By Miranda Bricker with Dover Hall

Selecting a location for your wedding ceremony and reception can be an incredibly overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be! Consider making the following decisions before you begin your search for the perfect venue:

Create Your Invite List and Estimated Guest Count
Your anticipated number of guests will determine what capacity you search for, and this will greatly influence which venues you should tour and which venues you should immediately rule out. Industry standard dictates that normal attrition rates for invitees will land around 15-20% – meaning that with an invite list of 180 guests, it’s reasonable to expect that 150 guests will actually RSVP “yes”. If you’re anticipating a guest count under 100, you can narrow in your search to more intimate spaces; alternatively, you can consider only more expansive venues that would be able to comfortably host 300+ guests.

Miranda Bricker Dover Hall 5 decisions dream vennue Richmond Wedding
Hayes & Fisk Photography

Determine Your Desired Season – NOT Your Desired Date
A wedding venue’s available dates can fill up quickly, sometimes even up to a year and a half in advance! To forgo the stress of having your heart set on a specific date just to learn that your dream venue does not have that date available, simply decide which season(s) would be ideal for your nuptials and celebration. If you approach your top venues with an open mind and a range of months that you’d find happiness with, you’ll be much more likely to discover flexibility when setting your actual wedding date.

Miranda Bricker Dover Hall 5 decisions dream vennue Richmond Wedding
Nicole Adele Photography

Consider the Overall Guest Experience
Do you envision all of your guests seated in one space for an elevated three-course wine-paired meal? Or do you picture lively entertainment with your guests mixing and mingling in a more informal environment throughout the evening? Deciding between a sit-down or a cocktail-style reception can greatly influence the atmosphere and layout of venues you consider, and this decision can even affect your capacity! Having a strong idea of what guest experience you’d like to provide can act as your compass while you tour different venues, and it can steer you towards the best spatial fit for your wedding. Reminiscing on past events you’ve attended (and which experiences were the most memorable!) can be a great way to help make the decision for your reception style.

Envision the Environment – Indoors or Outdoors?
Do you picture saying your “I do’s” under the canopy of beautiful, lush foliage, or do you see you and your betrothed exchanging vows inside a grand and spacious ballroom? Deciding if you’d prefer an indoor- centric or outdoor space to host your ceremony and reception can greatly dictate which venues make it on your list. This decision will help categorize venues on a wider scale, making which locations you choose to contact much more digestible. If you land on primarily outdoor spaces, be sure to account for your inclement weather plans properly!

Miranda Bricker Dover Hall 5 decisions dream vennue Richmond Wedding
Aniko Levai Photography

Consider Your Overall Budget
Before you compile your list of desired venues, begin to research other vendors and their estimated costs and take these pieces into account as you finalize your overall budget. Having a general idea of what you’re comfortable spending can be brought into a different light when you not only consider the venue costs but additionally, what you may spend on your full vendor team. By properly allocating your overall budget to not only encompass your venue rental, but to include your wedding planner, photographer, florals, cake, entertainment, and many other related vendors, you’ll begin your search with a greater idea of your actual budget and which areas are the most important to you!

Miranda Bricker is the Director of Sales at Dover Hall, a refined English Tudor-inspired wedding venue and bed & breakfast in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia. To learn more about Dover Hall’s luxury events, culinary services, or to schedule a tour of the estate house and grounds, visit