Eliot Khuner Photograpy - Capturing Your Memories

How To Select A Venue

I would, first, like to recommend that you review the list of suggested locations linked from the Venues index page, Indoor/Outdoor Venues and Indoor-only Venues. These are my favorite places for weddings and receptions. Or, if you, your family, or friends are members of a private club with reception facilities, consider that location as well. Three more of my favorite venues are not listed, at their request, due to their status as private clubs. (They are located in Orinda, Oakland, and San Francisco.) Even if you are not a member, you can arrange for use of the facilities if a member of the club "sponsors" you.

Be flexible and creative when selecting a date. Consider this situation: You have your heart set on a special wedding site, say, the Brazilian Room, but they are all booked up for, say, every weekend in June, which is the month in which you really want to have your wedding. Don't rule out a Friday or Monday wedding.. My wedding was on a Friday, and my brother's was on a Monday.

Don't pick a site that you and your guests will fill to 100% of capacity. Instead, leave plenty of room for guests to mingle. A space that is too small will be uncomfortable. It will be more difficult for your guests and staff to move about. Close quarters make it awkward for staff people to perform their jobs at critical times. Remember, people will have a lot on their minds and plenty of space may reduce the risk of unfortunate accidents. Certainly make sure there is plenty of room in key access areas and between tables. (Your photographer will really appreciate the extra space too!)

Make a point of meeting and discussing key issues with the event coordinator at the venue. Typically, the catering director you meet with will not be at your event. Find out who will be the room captain or event coordinator to avoid any surprises. If you have an outside caterer, find out which manager will be running your event.

Check with the catering director about feeding the photographer and DJ or band (vendor meals). Remember, your staff is going to be on duty and very busy for many hours and it is in your best interest to be sure they eat. The best time for the photographer to eat is while most of your guests are eating. If your crowd tends towards spontaneous uproar and delightful pandemonium, you probably want to keep the photographer in the room the whole time, so that no photo opportunities will be are missed.

Consider the impact that some locations may have on your choice of catering. Some locations require you to use their caterer, such as hotels. Others have a short list from which you may choose, for example, Bancroft Hotel and Brazilian Room. There are also locations which have a "preferred caterer", but when asked (pushed) will allow you to bring in any qualified caterer. Those, which I characterize as having "no catering restrictions", usually will only allow caterers with insurance and a reputation for leaving the facilities in good condition.

Locations with built in caterers, such as hotels, private facilities and country clubs, sometimes suffer from the luxury of a captive audience: the food is not as good as you would get if you chose your own caterer. I was shocked, although perhaps I should not have been, to learn that the wedding meal at a particular reception facility had been sitting in hot carts for at least two hours! It had been prepared before the guests even arrived.

Venues are NOT ALLOWED to restrict your choice of photographer. You can hire any wedding photographer you want at any venue. Some locations state that you have to use one of their wedding photographers. They are either dishonest or misinformed. You can use the best wedding photographer for your wedding, even if I am not on the list.

Consider the impact that location and atmosphere will have on your photos. When thinking about the photographic possibilities of a location, consult with your photographer. What may strike you as a splendid spot for photos may have drawbacks evident to a photographer. If you are planning outdoor photography in the morning, make sure that lawns and paths will be dry by the scheduled photo time. (Double check that the grounds keeper will not water the lawn the evening before your wedding.)

If you want the lights at the reception kept low, confer with the photographer. Even with an auto focus camera, a photographer needs light for focusing and to keep the background from going black. It's your reception, so you decide which is more important: ambiance or photography. Be aware that there will be a tradeoff between the atmosphere of dim lighting and photography. Also, a flash is much more distracting if the ambient light is low.

Of course you have your own priorities when it comes to choosing a location. Some will rank highly, others are unimportant:

  • Emotional attachment, for example, your parents wed there
  • Aesthetics: Indoor, country side, big city, old town, homey, opulent, grand, cozy
  • Convenience for disabled guests
  • Cost
  • Reception only versus Ceremony, Cocktails and Reception
  • Overnight accommodations
  • Spa or convenience to spa
  • Overall Feel
  • Close to tourist spots for out of town guests to visit
  • Weather: wind, morning sun, afternoon sun
  • View: City, country, mountains, bucolic, none (for example, window-less hotel ballroom?)
  • Statement about who you are as a couple
  • Meeting parents' expectations (or not)
  • Dining and dancing comfort
  • Musical acoustics
  • Location coordinator's experience and demeanor