Five Things to Consider When Booking a Wedding Venue


Happy New Year! Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we've seen time and time again that the holidays are the most popular time of year for couples to get engaged. We've been seeing many new Facebook posts popping up sharing exciting engagement announcements and the number of inquiries in our email inbox also increased! For these newly engaged couples, now is a great time of year to start thinking about your future wedding venue.

California wedding venue with a big white house
California wedding venue with a big white house

Above: Lowndes Grove Plantation, Charleston SC

For many newly engaged couples, choosing a venue is the first priority on their wedding "to-do" list (second to contacting their photographer right? *wink wink*). I remember when Stephen and I were planning our own wedding. I was so excited to book our wedding venue and set a date because from there, everything else seemed like it would fall into place.

Depending on what area you live in, your options might be either limited or you might have an overwhelming amount of options. In Chico, where our home base is, the number of wedding venues can be counted on two hands. Opposed to the Bay Area or LA, where there's too many choices and it can be overwhelming!

Wherever you find yourself looking for a venue, most brides have some sort of criteria in their heads of what they are looking for. For instance, you might want a beautiful ballroom reception, rolling vineyards or more of an outdoor woodsy feel. Whatever your initial "must haves" are, consider our top five suggestions that will make your photographers and videographers extremely happy!

Now before we jump in I will say, if you have been dreaming your whole life of getting married at your family residence or that one beautiful wedding venue with that big oak tree, go for it. Don't let these tips sway you in any way if you already know where you want to get married. The beauty of working with a talented photographer/videographer is we can work with any situation. A couple weeks ago we shot a wedding in the dark! Luckily Stephen had strategically placed lights so the officiant (who was the couple's grandma) could read her script!

When it comes to a venue, above all trust your instincts. If you walk into a space and fall in love with it instantly, we say, go for it. We’ve met with so many couples and when we’ve asked them why they chose their venue, they explain how they fell in love with it right away when they visited. Many express just "knowing" or being able to envision themselves getting married there when they toured the space. If you feel this way, we say go for it no matter what. What matters most is that you love the venue and the venue makes your dream wedding come to life. The tips below are just some helpful things to consider when choosing a venue from scratch that will make your photographer and videographer a little extra happy!

  1. Getting Ready Locations - Check to see if your venue have two separate on-site getting ready locations for the bride & groom. This is not necessary, but makes things super convenient! No driving between locations and if you want to deliver something between the guys & girls rooms, it's as easy as sending a bridesmaid or groomsmen on a short walk over. Most photographers and videographers have hourly coverage caps and having to travel even 20 minutes both ways between locations can add unnecessary extra time. Having getting ready spots nearby also makes it very seamless to have everyone getting ready on site. Chico, unfortunately, doesn't have many venues with this type of setup, but some close by venues do like Inn at Park Winters,Gover Ranch and Vizcaya. These venues are all awesome because they have rooms on site that family and friends can get ready and stay the night in. Having everyone in one place makes communication and organization simple.
  2. Natural Light - We always tell our brides, the more natural light in a getting ready suite the better.  It also helps to have white walls or neutral soft colors. Most of our brides have cute robes they are getting ready in, if the background is very busy or has lots of bright colors, that can take away from the subject we’re trying to focus on (the bride). Try to avoid places with dark wood walls, yellow fluorescent lights or places that have colors that won’t match your wedding vision. If your venue doesn't have a getting ready area and you can’t find a place like this in a hotel, consider looking on Airbnb for your getting the ready location. There are lots of great homes all over California that have great interior design and would be so beautiful. Now again, we can work with anything and make any room look like a million bucks, so don't stress about this if you've already booked a place. We’ve had our brides do their getting ready photos outside for better light, or moved furniture so we could get the perfect shot near a window. We can make anything work!
  3. Shade - Ask yourself, does your venue have shade? This is not only for your photographers but for your guests. Many California brides dream of a beautiful outdoor wedding and reception. The most popular months in our calendar to get married are May and June and September and October. We’ve found that in all those months, the weather here in Northern California (even late in October) can be in the high 80’s and 90's. Asking your guests to be out in the sun for a long period of time can be very miserable, so a little shade goes a long way. For portraits, if it's really sunny we'll head to the shade to keep you cool, but also to provide soft shadows and natural light that makes our photography style what it is. If your venue doesn't have a shaded reception area, consider renting a big white tent. We actually love white tents and they photograph so well at night and even in the daytime. Guests will thank you for not sitting in the sun either!
  4. Sun Location During Ceremony - This might seem small, but in the moment you might have wished you had thought about it. We've had so many brides who can barely look at their spouse during the ceremony because the sun is right in their eyes. Or worse the sun is right in your groom's eyes and he's sweating up a storm at the altar. Again if this can be avoided, we always recommend taking into account where the sun will be during the ceremony. I know anyone can handle some discomfort for a short period of time, but if this harsh sun can be avoided entirely, why not think about it. For photography, we love ceremony lighting where the subjects are backlit. That means the sun is behind you and your husband and the officiant, or slightly to one side but still behind. Better yet, if the sun is hidden behind a tree or building and the whole ceremony is evenly shaded.
  5. Venue Location - This is more for your guests but think about the distance guests might have to travel from their hotel to the actual venue. If you have a lot of guests coming from out of town. Check to make sure the venue easy to find, and has enough accommodations for all your guests to stay in the area. Look into parking and if guests are drinking, make sure there a safe easily accessible road for them to get a Taxi/Uber or shuttle ride back to where they're staying the night.

All and all, remember to trust your instincts. If you love it, don't sweat or stress about the small stuff. Be creative and think outside the box if you have to. Sit down with your fiancé and make a list of some of your "must haves" and your "would be nice to haves" for your future venue and then have fun doing some tours together! Make a date day out of it and celebrate with dinner and drinks afterwards, cheers!