Congratulations, you’re engaged! Now the planning begins!

Before your date is set, the first thing to do is  choose and book your venue.

Finding the right wedding venue takes a lot of time and research, and it can often be one of the hardest parts of planning a wedding. You need to make sure that your venue ticks all the right boxes before you make a final decision. 

Your venue will influence your budget as well as the atmosphere on the day so before you sign on the dotted line, here are some important things to consider in your decision:

Outdoor Ceremony Venue
Abigail Traver Photography
  1. Venue Size. Look at how many people you’re planning to invite to your wedding versus the number of people the venue can comfortably accommodate. A crowded reception can be quite uncomfortable and if a venue is too large, it can affect the atmosphere and the overall look and feel. Put an initial guest list together before you start venue shopping so that you can make a better decision. 
  2. Alcohol and Drinks.  Alcohol and drinks are a big part of many weddings so it’s important to find out what your venue’s policies are.  Can you bring your own alcohol?  What are the costs if the venue supplies the drinks? Since you will also need a licensed bartender to serve alcohol, find out whether the venue can assist with this so that you can factor those costs into your final budget. 
  3. Preferred Vendors. You’re going to be working with several different vendors in the time leading up to and on your wedding day. Many venues require you to use their vendors so find out about this before you make a booking. If they do work with specific vendors, make sure that you’re happy with their experience, style, personality, and pricing. When a venue works with preferred vendors, it does mean they’re confident in their experience and ability to deliver but it’s more important for you to choose vendors that fit in with your budget and overall preferences. 
Bride and Groom photo at Central Water Brewery in Amherst, Wisconsin
Jessican Awe Photography

Viewing reception venues is important, even if you have your heart set on one already. Wedding photos can show you the main areas, spaces and feel of a venue, however you cannot get a true feel for it all until you view it with your own eyes.  By viewing it yourself, you get a realistic idea of how large a space really is, how light a room is, the feeling you get when arriving, the outdoor area and accommodation for your guests. The amenities, the views, the parking facilities, the friendliness of the staff, the storage spaces all add up in forming your first impression and make the venue stand out from others you are considering.

Remember, recommendations or tips from friends and family are excellent but taking someone else’s opinion over visiting yourself before booking, could leave you disappointed. This is your wedding and your initial reaction and feelings on being at the venue is incredibly important.

Bride & Groom having an intimate fall wedding in Wisconsin.
Kate Frank Weddings

First off, there is no magic number for how many venues you should visit.  However, it is important to ensure you are viewing the right venues that are likely to be suitable for you.

Some couples will view 2-3, some 4-5 and some may only view the one.

Viewing lots of venues is pointless if they are either out of your budget, not suitable for your number of guests, or perhaps fully booked when you want to get married.

This is why it is important to plan your wedding criteria, a rough guest list, a general wedding budget and how much is allocated for the venue, food and drink. Do you want to get married next year or the year after? Does the venue have dates available next year?  Are you willing to consider having your wedding the following year?

Having a criteria and a plan in the back of your mind makes it easier when it comes to searching for your wedding venue, as well as booking a viewing.

Viewings take time, and there are only so many you can see in a day or weekend once you take into account travelling and the time to be shown around, and of course fitting in some food too. You can easily become frustrated and tired with viewing lots of venues, so it is a good idea to really try and narrow down your shortlist and perhaps book viewings for your top 2-3 so it doesn’t become overwhelming.

Ali Lockery Photography

Consider road trips and weekend getaways when feasible. If not, hiring a local wedding planner who is familiar with the distinctive offerings and overall style of your favorite venues is a great choice, too..  

In choosing to hire a wedding planner, whether it’s full service or wedding day management, can either be a requirement or a choice depending on the venue.  As you begin to look at wedding venues you may find that many are simply that – a wedding venue. The venue coordinator is there to coordinate deliveries, catering arrivals, make sure the air and heat are on, etc…but likely doesn’t offer any coordinating or planning services. An experienced wedding planner can help you narrow your venue choices even further, and give guidance and assistance throughout the whole planning process.  In turn, this makes choosing your venue low on stress and a bit more fun.

Liller Photo

To narrow things down before wasting too much time and energy, explore our rundown of traditional, new, and unusual wedding venue types.  Then find out how many venues you should visit in person.


1. Stand-alone banquet hall

Designed to host large-scale or intimate celebrations, banquet hall venues are at-the-ready with elegant interiors and fully equipped kitchens. Most banquet halls have an in-house catering team with set menus, though some allow the option of an outside caterer. Stand-alone banquet halls are great choices for the experience of their staff and their convenience. 

2. Bed & Breakfast or Inn

Inns and B&Bs are known for their intimate charm, which extends to weddings as well. Look for package deals that include overnight rooms for both the wedding party and your out-of-town guests.

3. Hotel or Resort

These venues are known for their polished staff and facilities, and often beautiful surroundings. One of the primary draws of hotel and resort venues is their unmatched convenience. You can host the ceremony, reception, and out-of-town guests in one place, and eliminate the logistical headache of getting people to and from events at different locations. 

4. Country Club

Country clubs sit on picturesque private or public golf courses, often with panoramic views for spectacular photos. These facilities typically offer elegant interiors and service from an experienced staff. However, some private clubs require membership or sponsorship by a member to book events — find out the requirements before falling in love with a facility.   

5. Historic site, home, or mansion

You’ll love the hint of the past that comes alive with a wedding at a historic venue. Think rich architectural styles and distinctive interiors. Homes on the historic registry often feature impressive grounds and gardens that are perfect for an outdoor ceremony and pictures.

6. Vacation Rental

Consider independent vacation rentals, or search AirBnB or Vrbo, for your small, intimate wedding location. This is a great choice for a DIY wedding — you can rent out the entire property and hold the ceremony outside and the reception inside. Make sure you are upfront about your reason for renting, the size of your party, and plan for cleaning up after the event. The owner or rental agency may say no, or they may ask for pictures they can add to their websites and post to social media. The key is to be upfront.  

7. Museum

There is something distinctive about getting married in a museum. Museum wedding venues offer stunning backdrops and one-of-a-kind decor. Find out if your favorite museum hosts weddings, or research museum venues that match your wedding style, whether that is sophisticated, vibrant, modern, or quirky.   

8. Restaurant

Do you and your beloved have a favorite place for laid-back meals or romantic dinners? Consider renting a private room for your small-scale wedding and reception. You may even be able to book the entire restaurant during the day if they are only open in the evenings. Depending on the restaurant, this can be a budget saver because many don’t charge a separate facility or service fee.  

Wedding Planning at Rothschild Pavilion
Dawn Silva Photography

1. Beach or Waterfront

There’s something undeniably romantic and peaceful about a wedding venue near a body of water. For the ceremony, many waterside venues offer dedicated setups with arches or gazebos you can decorate to your liking.

2.Winery or Vineyard

Choose a destination wedding among rolling hills. Wineries may have an elegant ambiance with a slight rustic edge, and there will always be exceptional wine on hand.

3.Barn or Farm

Rustic style is built right in when you book a barn or farm venue. With fairy lights, mismatched vintage china, and blanket-covered hay bales for seating, these venues have a homespun aesthetic. With chandeliers and white-washed furnishings, barn and farm venues offer sophistication with a rustic twist.  

4. Ski Lodge

They’re perfect for adventurous couples who enjoy snow sports or hiking. Extend your stay and transition seamlessly to your honeymoon.   

5. Botanical Garden

Most botanical gardens offer multiple spaces for weddings, from outdoor pavilions to secret rose gardens to greenhouses. A floral/garden wedding theme is a natural fit, but any style wedding fits within a garden setting. For a lower-cost garden option, seek local gardens run by municipalities or community groups.  

6. Local, State, or National Park

Choose a favorite local park for a more relaxed wedding setting.  It’s as easy as reserving a picnic area and getting a permit. Depending on your choice, park weddings can be an affordable option that lets you save money. 

7. Boat

Host your wedding and reception on the deck of a private charter boat, sailboat or luxury yacht and enjoy a day or night on the water. The perks of choosing a boat wedding include all-inclusive packages and spectacular views that change throughout the event.

Cottage Vineyard & Winery
Midwest Life Shots Photography

1. Brewery

A welcome twist on vineyard weddings for couples who prefer beer or spirits over wine. Many have on-site restaurants to cater your affair, or you can hire local food trucks to pull up next to an outside courtyard. These venues often deliver a hip industrial and rustic vibe, where your reception takes place at a banquet table between stacks of wooden casks.

2. Planetarium or Zoo

At the zoo, guests can enjoy cocktail hour inside a polar exhibit or outside by the sea lions. A planetarium wedding can include a tour of the universe between the ceremony and reception.  

3. Warehouse

Warehouse weddings are growing in popularity for city dwellers — think of them as the urban barn wedding. These converted spaces offer an industrial vibe with high ceilings and exposed brick walls — which adapt beautifully to a range of wedding styles. 

4. Sports Stadium

Make your favorite sports team part of your celebration and get an insider’s view of stadium zones usually closed to the public. You can even take your wedding photos on the fiel

Bride and Groom celebrating after saying I do.

1. Community Center

Local community centers are great spaces for DIY weddings. Get clear on any decor limitations and their offerings because this will vary widely between spaces. Many clubs will have advanced A/V equipment and fully equipped kitchens, where others offer ample space but few amenities.  

2. Government or Civic building

These can range from city hall weddings that include only a 10-minute ceremony to receptions in the grand entrance hall of a civic building. Expect strict parameters for decor and vendors in historic government buildings.

3. Backyard

The ultimate DIY wedding venue location is your backyard, or the backyard of a close friend or family member. For small weddings, you and a team of helpers can manage the food and decor. But for larger weddings, you’ll have to rent tents, tables, and chairs and bring in outside catering. 

4. College or University

Your alma mater may offer classical or contemporary spaces for beautiful weddings. These venues may be all-inclusive or require outside vendors; low-cost or expensive. Even if you aren’t a graduate, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is an affordable choice—and you can get married in their central garden.   

5. Cafe and bar

Think small restaurants, bars, coffee shops, or even your favorite diner. More affordable than renting out a large, upscale restaurant, this is a great way to save money while hosting your wedding in a unique venue.

Wedding Planning at Wild Lodge of Eagle River, Wisconsin

There are many different factors to consider when choosing the perfect wedding venue but make sure that it’s a space that speaks to your personalities and style as a couple.

Marsha VanArk, a professional wedding planner