What to look for in an outdoor wedding venue...
Wedding planning can be such a big task to take on, but if you break it up into small pieces it suddenly becomes more manageable! One of the first things you should check off of your list is choosing and booking a wedding venue for your reception. Touring venues to see what I liked best was honestly one of the most fun parts of wedding planning! Sometimes you can't get a full understanding of a venue from pictures. So I suggest you make your own checklist of venue "must haves", schedule tours at a few venues, and hit the road with your fiancé!
Here are some things to consider...
Ok, so you haven't quite finalized your guest list yet. That's ok! Grab your fiancé (and maybe consult your parents) and come up with a rough estimate of how many people you will invite to your big day. That number is going to be imperative when choosing your venue. Before you schedule a venue tour, ask about capacity. Some venues have multiple rooms or outdoor areas to choose from. Which means the capacity may vary depending on which space you book. Most wedding venues know their customer and have spaces that can fit anywhere from 100 - 300 guests. However, if you are thinking of a non-traditional venue - say, a winery, a barn - those venues might have lesser capacity (something like 50 - 80 guests). That is why you want to be super clear on the limitations of a space before you fall in love with it.
We all dream of having perfect weather when we tie the knot. But the reality is that doesn't always happen. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it's windy. Heck, sometimes it's windy, and rainy, and cold! (Not to jinx it or anything). You can't control the weather, but you CAN control how your venue handles inclement weather if it shows up on your wedding day. What if it rains? Many venues may offer tents to shelter your guests. You can also rent a tent on your own (as long as the venue is ok with it) and make a decision the day before to either use the tent or keep the space open to the elements. Some venues will allow you to hold an indoor room (for a small price) in the event of bad weather. Again, usually you are making this decision a few days before or the day before your wedding. Things need to prepped so a day-of decision won't be your best option.
Of course there are other weather conditions that are more easily solved. Too hot? Ask your venue if they can supply fans (or if you can rent some). Have cold water and iced tea available for guests. Add some umbrellas to the cocktail areas for shade. Too cold? Add/rent space heaters. Maybe the venue has a bonfire pit or outdoor fireplace that can be utilized! Put out a basket of blankets for guests to use. The options are endless...
Keeping all of this in mind, IF bad weather follows you on your wedding day, remember to trust your plan and then get on with the day! There is nothing more refreshing (or sexy, for that matter!) than a bride who keeps her cool in a situation that is out of her control. Just go with the flow and be glad you had a back-up plan.
We don't necessarily want to think about restrooms when choosing a wedding venue, but it can be a real issue! Ask the venue to see their bathrooms. Are there enough stalls? Are they easily accessible from the area that you are using for the wedding? Are the restrooms well marked or will you need to bring some signage? The last thing you want is guests missing a dance or a big moment because they are waiting in line for the restroom. Another guest accommodation to consider is parking. Is there enough parking available at your venue for the amount of guests? Or do you need to arrange for shuttle service or valet? Trust me: if you ask all of these questions up front, there won't be any surprises when it matters.
One of the best things about going to weddings is admiring the decorating style of the bride and groom. So it is important to understand what you can and can't bring to your venue, in terms of décor. Some venues have restrictions on open flames, so you may need to rethink your candle centerpieces. Some venues only allow you to use their linens, so you may need to alter your color palette a bit. Some venues might even have restrictions about where you can place your florals and greenery (hint: can't nail anything into the wall or hang anything from the lights). If you are basing your whole wedding vision on a hanging chandelier with greenery, you may want to ask the venue about any restrictions ahead of time. Most likely you'll find most venues to be pretty accommodating to the needs of your big day.
So there you have it, a few things to keep in mind when choosing your venue! The good news is, there are PLENTY of venues to choose from nowadays. Lots of restaurants, wineries, and farms are offering their spaces for your big day! The internet (and Pinterest) is your best friend when doing your initial search, so get to Googling :) Happy planning!