I started this website way back in 2009 because I had the HARDEST time finding wedding venues I actually liked. Sure, there were the hotels and big wedding “factories” (I call them factories because they have multiple weddings a day like they were on an assembly line!). Yet I couldn’t find a venue that I felt matched our personalities.
I started searching every directory website, but it felt like most of the venues on their list were paid for. After nearly giving up hope we would find a great venue in our budget, I finally stumbled upon the “ONE.” But how did I actually do it?
I’d like to tell you that it was easy. That I finally found the perfect website that had all the information I was looking for. Unfortunately I didn’t, which was why I created this website. I wanted to share honest and real reviews of amazing and unique wedding venues across the country that I couldn’t find anywhere else.
But as much as I love this site, it’s obviously not an exhaustive list of the best wedding venues. So, I’m here to share MY resources for finding venues so you can have a well-rounded list. Because when it comes to wedding venue help, you can never have enough options! Read on for my advice on the best places to look!
The Truth About Wedding Venue Websites
Did you know we were actually the FIRST website to list comprehensive wedding venue pricing and reviews. Awesome, right?!
I created our venue review format based on the type of research I was used to performing as a journalist. (You can read more about my background here). I took copious notes at all the venues I visited during our own wedding venue search. I also took photos and included my pros and cons of each venue we had visited.
It’s the same format we use today, and I still (humbly) think we are the best when it comes to giving you the info you need. (You can search all our reviews here).
For instance, my grandmother is legally blind, so it was important to me that she get around our venue easily. Hence the “How Will Grandma Get There” and “Convenient for Grandma” score, which is included in all of our ratings. We also include the facility rental fee, average food/beverage cost, as well as space type (inside/outside). Extra costs and other included amenities are also there, such as a bridal suite or parking.
With that said, we are a very small team, so our database is still growing. So when I’m searching for new wedding venues, which websites do I use?
While I’ll visit Wedding Wire, Wedding Spot, and Venue Report for some good suggestions, I still feel like I’m getting a list of paid venues vs. the cream of the crop. So I usually head to sites I love that have beautiful real weddings, like Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, etc.
I TOTALLY know it sounds counterintuitive to go to a website that doesn’t focus on venues, but in my experience this is actually where the best/most unique wedding venues hide if you know where to look. But here’s the trick. Instead of searching in their venues or vendor section, search their REAL WEDDINGS sections. From there you can dig into the location you want (IE: Florida Real Weddings) and make a list of venues. But here’s where you can go one step further. More great resources for finding wedding venues will be listed in the vendors section…
Other Wedding Vendors
As we mentioned above, the Real Weddings section is a great way to find venues that are off-the-beaten track. You get to actually see what a wedding will look like at a certain venue. But what if you’re looking through all these real weddings and haven’t found one you’re crazy about yet? Dig deeper and go to the very bottom of the Real Wedding post, and you’ll see the vendor credits listed. This is where you can find the real gold.
The best vendors to help you find even more venues include photographers, event rental companies, wedding planners, and caterers. Here’s an example.
Say you’re on Style Me Pretty and you’re looking at a real wedding in the area you want. You scroll down to the vendor credits and you’ll see the photographer, in this case it’s Ryan Ray. You click on his link, and head over to his portfolio. While this is a great opportunity to see if they’re a match for your style and budget, you can also view his weddings to see WHERE they took place.
For example, on Ryan Ray’s portfolio I am able to see a lot of great venue options if I keep digging (such as this wedding at the Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez, which you can see listed on the bottom of the wedding’s page). And guess what? That SAME venue doesn’t show up on a big-named venue website. Probably because they didn’t pay to be listed there. Ssshhh!
Since a lot of wedding photographers travel to do destination weddings, you might see a lot of venue options not in your area, but chances are you’ll find one or two that are good contenders.
The same goes for wedding videographers and planners. If you’re already working with a planner they will be the BEST resource for wedding venues. However if it’s not in your budget, a visit to their website will show you examples of their work (which will usually include a venue credit). This is one of the BEST ways to find wedding venues. Trust me, I do it all the time!
Don’t Forget Wedding Caterers
Since a lot of venues work with outside caterers, they are also a great resource for finding event locations. Plus, ideally you’ll be able to eventually work with them if you do go with one of their preferred venues.
For instance, a quick google search for wedding caterers in your area will yield fast results that you can use as a jumping-off point. Say you’re getting married in Miami, and you search for Miami wedding caterers. You’ll instantly see Bill Hansen catering, which is one of the largest companies in South Florida. Go to their website, click on ‘Venues’ and you’ll see a list of funky and oftentimes under-the-radar venues that could work for you.
Another Google search for New York City catering companies leads me to Great Performances, which isn’t the #1 result but often I like to go further down the list or even to page 2-3 to really see what I can find. On their website you’ll also see a venues section (most catering companies have them), and again this is such a great resource. That’s because catering companies often do more than just weddings, so they have a ton of great venues at their fingertips.
So…there it is! These are MY secrets for finding the best wedding venues. We hope that this website is a great resource for you, but that you also find some amazing places using the tips above!