Picking the Perfect Venue for Your Wedding, Hotel vs. Venue

For those of you who have recently become engaged, beyond being super overwhelmed by all of the vendors, themes, and locations, the venue normally is one of the first pieces of the puzzle that has to be solved. You have to have the venue in order to have a date. Sometimes in the excitement and the rush to get a date, you may over look some items that will directly effect your choice in a venue.

Lets start with some basics, do you want a hotel, country club/golf club, or a privately owned venue? Hotels & Clubs typically have everything already included, where you do not have to worry about renting what we call rentals, unless you want to upgrade to Chivari Chairs. (If you don’t know what these are now, you will probably know what they are soon!) The food menus are already designed and most of these types of places, everything can be easily inclusive, so if you wanted to have a ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner & dancing, it is super easy. Don’t worry about the crew flipping the room. We have seen it over and over, and they always get it done! (The photograph to the right is of a wedding we did at the Hotel Sofitel in Chicago. Michelle & her team are amazing!)

A venue normally is a bit more raw and allows for you to bring in everything. Some people get scared off by this route when they think that they have to bring in all of the equipment, rather than knowing that when they pick a caterer, they will handle all of that for you. The cool thing about raw space is you get to build the room which generally is more unique backdrop and then add in what you want! The photo to the right is at Harold Washington Library. (Loved working with Kim from the Library & Sue with Food Evolution on this wedding.)

**And just a side note, at both of these weddings, the couples and families were a delight to work with! We had so much fun!**

Before you get too far in the process, you need to have a good idea of how many guests you are going to invite and although you will most likely not have all of those guests at the wedding, you need to be prepared too accommodate them. So, in order to not loose sleep at night, pick a venue that can accommodate all of your guests on your list.

Some other things that you have to consider, how do you want dinner to go? Are you thinking a traditional, sit down, three course meal, with speeches, dancing in between courses, the ceremonial cutting of the cake, first dances, and a big band playing throughout the evening.


Having a setting that can be used for the sit down dinner or a cocktail feel where you can have food stations or a buffet, which we call a FFS (Fancy Food Station). You can for sure still lace some of those traditional items, toasts, dances, cutting of the cake, into the evening while a deejay or band keeps the party going.

You should also consider your own taste. Are you more traditional or contemporary. Not sure what you are? Take a look around your home. See what types of furniture, art work, and decor you have. That should be a good first step. You have to be comfortable with the style of venue and how it will all come together! (The photograph to the left is the Metropolitan Club that had a cool mix of traditional look with modern floral arrangements. With a beautiful backdrop and fun couple, it was a recipe for a fun evening! )

The main difference between the hotels & venues is the look and feel of the spaces. Most hotel ballrooms, when you are in them, you know that it is a ballroom. When you are at a venue, you know you are somewhere unique and different.

A few other thoughts on venues,

Hotels are great if you find a ballroom that you love. There are so many here in Chicago that are just stunning. They are great if you like the ideas of…
1. All inclusive, the food is already there with so many options to choose from.
2. It’s convenient for your guests if you have many people staying from out of town.
3. You don’t have to worry about things like valet, transportation (if the wedding and reception are at the hotel), and those little things that you are not thinking about right now!
4. Most hotels will make sure that they take extra care of the bride and groom as well as when you have the wedding at the hotel and room blocks, they tend to give you a one night stay for free!

Venues, you have to make sure that the venue, no matter how cool it is, can make your style of service work for your wedding. They are great if…
1. You love the idea of building your entire wedding from the ground up. Picking the caterer, the liquor, table linen colors, chair & china style, and more!
2. There may be a bit more planning involved in terms of logistics to have a wedding at a venue, but if you love the romantic or unique backdrop, it will be work the extra work!
3. You may have to provide transportation for the guests to and from the venue but most venues allow you to BYOB and most liquor suppliers will let you return whatever liquor you do not use, open, chill or is not damaged so there are give and takes here.
4. You have a little more of a modern/contemporary style and can be comfortable with either a sit down dinner or cocktail style. (Above is a traditional wedding at The Newberry Library and below is a bit more non-traditional at A New Leaf)

There is no right or wrong way to pick a venue. The most important thing is you love it. Have you ever bought a condo or rented an apartment. You look at so many places and when you walk in, you just know… the same will happen with your wedding venue, you will just know!