Choosing the Perfect Wedding Venue

Your partner popped the question and now everybody’s asking you questions. When’s the big day? What colours are you using? Where are you getting married? Ottawa is a beautiful city full of amazing locations that can bring your love story alive. In this post I cover some basics about choosing your venue including: Considering your budget, indoor versus outdoor spaces, bar basics and food considerations.

  1. Know you budget.

Before anything, know your budget. I’m talking what you really have to spend. Not what you hope to have. This is the first and most basic consideration in the planning process overall. Once you know your budget you’ll have an idea of what is important to you. Venues come in all forms. From DIY to “all-in-one” services. The options really are endless. Once you know how much you want to spend, you’ll know where you can begin looking.

2. Indoor or Outdoor?

Your venue is not just where you’ll host your ceremony or reception. Choose a venue that not only meets your needs, but tells your story. If you’re out hiking every Saturday, then an outdoor venue will speak to who you and your partner really are. If the idea of managing a backup rain plan and permits sounds like too much work for you then either consider hiring a planner or opt for an indoor solution.

If choosing an outdoor park as a venue location, you’ll need to consider a few things. Make sure to contact the city to determine if there are any permits you’ll require. There will often be a fee - so don’t think that a park is a “freebie” solution. Consider the time of year. Will the grounds be muggy or solid? An outdoor one-with-nature location is a great way to make your day unique. Just sure you’ve done your research.

3. Bar basics.

If you’ve opted for a reception site that is indoors or managed, there are some questions you’ll need to ask. You know your guests and their expectations. Be sure to ask what the most basic cost per drink at the venue is. If they’re asking for $12 for a glass of wine (yes - that’s a thing) and you’re feeling unsure… maybe that’s not the best option for you. A venue will also have a bar tab minimum you’ll have to meet. Normally, this is not an issue. However, if your wedding is an intimate gathering, you’ll want to know the answer.

If you’re at an outdoor DIY location (barn, property, etc), you’ll have other questions you’ll need answers to. You’ll need to look into permits, hiring bar staff, and overall considering the safety of your guests. Consider offering shuttle cars/busses if this is the route you’re taking. Sometimes saving money is a big draw for us, but just know what work you’re making for yourself when you take this route.

4. People always remember the food.

Choosing a reception site that also handles the catering is a great way to ensure a more stress-free day. Here’s that budget point again. When chatting with venues, be sure you can afford their cost of meal per person. Some venues offer specialty pricing on Fridays, Sundays and long weekends.

Try the food! People will always remember the food. Some venues will want to save on the cost of offering this to you. That’s why you have to ask! If they say no, ask again! You’re the client. That means no matter the budget you have, you deserve the same respect as their top spending client.

Wanting to bring in your own food? You may have to think again. Many venues have strict rules about outside food and catering. There are often slicing and serving fees. If bringing outside food is really important to you: ask about the costs! Some venues will respect traditional food even if outside catering is a hard no.

Like I said, it all comes down to knowing yourself and knowing your budget. Choose a venue that suits your love story. Make sure you know what you’re willing to spend. Know the pros and cons of choosing an indoor versus outdoor venue. Ask about the cost per drink… this will matter! Always, always try the food. Everyone remembers the food!