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Bride Guide: 6 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Wedding Venue | Kansas City Wedding Photographer Merry Ohler

So you said "yes!" Best wishes and congratulations! Welcome to an amazing, crazy, beautiful stage of life as you begin to plan your wedding. One of the things my brides consistently tell me is how difficult it is to know where to begin with wedding planning and how to choose the right wedding vendors. In fact, I've heard this so many times that I decided to put together this post in the hopes that I can serve engaged couples in Kansas City. If you follow these helpful tips, you will be able to find and book the perfect Kansas City wedding venue for you!

1. Set your wedding budget.

Unless you or your fiance are an accountant, this is probably not the most fun part of planning your wedding, but it is vitally important. First, you need to understand that you can spend as much or as little on your wedding as you want. Weddings in the US typically average around $32K, with 50% of couples spending around $15-$20k total. No matter what your final number is, you need to know what that number is so you can plan accordingly. 

Will the two of you be footing the bill alone? Are your families able and willing to help with the costs? It may be awkward to have these conversations, but it is so much better to have them in advance - for everyone involved. Once you've set your wedding budget, consider how the budget usually breaks down. There are exceptions to every rule, but most of the time, you can expect to spend anywhere between $1500 and $7000 on your wedding venue in Kansas City. Those rates run the gamut from bare bones venue rental to higher end options with more included amenities. (Think table linens, chair covers, etc.) With that in mind, remember that with any wedding budget, a good rule of thumb is that you will spend about 40-50% of your budget on the ceremony and reception. That percentage includes venue rental, food, cake, tableware, bar service, catering, etc. This article over on The Knot is a great resource for planning your wedding budget and to give you an idea of how much you should allocate for the various expenses associated with your wedding.

2. Choose the general area for your wedding.

New wedding venues have popped up all over the greater Kansas City metro area in the past few years. Couples are finding that this is a wonderful thing when it comes to variety, but it is also challenging to narrow down the options! By choosing the general location, you will automatically weed out venues that are outside your preferred area, making your list somewhat more manageable. Likewise, if you are trying to stick to a budget and saving a little on the venue will help you, decide whether you are okay with a wedding venue near Kansas City. Wedding venues located outside Kansas City proper tend to offer a slightly lower price point, while still remaining close enough to the city that your guests will have no trouble attending. A few wedding venues I love that are off the beaten path: The Journey Home in Dearborn, Missouri,  The Legacy at Green Hills in Kansas City North, Flander Hall in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, Tobacco Barn Farm in Holt, Missouri, and The Oread in Lawrence, Kansas.

3. Figure out your guest list.

No matter how few or many people you plan to invite, you need to have a solid estimate of how many will actually attend. Really think about this number, because a venue that seats 200 will not be able to accommodate 225, and a venue that seats only 100 will absolutely not be able to squeeze in any more. Knowing how many seats you will need will help you to narrow down your list before you even schedule tours. While you're thinking about the guest list, also consider whether any of your guests will need elevator access for any reason. Kansas City is home to many beautiful, historic buildings and homes which are used for venues, but the flip side of that is that there are venues which do not have elevator access or handicap accessible restrooms. If you know Grandma will need an elevator, it's best to consider this now before you fall in love with a venue that will not be very accessible for her.

A few favorite venues for couples who have chosen a more intimate affair: Royal Room at Briarcliff in Kansas City, Missouri, Simpson House in Kansas City, Missouri, or the Kansas City Room at 28 Event Space.

4. Choose your wedding style.

Think seriously about your wedding style and establish a few parameters. If you are after bright and airy, with lots of rustic elements and a bit of western flair, a modern space with lots of black and white is probably not your cup of tea. If you want your wedding to be modern and simple, with little in the way of decor, you might want to consider using an art gallery as your event space. There are literally hundreds of choices when it comes to your wedding style, but hammering out a few preferences will save you a lot of time in the long run. If you are not super into the details, seriously consider hiring a wedding planner. They are full of beautiful decorating ideas and a good one will be able to help you by getting to know you and your style and making suggestions that you will love. In addition, they have numerous wedding contacts and are always glad to refer vendors.

A few venues with great versatile, neutral designs: Thompson Barn in Lenexa, Kansas, 28 Event Space in Kansas City, Missouri, Museum at Prairiefire in Lenexa, Kansas (BONUS: there's a T-Rex skeleton overlooking the reception area. Super unique and fun.), and La Villa in Kansas City, Missouri.

5. Think about how you want your wedding day to flow.

Will your Kansas City wedding take place in a church and the reception somewhere else? Or will you hold your ceremony and reception in the same space? Do you want to traipse all over town to get your hair and makeup done on the day of your wedding? Or would you rather choose a venue with a bridal suite so you and your posse can get ready at your leisure? Do you want a dedicated area for the guys?

These questions may be hard to answer, but if you answer them now, you will find yourself much better off when evaluating the various wedding venues in Kansas City. If you plan to have your hair an makeup done by professionals, think about the space where you will be getting ready. Most brides want their photographer and videographer present to capture those moments, and while it is not the most crucial thing on your list, you should stop to think about how that space looks. If you plan to be in one place all day, look for a venue that offers both a bridal suite (with bathrooms, seating areas, mirrors, adequate lighting for applying makeup, etc.) and a groom's suite. Bonus points if they have great natural light - your photographer and videographer will thank you later, and when you see the photos and video, you will, too! The getting ready rooms do not have to be over the top, but ensuring that they have those few basic requirements will make such a difference to you in the long run.

A few Kansas City area venues with my favorite getting ready areas: Fire Stables Equestrian in Lenexa, Kansas, Noah's Event Venue in Overland Park, Kansas, The SImpson House in Kansas City, Missouri and Flander Hall in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

6. Consider the amenities and rules each venue has to offer.

As a veteran wedding photographer in Kansas City, I've found that many Kansas City wedding venues actually require that you use only their pre-selected vendors for catering, bar service, photographers...some even have restrictions for DJ's or live music! If you want to be able to fully customize your wedding ceremony and reception, keep this in mind as you browse websites and schedule venue tours, and make sure this is one of the first questions you ask. If you know that you have a connection for catering or really want to bring in a live band, make sure you know if the venue puts limits on their couples and make sure you are okay with being restricted to only their preferred providers. If not, choose a different venue. Ultimately, your wedding and reception should be an expression of the two of you individually and as a couple. If you don't mind using a caterer they require, go for it, but be aware that there are other options and if you want final say, you might be happier choosing a different space for your big day.

A few favorite venues which do not restrict their couples: Tobacco Barn Farm in Holt, Missouri, The Simpson House in Kansas City, Missouri, Noah's Event Venue in Overland Park, Kansas and Flander Hall in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

Ultimately, choosing your Kansas City wedding venue will boil down to finding a space that is a good match for your budget, style, preferences and location, along with their actual availability. When choosing your wedding date, decide up front whether you are flexible and would be open to a Friday or Sunday, or perhaps even a weekday evening wedding ceremony and reception - and let the venue know that once you determine if you like the space. Many Kansas City venues offer great discounts for booking on off-peak dates (think winter) or days of the week (Sun-Thurs.) 

There you have it: six fool-proof steps to finding and booking the perfect Kansas City wedding venue.

Happy Venue Hunting!

All the love,

Merry