Whether you’re planning a destination wedding in Asheville, North Carolina or staying close to home in Washington, Louisiana, finding a wedding venue to hold your ceremony or reception (or both) is one of the first items to cross off your wedding planning checklist. A lot is dependent on this choice – the date, formality, and overall aesthetic is completely dependent on your choices between barns, warehouses, historic homes, open fields or mountain getaways…there’s quite a few options, regardless of what part of the South you find yourself in. As one of the most important decisions you make while planning your wedding, how do you make heads or tails of what a venue needs for an event, and what’s considered a necessity or lagniappe?
Photo by Rachel Erin Photography for Southern Celebrations Magazine, Vol. 5
First, one of the biggest factors you need to consider is availability. If you’re able to wiggle around your date, it can be easier to find a venue, but if you’re particularly stuck on a certain day, be aware of the time you are looking. For example, it might be difficult to find an available venue for the first of March in Louisiana if you’re starting planning the October before. Giving yourself ample time, if possible, will lead to more available vendors and give yourself more options.
Speaking of options, as you tour and inquire to venues, ask about their catering policies. Many venues do not allow outside catering, and some that do allow outside caters may have preferred vendors, or require vendors to have a certain level of insurance and liability. Knowing what the policies are relating to alcoholic beverages and the venue’s allowances (some state run venues such as parks or historic buildings may only allow wine and beer, and ban hard liquor) could also affect your decision making while looking at different places. Regardless of a venue’s policies however, you should always inquire about their liability and insurance, and ask if they are covered in the event of rowdy guests or if someone was to hurt themselves on the property. If a venue does not have insurance or a policy in which you can add to your contract with them that would hold them liable, it would be to my recommendation to stay away, and look at other options. This is a necessity you cannot overlook, as it protects yourself and your guests as well as the business.
While searching at venues, in particular ones that are outdoors or in public spaces, ask about bathroom access and availability. Having a primary bathroom area where your guests can be comfortable as well as not be disturbed by non-invited persons is ideal; in the event a bathroom is not conveniently located nearby, ask about renting a bathroom trailer, and the policies regarding them. National and state parks, where often policies of “leave no trace” are in place, may not allow you to bring a trailer in, and can also cause problems regarding trash and waste disposal overall. At venues such as bed and breakfasts, it would also be pertinent to ask about bathrooms and waste disposal, as such venues are generally converted homes, and may not be able to handle your tentative guest list.
Another factor to consider while choosing your wedding venue(s) is parking and travel. Not only the availability of it (especially if you’re getting married in a more urban area, where street parking may be an option, or you have to budget purchasing a lot for the day), but also the proximity of parking to the venue. In terms of travel, look at nearby lodging for out of town guests (especially if they are more than an hour away from your tentative venue), and consider party buses to transport guests from the ceremony to the reception venue if they are quite a distance away. Acknowledging that over-drinking may be occurring at your wedding, I would recommend checking out Uber and Lyft as possible transportation options, as they offer prepaid rides via a special code for your attendees.
Finally, the biggest consideration you should take into while looking at venues is if it stays true to the style and reflection of you and your future spouse. If you’re a couple that loves the outdoors and open space, then I would certainly look at parks or estates with gracious lawns and gardens, or if you’re a couple that likes a little bit more glamour or would prefer the indoors, a stately plantation home or a ballroom would be a better option. Regardless of budget or time constraints, do not lose hope that you will find something that fits you and speaks to you. Much like when you knew you would marry your spouse, when you know, you know, and it will be perfect.
Have any questions relating to venue hunting? Feel free to reach out to the team of Southern Celebrations Magazine, and check out their vendor list, where you’ll see the best venues the South has to offer!