Most couples don’t feel like their wedding is really happening – and that wedding planning has really started – until they’ve booked their venue. But that’s easier said than done when there’s so much to know about wedding venues! Which is why we’re answering your top wedding venue questions in this post.

Keep reading to learn how to find the best wedding venues, when to book your venue, how to get a discount, and so much more!

What are wedding venues?

Let’s start with an easy one! A wedding venue is the place where you hold your wedding. Wedding venues can be indoors or outdoors, private or public, large or small. You may have one venue for your ceremony and another for your reception, or just a single venue where you host your entire wedding (more on that below).

Examples of wedding venues include ballrooms, halls, churches, gardens, event spaces, restaurants, beaches and more!

ceremony at Princess and The Pea Hotel, langley wedding venue
Princess and The Pea Hotel
by Ronnie Lee Hill Photography

Should you have two venues – a ceremony venue and a reception venue – or just one wedding venue for everything?

Many couples opt to have two wedding spaces – one venue for their wedding ceremony and a second venue for their wedding reception. You could have even more venues if you go somewhere different for cocktail hour, a tea ceremony, etc.

There are pros and cons to both options. Let’s discuss a few of the different pros:

Pros to booking two different venues (one for your ceremony and one for your reception):

  • With different venues for your ceremony and reception, you’ll have different decor, atmospheres and backgrounds. This can make your wedding photos and wedding day more varied and exciting!
  • You may be able to pay less if you only need a venue for half the day or a few hours, rather than booking it for an entire day.
  • With separate venues, you have more options. For example, if a venue you’re looking at is booked for your ceremony time, you could opt to have your reception there instead. You will also have access to places that only host one portion of your wedding – like religious institutions that are usually only available for a ceremony.

Pros to booking one venue for both your ceremony and reception:  

  • Booking a single venue that can host both your ceremony and reception may save you money. You won’t have to spend money on transportation between venues and you can likely reuse the same decor for your ceremony and reception.
  • Sometimes a single venue is easier for guests. They too don’t have to worry about mid-wedding transportation or figuring out how to navigate to another place.
  • Many wedding venues that host both ceremonies and receptions will offer packages that may save you money and help you book all of your vendors, decor, rentals, etc. in one place.
young hip and married wedding ceremony at Hotel Vancouver Fairmont
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
by Jumi Story

How to find wedding venues near me?

There are lots of options for finding wedding venues in your area or the area where you’re getting married. Start with a simple Google search: “CITY NAME + wedding venue.” You can also check wedding directories, like The Knot or WeddingWire, where you’ll be able to sort through long lists of wedding venues.

For more firsthand recommendations, think back to past weddings you’ve attended in your area. Did you like any of the venues? You can also ask friends and family who have gotten married in the area what venues they considered. If you haven’t attended many local weddings, join a local wedding group (there are tons on Facebook) to ask for advice.

One creative way to find venues is to use your vendors. You likely won’t have any wedding vendors booked yet, since you don’t have a venue and, therefore, don’t have an official wedding date. However, you can look at the social media accounts of potential vendors for venue inspiration. Many will tag the venue in wedding photos they post, allowing you to see what venues are available in your area and what they look like during a wedding.

Brock House Restaurant wedding ceremony
Brock House Restaurant
by Erica Miller Photography

When should you start looking for your wedding venue? How far in advance do you need to book a wedding venue?

It is usually recommended that you book your wedding venue about a year out from your wedding date. So you’ll want to start looking into venues and doing your research a few months before that. However, if you have your heart set on a specific venue or are planning to get married on a popular day, you may want to start the venue booking process even earlier.

One reason why venues are booked so far in advance is because your venue is the first thing you have to book. You won’t be able to book any other vendors until you can confirm the date and location of your wedding – which is dependent on your venue and their availability.

Can you book a wedding venue too early? Yes and no. If you are completely set on which venue you want to choose and the desired date of your wedding, there’s no reason not to book as early as possible.

However, not all venues will open their booking calendars that far in advance. Some will only allow couples to book 1-2 years early.

You also want to ensure you take the time to figure out with your partner what kind of wedding you’re planning before you book a venue – especially one with a non-refundable deposit! Decide what kind of wedding you want, how many people you want to invite and what your budget is before doing any venue research.

The Vancouver Club, Vancouver wedding venue
The Vancouver Club
by Indy Hunjan Photography

How often are wedding venues fully booked?

Popular wedding venues absolutely book out – sometimes months or years in advance! For smaller venues, they may be only able to accommodate one wedding per day or a certain number of weddings per season. Once again, a popular wedding venue or popular wedding date is more likely to book out early.

Worried all of the wedding venues in your area are already fully booked? Your best bet is to be as flexible as possible. If you’re flexible on one or more of your date, location, guest count and/or budget, you have a much better chance of booking a great venue, even if it’s last minute.

Are wedding venues already booked for 2023/2024?

Absolutely, wedding venues are already booking for 2023 weddings, with some already fully booked for the year. Most are also already booking into 2024, and some even into 2025!

It can be hard to comprehend a venue being completely booked over a year in advance, but as mentioned above, popular or smaller venues will hit their max wedding limit sooner. You also have to remember that the wedding industry is still catching up after two years of postponed covid weddings.

But it’s not too late! As long as you’re flexible, you can still find a 2023 wedding venue.

Sunshine Valley Airbnb wedding ceremony with Young Hip & Married
Sunshine Valley Airbnb
by Erica Miller Photography

How do you decide which venue to book?

Finding venues is just one part of the equation. You still have to decide which venue is going to be best for your wedding. Here’s how we suggest choosing your wedding venue:

Step 1: Sit down with your partner and talk about what you want in a venue. At this point, you should have already had a discussion about your larger wedding vision, your wedding budget and your guest list. Now it’s time to talk more specifically about the venue. Do you want one venue or separate venues for the ceremony and reception? Do you want it to be indoors or outdoors? Do you want to host your wedding in your area or somewhere else?

Step 2: Create a list of venue must-haves and nice-to-haves. Based on your discussion, put together a list of things your wedding venue must have and things you’d like it to have, but aren’t necessary. For example, your venue must-haves might include <$5000 price tag, ability to hold 100 people, within 30 minutes of the city centre, and ability to cater to vegetarians. On your nice-to-haves list, you may include a water view, ability to bring in your own alcohol, and on-site accommodation.

Step 3: Do your research. Once you have your list of criteria, it’s time to see what’s out there. Find wedding venues by doing a Google search, asking your friends and family, consulting wedding directories and/or getting advice from local wedding groups. You may also have to call or email venues to get all of the information you need. Compile a list of any venue that fits within the criteria that you two discussed.

Step 4: Narrow it down and set up tours. More on this below!

Step 5: Make a decision and book. Once you’ve gone on your venue tours, you should have a better idea of which venue is going to work best for your wedding. Take some time to discuss all of the venues back at home – rather than forcing yourselves to make a decision at a property. If you’re still not sure, go back to the criteria list you created.

You can also check out wedding photos of the venue on social media so you have a better idea of what weddings there look like. Simply search for the venue’s social accounts or for its tagged location.

Portal Park Vancouver wedding ceremony
Portal Park
by Emily Nicole Photos

How many wedding venues should you tour?

Check out our post on how many venues to look at for your wedding!

Once you’ve compiled a list of venues that fit your criteria, it’s time to narrow that list down. After all, it’s unrealistic to tour and consider 30 properties around the city! With your partner, create a shortlist of 2-5 wedding venues that you would like to visit and tour.

While 2-5 venue tours makes sense for many couples, there is no magical number. Some couples have their heart set on one venue or find a perfect match right away – that’s okay! You don’t have to keep touring if you like what you’ve seen.

And other couples prefer to tour more venues to see all of their options. While this is okay, make sure you give yourself enough time to tour a larger number of venues; you don’t want to spend so long on venue tours that you miss out on booking venues before they’re gone! You also don’t want to give yourself analysis paralysis by touring too many – at one point, all the ballrooms will start to blend together!

Can’t tour a wedding venue in person? No problem! Since the pandemic, many wedding venues now offer virtual tours or video tours on their websites. This is especially common for destination weddings. Or if you have a friend or family member who is available to tour the property, they could take you along on a video call.

Fairmont Hotel Vancouver lobby wedding ceremony
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
by Emily Nicole Photos

What questions to ask wedding venues?

While on a venue tour, or when chatting with a venue on the phone or over email, you’ll want to ask questions to make sure all of your must-have criteria is being met. While it’s good to like the look or feel of a venue, it’s also important to know things such as pricing structure and occupancy limits.

Check out this list of what to look for in a wedding venue and what questions you need to ask!

What do wedding venues cost?

Wedding venue costs vary widely based on location, time of year, type of venue and what is included in that cost. A Manhattan hotel ballroom for 200 guests on New Year’s Eve with food and alcohol included is going to cost way more than a permit for your local park.

Venues can range from free to tens of thousands of dollars. While average venue costs can help give you a ballpark figure, it’s important to remember how much these costs vary from city to city and even from venue to venue.

Make sure that part of your research includes finding out what the total cost is for the venue and what that cost includes.

helicopter elopement with young hip & married
Helicopter elopement
by Erica Miller Photography

What are the cheapest wedding venues?

Of course, the cheapest wedding venues are free! If you choose to get married at home, you likely won’t have any venue costs. We’ve officiated some beautiful weddings in living rooms, backyards and patios!

Another cheap wedding venue would be a public space, like a park, beach or garden. You may be able to get married in these places for free or pay a small fee for a permit. Consult with your municipality for details and rates.

Save money on your wedding venue by getting creative! Consider non-traditional venues like restaurants, where you may be able to host your wedding for only the cost of food and drink, or apartment rentals that allow events. Check if any of your community affiliations could help you save money on your venue, such as a religious organization’s space you can use or a discount based on your alma matter.

Many wedding venues also offer discounts during off-peak wedding times – more on this below!

backyard wedding venue
Backyard wedding
by Erica Miller Photography

Are wedding venues cheaper on Sundays or other off-peak dates?

Many wedding venues do offer discounts for weddings that take place during off-peak times. For example, you may be able to get a reduced rate if you get married on a weekday in the winter, rather than a Saturday in the summer.

Keep in mind that “off-peak” means different things in different places. In some areas, summer weddings are actually less popular (and therefore, have a better chance of being discounted) than spring or fall weddings. Your venue may also have other peak times outside of wedding season, such as hosting conferences or corporate holiday parties.

You should also know that “wedding season” seems to get longer and longer each year. Especially with the boom of post-pandemic weddings, a Friday or Sunday wedding isn’t as rare anymore. Meaning that in order to get a discount, you might have to consider a Wednesday brunch wedding in January!

Sanctuary Gardens, Kelowna wedding ceremony
Sanctuary Gardens
by Amber Leigh Photography

Are wedding venue rates negotiable?

Wedding venue rates are usually not negotiable – the rate is the rate. However, it never hurts to politely ask about discounts or other areas where you can save money.

As discussed above, you may have access to a reduced rate if you get married in an off-peak time. Or if a venue can’t provide a monetary discount, they may be able to throw in a perk, like additional time or chair rentals. Of course, not all wedding venues have these options.

A quick reminder that many wedding professionals are part of small businesses that are still recovering from the pandemic. While we understand that weddings can be expensive, please ensure you’re discussing rates in a polite way. If a discount is not available, please respect that.

Are wedding venue rates refundable? 

This varies from venue to venue; each venue will set their own refund policy. Before signing a contract with a wedding venue and paying a deposit, make sure you read all of the fine print. You should be completely clear about your payment schedule, what is included in your fee, and any additional charges, such as tips, taxes or insurance.

You should also be aware of a venue’s cancellation and refund policies and you should be comfortable with how they apply to your wedding. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask them and get answers in writing. That way, both you and the venue are protected.

Stanley Park Rose Garden wedding ceremony
Stanley Park Rose Garden
by Amber Leigh Photography

Will wedding venues allow outside catering?

It depends on the venue. Some wedding venues allow outside catering and some do not. If bringing in your own catering is important to you, make sure you ask about it on your venue tour or seek out the information on the venue’s website.

But before you write-off any venue that doesn’t allow outside catering, take a moment to consider the pros of on-site catering. An on-site caterer or restaurant will be familiar with your venue, meaning you won’t have to coordinate any set up or transportation. Most on-site caterers also offer a menu tasting and are happy to work with you to create the perfect wedding menu.

The Garden Strathcona wedding ceremony
The Garden Strathcona
by Amber Leigh Photography

What are the most famous wedding venues?

Want to get married somewhere iconic that you and your guests will never forget? Check out this list of 50 amazing wedding venues around the world and this list of the 28 best wedding venues, as chosen by wedding photographers.

What are the most popular types of wedding venues?

According to Zola, the most popular types of wedding venues are:

  • Hotel wedding venues
  • Barn wedding venues
  • Modern wedding venues
  • Estate wedding venues
  • Backyard wedding venues

For more popular wedding venue ideas, check out this list from WeddingWire.

Once you have your wedding venue booked, don’t forget to book your wedding officiant! Check out our ceremony packages and get in touch today to book!