Expert Advice: 11 Mistakes Couples Make When Choosing a Wedding Venue

Tampa Bay's Best Wedding Venues Banner

Choosing your Tampa Bay wedding venue is one of the biggest decisions you'll make for your wedding day as it sets the tone for the atmosphere, can dictate which vendors you hire, and takes up half your budget, so it's important to select one that is the perfect match.

Price can often be a sensitive issue, as typically the venue is one of the first vendors that you book and is also the most costly. Though as our experts point out, if you find a venue that you fall in love with have a conversation with the venue sales specialist, and they will often provide you with options to try to match your needs as closely as you can.

One of the biggest mistakes we see couples make is to inquire with lots of venues, then get completely overwhelmed by the options, emails, and follow-ups. Take the time to do some due diligence before you hit the send button, and if you are no longer interested in a venue, then kindly reply to let them know (that way they stop emailing you!)

We asked our team of wedding experts to share their insight on common mistakes couples make when choosing a wedding venue to give you insight to make a better-informed decision!

Limelight Photography

Mistake #1: Focusing Only on Price

“If you only focus on the price you will always fall short. It's the experience and memories that are the critical components. Focus on the best values and the best reviews (from couples and vendors). Focus on venues that care about others (inclusive of everyone), that care about the environment (paperless, no straws, green cleaning products, low-waste, etc), and that are easy to deal with. Choose venues that list their pricing, put everything in writing, and have all your details, floorplans, timelines, invoices, and vendor contacts info organized. You want a venue that really cares about you and not just your checkbook. Ask a lot of questions and be a good listener. If the venue isn't asking you a lot of questions, run.” –Michael Scott Novilla, owner of NOVA 535

“The most common mistake I see is couples not having a budget or idea of the type of venue or wedding they want. Couples will send out a blanket of inquiries from multiple wedding sites asking about packages. This will bombard their inbox with so many emails making it overwhelming very quickly. Many venues have a range of services and packages they can offer and even customize to meet a client's needs. Make a list of what is important to you, reach out to those venues specific to your wants and needs, and then narrow down that to a small list to find your perfect venue. Money is not always the deciding factor: customer service, type of venue, menu, and extra services may all be factors on why a couple chooses their venue.”

“When researching venues online a lot of couples look at the pricing first and may dismiss a venue solely on that without ever doing a site tour. While budgets are very important, a lot of times venues can work with your budget, within reason. Instead of dismissing the venue at first glance, set up a site tour and let the venue know your budget to see if they can work with it. It is also important to know what your venue includes for your wedding. A venue may have a ceremony fee or rental fee but includes a day of coordinator, chargers, Chiavari chairs, a complimentary room night, etc. These are important because the more the venues include the less you have to worry about finding additional vendors.”

“A huge component of the price is ‘what’s all included.' A lot of couples get fixated on the price when they haven’t even weighed what’s included in that price. There are lots of venues that include tables, chairs, valet, cleaning fees, etc. that help to balance out what you’d be spending on other vendors. You really need to do a lay of the land and see what each venue includes and have your planner go over where you get the most bang for your buck.” -Laurie Lupcho, owner of Core Concepts

“The biggest mistake I see couples make is that they fall in love with a venue and spend a majority of their budget just on that. Every other aspect such florals, photography, decor, etc. is then at a minimum, and they aren't able to get the entire look and feel they want because they overspent on the location.” -Carrie Wildes, owner of Carrie Wildes Photography Art & Design

Modern, Simplistic Indoor Tampa Bay Wedding Ceremony, Downtown St. Petersburg Bride and Groom Exchange Vows With Exposed Brick Walls and Romantic String Lighting in Backdrop, White Draping, and Light Gobo of Custom Monogram | Florida Historic Wedding Venue NOVA 535 | St. Petersburg Wedding Photographer Lifelong Photography Studios

Industrial Dusty Blue Downtown St. Pete Wedding | NOVA 535 | Lifelong Photography Studios

Mistake #2: Not Providing Enough Information

“Unfortunately, many times, couples fall in love and book a venue without doing all of the prep work. Beyond having a wedding date in mind, you want to create a rough guest list and a working budget, including your priorities. Couples can book a venue that is too small for their actual guest list or overspend leaving themselves ‘house poor’ with no money for the things that are important to them.” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner, Special Moments Event Planning

“When you are inquiring with a venue it is important to let them know your wedding date and how many people. This allows the venue to let you know if there is space available on that day for the size of your wedding. This is always the first thing I ask with every new couple.”

“If couples would provide more information and price point, the venue can narrow down what is sent to the couples. This helps filter their choices to a few that they can then concentrate on, correspond with, and research to find the perfect fit for them.”

Florida Bride and Groom Exchanging Wedding Vows During Timeless Romantic Wedding Ceremony, Round Arch with Greenery and Blush Pink, Ivory Flowers | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner Special Moments Event Planning | Safety Harbor Traditional Wedding Venue Harborside Chapel

Timeless Ivory and Blush Wedding | Harborside Chapel | Love and Covenant | Special Moments Event Planning

Mistake #3: Showing up Without an Appointment

“It is important that couples realize that they should schedule an appointment for a tour. This will ensure the right person can be available to answer their specific questions and that the areas the couple wants to see are available. A private event may be taking place in the venue, other couples may be touring when you arrive, or the correct person to show the property could be off-site. Venues want to block out time for you to visit when they can provide customer service to give you what you need.”

“Definitely don’t do that! There may not be anyone there. Most venues are by appointment only. Sales managers and venue owners rarely operate a 9-5 schedule, have other meetings/appointments, and cannot take unscheduled appointments. Private venues won’t even be open a lot of times unless there’s an event going on that day. A huge mistake is showing up unannounced during someone else's event, and it’s just plain rude to be there thinking you can do a walkthrough on someone else’s event day. This happens a lot and is not ok. You wouldn’t want someone doing that to you.” -Laurie Lupcho, Owner, Core Concepts

Classic Wedding Reception Decor, Sweetheart Table with White Linen Backdrop, Hydrangeas, Roses and Greenery Floral Bouquets, Gold Chairs | Tampa Bay Wedding Photographer Lifelong Photography Studio | Wedding Planner Core Concepts | Wedding Rentals A Chair Affair | Kate Ryan Event Rentals

Classic Navy, White, and Gold South Tampa Wedding | Lifelong Photography Studio | Core Concepts

Mistake #4: Not Considering All of Your Options

“Choose the best venue that fits your plans versus what is available online. Don't forget restaurants or converting a space. We recommend couples consider all options available before selecting a specific location. Often, many couples will feel limited to venues seen online after searching wedding-specific websites only. If your wedding guest count is fewer than 35, consider a private room in a restaurant versus an all-out wedding reception. This saves money and involves less planning while keeping the location near the ceremony/lodging. Others, with a creative flair, may consider converting a space i.e. rec. centers, The Lions Club, American Legion, etc. that is nearby or waterfront. These types of venues are not allowed to advertise to maintain their 501(c)(3) status however, are often well located, budget-friendly, and have more flexible options if you intend to decorate yourself.” – Brandon Wheeler, owner of Gulf Beach Weddings

Mistake #5: Not Undestanding the Difference Between Full-Service and Rental Only Venues

“There are so many different venues to choose from, and we as wedding planners like to work with clients from the very beginning of their planning process to assist with the search. The first thought running through a couple's minds is what style venue they envision getting married at. This is very important! However, the aesthetic is just one key part of the process. When choosing a venue it is necessary to remember your budget. A space that enhances your theme is wonderful, but if it is a blank slate then remember that decor, florals, and rentals will drive the cost up. Gathering proposals from venues that are full-service as well as venues that you will need to rent your own items is helpful for seeing the big picture for your budget. With so many trending color schemes and locations, it is important to remember your wedding day is about the two of you and to stay authentic to what represents you best!” -Lauren Gertz, owner and lead event planner of MDP Events

Mistake #6: Choosing Too Many Locations

“The Tampa area has numerous beautiful venues that accentuate beach weddings, garden weddings, church weddings, specific venue weddings, and more. One thing that couples sometimes don't think about is keeping it to just one or two venues in close proximity. When the couple has to travel from the getting ready location to the ceremony location, to a third location to take photos, and then their reception at a final venue, it becomes very stressful. I have witnessed couples get flustered over their family or wedding party not being at the right location on time which resulted in losing time for photography. My advice to couples is to decide what their vision is and find the best way to choose the venue and area keeping any other locations nearby.” -Amber McWhorter, owner of Amber McWhorter Photography

Mistake #7: Not Exploring the Back Up Plan

“We are located in Florida; rain is bound to happen! It is important for couples to know Plan A and Plan B. Couples dream of that perfect beach backdrop but are not prepared for a sudden 4 o’clock thunderstorm. Most venues will have the final say on the ‘indoor call.' The decision is based on the safety of the couple, guests, and their staff. When couples book their venue make sure to explore what the venue offers as a backup option. Consider aligning the décor to both options. Also, when booking in those summer months highly consider an indoor option!” -Andrea Paulet, Catering Sales Manager of the Postcard Inn on the Beach

“We see couples forgetting ‘Plan B.' They can get hyper-focused on one aspect of a venue or another, such as a lawn or garden, and don’t typically think about having a backup plan for weather and the unexpected. We recommend working with the venue to make sure that ‘Plan B' is built into your contract so that day-of you know that no matter what mother nature is doing, you are going to love every moment of your wedding day. Wedding planners are pros at creating contingency plans while keeping in mind your overall vision, eliminating any guesswork or bad surprises.” -Jessica Ralph, Executive Planner/President of Parties A' La Carte

Mistake #8: Choosing a Venue that is Too Small

“Use the three-quarter rule. Venues want to maximum revenue by filling a reception space, but that might make the seating a little closer than you’d find comfortable or a smaller dance floor than you’d like. For a guest list of 75 guests, you might consider a venue that accommodates at least 100 for a seated reception.” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner, Special Moments Event Planning

Classic Wedding Reception Decor, Round Tables with Floral Lace Table Linen and Blush Pink Underlay, Brown and White Dining Chairs | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner Parties A'la Carte | Wedding Rentals Kate Ryan Event Rentals | Bradenton Wedding Venue Concession Golf Club

Luxurious Classic Outdoor Wedding | The Concession Golf Club | Photography by Avery | Parties A'La Carte

Mistake #9: Not Allowing Enough Setup Time

“Most wedding venues will rent for a certain period of time i.e. 4, 6, 8 hours. etc., and they expect the setup, reception, and takedown to be complete in that time frame. Remember, this is a venue you've never set up at before, a high-stress environment, compounded by several other moving pieces to consider (ceremony, vendors, timeframes, etc.). It can be difficult to keep within the time allotted. If possible, we recommend renting the venue for the full day and paying for the cleanup, this allows you to focus on the decor, presentation, and coordination of the event with more flexibility and knowing that the venue is taken care of!” -Brandon Wheeler, owner of Gulf Beach Weddings

“The biggest mistake I see over and over is couples signing a contract without the guarantee of enough setup time. It is important to know in advance how elaborate your décor will be. Having the venue for the time your decorator needs is worth the extra cost! I recently had a bride who didn't allow for enough time for her 16×12 floral wall. The florist charged for the extra labor the decorator needed to hire to have the wall done in time, and I can not imagine the stress she felt for the wall to be complete!”

“When booking the venue the hours needed depend on your other vendors, what kind of décor you have, and how much time it’s going to take to set up. Consult with your planner when deciding these things, and they will let you know exactly how much time you’ll need. It’s what we do, and we know these answers already! There have been times where you’re given two hours before the ceremony starts to set up, and it was never discussed, and the other vendors are scrambling to be ready. That’s a feeling you do not want to have on the wedding day. Many venues only include a short window before as they expect the client to pay for more hours. It’s a way for a venue to make more money.” -Laurie Lupcho, owner of Core Concepts

“Always check to see what time you are allowed to get into the venue and if they have the ability to let you in earlier! Some venues have beautiful getting-ready suites but they don’t allow you in until 10 a.m. or even 2 p.m. Take into account this may not be enough time to get hair and makeup done in the suite so you’ll have to book a hotel or Airbnb to get ready in prior.” -Savannah Smith, owner of Savannah Olivia Beauty Boutique

“If you are planning your wedding ceremony at a house of worship, be mindful of the distance to the reception venue you are considering. If it's too far, you might have guests that skip the ceremony or get delayed/lost in traffic.” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner, Special Moments Event Planning

Mistake #10: Understand All of Rules and Policies

“If you are considering including your pet in your wedding day, make sure to ask about the venue's pet policies ahead of time. If they are typically not pet friendly, ask if they will make an exception if you were to hire a professional and insured handler for your pet. And even if your venue is not pet friendly indoors, they may still allow you to have your pet come by for photos on their property as long as they stay outside.” -Kelly Maronpot, Co-owner of FairyTail Pet Care

Mistake #11: Ghosting Your Venue

Engage with the venue by calling them back, responding to their emails, and answering their questions. Even if you are no longer interested or they are not a good fit, just let them know. A customer service-driven and professional venue will keep reaching out to follow up and make sure they can help, but they don't want to become bothersome!