Bridal Spotlight: Ariel's Venue Shopping Tips

By Ariel Ann Norris

I’m a strategist. My goal is always to aim high, negotiate, plan, and execute. These are some of the attributes that make Dylon and I a perfect match (he’s a lot more laid-back so we even each other out a little). Going into wedding planning, I was confident that I would have it all in the bag and sail right through. I’m the keen bride, the one who knows what she wants and how to get it at the price she wants it. In my mind, wedding planning was going to be a breeze. In fact, I let the universe know in advance that I’m a boss wedding planner waiting for all the odds to fall in my favor. I got this.

As you all can imagine, I was sorely mistaken and my ego has been viciously shot down in this whole process.

So this is the honest truth of how my wedding planning is going so far. However, I’m getting it together step by step and learning along the way and might even be able to help you and your venue shopping by talking about what I’ve learned so far. My learning process began with picking a venue. I started shopping for my dream venue well over a year ago and still have not decided. It has become a debilitating process because I can’t start planning the wedding until we have the venue. I’m currently narrowing it down though and will be making a final decision in the next couple weeks. Although I have not solidified our venue yet, I want to talk about some of the things that I knew were essential to consider going into this process and how we have narrowed our search. These are all things that wish I would have considered sooner. If you’re looking to save yourself some time (and miles on your car) then keep reading below.

Here are the big things I learned so far in my venue shopping experience:

Start early. As stated previously, I began my venue search early due to my strong type-A personality screaming at me to knock that off the list. Well, as you now know it’s been over a year of searching and I still can’t decide where I want to walk down the aisle. My point- DON’T WAIT! Looking at venues early also helps you to decide what you like and don’t like. It may even inspire you to go a whole new route with your theme. Understanding the pricing and operations of multiple venues will also help you better understand the system and plan your budget accordingly.


Document your guests. A lot of us already stare at Excel sheets all day at work- why not add this strategy to your wedding planning process? Determine the exact number of people you want at your wedding. I can’t stress this essential piece of picking your venue enough. First, this will make it easier for you to decide how large of a venue you want and second you will have a much easier time budgeting for the wedding. I did the complete opposite and played the guessing game with how many guests I was going to have before realizing that I’m inviting a lot more people than I thought. Do NOT do it this way. Figure out your guest list first and then start exploring venues. Food and beverage prices vary significantly from venue to venue, making it hard to determine your final price when you have don’t have an exact number of guests.


Be stubborn. Remember me mentioning that whole negotiating piece of my execution plan? Uh yeah, that requires some backbone people. Unfortunately, there are venues and company’s that really don’t care about the best day of your life, they just want every last drop of your bank account as if it’s overflowing with funds for excessive decorations and wine glasses filled with champagne and rose petals. I’m not suggesting that you should play hardball with every event coordinator you meet- believe me, I’ve met so many nice people that genuinely went above and beyond to help me. I am however implying that it’s important to ask questions. There were a couple times a played it a little “too nice” before quickly realizing that this demeanor was hurting the budget.

Get a quote early. Ask about the terms and conditions for the initial deposit and guest fees. If you decide to do a payment plan, make sure that it’s interest-free. Ain’t nobody got time for hidden fees on their wedding day!


Strategize a wedding planning party for two. My final suggestion now is something that Dylon and I did which is currently helping us narrow down our decision. We gathered up all of our quotes, promotional venue folders, pictures, etc. and laid it all to just observe. This part is actually a lot of fun especially if you’ve got wine on hand. We literally just curled up on the couch and observed all of our options. I pulled up my Pinterest too to make sure that the venues we were looking at matched the minimalistic vibe-y bohemian look that I was going for. (I’m a free spirit and sometimes I’ve got to find ways put things in a box before they get too out of hand.) Dylon and I found that this has been the best way for us to talk openly about what we like and don’t like and eventually help us decide on our venue.

These are just a few of the major tips I would have wanted to have given myself when I started. I’m banking on one of my upcoming posts to be about the venue that we finally decided and all the details we took into consideration before deciding. Stay tuned this next month or so to hear more about our decision!