Many couples say that choosing a venue is one of the most stressful, and expensive, parts of planning their wedding. But it doesn’t have to be that way! If you approach choosing a venue with a plan, a vision, and a budget in mind, you can actually *gasp* ENJOY the process.
Not to mention, finding a micro wedding venue allows you to explore all kinds of unique and fun locations that wouldn’t be possible with a traditional wedding.
Here we’ve put together a guide for how to choose a micro wedding venue – helping you choose the perfect micro wedding for YOU, while also making it as stress free as possible.
Before you start a venue search for your micro wedding, you need to get organized. Organization will look different for every couple, but it’s important that you keep your choices, thoughts, and priorities all in one place.
We suggest creating a spread sheet that allows you to easily compare the different attributes of each venue that you’re interested in. If you’re more of a tactile organizer, then think about purchasing a wedding planner.
Regardless of your desired method, be sure to include these details in your search:
- Name of Venue
- Website/Phone Number – this will allow you to easily find and contact the venue again, rather than re-searching through apps and search engines.
- Cost – most venues have varying costs depending on time of year/day of the week, so be sure to note the cost of the date YOU are looking in to.
- Food/Drink – make a note about whether or not the cost includes catering and bar services. This can make a big difference in overall cost if you end up choosing an all inclusive venue.
- Vendors – note if they have restrictions on vendors, since some venues supply a list of vendors you are required to work with. If you have your heart set on a particular vendor, this could be a dealbreaker.
- Capacity – this is important because you’re looking for a venue that will feel appropriate for a micro wedding. If the venue capacity is 300 people, chances are your wedding of 30 will feel out of place.
- Available Dates – be sure to note the dates that the venue has availability, especially if you have your heart set on a particular time of year or day of the week.
- Type – this is referring to whether the venue is a hotel, outdoor venue, historical location, or restaurant.
- Restrictions – check to see if the venue has any major restrictions, such as an event end time, prohibiting alcohol, etc.
- Facility Extras – list any items included with the venue, which might include equipment, chairs, tables, linens, etc. Again, this can make a big difference in overall cost.
Even if you’re only deciding between 2 or 3 venues, it’s nice to have an easy way to make comparisons, so be sure to get your method of organization in line before you do anything else.
Choose a General Location
Deciding on a general location can really help narrow down your search, especially when looking for a micro wedding venue. While some areas have an abundance of options for micro weddings, others will only have a few.
If having a variety of options is important to you, then do some quick Google searches and get to know the area you’re considering. Micro wedding are becoming increasingly popular, and many venues are beginning to list micro wedding packages on their sites. Some area will even have wedding planners or services that specialize in micro weddings.
While you don’t have to choose a location based on this, it’s a nice indicator that those venues have experience with micro weddings, and know how to host them.
Location can also greatly affect the budget that you’ve set for yourself, so take this into consideration as well. Hosting a glam destination wedding on the beach will be a lot more expensive than a low-key backyard wedding, so if price is a factor for you, put some thought into that aspect.
Decide on a Budget
Talking money might not be fun, but it’s an essential part of this process. Once you’ve gotten organized and decided on a location, then set a hard budget for yourself and stick to it. Nothing is worse than falling in love with a venue that you simply can’t afford.
Keep in mind ALL of the factors that will come into play when you’re outlining your budget. Some wedding venues include the cost of food/drink, while others do not. Same with furniture, plating, decor, etc.
We suggest creating a budget with each category addressed, then figure out how much you have for combinations of categories such as:
- Venue alone
- Venue + food
- Venue + food + decor
- Venue + DJ + Rentals
This will help you decide whether a venue that might initially seem expensive is actually a bargain, and vice versa.
At this point in your search, it’s important to have a solid guest count ready. Since some venues will offer all inclusive packages that include items like food and beverage, so you’ll need a guest count to figure out exactly how much that will cost for your specific event.
Again, this is where a micro wedding can really shine. Since you’re hosting far fewer guests, many couples choose to spend money on the top tier food and drink.
If you’re looking to avoid budget surprises, then we strongly suggest looking into venues that offer an all inclusive package. Not every all inclusive package is created the same, so really try to dig deep into the information provided and figure out exactly what you’re getting for your money.
It can also be helpful to prioritize venues that specifically offer micro wedding packages, since it might end up being even more expensive to try and tailor a wedding package meant for 200 people down to 30.
Establish a Vision and Priorities
Now that you’ve gotten some of the technical aspects out of the way, it’s time for the fun! Begin establishing a vision for your event, as well as what your priorities are.
Your vision will play a key role in guiding your search, and will easily help weed out venues that don’t fit. Pinterest is a great resource to help collect visuals that speak to you, so we suggest creating some boards where you can keep your ideas organized. Even if you don’t think you have a vision, once you start pinning visuals, you’ll quickly realize that you actually do!
Visuals will also come in handy once you start hiring outside help, such as planners and vendors. While you don’t have to only source from micro weddings, it’s always nice to garner inspiration from couples who have actually pulled one off. You might get some great ideas of how to utilize smaller spaces, and implement unique add ons.
Some examples of priorities that a couple might have include:
- Amazing food
- Open bar
- Creating an experience
- Epic decor
- Fostering a feeling of intimacy
- Involving their guests
Hosting a micro wedding means that you can really get creative here, since you might have more money to spend in certain areas or per guest. It’s much easier to deck out tables in flowers when you’ve only got a few of them, or serve a multi-course meal when your guest count is less than 50.
When you’re establishing your vision and priorities, create a list of your must haves. These are the things that you simply can’t do without on your big day. Try to keep this list modest (it’ll be hard to nail everything if your must have list has 70 items!) and think about the things that are deal makers or breakers.
Referring to your must haves list can help you decide between venues, and eliminate ones that don’t check your most important boxes.
Choose Some Dates
Unless you’re the rare couple who happens to be very flexible when it comes to dates, then you should go into your venue search with at least a few very specific dates in mind. Again, it’s heartbreaking to fall in love with a venue only to realize that they have zero availability for your event.
Even if you’re looking to host your wedding at a more non-traditional and flexible venue (like a backyard or Airbnb), dates will still be important due to seasons (it’s hard to host a backyard Colorado wedding in the winter!) and host availability.
Search and Find
Okay friend, it’s FINALLY time to officially start searching (even though we know you already have!). Finding a wedding venue can be incredibly overwhelming, and finding the perfect micro wedding venue can be even trickier. However, there are some good places to start that will kickstart your search.
Obviously, wedding focused sites will help you discover venues. Some of the best ones include:
When utilizing these search sites, make sure you use the filters to your advantage. Filter for options such as guest count, all inclusive, etc. to help narrow down the results.
Even if you think you’ve found a venue that fits the bill, be sure to visit their actual site and check it out further. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve filtered for venues that accommodate 0-50 guests, only to be bombarded with spaces meant for weddings of 100-300 guests.
You can also use the good old fashioned Google search as well. Simply type in ‘micro wedding venues in _________’ and you might score some seriously amazing smaller venues that won’t necessarily show up on the traditional venue search sites.
Once you’ve found a few venues that speak to you, it’s time to dig into the reviews. And you need to DIG DEEP. It might seem like a lot of reading to do but you can find some seriously important information buried in those reviews (both good and bad).
When reading through reviews, try to pick up on key information that they convey such as:
- Responsiveness of the venue/planners
- Overall experience
- Red flags
- Guest experience
- Quality of food/drink/decor
If you’ve decided to create an organizational spread sheet, then consider adding a section where you can copy and paste important snippets that you find in the reviews.
We also suggest looking in multiple places for reviews. Sadly, some venues will buy positive reviews that will then skew the overall rating for their venue. So make sure you check The Knot, Yelp, Google, and whatever other reviews you can find to help you gain a true understanding of the venue.
Most venues are happy to answer questions and connect with couples who are interested in using their venue – so don’t ever be afraid to reach out personally! Whether it’s an e-mail or a call, this is also a great way to get a quick gauge of who you’ll be interacting with, the overall vibe, and how helpful they’ll be throughout the process.
Having a hard time reaching someone or getting your questions answered is a BIG red flag, so keep this in mind throughout your search. While a venue might seem great on paper, the real quality shines through in the people that run it.
Ask Your Questions
Once you’ve reached out to a venue, make sure you ask the burning questions on your mind. And be sure to REALLY ask! If a venue is truly interested in your business, they’ll give you the time and answer all of your questions.
Some good ones to ask include:
- Date availability
- What’s included
- If they have required vendors
- Restrictions they might have
- If they have experience hosting micro weddings
Make a Visit
When you’ve narrowed your list down to a top few favorites, it’s time to check the venues out in person. This might be more difficult to achieve if you’re hosting a destination micro wedding, but if it’s a possibility, we strongly suggest it. Seeing the venue in person can be very different than seeing it online, and an in-person visit might help to narrow your search further.
Some things to accomplish on your visit will include:
- Map out your areas – think about where each portion of your wedding will take place – eating, dancing, ceremony, etc.
- Consider logistics
- Parking – how much parking is available? How close (or far) is it from the actual site?
- Outlets – If you’re planning to have any sort of electrical needs, you want to make sure there are ample outlets available.
- Vendor space – Think about the vendors you’re planning on hiring, and make sure they’ll have the room they need to do their job (if you’re putting on an epic meal and the venue only has a tiny kitchen, that might not go over well). This is especially true if you’re hiring a unique vendor, like a food truck or bar cart.
- Bathrooms – Thankfully, less people at your event means less bathrooms needed. But, it’s still important to make sure there will be enough, and that they’re located in convenient areas.
- Plan B – Does this venue have a plan B space? If the ceremony and/or reception is meant to be held outside, make sure they have a solid plan B ready.
- Look at the views – Your wedding photos will eventually be some of your most treasured possessions, so make sure that the venue you’re scoping out has the views or backdrops that you want.
Check for Red Flags
An in-person visit is a great time to check for red flags that you might not have noticed on the venue’s site. Red flags could be anything from a staff that you don’t vibe with, to spaces that don’t match up to the photos that they’ve provided.
If it’s clear that a venue has exaggerated or flat out lied about something, that’s a big indicator that going with them could be a huge risk.
Ask More Questions
Chances are that once you’ve made an in-person visit and connected with a venue rep, you’ll probably have more questions. Write these down and make sure that they get answered before you sign anything or pay a down payment. It’s crucial that you get all of your questions answered before you commit.
If the venue is run well and committed to getting your business, then they’ll be happy to spend the extra time answering your questions or concerns, and making sure you feel like it’s a good match.
When you think you’re ready to make a decision, be sure to discuss with your partner, and if you want, friends and family. They might bring up additional pros or cons, and help you see the venue in a more unbiased light.
Once you’ve made your final decision, it’s time to sign! Be sure to get official confirmation from the venue that your date is secure. This will probably look like putting a downpayment down, as well as signing some paperwork.
Remember – if you haven’t made it official, the venue has no obligation to hold your date!