Today we are starting a new series following the wedding planning process with our editor, Vanessa, who got engaged in September! See what the process is like from a real bride-to-be.

Hello everyone! I am so excited to be sharing some insight into my wedding planning process, and hopefully help any brides looking for a little direction.

Being in the wedding industry, friends and family expected me to be a pro and know exactly how I wanted my big day to be. Truth be told, I didn’t have my dream wedding all planned out ahead of time. I knew I wanted the day to reflect my fiancé and I’s personalities, and I really wanted it to be a celebration with those who are closest to us. The only thing I was set on going into the process was that I wanted to be married outdoors.

First things first, set a budget! Your venue and catering will most likely be your biggest purchase. Many brides spend 50% of their budget on these two items alone, myself included. Think about the look and feel you want to be conveyed on your big day. This can help guide you to not only pick a venue but also set a budget.

Many people say to select the date first, but I would suggest picking the season. I had a dream date in mind, but it was quickly thrown to the wayside due to venue availability. Unless the date is super meaningful to you, for example your anniversary, don’t hold onto one specific date too tight. If you do, you risk shutting yourself off from a venue that might be perfect!

After I picked a season, I went ahead and made my rough guest list. My fiancé wanted to invite 400 guests, which horrified me not only because of price, but I knew our venue options would be extremely limited. We finally settled on a more realistic number of 200 guests. With that number in mind, I was able to start my venue search. Having a ballpark guest count helps with more than venue capacity, you can get a full feel of what the wedding would cost at each venue from food to drinks to rentals.

I made a list of my top 25 venues and started reaching out to each one. Here is a list of questions to ask or keep in mind when picking a venue.

  1. What dates do they have available in your selected season? Are you open to a Friday or Sunday wedding, or do you want it to be on a Saturday?
  2. Does the venue have spaces for both the ceremony and reception? If so, are there separate fees for each space? If not, you will need to select two venues, one for the ceremony and one for the reception.
  3. Does the venue have an on-site caterer or are you allowed to select your own? Request a menu price list to see how much food will cost per person. Also ask about food and beverage minimums!
  4. What are the rules on alcohol? If the venue has a caterer, they will also most likely provide your alcohol. Ask about different bar options including open bar and cash bar.
  5. What rentals does the venue provide? Most will provide tables and chairs, but many resorts and country clubs also provide flatware, glassware, plates and linens.
  6. Ask if there are any additional service fees. Service fees are not included in the base price and can be around 20%.
Real Bride Guide: Picking a Venue | Arizona Weddings Magazine

Venue: The Paseo | Photo: Steph Wahlig

After what felt like an exhaustive search, my fiancé and I set off to tour a few venues. The first one we saw, we instantly fell in love with, but I didn’t want to make a quick decision. We thought it over for a week, and ended up picking that venue! I was absolutely in love with it and something about it just felt right. That sounds crazy, but I guess like love, when you know you know. I hope this helps in your search picking a venue!