One of the first things you’ll tackle when wedding planning is choosing a venue. But how many venues should you look at for a wedding? When do you need to start looking and who should you bring with you to the venue tours? If you haven’t planned a wedding before, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the wedding venue choices!

So today we’re sharing all our best tips about venue visits and choosing a venue that’s going to work for your wedding. Learn all about venue tours below and check out our wedding venue FAQs for even more info!

When is the best time to look at wedding venues? 

While there is no one right answer, you’ll probably want to start searching for venues 12-16 months before your wedding date and booking a venue about one year in advance. However, this will vary based on what kind of wedding you’re having, where and when the wedding is, and what kind of a researcher you are.

If you’re someone who loves a spreadsheet and won’t feel comfortable booking a venue until you’ve done extensive research, start your venue search early. If you have your heart set on a popular place to get married or popular wedding date, you’ll also want to start your search early. If you’re more flexible with your venue needs, date or location, you can probably afford to put your search off for a few months.

How many venues should you look at for a wedding?

Once again this will depend on the type of researcher you are and the type of wedding you’re having. Some couples will look through hundreds of options online while others will see one and be ready to book.

Because looking at every possible wedding venue can be very overwhelming, we suggest discussing wedding venue criteria with your partner first. That way, you’ll already know you’re looking for a downtown Vancouver venue that seats 300 instead of having to consider all wedding venues everywhere. With your partner, you may want to discuss:

  • Size: How many people are you planning to invite?
  • Style: Should the venue be modern, rustic, glam, relaxed, etc.?
  • Price: What is your budget for the venue?
  • Location: Where do you want to have your wedding? Are you looking at destination wedding venues or does it need to be within an hour of home?
  • Inclusive: Are you looking for a wedding venue that’s all-inclusive with other services, like catering and rentals, included? Or would you prefer a blank space so you can bring in all of the other vendors and services yourself?
beach vancouver wedding venue with young hip & married
by Amber Leigh Photography

How many wedding venues should you tour in person? 

Once you’ve looked through wedding venues online, it’s now time to consider which wedding venues you want to tour in person. Generally speaking 2-5 wedding venue tours works for most couples, but how many wedding venues you should visit depends a lot on you and the wedding you’re planning. Some couples want to see dozens of venues and then decide while others are happy to go with the first venue that ticks enough boxes.

Remember that you’ll be able to learn a lot about a venue during your online research. Based on what you find out, you should be able to eliminate a lot of venues and get your short list down to 3-5 places. From there, you’ll set up venue tours. A venue tour typically takes 30-60 minutes, but factor in more time to travel to and from the venue, ask questions, and compare notes with your partner.

If you’re not able to tour a venue in person, many venues offer online tours or video walk-throughs. This is a great option if you are planning a destination wedding and can’t visit the location ahead of time.

Who goes to look at wedding venues? 

Usually it’s just the couple getting married who goes to look at wedding venues. You don’t need to bring anyone else with you, but do try your best to both be available for the tour. That way, you can make a decision together having both seen the space, rather than one person trying to describe it to the other.

In some cases, your wedding planner may attend venue tours with you, but this will depend on when you book your planner and what services they offer. Many couples book a planner after they book their venue and have a confirmed date, so you may not have a planner yet. Once you’ve booked your venue, some of your vendors may want to visit it ahead of your wedding day, such as your planner, photographer or decorator. But they don’t all need to be there on your first tour before you’ve booked the place.

You may want to bring a few loved ones along with you on your wedding venue tours but be warned: more opinions are not always more helpful. It can be tough to make a decision as a couple if you have an entire entourage of people weighing in. It can also be difficult to coordinate that many schedules, making venue tours hard to book. Our advice: If you want to bring other people, choose 1-2 people whose opinions you really value and who understand that this is your wedding (even if they’re helping to pay for it!).

Fraser River Lodge Vancouver wedding venue with Young Hip & Married
by Aileen Choi Photo

When should you book a venue for a wedding? 

Generally speaking you should book a venue for a wedding about one year out from your wedding date – which is why we suggest starting your search a few months before this. Of course, as we’ve mentioned a few times now, the exact time frame for booking a venue will depend on you and the type of wedding you’re planning.

Very popular venues can book up years in advance while non-traditional venues, say a restaurant private room that you rent out for the reception, may still have availability a couple of months out. Venues are booking up earlier and earlier with the backfill of covid weddings, so it pays to start your venue search early and book as soon as you can.

Remember that you’ll need to book your venue before you can book anything else for your wedding. That’s because all of your other vendors will need to know where your wedding is, what date and what time – and you’ll only be able to answer them with certainty once you have a venue booked. That’s why venues get booked a year or more in advance, because couples need that time to plan the rest of their wedding!

How many weddings does a venue do a year? 

This varies a lot by venue. Some venues will just do a few weddings per year, such as a museum that is occasionally rented out for weddings. But others, like hotel ballrooms, will do multiple weddings a week. Some larger spaces, like conference centres, will have multiple weddings happening at the same time, all in different parts of the building.

Remember that most venues serve other functions besides holding weddings. They may also host conferences, expos, shows and parties or be used for camping, dining, school activities, etc. So just because a venue doesn’t do very many weddings doesn’t mean their calendar is empty.

Vancouver City Hall wedding elopement venue with young hip and married wedding officiants
by Jelger & Tanja Photographers

How big should a wedding venue be? 

Just like Goldilocks, you’re looking for a venue that is not too big and not too small but just right!

Every venue will have a legal capacity limit. If they exceed their limit, that would be a fire violation and they could get fined or lose their operating licence. Worse, you and your guests will be in danger should anything happen. Not only are capacity limits important for everyone’s safety, but they also affect people’s comfort. Squeezing 50 people into a room meant for 20 means the room will be hot and stuffy, guests will be bumping into each other, and no one will be having a good time.

Remember that capacity limits are in place for a reason. If the capacity limit of the venue you love is 100 but your guest list is 150, you need to make some guest list cuts or find a new venue.

On the other end of the spectrum, you also don’t want to book a wedding venue that’s too big for your guest list. Seating 75 people in a space for 200 might sound like no big deal but it can feel uncomfortable. The large room will make it seem like you had a bunch of no-shows and the empty space might be awkward for guests who want to party. Ever get to a club too early when it’s half empty and no one is on the dance floor? Don’t let that be your wedding!

Pro tip: If you’re not sure how a wedding of your size will look at your venue, ask! Your venue should be able to explain how they can make the space work for your group, such as using a partition to make a room smaller. They may even have photos from past weddings of a similar size to yours to give you an idea of what the space will look like.

What’s the point of an amazing wedding venue without an amazing wedding ceremony? Say no to a cookie-cutter wedding with our Custom & Creative Ceremony Package, written and personalized just for you to tell your unique love story. Check it out and book your wedding officiant today!