding venues don’t list their prices on the website but you can use sites like Wedding Wire to compare price ranges to make sure it’s within budget.
If you’re already set on a specific type of venue, like a barn wedding or a hotel, you should look at 2-3 places. More than a few choices of the same kind of venue will make you overwhelmed with options.
If you have no idea what kind of wedding you want and need a place to start try thinking back to any weddings you have attended and what you liked or disliked about the venue. Were you baking during your friend’s ceremony outside in July and would prefer an indoor temperature-controlled setting? Did you love the food at your cousin’s restaurant wedding?
Then pick 2-3 different types of venues to try that are within the budget. Once you narrow down the type then you can look at 2-3 more if you need to refine it. Again, try not to look at 20 wedding venues because you’re not sure which one is the right fit or they all seem too expensive. You’ll end up being overwhelmed with the amount of options. If you’ve built your budget already, then you should know exactly how much you can afford for a venue before you even look.
Why You Need to Book Your Wedding Venue First
A Vibe Check
Looking at venues can help you and your partner pick a vibe for your wedding quicker than searching online. Especially if one person is a Pinterest board fanatic and the other isn’t easy to engage in gleeful wedding planning. Going on a wedding venue date is a great way to start a conversation about what would make both of you happy. Once you’ve got a wedding venue down, all the other details will fall into place. The invitations, guest size, date and more details can be decided based on the venue you choose.
Setting the Date
Unless you have your heart set on a special date like a New Year’s Eve wedding, the wedding venue availability typically helps you pick the date. When I was planning my wedding I looked at wedding venues in the winter and thought for sure all of the summer dates would be gone already. I was looking forward to a nice fall wedding in September. But when I went to book my dream venue I found that actually September was one of the most popular wedding months and July was totally free. So I ended up with a summer wedding after all. After you book your venue you can start telling people to save the date!
Get it before it’s gone
Another important factor about wedding venues is how far they book up. Now that events are returning to normal there’s a significant strain on the wedding venues for the next few years. People who delayed their weddings or are looking to have their receptions finally after their smaller elopements or court house ceremonies are rushing to book. According to the New York Times, wedding venues are booking up faster than ever with many wedding venues urging people to book weddings during the week if they don’t want to wait more than 18 months for their big day.
How Far in Advance You Need to Book Your Wedding Venue
If you’re looking to book a wedding in 2022 or 2023, start yesterday!
Wedding venues booked up 9 months to 18 months in advance before the pandemic. Now they’re booking up 18 months to 24 months in advance.
If your wedding is sooner, don’t despair. Keep reading to find out why certain venues book up faster than others and how to find a wedding venue that isn’t already booked.
Factors That Make Wedding Venues Book Up Faster
Not every wedding venue books up months in advance. If you know where to look you can find a wedding venue that still has dates for your ideal timeframe. Here are some factors that cause venues to book up quickly:
- A lot of publicity – if your venue was in a movie, a book, TV show, home to a celeb wedding or is otherwise famous, it’s going to book up fast. Dates at The Plaza in New York City for example can be booked several years in advance.
- Major cities – big urban locations will also have more competition than suburbs or country venues
- Single location or Saturday-only venues – if you know that your venue limits the amount of weddings to one at a time or one per weekend then you might find the dates a little harder to book
Having trouble finding a venue you can afford? Check out this article on the best places for a cheap wedding reception.
How To Find A Wedding Venue That Isn’t Already Booked
To find a wedding venue that isn’t already booked if you’re short on time or just don’t want a long engagement, look for these factors:
- Something a little more rural – try looking 1-2 hours away if you’re in a major city. The venues tend to be less competitive
- Go for a Friday or a Sunday wedding – while Saturdays are the most popular, there’s nothing wrong with a Friday or Sunday wedding if you plan it right. They’re also usually less expensive than a Saturday wedding.
- Try a morning or afternoon wedding – another alternative that’s cheaper and generally more available are earlier weddings. Some venues book multiple weddings per day and let you choose this unique and fun option. You can host a cake and punch or afternoon tea style reception.
- Or look at weekday weddings – throw out that rule book and plan a wedding on a Tuesday or Thursday or any other day of the week that’s free. Your closest friends and family won’t mind taking a day or two off work to celebrate your wedding. In fact, we did a poll that shows most people will attend a weekday wedding if you follow some tips. And again, you can usually save money here.
- Look at alternative venues – a local park, your grandmother’s HOA club house, or your own backyard could all make excellent venue options if the more traditional ones are booked.
What Happens if You Don’t Book Your Wedding Venue First
In general, it’s best to book your venue first because they book up quickly. It also helps you set your date and budget. If you book other vendors first, like your photographer, you can have a hard time aligning with venue availability. That means you may have to rebook all of your vendors. You may also find that you no longer have room in your budget since venues account for 40-50% of it.
Like I mentioned earlier in this post, your venue sets the date. If you try to make your invitations, or find a florist and then you can’t find a venue with that date you’ll have to reconfirm if your vendor is still available or change the date on your save the dates. You may have to rebook all of your plans, which is a lot of time and effort wasted.
Your venue and date can also determine other factors like what kind of dress you buy and even your budget. A long sleeve tight lacy mermaid dress might not work out so well on a barn in August. And since venues account for so much of your budget you may find that you can’t afford to splurge on the videographer. So do yourself a favor and start with your venue.
Looking for more wedding tips and tricks that are beyond the traditional advice your mother would give? Check out my exclusive, free Facebook group for Bold On A Budget Weddings.