When we launched our new website last year, Joe and I did some soul searching. There are a lot of photographers out there and a large number of them are actually good, some even great. What really sets us apart? Between the two of us we have a lot of talent, but of course there are other talented photographers out there. One of the things that we are really great at is showing the meaning, the thought that went into the making of your photographs. In a portrait session, that means something different than a wedding, but it applies in any photography work we do. What we’ve noticed over the last year is that our favorite weddings have always been those in which the couple identified in some way to their wedding venue. I’ve collected a bit of advice and created the official TLTA guide on how to choose a wedding venue with personal meaning.
How to Choose a Wedding Venue
The first thing most couples choose is the wedding location. Go ahead, type “Your city wedding venue” into google and see what pops up. The options are endless no matter where you live! I took this a step further and started typing in a more narrow search.
Right there, the pressure is already on! Oh, it has to be perfect, you think? Convenience usually comes into mind for most couples. If you have a lot of out of town guests, a hotel might be ideal. That’s certainly what Bryan and Justin chose since the majority of their guests flew in for their Portland wedding at the Jupiter Hotel.
Luckily for Bryan and Justin, they were able to find a small, boutique hotel that still fit within their vision of their wedding. Unfortunately, most hotels have ballroom only options for weddings and they can be uninspired unless you have a very large budget for decor.We rarely have favorites when the couple chose a location solely because it was conveniently located next to a hotel or solely because it was inexpensive. So what to do then?
Our answer: Choose a wedding venue with personal meaning. Our first example is something anyone can do. What do you as a couple enjoy doing together? If you’re big into camping, start looking into areas a little outside of the city with woods and cabins. City dwellers that can’t bear the thought of moving out to the suburbs one day might enjoy an urban, loft style venue.
Amy and Dan love the beach, and so they found a beach club for their wedding reception. While walking along the beach to the dunes, Dan stopped to talk to families on beach chairs enjoying the beautiful summer day; he knew them because he’s there so often! They also included a lot of other beachy touches; they used a surfboard as their guestbook and asked guests to sign the lacquered wood with messages of love. It was a very elegant wedding set against the perfect beach backdrop.
Lindsey and Trevor chose their venue based on looks. He’s got a background in architecture and she’s a visual merchandiser. They loved the raw wood and exposed brick of their wedding venue and used that to design the rest of the look. They made their own wedding centerpieces of succulents, vintage books and found objects such as wood blocks. They also made their own ceremony backdrop of reclaimed wood and canvas or rope to create a weaving, another nod to handmade and repurposed objects. With the repurposed wedding venue starting their theme, it was easy to run with it and all their projects occurred organically from that original inspiration.
Of course, we’re big fans of backyard weddings. When there’s no venue to restrict your choices, the possibilities are endless! If you’re lucky enough to have family with property, this is a great option to really personalize your wedding. Though Pia was raised in the city, her parents also had a home an hour away in the country. The old Victorian home holds so many fond memories for Pia. When she and Dan decided to marry, they chose the backyard of the country home. They married in front of the old barn and had a tent put up next to it for the reception. Every year Pia’s mother scours the property for any sign of poison oak and declared this area safe for pictures – perfect since Pia spent many a summer day reading on the hammock.
In Casey and Maurice’s case, his father lives in Oregon wine country and planted vineyards years ago. As a kid Maurice would never have guessed he’d marry there, but in the end he and Casey decided there was no way to include more meaning in their wedding than marrying at his father’s home with the vineyard vista.
While Casey and Maurice chose a Oregon vineyard for the family and historical meaning it offered, Renee and John wanted a winery wedding because they’re big into wine. John’s family even makes their own wine each year (yes, Joe and I definitely identified with them!) and served their personal wine at the wedding. They’re also NYC city dwellers and wanted to keep the wedding local, so they chose the only working winery in Manhattan for their wedding venue. Their City Winery wedding reception was the perfect choice for them.
So far I’ve only mentioned significance having to do with shared interests. There are other ways to create memorable weddings with meaningful choices. Sometimes it’s just a matter of tradition and family history. John and Renee chose City Winery for their wedding reception but had their wedding ceremony a long limo ride away, deep into Brooklyn. Renee’s family has attended this church for years – her grandmother still did when they got married! Getting married in the Catholic church was important to them and it seemed a natural choice. They asked John’s family priest to come down from Westchester to officiate their ceremony, creating meaning from both sides of their family in the same traditional service.
Similarly, Todd and Taryn married at Oheka Castle. Todd’s sister also married there years ago and the family had such a good experience, it was the natural choice for their own wedding. Todd’s other sister will also marry there. They’re making their own family tradition. Taryn wanted a very classic, elegant wedding and it fit perfectly that Oheka is a natural choice for that kind of wedding on Long Island.
I believe whole-heartedly that the decisions these couples made together created a more memorable wedding for both them and their guests. The wedding day itself flies by so quickly. And yes, photos are all you have in the end. But we want those photos to invoke memories and that will always happen more easily with good photographs telling a meaningful story. Your wedding is a union of two very different people, and the decisions you make together should tell your friends and family what matters to you.