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Wedding Venue | Wedding Planning Series

Wedding Venue at Borgo Santo Pietro, Tuscany, Italy

Finding a wedding venue for your wedding is one of the first steps in planning your wedding. After all, the venue you book may determine the vendors you will hire. Some things you should consider are:

  • Are you having a local or destination wedding?
  • Will your favorite vendors’ availability align with your venue’s availability?
  • If your favorite vendors are not available, are you willing to change the date(s) or venue?

These are some of the questions that you have to ask yourself and consider during your wedding planning process.

We highly recommend that you find a wedding planner who can help you find your dream wedding venue. A planner will listen to your ideas and can provide suggestions. Another great resource is your favorite wedding photographer. They usually have experience working at multiple wedding venues or have good ideas of what venues will fit your needs. Of course, the final decision is completely up to you.

Here are some tips and tricks that we would like to share with you from our own personal experience:

I will try my best to breakdown the venue space into each section of the wedding day and describe what to look for and avoid. So without further ado, let’s get started:

Getting Ready Space

The getting ready space is where your wedding day will begin. This space is sometimes forgotten. However, this is usually where I see genuine and beautiful moments shared between close families and friends. It is where your mom, dad, sisters, cousins, and/or best friends will help you into your beautiful dress/suit. Your dad might get his first look here before you walk down the aisle. The images from this part of your wedding day may be the most memorable moments.

So what should you look for in a getting ready space?

Most wedding venues will provide some type of room for the bride and groom to freshen up or get ready. However, you should always check out these areas during your guided walk through/tours. This ensures that you are well informed so you can weigh out your options later on. Below is a list of things to consider and look for when you are checking out the getting ready space:

Large Natural Window Light

The bigger the better. This type of light is the most preferred light in photography. The large window will fill up the entire room with beautiful soft light. Remember to also check which direction the window is facing. Northern (most preferred) and Southern facing windows will provide a consistent light throughout the day. Eastern and Western light maybe a little too harsh or dark depending on the time of day. Also take into consideration if there’s anything blocking the window’s light like trees, buildings, or walls. The large window light will render itself useless if it is blocked by any object.

Window Tint Colors

Take into consideration if the windows are tinted. Any tint will darken the space. More importantly, if the tint is colored, it will create a weird color cast in the room. This will dramatically affect the final look of the room in photos. We suggest that you turn off all of the lights and view the space with just natural light. If it seems too dark for you, it probably is too dark for your photographer and videographer as well. This is not to say it is not possible to take pictures in such room. However, your photographer and videographer will have to use artificial light to create their own light. This can cause a little bit of a delay during the day and slow them down a little.

Vendor Team| Photographer: Le Vie Photography | Wedding Planner/Stylist: Providence and Planning | Floral Designer: East Rooted Florals | Rentals: MTB Event Rentals | Cake: Sheila Mae Cakes | Silk Ribbon & Runner: Silk & Willow | Hair & Make-up Artist: Makeup by Kelly Yi | Bridesmaid dresses: Birdy Grey | Ring Box: The Mrs. Box | Styling Mat: JRD Art Shop | Dress: Bella Wedding | Film Lab: Richard Photo Lab

Amount of Space

If you would like to have behind the scenes photos and a few portraits, consider the amount of space. First of all, your hair and make-up artists will take up A LOT of space. They sometimes need to:

  • set up their chairs
  • plug in their hairdryer/straightener/curlers
  • put up make-up light
  • and lay out all of their make-up.

If you have a large bridal party this is multiplied even more!

Remember, everyone will be practically getting ready at the same time, so having a large area is necessary.

You also have to consider mom and/or dad that will be coming in the help.

Space for your creative team

Lastly, your photographer and videographer will also be coming into this space to capture all of your moments. They will ask that you keep one area clear of clutter. This ensures that they have a clean area with adequate light for portraits and maybe stationery flat lay details. Your florists may also come and drop off a few bouquets for you and your bridesmaids as well.

As you can see, there’s a lot of moving parts at the beginning of the day. Therefore, finding a space that will allow for all of the traffic to flow smoothly is key. If the space provided by the venue is too small, you might want to consider using your own home. Another option is to book a large hotel suite, or renting a home/space nearby.

Distance from the venue

If you decide to use your own home, hotel, or rent a home/space, consider the distance from the venue. Picking a location too far from the venue will slow you and your vendors down. This mean that your vendors will lose valuable time traveling rather than working on your wedding.

Remember, the clock starts ticking the moment your vendors start working.

Surrounding Decor & Environment

Take into consideration any decorations that will clash with your wedding theme or create any weird color casts, like green walls, green lamps, and etc… For example, green walls will reflect off a green cast and can make everyone in the room look like the Incredible Hulk. If you are having a wedding that has a theme for classic romance, a hotel with hip and modern decor may not be a good fit for your wedding.

Ceremony Site

Vendor Team| Photographer: Le Vie Photography | Venue: Malibu Rocky Oaks Vineyard Estates | Venue Coordinator: The Elegant Ninja | Wedding Planner: Weddings by Susan Dunne | Dress Boutique: En Blanc LA | Wedding Rings: Susie Saltzman | Calligraphy/Stationery: Alley & Co. | Paper Maker: SHare Studios | Cake Designer: Fantasy Frostings | Tuxedo: The Black Tux | Wedding Shoes: Bella Belle Shoes | Tablescape: BorrowedBLU | Flowers: Florals by Isabelle | Linens: La Tavola | Hair and Make-up Artist: Make-up by Emerald | Rentals: MTB Rentals | Silk Ribbons: Tono + Co | Dress Designer: Liz Martinez | Bridal Veil: Daphne Newman | Film Scan: Richard Photo Lab

As a film photographer, I am more drawn to venues that have an abundant amount of natural light. Although artificial light can be brought into a dimly lit venue and create a beautiful wedding, I still prefer a venue with good natural light. This is because the wasted time associated with setting up and breaking down the artificial lighting can mean losing valuable shooting time.

Below are three types of ceremony light direction and how they will affect your wedding:

Evenly-lit Ceremony

Ideally, if you are having an outdoor ceremony, you would want this space to have nice even light. Open shade is probably best as it will allow good light on not only the wedding couple but the guests as well. This is why planning your ceremony time correctly is crucial to ensure that you will have pretty photos from your ceremony. If nice even light is not possible, take into consideration of how the light is going to hit the bride and groom during the ceremony.

Back-lit Ceremony

Ideally you would want the light to come from a 45-degree angle from the front of the ceremony. This 45 degree angled light will help your photographer and videographer not get blinded by the light when they are capturing your photos. This also means you will be back-lit so your photos will be more dreamy. The caveat to this is that your guests will be fully front-lit and the light on them will be really harsh. This also means that it might be hard for your guests to see you in front because of the sun beaming at their face.

Side-Lit Ceremony

Another scenario is when the light is coming from the right or left of the ceremony site. This would mean that either the bride or the groom will get the better light and the other person will have harsh sunlight hitting them for the whole ceremony. So make sure you discuss where you would like to stand – of course, in my opinion, the bride should ALWAYS get the better light =).

Do you want natural light or artificial light?

If you are having an indoor ceremony, you would want to pick a location that has an abundant amount of natural light. However, if your photographer is shooting on a digital camera or using off-camera flash for your indoor ceremony, the ambient light should not matter. The photographer will bring in their own lighting equipment. This is why it is important to let your photographer know which wedding venue you have selected for your wedding ceremony’s location. This way your wedding vendor team can adequately prepare beforehand.

When selecting a wedding venue for your ceremony, you should consider this: Do you want to transform a plain and simple space to create your own look and feel or do you want a space that already have a beautiful landscape/backdrop?

Plain and Simple?

If the ceremony site is plain and need a lot of decorations, you will have to consider the costs of the decorations and flowers. The good thing here is that the costs to rent the space is probably not going to be a lot. This means you can splurge on your flowers and completely transform the space. If you hire a good florists they can do wonders! So you should weigh out your options and see what best fit the look that you are going for.

Vendor Team| Photographer: Le Vie Photography | Floral Designer: In Blume LA | Film Lab: Richard Photo Lab

Sophisticated/Historical?

If the ceremony site already have a beautiful backdrop, then you can spend less on decorations and floral. However, these sites tend to cost a little more as it requires more maintenance from the venue owners. The cost also might be higher since the wedding venue is likely located on a good sough-after piece of land or the venue owner(s) have spent a substantial amount of money to decorate and design the space. In this case, you would not want to bring in too many flowers or decorations. Adding/bringing in too much decorations and flowers may take away from the space and create more of a distraction. This is a common mistake that couples make. They sometimes overdo and get overly excited with decorations. Remember, sometimes it is best to let the environment do the talking and just enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Vendor Team| Photographer: Le Vie Photography | Wedding Planner/Designer/Stylist: Weddings by Silke | Venue: Relais Borgo Santo Pietro | Make-up Artist: Chiara Randello | Hair Stylists: Frank Giacone | Jewelry & Ring: DelBrenna Jewelry |Bridal Dress: Cortana Brides | Silk Ribbon & Runners : Silk and Willow | Floral Design: Copihue Floral Studio | Hair Accessories: Naturae Design | Stationery: Nicole Sprekelmann | Tableware: Miss Dish Ceramics | Film Lab: Richard Photo Lab

Reception Area

This is where the fun begins and your creative side can literally take you anywhere! This is also an area where having a good planner or stylist is absolutely essential! If you have not read our “Wedding Planning Series | Why Do You Need A Wedding Planner?” posts yet, I highly suggest you check it out to help you with finding the right planner to create your dream wedding.

Below are some things you should consider when looking for a wedding venue for your reception area:

Guest Count

If you already have a wedding planner, consider having your wedding planner come with you during the wedding venue’s walk through. This way the planner can have their inputs based on your desired guests count. Sometimes the reception space may be smaller than it looks due to certain fire codes and restrictions. Just because it has a max capacity of 300 guests does not mean you should fill the space up to all 300.

Remember, you need room for your dance floor, the DJ/Band, Wedding Cakes or Dessert Station, and etc…

General Rule of Thumb for Guest Count

This is where having a seasoned wedding planner during the venue shopping stage can help you find the right wedding venue for the desired wedding guest count. A good rule of thumb is to keep the guest count between 50-75% of the max capacity. This ensures that all of the guests will have ample amount of space to enjoy the wedding. You shouldn’t book a space that’s too big either. Otherwise, your wedding will look too empty and lonely. Unless you are planning to fill this space with theatrical shows or have a big stage for the band.

Remember: Before venue shopping, make a mental note of how big or small you would like your wedding. Once you have this number, you can go out and confidently pick a wedding venue that will best fit your wedding.

Wedding Season

This will limit your wedding venue choices by quite a bit. Certain venues are not opened during the Winter/Rainy season due to weather. This usually applies more to outdoor wedding receptions. If you must have an outdoor wedding during a rainy season, be sure to have a backup plan ready. Discuss with your wedding planner what to do if rain were to happen on your wedding day. Some venues will even require an extra surety deposit during the rainy season. If your wedding is in the colder months and you are planning to have the wedding outdoors, you must also consider the additional costs for blankets and heat lamps for guests. These small costs can add up quickly and is something you should consider.

Season’s effect on environment

For weddings at vineyards, consider the peak season for the vines. You don’t want to have your wedding at a vineyard when all of the vines are turning over and there’s nothing but brown. After all, you picked the beautiful vineyard for a reason, right? This is just one version of many outdoor wedding styles affected by the season: forests, gardens, etc…

The nice thing about having an indoor wedding reception is that you can literally have your wedding at any time of the year and it will look the same year-round. Which brings us to the next topic:

Indoors vs. Outdoors

This is probably one of the first things you would have decided on already. This is because certain brides are more drawn to certain looks. Depending on if you pick an indoor or outdoor wedding, it will ultimately determine the final vision and outlook of your wedding. We will start talking about indoor receptions and its advantages and disadvantages.

Vendor Team| Photographer: Le Vie Photography | Wedding Planner/Stylist: Providence and Planning | Floral Designer: East Rooted Florals | Rentals: MTB Event Rentals | Cake: Sheila Mae Cakes | Silk Ribbon & Runner: Silk & Willow | Hair & Make-up Artist: Makeup by Kelly Yi | Bridesmaid dresses: Birdy Grey | Ring Box: The Mrs. Box | Styling Mat: JRD Art Shop | Dress: Bella Wedding | Film Lab: Richard Photo Lab

Indoor Reception Advantages

One of the biggest advantages of having an indoor wedding is that you can literally have your wedding at any time of the year and be perfectly safe from the weather. This also ensures that your guests will always stay comfortable since the room is usually controlled with air conditioning/heater.

Lighting

Another advantage is lighting. Most indoor venues already have some type of pre-installed lighting. This mean you don’t have to worry about your guests eating in the dark. If the reception has white ceilings, this could be a huge advantage for your photographer(s) as they may not need to set up as many lights or add modifiers, because they can just simply bounce their flashes off of the ceiling to create a nice soft even light.

Party longer and HARDER!

If your wedding crowd is the type that likes to party and stay late, having an indoor reception might be a better fit for you. This is because certain outdoor reception is required to comply with the local noise ordinance. This means some outdoor wedding venues cannot party long and hard into the night. They must keep their volumes/noise down after a certain hour (usually 9 or 10 pm). However, some DJs offer what’s called a “Silent Party” add-on where headphones are passed out to guests and those who wants to party long into the night can do so.

Indoor Reception Disadvantages

Now that we’ve covered the advantages, here are some of the disadvantages of having an indoor wedding:

Lack of Natural Light

If you are planning to have your wedding during seasons where the Sun is out a little later into the evening, you will be missing out on all of that amazing warm light. This is the light that create that soft and romantic look everyone love.

Odd walls and ceiling colors

Another disadvantage in this area is that if your walls or ceiling colors are odd, it may pose a problem for your photographer and videographer as they may need to set up additional filter/lights to ensure that everything will be properly lit and not cause any color cast issues. This is because when light bounces off of a colored surface, it will reflect that color onto the scene.

Limited space

Another disadvantage is that you are confined in a finite space. Your wedding may look too cluttered if there are too many decorations or guests for that space. This is where knowing your guest count and picking the appropriate size reception for your guest count is essential.

Time

If you are having a film photographer for your wedding, indoor wedding reception tends to require a little bit more time for us. This is because we tend to prefer natural light and since the natural light in most indoor wedding space is not abundant, we have to shoot using a tripod. This mean it will take us a little longer to get every shot, due to the time it takes to setup, capture, and breakdown each shot.

There is, of course, an exception to this. In that, if your wedding reception is well lit with natural light and have white walls bouncing beautiful light all over the place like this indoor reception below…

Vendor Team | Photography: Le Vie Photography| Planning/Design: Cloud Creative Events | Venue: The White Sparrow | Dress Designer: Willowby By Watters | Dress: Lasting Bridal Couture | Hair & Makeup: Q The MUA | Florals: Venus & Co. | Paper Goods: Sarah Ann Design | Furniture Rentals: Bleu Luxury Rentals | Tablescape: Pretty Little Plates | Cake: Loft22 Cakes | Rings: Shapiro Diamonds | Ring Box: The Mrs. Box | Film Scan: Richard Photo Lab

I will have to admit that I will be quite biased here as outdoor receptions are my absolute favorite! However, I will try to be as objective as possible and layout its advantages and disadvantages.

Outdoor Reception Advantages

The biggest advantage of having an outdoor reception is the abundance of natural sunlight! This is a favorite for almost all film photographers as this allows us to easily capture all of the amazing details on film without the help or need to set up artificial light. Outdoor receptions tend to have more of an organic approach. This mean the styling and design of the wedding is usually set up in a way that flows seamlessly with its surroundings. There’s nothing like dining al fresco with your closest friends and family. Outdoor receptions will make you feel less confined and the pleasant open air allows you to enjoy the surrounding environment. If the area is as beautiful as the Borgo Santo Pietro Relais & Chateaux, Malibu Rocky Oaks, and Villa Del Sol d’Oro (below), guests will have an opportunity to wander around and take pictures of the beautiful property during cocktail hour.

Outdoor Reception Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage of having an outdoor reception is season/availability. Certain venues will only allow receptions during certain times of the year. These venues are usually only available during the warmer/drier months.

If you are planning to have an outdoor wedding reception, you must take into consideration having a backup rain plan. Sometimes you will not know this until the week of the wedding and it can be quite nerve-wrecking. However, if you have discussed this with your wedding planner beforehand this will greatly alleviate a lot of stress. Another disadvantage is that your wedding heavily relies on natural light.

Therefore, when the sunsets you must consider how you will light your reception. Will it be lit by string lights, candlelight, uplights, or overhead wash lights? These are things that you should discuss with your lighting design team and planner beforehand. This also means that your photographer will have to set up extra lights when the sun sets. Another disadvantage is that since the wedding reception will be outdoors, some venues will not allow the event to go on past 9 or 10 pm due to local noise ordinance. You have to consider what type of wedding you would like. If you would like a more casual and laid-back wedding then an outdoor wedding is perfect for you.

I hope you’ve found this useful. As always, I am available to answer any questions or comments. If there’s anything else you would like to learn, please feel free to post a comment or send me an e-mail.

Until next time, have a wonderful day!

Best Regards,

Viet Le

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