Weddings and real estate have a lot in common: It’s all about location, location, location! Before you can say I do—or even plan much of the event—you have to find a venue. These wedding professionals offer advice for brides- and grooms-to-be on the hunt for the perfect ceremony or reception site.

Rob Schaefer

VP of catering and global design development

Steven Becker Fine Dining

Imagine the photos. “The key with fall is to take advantage of the season,” says Schaefer, noting off-season colors like pale pink are options—but he wouldn’t recommend them in the fall. “When you go outside for your wedding photos, your colors should complement with nature; it’s a better look.”

Reserve in order. “Remember that September and October are as busy, if not busier, than May and June,” Schaefer says. He recommends securing your ceremony site first, then the reception area, followed by other vendors. “If you like it, 300 other brides would like it, too,” he warns.

Festive food and drink. “In fall, the palate is ready for the richer, deeper flavors.” Schaefer recommends including seasonal favorites, such as thick, warm soup, as well as fall-themed cocktails.

Erinn Graham

Events manager

Chandler Hill Vineyards

Know what’s included. “Check what the venue offers,” says Graham, noting that couples should ask about tables, set-up, tear-down, catering and the like. “It is usually easier to have a venue that can provide the catering themselves.”

Non-traditional problems. Venues that are open to the public provide unusual stressors, but Graham notes that professionals can make the space wedding-ready in time. “You would be surprised at how quickly we can transform the space, but it makes brides a little bit nervous.” She recommends seeing the transformation happen first-hand at an earlier date to witness how the venue morphs from a public hotspot to wedding ceremony or reception.

Thoughtful transportation. “Because we are not a hotel ballroom, transportation is an issue,” says Graham, explaining a problem true for many unusual wedding locations. “A lot of hotels nearby offer shuttle services, but I think it is thoughtful of brides to make sure that all of their guests are being shuttled together.”

Melody Buckner

Director of sales and catering

Palladium Saint Louis

Save the date. "Fall weddings are becoming really, really popular," says Buckner, explaining that brides should reserve the space as soon as possible. "Booking even a year out might be a little late—maybe try a year and a half out."

Narrow the search. “When looking for your venue, try narrowing the search down to three to five venues to keep things from being overwhelming,” Buckner advises. “If you can meet with who you will be actually working with, that is great. You’ll be working with them for a long time.”

Best of the best. Bucker recommends considering everything the venue has to offer, such as the level of equipment. "Premium equipment is really important. A venue might provide chairs, but they require chair covers. You may see a price that’s really attractive, but what’s all included in that price?” To bring in these 'extra' items, she explains you might spend as much as you would have for a higher-end venue.

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