When it comes to weddings, the most important question next to “who” is “where.” The venue for your wedding will ultimately dictate so many factors that you will have to deal with in the near future as you plan out your big day. The venue will significantly influence the budget, theme, materials to be used, and even the dress code for the event.

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But getting a venue for the wedding isn’t just about pointing at where you want to exchange your vows. If you look at it closely, it’s actually a process. Here, pro-planners share their tips for getting the best wedding venue from start to finish.

Before Going Through the Venues

Even before you go around town looking for wedding venues, you already have to make decisions. You should have a pretty good idea of what you want in your head. Your “dream wedding” per se! Here are a couple of questions you need to have answers to before you begin your search:

How many guests are you expecting? Size means everything. A small venue, no matter how nice, won’t mean much if there isn’t enough room for all the people who matter in your life to witness you exchange vows with your spouse-to-be. Strangely enough, professional planners advise couples to keep the numbers low because it’s easier to add more guests than deduct them. You can always pay more for the extra plates, but you’ll still pay for people who don’t show up at all.

How much are you willing to spend? When it comes to setting a budget for the venue alone, the rule is to never spend more than half of your entire budget for it. After all, the venue won’t decorate itself or feed your guests – you still have to prepare for the added costs that come with making the most of the place, and you should make sure you still have money for it by then.

Have you seen the venue featured in blogs? Take a good look at photos that have been taken there, especially by wedding photographers. These photos aren’t staged, so you get a really good idea of how your wedding will actually look in photos if you choose that particular venue.

When do you want to get married? The date will affect a lot of things: Availability, price, weather conditions, and more.

Figure out Your Wedding’s Main Style

What kind of wedding did you have in mind? Did you prefer a more traditional wedding like the ones you see in movies, or did you have something totally different in mind? The answer to this question will completely affect your wedding venue options.

The venue is what makes your vision work. Think of it as a setting to a story – the world to which you want your guests to be transported as they experience this special day! For obvious reasons, summer-style weddings often demand to take place near beaches, while fairytale weddings need to have more forests and flowers nearby.

Don’t forget to choose your colors. When you’ve chosen the venue that best suits your wedding style, you’re going to need to encase the entire venue in a uniform ambience. Color is the thread that sews the venue, decor, and even the guests together. A good rule of thumb is to stick to two complementing colors. This will make sure that the place doesn’t end up being too colorful, while guests will also be more likely to find outfits that match the color scheme if they have more than one choice. Tip: Guests won’t usually arrive wearing the same shade of color, so anticipate that as well.

Consider the following commonly used themes:

- For couples who like rustic themes: Try getting a barn or ranch where you can accommodate all your guests. They’re usually bathed in neutral colors, so additional touches and decor will blend right in.

- Do you want a fairytale or formal wedding? You’ll want to stick with ballroom and hotel venues. They pretty much have everything you need to host a ball after your wedding.

- Nature themes are pretty much the easiest to work with. Assuming the weather permits, the landscapes or horizons will usually provide a backdrop that you simply can’t buy with money. You don’t even need to spend too much on decor – Mother Nature does all the work for you.

- Some unconventional venues include museums, zoos, schools, art galleries, and sports arenas. If you’re lucky, you can choose to get married in a place that has sentimental value to you and your significant other.

Smaller functions offer unique options too. Vacation homes and other small private venues can also be a nice place to get married, provided there’s enough room to accommodate your guests. Not only is it unique, you might be able to save up on expenses too.

Try renting out a place over the weekend. There’s this new trend where couples choose to take over and entire place and extend their wedding celebration over more than a day. Perhaps a few more days with friends and family is all it takes to make your wedding an even more unforgettable experience.

Going Over Your Options

So, you’ve narrowed down your venues to those that fit your wedding style. Now, you can go through each one before you make the final decision. Make sure you keep the following in mind.

Formally schedule your tour of the venue. Email or contact the people in charge of the venue and tell them that you want to see the place. If you drop by unexpectedly, they might not be able to give you a tour and show you what the venue has to offer. They’re going to try their best to sell the venue to you, so you’re sure to see its best selling points. A properly scheduled walk-through of the venue also makes sure that you have all your questions ready.

Word of advice: Try to tour the venue with just yourself and your significant other. Remember that the venue is a personal choice and bringing too many people can potentially spoil the first impressions.

Don’t Book Anything Unless You’ve Seen Everything. Sometimes it’s tempting to grab the first place that catches your attention, but you can never tell that what you’re looking at is the best choice until you’ve gone through every item on your list. Besides, you get an excuse to go to different places with your significant other, so why not just make the most of it?

Think of All the Space You’ll Need. No, it’s not just about whether the place is big enough to accommodate all your guests. Try to imagine the wedding from the beginning to the end. Where will your guests be ushered to after the ceremony? Will there be cocktails prior to the reception? If you’re picking just one place, will that single venue give you all the space you need from beginning to end?

Document Each Place You Visit. Remember, you’ll be comparing all the venues you’re visiting. With all the beautiful sights you’ll be looking at, you can’t rely on your short-term memory to remember what each place looks like. Take pictures of everything that catches your eye, so you can compare them at the end of the day.

Check Out the Website but Stay Optimistic. Sometimes websites don’t take good photos of their venues, but they might look much better in real life! If a place fits your theme but just looks a bit mediocre in photos, try to keep an open mind. Otherwise, you might miss out on something great.

Ask for Referrals. Again, consider yourself lucky if you know someone who’s used the venue before. Ask them how their experience was so you get as much input with respect to the quality of service, the food, and other things you can never figure out by just looking at the venue.

Finally, don’t forget to send a thank you email to the management for showing you around.

Minding the Details

Have you finally chosen one venue over all the others you’ve seen? Good for you! But it’s not over yet.

Go through the entire thing with your contact. It’s like a rehearsal of the entire event. Ask the person in charge of organizing your event to show how your guests will get from point A to point B. Where will guests park their cars? Where will they be seated? Where will the food be? Where do guests have to pass to get to the reception area? Are there enough seats for everyone?

Have a contingency plan for bad weather. This is a MUST, especially for outdoor weddings, although even indoor celebrations can be affected by sudden rain.

Review the package. Make sure you know what’s included in your venue reservation, not only in terms of logistics but regarding time as well. This is the best way to make sure that you cover everything as well as avoid any hidden charges. Also make sure you know what’s on the menu.

Remember that the tips above actually come from professional wedding planners themselves. Keep these in mind as you prepare for your big day. If doing all these won’t ensure you a nearly perfect wedding, what will?