The best news Kate and I can hear when taking an inquiry for our services is that the couple hasn't yet decided on a venue. Being a part of the venue selection process is key to what we do, and is one of the best ways we can service our clients. The venue choice is hands down the most important decision a couple will make during their planning process.
Before you start googling venues like crazy, look over these tips for picking the proper place:
Group Size + Type
Let me be a broken record here in suggesting that you give some major thinking power to figuring out who your tribe is and what type of party they will enjoy. Knowing how the people in your group will behave is the surest way to pick a great venue for your wedding.
Example: Guests jumping into the pool at Race & Religious in October (in their undies!). Example: Guests outside on the patio all night when the DJ, food, and couple are inside. Example: 10 people left dancing on the dancefloor at midnight, because nobody could hang.
Hours + Light
Some places get awesome lighting during the day and others really shine by candlelight. Think about what time of year, and day, you plan to party in and let that guide your choice. Don't forget, in the summer-time it doesn't get dark until 8:00pm! Also, always be sure to check the venue's (often strict) closing time.
All Inclusive VS BYO
Do you have the bandwidth to bring everything; food, booze, decor, tables, linens, staff, etc., yourself? Or should the cost of your wedding include hiring professionals (we know at least two, ha!)? A blank venue should only cost 5-15% of your budget, and if that's the route you choose to take, make sure you ask the venue rep a lot of questions about problems they've seen people run into over the years.
On the flip side, many people find it easier to book a venue where everything is included. These places can be awesome but aren't always so friendly to collaboration and often force you to use their kitchen. These "turn-key" venues should fill about 40-50% of your budget.
Quality + Style
Perhaps the most important of all, the venue's caliber and style sets the stage for and the tone of your event. Once you have decided to have your wedding in a ballroom say, it's never going to look like a barn no matter how much hay you put in it. For that reason, it's essential to imagine all of the pieces of your day, as a whole, before pulling the trigger.
Remember that each decision during planning bleeds into the next, and it all begins with where, so adding some extra months to search and plan is certainly preferable to ending up in an environment that leaves you cold on wedding day.