After securing a wedding planner and deciding with your bae (and your families!) the best time of year to wed, it’s time to pick a venue. It’s often the very first step in the wedding planning process because a venue can often dictate your wedding anniversary, guestlist and even your theme.
Whether you have a planner or you’re planning your nuptials solo, venues these days often make it easy as they often have galleries that showcase just what bride and grooms will have access to and even a calendar that details their availability.
Our planner, Yodit Gebreyes Endale, suggested that after deciding on a theme (we originally chose rustic chic) to narrow it down to three venues that we’d want to check out in person.
Since we’re tying the knot in Baltimore, we chose the Mt. Washington Mill Dye House, the Winslow Room and — here’s the curve ball — the George Peabody Library, which isn’t rustic at all, but we just loved how it looked. And as an author, I just couldn’t resist the idea of getting married inside a library.
Courtesy of Joi-Marie McKenzie
We learned a lot while checking out these venues, here’s what I’d pass onto every Black bride choosing their venue:
It’s OK to be superficial for once
Your venue truly sets the tone for any wedding or wedding reception, so it’s time to be nit-picky. We knocked off one venue right away because we didn’t like how the dance floor would have a metal pole in the middle of it. The best part was that we saved time and gas money as we didn’t have to check out this venue in person. Awesome websites like Wedding Wire and The Knot offer tons of photos along with details on capacity, schedule, and amenities. With two venues to go, here’s what else we learned.
Take a friend or two
Now I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re indecisive (like I am!), but taking your maid of honor or your mother may actually help in the decision-making process. My planner and maid of honor helped identify opportunities and issues with each venue that otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed — for instance one venue had parking, while another one didn’t. Just make sure everyone is on board with your overall vision and needs for your big day.
Never visit a venue while they’re setting up
It was the best piece of advice my planner gifted, still we trekked to George Peabody Library anyway while they were setting up for a wedding. The room was in complete disarray as they were stringing the lights, setting the tables and putting up the draping. It made me absolutely hate the space. I didn’t want to let go of my dream of getting married in a library so we actually waited there three hours (!!) for them to finish setting up; and once they were done I knew that the Peabody Library was the venue for me.
Joi-Marie McKenzie is ESSENCE’s senior entertainment editor. She’s also the author of her debut memoir, The Engagement Game: Why I Said ‘I Don’t’ To Marriage and ‘I Do’ To Me, out now.