Finding a wedding venue is probably one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning. Not only because you want to pick the perfect place but also because you have to make sure your fiance loves it just as much as you do *and* it has to fit your style, budget and be available on your desired wedding date, too. I remember when my husband Jay and I were looking for a wedding venue. We had dozens of tabs open on our computers and it was so overwhelming! How were we supposed to narrow down our selections? There are so many things to consider and there are lots of articles out there with tips on how to pick a wedding venue (check this one out!) but very few articles on things to consider from a photographer’s perspective. My goal today is to shed some light on a few things that couples should consider when choosing a wedding venue. Perhaps these four things will help break the tie between your top two contenders. And if you’ve already booked your venue, then this will help you keep a few things in mind that you may not have thought of.
Does your venue have a spacious bridal suite with plenty of natural light?
If your wedding day is taking place at one location, you’ll definitely need a spacious bridal suite for you, your bridesmaids, and mother to get ready in. Make sure that there is enough space not just for you and the special ladies in your life, but also for the hair and makeup artists to work and for your photographer to work, too! It’s really important to have plenty of window light for these types of portraits. Check out Katy and her bridesmaids below – she had the most gorgeous light for her getting ready photos:
If your venue doesn’t have a bridal suite with both plenty of space and natural light, consider getting ready at a nearby hotel or even renting an Airbnb. Our bride, Megan, pictured below, did this, and it worked out perfectly! She had a huge victorian house to hang out with her bridesmaids the night before and the morning of her wedding and she had the prettiest rooms for her getting ready photos. Airbnb’s will generally be much more spacious than a hotel room so they’re a really great option!
Also! Don’t forget about your groom! Make sure there is a spacious and well-lit place for him to get ready with his buddies, too!
What is the Plan B for your ceremony location in case of rain?
Outdoor ceremonies can be so gorgeous!! Personally, I love outdoor ceremonies and the relaxed nature of them, but no one can deny the added stress that an outdoor ceremony may bring due to potential weather challenges. To avoid some of this stress, have a Plan B in place for your ceremony in case of rain; and make sure you love your Plan B as much as possible. This way, if you have to resort to it, you won’t be as disappointed. From a photographer’s perspective, something you may want to look out for is if your venue’s Plan B is to have your ceremony take place in the ballroom. If this is the case, make sure you find out if the tables will be in a separate room or if they’ll be visible to your guests. We’ve had so many brides be disappointed when they found out fully-set tables would be visible during their ballroom ceremony.
Does your venue have enough grounds for your first look and portrait session?
When booking a venue, couples normally prioritize the ballroom and the food. After all, they want their guests to have an amazing time! However, don’t forget to check out the grounds and imagine your portraits there.
If your venue lacks sufficient grounds then consider checking out local parks and gardens to take your wedding photos. Make sure you do this well in advance of your wedding as many parks and gardens require a reservation and permit. Reach out to your photographer for ideas on nearby places as he/she might be able to recommend good portrait locations. I love that my couple, Jamie and Matt, reserved Frelinghuysen Arboretum for their wedding portraits before their ceremony at Olde Mill Inn. It was just a few minutes drive away and it gave them the variety they wanted for their portraits.
If you’re getting married in Spring Lake, be sure to check out this iconic bridge at Divine Park. It makes for such a pretty setting for wedding photos!
You can also check out nearby universities and find out if they allow wedding photos there. A popular choice in my area is Wilson Hall at Monmouth University:
What is the Plan B for your portrait session in case of rain and/or wind?
I hate to bring rain up again, but there’s always a risk that it’ll rain or be really windy on your wedding day. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, make sure you have a game plan for where you will do your bride/groom, bridal party, and family portraits. You won’t want all of your photos in the ballroom, trust me!
It rained for most of Ali and Nik’s portrait session but, luckily, their venue had plenty of photo opportunities indoors where we could stay dry while we waited for the rain to die down.
I hope this post has been helpful to you in choosing your wedding venue! It’s such a hard decision to make and ultimately, not every venue will check off every single thing on your list but if photos are a priority for you, then you’ll definitely want to consider the tips I’ve mentioned here. It will help to avoid stress on your wedding day and will ensure that you get the images you’ve dreamt of!
Looking for more information on NJ wedding venues? Check out the links below!