Guys, venue searching is a tricky pickle.
You get engaged (WOO!), and about two seconds later, questions— and congratulations! —from uber-excited friends, family and coworkers start pouring in. Don’t get me wrong, sharing the excitement of our engagement was, and continues to be, one of the best feelings in the world.
But those questions can unhinge a would-be Bridechilla before she even gets the chance to get her mandatory post-engagement manicure! [sidebar: “Peak Show” by Essie is a solid polish choice for said manicure]
I’m anything but a shrinking violet and can’t say I minded the eager inquiries, but I had to laugh when I was asked if we set a date mere days after we got engaged. I mean, isn’t it normal to whip out your day planner when your soon-to-be fiancé is down on one knee, ask him (or her) to press pause, and confirm a date for some time late summer/early fall of next year?
I laughed off that question, told the curious individuals I’d keep them posted, and continued on my merry newly-engaged way… until another question popped up.
The unavoidable, where are you getting married?
“Oh, that’s easy. Chicago!”
I confidently replied. Mark and I are both from the Chicagoland area, and even though we currently live in Manhattan, we always knew we’d tie the knot in the Windy City.
But it was the follow-up question that got my heart thumping and anxiety pumping… “No, where – like, have you picked a venue yet?”
Insert blank stare from Emily.
Mark and I have lived on the East Coast for close to six years now. Choosing a wedding venue from halfway across the country was about as easy as trying to parallel park on Fifth Avenue. We also didn’t want a typical wedding venue. We wanted one that was truly unique and felt “like us.”
And, let’s be honest, securing your venue is a huge deal.
It can be an enormous financial commitment, it’s typically the first big decision in the wedding planning journey, oh, and lots of people secure their venue over a year out. No pressure. I sat down at my computer, opened up Google, typed “Chicago wedding venues” and hit Enter.
Six hours and too many online “Contact Us” forms later, I emerged with burning eyes and almost no interesting leads. It didn’t matter how many different combos of words I entered – “unique Chicago wedding venues” – “historic Chicago wedding venues” – “Chicago area suburban unique weddings” – “Chicago weddings what the f*** am I doing with my life???
S.O.S!!!!! Wine delivery services in NYC!!!”
Search after search after search, the same 20 venues graced my screen. And that wasn’t just with Google. I tried TheKnot.com, Pinterest and a handful of similar search engines. The go-to tools just weren’t yielding any interesting results.
This is when I had my breakthrough.
You see, we were simultaneously looking to hire a photographer in NYC to take our engagement photos (this is an entirely different blog topic, but Thumbtack.com is where it’s AT. Thank you to the lovely lady who called in and left this tip on the podcast).
As I perused a number of online photo galleries featuring couples snuggling and smooching against various backdrops, I noticed that I had seen about 50 different locations — or potential wedding venues? — in these galleries.
The light bulb went on.
I took to Google, but in a different way this time.
“TOP Chicago wedding photographers.”
As I clicked through the photographers’ blogs and galleries my heart started fluttering with excitement.
There they were – a whole slew of new, unique venues (and some of those original 20, but whatever)!!!
I felt like I hit the jackpot. And guess what? That day we found our venue.
In summary, if you’re hitting a wall with venue searching, find wedding photographers who shoot in your target city/region and dig into their archives to unearth new ideas. I’ll bet you your application fee that you’re going to find some fresh and interesting options. Not only that, but there are some other perks to this method.
1. You can see how the venue photographs.
For example: Is there a cool spot for bridal party shots? An intimate area for couple’s pictures? How’s the lighting? Where might you want to spruce the space up with decorations/flowers/lights/etc.? What’s the vibe like? Does it meet your overall vision?
2. Borrow inspiration from past brides and grooms.
Liked how they added string lights on the terrace? Dug how their color scheme worked with the space? Was the table layout/floor plan on fleek? Cool! Since you don’t know any of the same people, borrow that shit.
3. Collect clues on vendors, hotels and other details from their photos.
If you’re like me and are planning long distance, you might be baffled as to what local hotel to book, or what florist or hair salon and makeup artist to approach. Peeking at the getting ready/ pre-ceremony photos may give you insights into a few vendors to put on your list.
4. Maybe you’ll find your photographer!
Because who doesn’t love killing two birds with one stone? Or catching two birds with one net? Why isn’t there a better analogy available?
Try it and let me know if it helps! I hope it does.
Over and out.
Bridechilla Emilyinsta: @little_red_emily
P.S. Mark and I are waiting for our deposit to clear on the venue! Updates coming soon.