Choosing a wedding venue will be one of the most important wedding decisions you’ll make, as it will ultimately impact several other choices along the way. From something small – such as which caterer you’ll be able to work with – to something much larger – like the degree to which your dream wedding vision is brought to life – your chosen venue will determine many other factors about your big day, which is why picking the right one for you is so crucial. Our friends at some of the best Pittsburgh wedding venues are sharing their most helpful tips for finding a wedding venue that you’ll absolutely love!
1.) Determine your venue priorities.
Before making any appointments at potential venues, sit down with your partner and discuss some must-haves, some would-be-nice-to-haves, and some we-don’t-care-if-we-haves. Nailing down what is important to you in terms of a wedding venue will help narrow down your search and allow you to start things off on the right foot.
“First and foremost, ask yourself what is most important to you individually and as a couple. Are you DIYers? Are you the all-inclusive type? Do you have a specific caterer you would like to use? Does grandpa make his own wine that you want to be served at the wedding? Do you have a pet you would like to have on-site?” – Sewickley Quarter
“When committing to a venue, prioritizing a list of must-haves is always a good idea. Some examples may include having the ceremony and reception all in one place; the ability to bring your own vendors and alcohol; wanting a venue that has on-site catering; accommodations for getting ready on-site; the ability to party late into the night without a curfew; accessibility for guests with disabilities, etc. Having a list of must-haves will help to narrow down your venue options.” – The Harper Event Venue
2.) Know what you can spend.
Similarly, you should know both your overall wedding budget and specifically your wedding venue budget prior to touring any locations. Blowing a large majority of your wedding budget on the venue alone isn’t a wise move and if you book a wedding venue that you ultimately can’t afford, you could be in for some very hard decisions later on in the planning process.
“Sit down and honestly work out your wedding budget at the beginning of the process. Your wedding venue is just a portion of that budget so it’s important to know it while shopping around for a venue.” – The WBU
“A budget can help you determine your priorities and create a realistic timeline for when you should have your wedding (a longer engagement gives you more time to save).” – Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
3.) Do your homework.
Take to the internet to research potential venues that you think might be a good fit. Read their website in its entirety, check out online reviews, review their social media accounts, and ask family or friends for references. Most questions can be answered in advance with just a little bit of virtual homework. Doing some of this will help to eliminate venues that cannot meet your needs and put you on the path to those that can.
“Before scheduling a tour, ensure the venue you are interested in can meet your needs. For example, do they have the capacity to accommodate your guest count? If you have a specific meal or menu in mind, can you bring in an outside caterer, or can they accommodate your request?” – The Harper Event Venue
4.) Always make an appointment.
To ensure the best tour experience possible, never show up unexpectedly to a potential wedding venue. Always always always make an appointment in advance. This ensures that someone from the venue is available to give you a proper tour and answer all of your questions. Popping by because you’re in the area is never a good idea. Trust us.
“Don’t just pop in. Potential clients should always inquire ahead of time and schedule a time to meet for a tour.” – The Art Room
“Sounds like a no brainer, right? You’d be surprised. If you’re just doing a quick drive-by because you’re in the area, you could be missing out on so many hidden gems on the property, not to mention the whole inside. Or the opposite could be true; the outside could be just what you want but the inside is not really your style.” – The Harper Event Venue
5.) But leave the entourage at home.
There is such a thing as “too many cooks in the kitchen”. Not only will bringing too many people to a venue tour make it a bit chaotic, it can really lead to more confusion. While family members might have good intentions, their opinions and thoughts might sway you into a decision that isn’t truly reflective of what you want. Keep the initial tour to a minimum and then bring others to subsequent tours, if you must.
“Don’t bring your whole family to the first round of venue tours. Try to conduct initial site visits with just your partner so you can get a sense of what you both really like. Once you’ve narrowed things down, if you really want other opinions, then you can bring others to your top 2-3 picks for final insight. Parents and loved ones can have valuable opinions from their personal experiences, but this is your wedding, and you should formulate your own thoughts before you allow others to shape them.” – Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust, Inc.
“Picking your wedding venue is a big deal, and we know it’s exciting to want to share this experience with your family and friends. However, the saying ‘less is more’ applies here. Remember, more people leads to more opinions, which can sometimes end with your tour being hijacked. Ideally, the couple should come alone or maybe with a parent or two.” – The Harper Event Venue
6.) Speak up.
There is no such thing as a stupid question, so while touring potential wedding venues, be sure to ask lots of them. Having more information is always better than not having enough, and you’ll be better equipped to make the best decision for you and your unique wedding.
“Ask a lot of questions. The more understanding you have going into the contracting process, the smoother the entire experience will be. It sets the foundation and lets you know what you can expect after the contract is signed.” – The Oaklander
“Don’t skip or rush your site visit. Leaving without reviewing venue inclusions, policies, and pricing can lead to avoidable misunderstandings down the road. On that note, don’t be afraid to ask a question that you think might be silly. Your venue is a huge first step in your planning process and shapes a lot of future decisions.” – Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust, Inc.
7.) Ask about wedding day set-up.
On the morning of your wedding, the last thing you want to be doing is dropping off boxes or setting things up. Be sure to ask each venue about their set-up accessibility and policies. Some venues will allow you to store items the night before the wedding, or even the week of. While you’re at it, you should also ask about wedding clean up. Will you need to remove all items immediately after the reception or will you be able to retrieve them the next day or even on Monday? The set-up/clean-up schedule can add or reduce stress, and it’s always smart to know what to expect.
“When choosing a venue, it is important to see when you are able to set up. Having the option to set up the day before is the most ideal. Setting things up the morning of your wedding can be stressful.” – The Grand Estate at Hidden Acres
8.) Be open to other dates.
For the best chance at booking your dream wedding venue, try to be flexible with your wedding date. Remember that weddings don’t have to take place on a Saturday either; Fridays, Sundays, and even weekdays make for great wedding days and often come along with added benefits, like lower pricing, increased vendor availability, and the chance at make it a multi-day celebration. Here are some more benefits to a non-Saturday wedding.
“Don’t get tied down to one specific date. Opening up your date options will give you greater flexibility in securing the wedding venue of your dreams.” – The Oaklander
“Be flexible regarding your date and expectations of availability. Fridays and Sundays make great options, are often discounted, and more widely available with other vendors.” – Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
9.) Ask about inclement weather plans.
If you envision any part of your wedding day taking place outdoors – including, but not limited to the ceremony, cocktail hour, or the entire reception – you must must must have a back-up plan. Ask your potential venues about indoor or tented spaces if your Plan B has to be set into motion thanks for Mother Nature. Be aware that sometimes a weather contingency plan comes along with additional costs since a second space or tenting materials will need to be reserved.
“Don’t underestimate the importance of a weather contingency plan. This is Pittsburgh! It can be rainy, snowy, and sunny all in the same weekend. Have a backup plan.” – Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust, Inc.
“Know the rain back-up plan and make sure you are comfortable with it.” – Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
10.) Consider your ceremony location.
When choosing a wedding venue, one factor that is often overlooked but that definitely shouldn’t be is the proximity to the ceremony location. Pittsburgh traffic can be a nightmare, especially on a Saturday and for out-of-towners. Ceremony and reception locations that are nearby to each other not only makes the day easier on your guests, but it also allows you to maximize your time. On a day where time seems to fly by, do you really want to waste precious moments sitting in traffic or traveling a far distance between events?
“Couples should not overlook the distance between their intended ceremony and reception venues. It eats up so much valuable time on a day that goes by too quickly to begin with.” – Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust, Inc.
11.) Make sure you understand things.
It’s best to never assume anything, but that is especially true when it comes to wedding package inclusions and contracts. Read all of the fine print, get clear on what is included and, perhaps more importantly, not included, and make sure you and the venue are on the same page. Doing so will allow each party to manage expectations and deliver exactly what is promised.
“A common mistake we see clients and potential clients make is not fully understanding what is included and not included in the venue packages. After touring 3 – 5 venues, create a pros and cons list but also a list of what is included and not included with each one. This will help you better anticipate what you will need from budget and planning perspectives.” – Sewickley Quarter
12.) Do a vibe check.
Just like with your other wedding vendors, you need to have a good rapport with the staff at your chosen venue. While touring, try to get a sense of the type of relationship you could have with the venue coordinator and those who work there. Do they seem eager to help? Are they friendly? Do you get along well? The execution of your wedding day is a big responsibility. Make sure you put it into hands of those you trust.
“You should pick a venue that works with your vision BUT also because the venue coordinator is someone who you WANT to work with and who will help to create your special day. There are so many important decisions to make, but you can’t expect a person to really ‘get it’ if you don’t feel comfortable with them.” – Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel
“Find a group of people who want your wedding to succeed. Make a connection with the people you are working with. Look for a staff that loves serving and who will do anything to make your dream wedding a reality. A staff who loves what they do can make impossible things happen.” – The Grand Estate at Hidden Acres
13.) Remember your guest count.
Before even considering any venues, you should draft a guest list. Consult your partner and both of your families to make sure no one was forgotten. After you have a good grasp of your potential guest count, then search for venues that can appropriately house that size of a crowd. Do not book a venue with a maximum capacity that is smaller than your guest list in the hopes that not everyone shows up. You could be very unpleasantly surprised…and find yourself in a major wedding planning pickle later on.
“Don’t fill your venue to the maximum capacity. A good rule of thumb for a more comfortable guest count is generally ⅔ of the maximum. It’s called a MAXIMUM for a reason.” – Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
“Don’t book a wedding venue that can’t fit your entire invite list. The 20% regrets rule isn’t as reliable anymore and a higher percentage of your invited guests are RSVPing yes. You don’t want to find yourself trying to figure out how you’re going to accommodate your guests as well as a dance floor.” – Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust, Inc.
14.) Be realistic.
Manage your own expectations and be honest with yourself. Is this venue within your wedding budget? Does it fit the aesthetic you are looking for? Can you envision yourself getting married here? Does it meet all of your needs? Asking yourself these questions and others like them will help keep you grounded when making such an important wedding decision.
“Try to be realistic with the vision of your wedding and the spaces you’re considering. Not everything will work in every space. But a good wedding coordinator can help you make your day the day you want in almost any space.” – Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel
15.) Trust your gut.
If you only listen to one piece of wedding advice, it should be this: remember that it’s YOUR wedding. You need to be happy with and feel confident in your decisions. Don’t let the opinions or wishes of others sway you into doing something that you ultimately don’t want to do. If you trust your gut and listen to your heart, you truly can’t go wrong.
“Don’t let the opinions of others overshadow what YOU really want. If you have your heart set on an out-of-the-box venue, don’t rule it out because your parents want something more traditional. Dying to book that venue in the trendy part of the city, but your family wants something closer to the suburbs? Do what sparks joy for YOU. This is YOUR wedding!” – The Oaklander
“Be comfortable with your decision. It’s a big one and sometimes couples try to appease everyone else around them.” – Roost
“Look for the venue that speaks to you as a couple. This is for you, not your parents, even if they are helping financially.” – The WBU