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Finding a wedding venue can be one of the most exciting moments during your engagement and also really overwhelming.  If you are newly engaged, you are likely thinking and dreaming about the place where you’ll say your “I do’s”.  How do you even begin?  Most couples have a lot of questions about how to get started, so my hope is that after you read today’s blog you’ll feel more confident about finding the wedding venue of your dreams! 

First things first.  Decide on several possible dates along with the general location where you want to get married, such as Hampton, Virginia for example.  Once you have that decided, move on to your wedding venue budget.  Your wedding venue budget should help you to determine the number of guests that you will invite to your wedding.  This step is important because you’ll need this information to determine how much space you’ll need to accommodate your guests comfortably.  Different venues accommodate a sometimes wide range of guest lists.

Next, you need to decide what your priorities are.  Do you want a beach wedding?  A rustic wedding?  A marina wedding?  Or a historic site wedding?   Do you want your ceremony indoors or outdoors?  Is there a rain plan in the event of inclement weather for outdoor weddings?  Does the venue provide in house catering?  Does the venue provide tables and chairs for guests, or do you need to rent them?  List your ideas and consider questions you may have for the venue.

After you determine your priorities for your wedding venue, create a list of venue options that are located in or near your target area.  Find 3-5 venues that meet your needs by researching them online.  Helpful hint: The Knot and Wedding Wire have venues listed along with really helpful information, such as how many guests they accommodate and a description of their amenities.  Use this information as a guide for which venues you’ll reach out to.

I know that you are just dying to visit those gorgeous locations that you just researched!  But, before you do that, reach out to the venues on your list and ask them some basic questions.  Are they available on your chosen date(s)?  Can they accommodate your number of guests?  Be sure to ask if they offer the “top priorities” you and your fiancé decided upon.  Ask about the pricing to confirm and find out what all is included.   After they reply to your email or phone call, set up your venue visit.

This is the best part!  Visit the locations you’ve chosen based on your research and their availability.  Visiting a wedding venue is not only exciting, it is also very important.  The venue likely has gorgeous images of their location on their website, but you need to see the layout of the space to see if it is a good fit for your needs.  This will also allow you an opportunity to get acquainted with the venue coordinator (the person who manages and books weddings for the venue) and ask any questions that you may not have considered before your visit.  After you decide on the venue where you’ll book your wedding, you should be offered an agreement and will likely be required to pay a deposit to book your specific date. 

Let’s look at this amazing location as an example.  The Commanding General’s Residence at Historic Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.  Up until 2011, Fort Monroe was an active United States Army Base.  Now it offers beach space, historic landmarks, and the original fort which was constructed in part by Robert E. Lee when he was stationed there as a first lieutenant and engineer in the U.S. Army.  Last summer I had the chance to visit this wedding venue.  Because of the military and historic significance, I was all kinds of excited. The commanding generals of Fort Monroe did, in fact, used to reside here on base. 

Jenn Stokes from the Fort Monroe Authority showed me around this gem, and I had the opportunity to learn how this space could help my future couples.  The Commanding General’s Residence, built in 1907, is a strikingly beautiful estate and boasts of impressive details. 

The estate can hold up to 150 guests and has “customized packages that suit a variety of styles and budgets”.  The pricing ranges from $2000 to $4500, depending on the time of year, weekday or weekend, and your number of guests.  You can hold your wedding in the residence only, or you can include the formal garden.  Included in the rental of the Commanding General’s Residence is some available equipment which can be used indoors, such as banquet tables, for example.  If you are having an outdoor wedding, they will provide up to 100 white folding chairs.  You also have the option of adding on the use of upstairs rooms and the use of the bandstand across the street in Continental Park (for an additional fee).  I was really impressed with Jenn’s kind hospitality and enthusiasm about this amazing place.