You are entering into an exciting season in your life; engagement season! Engagement season is when you get to start using the word “fiance”, showing off your (or their) ring finger, drinking your weight in champagne, and learning the difference between all 50 shades of white. So soak it all in and relish the feeling of being on the edge of a brand new, uncharted chapter of your life.
Engagement season also means the start of something that can easily feel overwhelming: Wedding planning. When you’re beginning to plan your wedding, one of the first and most important decisions you’ll make is choosing a venue.
Think about it this way,
If your wedding is an elaborate art project, your venue is your canvas.
A venue is a must-have for any couple! So, when you’re ready to start shopping for your perfect wedding venue in Seattle (and the greater Seattle area), here are some tried and true methods that will make the process easier.
(*Pssst! After I give you my tips for finding a Seattle venue, I’ll also share some of my favorite wedding venues in Seattle, so make sure to scroll all the way to the end!)
Before you begin searching online like a maniac, sit down with your partner and talk about the factors below. These will give you an excellent starting point and will help narrow down your search tremendously and streamline your venue inquiries.
This is a super important factor to address as soon as you possibly can because it will tell you the size of the venue that you’ll need. As you’re building your list, pay close attention to plus ones (or plus five-s, if you’re including kids!). Estimate who on your list will be bringing a plus one so that you can factor that in as you write your guest list. Underestimating the size of your guest list can lead to big inconveniences down the road and sometimes even require you to change venues to accommodate everyone. So don’t be modest in your estimation, start with your innermost circle of family and friends, and move outward from there.
Budgeting is never a fun task, but it helps you be honest about what you can afford. Chances are, you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save in a short time when you’re intentional about it.
Here’s a quick overview on how to make a wedding budget.
Once you know that number for both of you, multiply it by the number of months until your wedding… and there you have your wedding budget!
If you are a couple who expects to receive financial gifts from family and friends, my advice to you is this: Don’t count on anything you don’t have control over and only commit financially to what you know you can afford. Let the rest be a pleasant surprise.
The next order of business when you’re determining your budget is to spend time with your partner deciding on your ‘must have-s’, ‘like to have-s’ and ‘don’t care-s’. Do you care a lot about booking the wedding photographer of your dreams (hiiii!) and wearing a show-stopper wedding dress? Do you care a lot less about carrying a huge bouquet flowers and serving a gourmet dinner at your wedding?
List your priorities in order of importance and you won’t have to make frustrating budget compromises down the line.
Most couples spend the largest portion of their wedding budget on renting their venue, so it’s important to decide ahead of time what you’re willing to spend, and don’t be afraid to negotiate when appropriate. Keep in mind that larger wedding venues usually cost more, so consider the size of your guest list as you decide on a venue budget that you feel comfortable with.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to factor in about 30% for taxes and tip before you begin booking your vendors.
Choosing a date for your wedding can feel like a chicken/egg dilemma; you might wonder if it’s better to choose a wedding venue or a wedding date first. The answer is that it all depends on your priorities and how soon in advance you’re booking. Some couples care deeply about getting married on a specific date, while others care more about booking the venue of their dreams.
If the venue is most important to you, I recommend being flexible by coming up with a few optional dates, and/or having a season in mind before you inquire. Keep in mind that If you’re willing to throw your wedding in the offseason, or Sunday-Thursday, you’ll have more options (and usually at a big discount).
If the date is most important to you, I recommend researching venues by their calendars and stating your dream wedding date right away in your first inquiries. I also highly suggest researching venues well in advance so that you have more options.
Keep in mind that many venues will hold a date for a set amount of time, so I encourage you to take advantage of that if you’re seriously considering a venue that has the available date you are looking for.
For more advice on choosing a wedding date, check out my blog, How to Choose Your Wedding Date.
I believe in love at first sight… when it comes to choosing a venue. Before you get lost in the world of Pinterest, think about the type of a venue that will feel authentic to you and your partner and one that will effortlessly support the style and decor you envision for your wedding. If you find a venue that exudes your personality and enhances your design, you also won’t need to spend as much time and money transforming it for your big day.
Here are a few venue style terms that will help you define your search.
Rustic: Lace, mason jars, burlap, and wildflowers
Romantic: Flowers, twinkling lights, fairy-tale decor
Bohemian: Flower crowns, and macrame, mismatched dishware
Urban: Cityscape views, modern decor, penthouse
Whimsical: Playful colors, fun deserts, unique decor, big personality
Minimalist: Simple color palate, minimal centerpieces, minor details
Vintage: Era-inspired, record player, old world furniture, vintage apparel
Shabby Chic: Vintage-inspired, mismatched decor, unique venue
Industrial: High ceiling, open floor plan, natural details, architectural
Classic: Timeless style, Delicate china, designed aesthetic
While it’s no secret I love an outdoor wedding, it’s not always that simple, especially when you factor in Seattle’s long and unpredictable rainy season. If want an outdoor wedding in Seattle between the months of November and June, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be dancing in the rain by the end of the night.
If you want to have an outdoor wedding here are a few factors I encourage you to consider:
While I love an unexpected rainstorm most days of the year, it can be a big point of stress on your wedding day, so I encourage you to consider all the factors, have a backup plan in place (if you’re not okay getting drenched) and talk to the venue about their rain plan.
If you have separate ceremony and reception locations, consider the distance between them, the ease of transportation, parking availability, and the potential need for a shuttle.
If there are onsite lodging options, ask about what they’ll include in the venue rental. If there are not onsite lodging options, research the lodging options nearby, think about the potential need for a shuttle, and look into reserving a room block at a nearby hotel so to take the guesswork out of lodging for your out-of-towners.
The listed cost of a wedding venue can be very misleading, and sometimes downright confusing. Some venues charge an additional fee per head, some venues require you to use their caterers, some include tables and chairs, some have an extra charge for using their A/V equipment, some charge a corkage fee… the list goes on. Make sure you get as much information upfront in writing. When you’re comparing venues, make a spreadsheet with all of the ‘relevant to you’ charges, fees, and freebies so that you can compare.
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to negotiate ‘extras’. It’s often much easier to negotiate an early load-in than it is to knock money off the cost of the venue.
So there you have it! By preparing your budget, headcount, and wedding date ahead of time, you’ll be able to narrow your search and avoid ‘falling in love’ with the wrong venue. And by entering into a venue tour with your ‘must-haves’ in mind and your questions cued up, you’ll feel far more in-control of your venue shopping experience.
As you begin hunting for your own perfect wedding venue, I am dying to share a few of my favorites! As a Seattle based wedding photographer, I’ve had the privilege of shooting in some breathtaking venues. Here are a few that really stand out:
With a romantic waterfront location, stunning views of the ocean, and nestled in the natural beauty of the Orcas Island Coastline, this venue is the perfect wedding location for outdoorsy couples.
Great for: This venue offers a variety of options, including indoor and outdoor for intimate and large ceremonies and receptions on Orcas Island.
Say ‘I do’ in a lush, green forest, and stay the night in the canopy of the trees in your very own treehouse! This wedding venue offers spa options for total relaxation and indulgence, and a unique, one-of-a-kind memory for all who attend.
Great for: This venue is best suited for smaller weddings, and offers budget-friendly elopement packages.
A gem of Friday Harbor, Saltwater farm is an outdoor paradise that offers solar-powered and climate-positive accommodations that include a stunning event barn, unique rooms and spaces for getting ready, a wedding suite, multiple ceremony sites, flora and fauna, and 162 wild acres of nature trails. The entire space is all yours to enjoy.
Great for: Large weddings, outdoor and environmental enthusiasts, choose-your-own adventure event space with endless options.
Forest, meadows, gardens, treehouses! This place really has everything. By choosing Islandwood to be your wedding venue, you can express love to your fiance, friends, and family, while also giving love to the earth by supporting an organization that provides environmental education for the next generation.
Great for: Environmentally-conscious couples who want everything conveniently packaged. Lodging for friends and family, onsite catering, and a venue planner.
A unique and rejuvenating escape from the urban bustle of Capitol Hill, the Volunteer Park Conservatory is a world-class botanical garden boasting five display houses inside a stunning, century-old structure.
Great for: Natural, simple, beautiful Intimate weddings and elopements (up to 25 people, max).
Spectacular views of lavender fields offset by the rolling Sammamish valley, the Woodinville Lavender Farm is an oasis that teases all the senses. With fragrant blooms, views in every direction, and lush greenery, Woodinville Lavender Farm is (unsurprisingly) a personal favorite.
Great for: Year round weddings in Seattle with an indoor space, wedding suite, and greenhouse.
Spend the morning of your wedding day hiking the many trails of Orcas Island, or indulging in some of the on-site spa treatments, and spend your wedding night in a yurt! This acclaimed resort boasts oceanside access, a variety of rustic lodging options, and views in every direction.
Great for: Doe Bay Resort can accommodate a wedding of any size.
This Whidbey Island venue is only an hour drive north of Seattle, and it is well worth the drive. This vintage, rural event center offers something for everyone; including a barn with old-world furniture, an antique bar, a lush garden filled with local sculptures and art, and 3-day access to the full venue and a menu designed around the seasonal produce grown on the grounds for a farm-to-table catering experience.
Great for: Year round, large weddings with unique indoor/outdoor spaces and in-house catering.
While I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to photograph a number of gorgeous weddings at each and every one of these locations there are still a few more that I CAN’T WAIT to add to my list!
Check these venues out and let’s cross one off my bucket list!
Can’t find YOUR perfect Seattle venue on this blog? Tell me about your dream wedding venue in the comment section or by filling out my contact form and I’ll send you a customized recommendation!