How to choose the perfect wedding venue. Tips for finding the best venue for your budget, style, and personality as a couple. Bonus: download a free printable wedding venue checklist!
Venue: Headwaters Ranch in Three Forks, Montana | Photo credit: Amelia Anne Photography
How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Venue
Congratulations! It’s more than Facebook official. He popped the question, and you said YES!
After announcing the good news to your closest family & friends, flooding the text chains, and ‘gramming your ring — you are ready to commence wedding planning!
Booking your venue is one of the first things you’ll want to do. It’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll make while planning your wedding. And it can be really overwhelming. We’ve put together these tips and a wedding venue checklist to help!
In this article, you’ll find:
- When to start looking for your wedding venue
- What to prepare before meeting with venues
- How soon to book your venue
- What type of venue is right for you
- What to look for in a wedding venue
- Wedding venue checklist download
When to Start Looking for Your Wedding Venue
ASAP! Ideally, you should begin your venue search right after engagement. Be prepared that popular venues may book out even two years in advance.
There are only 24 Saturdays during peak wedding season (May – October), some of which may include Friday night rehearsals. And keep in mind that certain venues may not be open year-round due to our Montana weather.
Once your venue is secured, you can determine many other important details – including the tone and theme of the wedding and which services and amenities you’ll need. After selecting your venue, you’ll know if you’ll need catering, bar services, seating, lodging or if this is included in the venue package.
What to Prepare Before Meeting with Venues
You’ll want to have a few ducks in a row before you begin contacting and meeting with venues. Here are important factors to think about.
1) Decide if you’ll hire a wedding planner
If you’re planning on hiring a wedding planner – talk to them first! With a planner on your team, you’ll have access to additional insight, knowledge, and connections that may even lead to exclusive pricing with a venue.
Undecided on hiring a planner or coordinator? Learn 5 reasons you should consider hiring a wedding planner.
2) Your preferred wedding date
You’ll want to have a preferred date in mind or at least a general idea of when you’d like to tie the knot.
3) Estimated guest count
Have your best estimate of the number of guests ready. Although it can be a bit challenging to have preliminary numbers (especially right after you get engaged), having a general number prepared will help you narrow down your venue options.
Before you absolutely fall in love with your dream venue, make sure the facility can hold your anticipated guest list. If you have your sights on a petite chapel but expect 400 guests, you might have to rethink that location.
4) Draft of your wedding budget
According to Insider, the average cost of a wedding venue in Billings, Montana, is $5,700. And with the average price of a Montana wedding being $20,000, the venue can take nearly a quarter of the budget.
The cost of a wedding venue in Montana can range from $1,000 to well over $10,000 or more for elite and all-inclusive sites.
Having a draft of your wedding budget prepared will help you make sure you have enough money for the venue and all of the added costs of your wedding. You won’t be surprised when you book a costly venue and don’t have money left for a wedding band or custom wedding favors.
When researching venue prices, make sure to factor in the total cost of the experience, not just the venue itself. A lower-priced option may include the fee to rent the space, but not the necessities. Ensure to price out the cost of seating, tables, linens, and lighting at a bare minimum before booking. Don’t assume the venue includes any extras in addition to the space provided – always ask!
Here are a few ways to get creative and save money when it comes to your dream wedding venue:
- Choose a wedding date in the off-peak wedding season or during the week
- Host a brunch instead of dinner service (who doesn’t love mimosas – yes, please!)
- City parks – be sure to check if permits are required
- University halls and museums typically have lower rates
- Churches & places of worship – may also have reception areas
- Home/backyard – remember rentals will be an added cost!
Pro tip: do your homework! The top four items to prepare before meeting with venues are 1) planner/coordinator involvement, 2) preferred wedding date, 3) estimated guest count, and 4) an idea of your budget.
How Soon to Book Your Wedding Venue
Depending on the length of your engagement, plan to book your wedding venue at least 9 to 10 months in advance. Ideally, one year or more out. Certain venues are perpetually booked and may require more time. Especially if your date falls in peak wedding season.
The short answer is as soon as you can! For a few reasons – 1) so you don’t miss out on your preferred wedding date and 2) so you can continue planning all of the other details that require a venue selection first.
Pro tip: if you have your heart set on your dream wedding venue, put down that deposit and sign the contract! A signed agreement guarantees the date is yours – without it, your venue could be up for grabs for the next bride-to-be with your date in mind.
What Type of Venue is Right for You?
Ballrooms and museums and ranches, oh my! With hundreds of venues to choose from for your Montana wedding, picking just one can be a daunting choice.
One of the first steps to discovering your dream venue is determining the style or theme of your wedding. If you’ve always dreamed of a rustic, Montana wedding — a vintage farmhouse, ranch, or outdoor acreage in a mountain setting might be a great choice.
If an outdoor summer wedding ranks high on your wedding bucket list, a garden or park setting will provide the perfect amount of scenery for your special day.
If a glamorous, formal wedding is what you’re envisioning, try looking for a private club or ballroom type venue.
Exploring your wedding style and your personality as a couple can help you narrow down venues early on in the discovery phase.
Begin to create a list of vendors that fit your wedding vision. Visit our Montana wedding venue directory and sort by vendor type.
What To Look For In A Wedding Venue
You’ve consulted your planner, considered the budget, drafted a preliminary guest list, have a wedding date in mind, and determined the style of your wedding. You’re now ready to start really researching venues.
Here is a list of initial information to gather:
- How many guests can they accommodate
- What does the venue cost/minimum or package pricing
- What is the layout of the venue
- Are bride and groom suites available on-site
- Is catering offered
- In addition to the space, what else is included or offered
- Is the venue all-inclusive
- Is there on-site lodging (couple and guests)
- Inside and/or outside space
- Does the cost include rehearsal time
- What is the parking situation
- Does the venue have any notable restrictions
Once you have researched numerous possible venues, now you can narrow it down and contact the viable options!
What should you ask potential venues?
First & foremost – is your date available! Will the space be available for the rehearsal? If so, is there an additional charge?
Is a contract required? An agreement signed by both parties should be required to ensure your wedding date is truly yours. With that being said, ask about the cancellation policy along with any fees that may be attached.
Does the venue require a deposit? If so, is it a flat fee or percentage? Are there payment options, and when does the full balance need to be paid?
Liability insurance – select venues may require you to take out liability insurance for your big day. With liquor flowing, slips, and spills on the dance floor and everything in between – providing proof of insurance may be a requirement.
Here’s a handy checklist to help guide you through a visit or tour with a potential venue. In addition to the information you’ve already gathered above!
- Is your date available
- Will the space be available for the rehearsal (if so is there a charge)
- Do you require a deposit (is the deposit refundable)
- Is a contract required
- Do you offer payment plans
- Are you insured
- What’s the earliest we can begin setting up and what time is shut down
- Will there be other events on the day of my wedding
- Is there a cancellation policy
- Is your venue handicap accessible
- Do you provide set up and tear down
- Are bride and groom suites available on-site
- In-house catering
- Are there food & beverage minimums
- Is there a kitchen available for caterers
- In-house bar service
- Can we bring in our own liquor
- Is there a corking fee
- Is there an on-site coordinator or direct contact
- What parking is available
- Is there lodging on-site or close by
- Is wi-fi available
- Do you provide a sound system/microphones for speeches
- Do you provide tables, chairs, linens
Download a Wedding Venue Checklist
Download this free printable wedding venue checklist to help with your initial research. And once you have a set of venues narrowed down, use the detailed questions on the second page to make sure you’ve covered all the essential details!
DOWNLOAD YOUR WEDDING VENUE CHECKLIST
Determining your wedding day location can be one of the most exciting decisions you make while planning your special day. Be sure to gather all the information you need before you sign the contract & put down any money. Once your venue is selected, you’ll be ready to commence your wedding planning in full.
Visit our Montana wedding venue directory to discover venues that fit your budget and wedding style. Filter by venue type and city/town in Montana. Begin the search for your DREAM wedding venue!
Find Montana Wedding Venues
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Own or manage a Montana wedding venue? Add your business to our directory here.
Thank you for mentioning how you should have your venue booked at least 9 months before your wedding. My brother is interested in getting married next year and needs to find a large venue since his fiance has a lot of younger brothers and sisters. Maybe he should start looking for venues now so that he will be prepared for his wedding next year.
Yes! Starting to look now for next year is a great idea. Especially now that many couples have postponed their weddings until next year due to Covid-19. Thanks for stopping!
Thank you for mentioning how identifying your wedding style together can help you efficiently determine what kinds of venues will best suit your needs. Now that my fiance and I have decided to get married next summer, we would like to find a venue that will match some of the rustic decorations that we borrowed from our friend. Maybe we should consider having a barn wedding in order to create a theme that we are both satisfied with.
You’re welcome -thanks for reading!