When we finally found our venue, it took us a lot longer than I thought it would. We live in a pretty big city with several different price points. Of course, I was wrong.

Even though we started planning about a year before our wedding date, finding a venue ended up taking about 5 months. There were some things I think I could’ve done to make the process easier, but some things I feel I did really helped ease the burden.

Get Organized

I created an Excel spreadsheet to help keep all the info about our venue choices in order. You see lists like this in local bridal magazines, but if you create one yourself, you can tailor it to your specific concerns. The set up is a little time consuming, but the spreadsheet proved to be priceless as our venue list got longer and longer.

In our spreadsheet, I ran all the venue names down the first column. I included stuff like contact info, pricing, deposit, setup time allowed, and pros and cons across the top row. Now I could easily compare one venue to another quickly.

I also added other worksheets; one for each venue. In these I broke down the big costs associated with each venue, like food and alcohol, since each had different policies.

Do Your Research

Before you get too committed to a definite budget, do some light research on how much venues in your area actually cost. This is a mistake we made and a rule we failed to follow. We set our budget on a whim before understanding that venues in our area are actually more expensive than we thought. Now that doesn’t mean you should spend more money than you have available, but that does mean you should prepare yourself for the sticker shock beforehand. Photo by: forevigt.dk

Be Prepared to Act

The first venue we looked at and really wanted was the Belle Isle Casino building. It’s a beautiful, old historic building situated on a city island park. The rental rate was super cheap and we would be allowed to bring in our own caterer and alcohol. The first time I called in July 2008, I was told all of the Saturday dates for 2009 were taken, but there were a few Friday’s left. Well I put it on hold because we really wanted a Saturday. A few weeks later I called back and sure enough those Fridays were now gone. Of course hindsight is 20/20. It would have been smart to go ahead and book one of the Friday dates then, and just cancel if necessary. Instead, we ended up just missing out.

Know Where to Compromise

Maybe you’re dead set on bringing in the caterer of your choice, or you won’t settle for any day other than Saturday. My suggestion is to make a list of all of your top priorities then number them according to importance. This will help you weigh the venues once you have them all in your spreadsheet. Know that very rarely does the perfect venue exist and if it does, it’s out of your price range. Or at least that’s what happened to me. There was certain stuff we had to compromise on, like bringing in our own caterer and alcohol – something we really wanted to do but ended up not being allowed.

The moral of the story is to get organized early and do your leg work, so that you can make good decisions and well thought out compromises. That way you’ll be prepared to act when you find a great venue and hopefully you won’t be stuck in a 5 month venue search like us.