You’ve found the love of your life can’t wait to plan the perfect day – the perfect dress, the perfect cake, and the perfect venue.  Before you get too carried away, there are a few things to get out of the way first. The first item on the to-do list is the venue. This will ensure your dress, theme, decor, and photos will be memorable and unified.  I highly recommend that you take your photographer with you to see your favorite venues. They’ve probably been there before and know many more of the ins and outs of the location – plus, they can tell you about the great, unique pics you can get there.
1. What season is the wedding?
It is very important to remember that the season during which you are choosing your venue will not likely be the season in which you are being married.  Those beautiful summer flowers along the walkway certainly won’t be there in winter, but what will? What’s on the other side of those full trees in the fall?  Will your venue be warm enough in winter or cool enough in summer? What will the daylight be like at that time of the year? Your photographer might even be able to show you photos of venues in different seasons so you can plan the time and locations to get the perfect wedding pictures.
2. What’s your style?
For this, you’re just going to have to go with your gut.  What feels right to you and your partner? Are you going for the extravagant wedding with chandeliers dripping with crystal?  Are you going for the casual vibe offered by a barn or backyard wedding? While it’s important to remember the guests, it’s more important that the two of you are comfortable in the venue.  The photographer will also be able to point out the best photo ops to mesh with your style
3. What will be in the space?
Speaking of guests, having the final guest list isn’t too important yet, but you should have a general idea of how many guests you’ll have in the reception space for the big day.  If it’s at all possible, try to schedule your trip to the venue on a day when it might be set up. This will give you a feel for how many people can comfortably fit in the room, what the flow of traffic will be like, how the dancefloor will appear, etc.  You want to be sure that guests can move freely around the room, but you also want to make sure you haven’t chosen a venue that is so large, it makes your party feel empty. If you are doing an all-in-one wedding, will the guests be moved from area to area or will the staff have to flip the area for different functions?  If so, where will the materials be stored? How quickly does this happen? How much of an interruption will this be to the party?
4. What’s your budget?
The cost of the wedding will increase the closer you get to the date, and surprise bills will pop up during the planning stage.  Because of this, it’s a good idea to set a strict, but realistic, budget. If you stay under for each aspect, it allows you some wiggle room for the extras.  Remember, the cost of the venue is much more than simply the fee associated with being in the room – there’s the cake-cutting fee, the tips to the staff, and the beverages.  You should also watch for changing rates – summer venues are more expensive than fall or winter, and a Friday night wedding could free up some of the budget for other wedding items.
5. What will my guests experience?
The wedding is about you and your partner sharing your love with friends and family.  You want to be considerate of the guests’ experiences, but you don’t change your whole day to accommodate them.  Consider what it will be like for them to receive food – are they being served, or will there be a long line at the buffet table?  Will they be close enough to share conversation with their table, or will they be packed in? Just because a venue tells you they can seat 150 guests in the space, this does not mean that they should.   If you’ve chosen a non-traditional venue, what should your guests expect? Another thought to bear in mind, especially for an outdoor wedding is timing. Although you might have the image of the sun setting behind you as you exchange your vows, remember that your guests will be staring directly into the sun…and so will the camera.
6. Where did I write that?
While this may seem obvious, the more organized you are from the start, the less stressed out you’ll be at the end.  Create a spreadsheet with the venue’s name, contact info, capacity, parking/transportation, restrictions, prices, features, what’s included, and what’s not.  Being able to see the facts without getting taken away by that breathtaking waterfall in the background will help you to make the best choice.
Don’t panic – the experts at Craig Collins Photography have probably worked at all the venues on your list and can help you with your decision making. In addition to photography and cinematography we can also provide you with recommendations for flowers, hair / makeup, whole event planning as well as entertainment. Call us today at 973-335-1505 to discuss your venue and your wedding photography needs.

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