Welcome to another edition of Wedding Wednesdays! This week, I wanted to talk about venues and choosing the perfect place to get married. Now, depending on the couple, there could be multiple venue choices for the big day.
Plus, the rehearsal dinner, hotels, where you’re getting ready for the big day…and so on.
But let’s just focus on where you’re saying “I do” and where you’re going to celebrate after! There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a venue for your wedding. The first question that Jeff and I answered was a more general geographical “where”? Meaning, we had to decide which city/state/country we pictured ourselves getting married. What had always been an open-ended question in the past now was an easy choice to make.
Sure, we had considered flying off to a beach somewhere for a destination wedding. There was also a long layover we had in the Vegas airport where we pondered an impromptu elopement. But in the end, we knew getting married in Wisconsin was the right choice for us and our families. Once we decided on Wisconsin, we had thought about getting married in Lake Geneva or another destination in Wisconsin. For us though, we realized that didn’t feel quite right. Though we both grew up in Manitowoc, loved our respective collegiate cities, and lived together in Madison briefly, we wanted to get married somewhere that felt more like us and felt more like home.
Which is why we chose Milwaukee. Jeff and I have called MKE home since 2014. Which is why we wanted a chance to share the life that we built here and why we love this city so much.
Once we decided Milwaukee was our choice, it was time to choose the venue. Here’s a few questions we asked next.
Many couples opt to say “I do’s” in a church. A lot of couples choose a gorgeous outdoor venue with a view. Others choose to have their ceremony in a fun venue or the same venue where the reception will be held. Jeff and I discussed all of those options at length and decided which options would not work for us. Depending on your fiancé and your respective families, a few opinions might need to be taken into account in determining where the ceremony should be held. But, in a perfect world, all of those opinions would be aligned.
We decided that the possibility of battling weather and having to plan for both indoor and outdoor options was not ideal for us, and a church wedding wasn’t our choice either. Which is why we decided that we will be holding our ceremony at the same venue where the reception will take place. We like the idea of having all of the events in the same space. It’s convenient and minimizes our guests need to move from one spot to the next.
A downside of holding the ceremony and reception in the same space is that, depending on the venue, the room may need to be flipped from the ceremony setup to the reception arrangement. It typically is pretty quick, and most venues say they can do the flip in 10-15 minutes. But, it doesn’t allow the couple to see reception room in all of its beauty and final decorated state prior to the guests seeing it.
Before I dive into this question, I just want to say that I don’t want to discourage anyone from having an outdoor wedding. I’ve been to a few and they have been absolutely beautiful with perfect weather and a perfect turnout. But I’ve also been to a few weddings that were planned for outside and the weather forced a relocation of the ceremony to the backup option.
If you choose to have an outdoor wedding, I can’t stress enough how important it is to love and be content with getting married in both the outdoor location (of course), and the backup plan as well. This could be a tent, or a separate indoor space within the venue, but you need to love both for this to work. When you choose a wedding date, you’re picking a day that could be 18-24 months away. It’s impossible to predict what the weather will be like that day. Unless you’re a psychic.
Considerations like time of year, outdoor spaces special to you and your significant other, ease of access for all guests, and the ability to have a wedding in the outdoor space are all important. If you and your fiancé have this special place two miles along your favorite hiking trail, it might be best to keep that one between you. Yes, this day is all about celebrating the love and commitment of you and your significant other. But you want your guests to be able to get there easily and safely to celebrate with you!
The guest list. A very important aspect of the wedding to get a handle on right away. It can help determine budgets, dates, planning details, etc. And it always plays a big factor in the guest list. But it’s really up to you whether the guest list dictates the size of the venue, or if the venue dictates the size of the guest list. If it’s always been your dream to get married in a certain space, and it can only accommodate 20 people, there’s your answer. If you have a large family and social circle that you couldn’t imagine not inviting to your wedding, then you need to find a more spacious venue.
Having a ballpark number of attendees is a great place to start when you are beginning your venue search. That way you can easily add or remove venues from your list based on the number of people you want/need to have attend. When Jeff and I began our planning, one of the first things we did was open up excel (I secretly love excel), and start listing out our family, extended family, family friends, and friends that we NEED to invite. And then we supplemented that list with people that we would LIKE to invite. From there, we got a ballpark number for our guest list, reviewed budgets, and knew what kind of space we would need and could afford.
There’s so many options of wedding venues out there. Rustic farmhouses. Modern halls. Industrial warehouses. Refurbished churches. Grand ballrooms. The list goes on. Depending on your preferred style, there’s definitely a venue out there for you. Knowing that Jeff and I wanted to get married in Milwaukee, we started our search for venues in the area.
First, we thought of weddings we had been to in the city in the past and whether one of those venues stood out to us for our reception. Second, we (or I) logged on to Instagram & Facebook to see if there were any venues that I was already following or came across while searching for #milwaukeeweddings that peaked our interest. And finally, we headed over to theknot.com for a more formal search of venue options in the area. It made it super easy to filter on location, estimated guest count, and venue type to find options that matched our wedding size and style.
When Jeff and I first moved to Milwaukee, we lived in a loft style apartment in a building that used to be a part of a brewery. We had a gorgeous exposed brick wall, gorgeous views of the city, and a location that is unmatched if you love being downtown. Though that apartment wasn’t super updated, we loved it for its charm and nods to Milwaukee history. The distinct cream city brick, big windows, and industrial type feel spoke to us, which we realized we also liked when searching through wedding venues.
You might not know if you have any must-haves with your wedding venue until you actually tour a few, but it’s important to think about it upfront as well. Do you need to have ceremony on-site? Do you need suites for the bride & groom to get ready? Is there a need for space to accommodate live animals or a juggling crew? Whatever it might be, having a list of must-haves is crucial to finding the perfect venue for your wedding. Especially before you sign that contract and lock in the date.
When Jeff and I were touring venues, we added and removed things from our list of must-haves. Things we thought were important to have became less important the more we toured. And things we didn’t even know we wanted became clear to us as we dove into all of the options. We toured venues we thought we’d love based on our first list of must-haves and left feeling uninspired. The point being that it’s important to be open and honest during this part. This reduces the chance of picking something that won’t work out.
Jeff and I toured a venue that we absolutely loved in the pictures on their website and on social. It checked all of the boxes, and even during the tour, I fell a little more in love with it. I could picture Jeff and I getting married there. It wasn’t until later on that I realized I didn’t love the entrance to the venue. I realized that accessibility for family + friends may not have been ideal. It was accessible…but not as accessible and aesthetically pleasing as I wanted.
We ultimately didn’t choose this venue. Funny enough, my brother went to a wedding a few months later and brought another issue to our attention. Because the reception space was indoor/outdoor, holding a wedding there in August (as we are) is not necessarily the most comfortable. On a super hot day, that space does not stay cool. That would not have been fun for me.
Once you have a few options for venues picked out, it’s time to pull out the calendar. A lot of venues now have calendars on their website that allow you to check availability for their space before even touring. In the immediate post-2020 days that have resulted in rescheduled and postponed weddings, this feature is a necessity. If you fall in love with a venue and have a year/month/date in mind, and they’re not available, what do you do then? Providing an estimated date when you reach out to the venues is super important so they can tell you upfront if they’re available.
One venue that was the top of our list (and is apparently super popular) wasn’t open for any weekend dates from May-November in 2022. They did offer weekdays, but I’m not all for getting married on a Tuesday. It might be just me. That quickly removed that venue from our list and opened us up to exploring other options.
The answer is not so simple and differs from couple to couple. Sometimes you know what you want. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you see it. Jeff and I thought we knew what we wanted. And then we toured our venue. It was honestly a feeling for both of us. We walked in and could see ourselves getting married there. It felt like us. I could envision the look and feel and smell and energy of our wedding day in that space. It checked all of our boxes.
Which is why we *duh duh duh duh* chose to get married at Filament! Jeff and I fell in love with the space, the exposed brick and beams, and all of the funky lightbulbs + fixtures throughout. The touches of greenery, wall of antique mirrors, and cozy little den with the “Stay Gold” neon just spoke to us. I can’t wait to see the space decked out + transformed for our wedding day.
Bonus, the venue team so far have been amazing to work with. We’ve also heard rave reviews from couples we know who have worked with them in the past.You’ve already chosen the what and the who, and now it’s time to choose the where. Planning a wedding comes with so many questions and decisions. A lot of the time it’s not about over-thinking it and more about following your gut feeling. Even if you think you don’t know what you want right away, chances are you know more than you think. Jeff and I are doing our best not to be overwhelmed by all of the decisions and just enjoy the process. I hope you do too!