A Wedding Photographer’s Perspective on Choosing a Wedding Venue

At the Studio, we are asked daily if we have shot at a particular venue before. 99% of the time the answer is “Yes”. Over the last 12 years in the wedding industry, we have shot all over Ontario, Canada, USA and the world! Wedding venues come in all shapes, sizes and lighting conditions. As far as photography is concerned, we often divide the venues into the “dark” versus “light” locations. Toronto has a lot of “dark” venues as opposed to Miami, which is more keen on “light” wedding venues. The biggest determining factor for us, as wedding photographers, is the venue’s type, not its size or style. That is why, when asked the question for venue choice, we often recommend paying attention to the venue’s “lighting” in addition to its capacity, aesthetics and lighting. Whether you’re looking for a classic hotel banquet hall, a trendy restaurant or a sunny backyard, there are pros and cons to consider for each. I compiled a list of our top 5 most popular wedding venue types and what you need to know before you book. Here’s a wedding photographer’s perspective on choosing the wedding venue that is right for you:

  1. Restaurant Wedding

Pros:

  • Great food: Restaurant weddings are a foodie’s dream! Having delicious meals is what your guests are likely to remember, so have peace of mind and rest assured – they’ll be talking about your weddings for years to come.
  • Experienced service: There is no need to hire a catering company as the restaurant’s staff is well trained to provide a high-quality service.
  • Minimal rentals required: Restaurants praise themselves on top notch interior design, so you can cut costs on furniture rentals. I also love restaurant weddings for the chic, urban vibe which looks amazing in wedding photos.

Cons:

  • Capacity: Restaurant weddings are great for a small, intimate group of friends and family. You’ll have to narrow down your guest count and make sure a restaurant has a capacity to fit them all.
  • Buyouts: Restaurants often require a complete buyout of the space, even for the parts you’re not going to end up using.

  1. Country Club Wedding

Pros:

  • Nature: Nature is your most beautiful backdrop which looks jaw-dropping regardless of the season. Let your surroundings take centre stage and you’ll have yourself a spectacular wedding.
  • Blank canvas: As with farm weddings, country clubs have no restriction on decor, so style away!
  • Unique location: Country clubs feature amazing scenery, often paired with lakes and woods. It’s a wedding photographer’s candyland so rest assured – you’ll have unique photos to cherish for years to come.

Cons:

  • Temperature control: Outdoor and tented receptions tend to get chilly in the night, so make sure you and your guests are prepared for it.
  • Transportation: Transportation might become a problem as country clubs are situated outside the city. Make sure you count that into your wedding day schedule.
  • Restrictions: The house may want you to stick to a particular setup or have limitations on the use of their amenities. For examples, golf clubs do not allow you to go outside the designated area you’re given.

  1. Private Estates Weddings

Pros:

  • Both indoor and outdoor locations: What I love about private estate weddings like Graydon Hall or Estates of Sunnybrook is that they feature both indoor and outdoor shooting locations. You’ll end up with a good variety of wedding photos that look spectacular when blown up in print!
  • Nostalgia vibe: Because they tend to be historic venues, they have a soft, nostalgic vibe to them making them a perfect venue for a cozy, family centred celebration. They are also good for taking those ethereal bridal portraits you see in magazines.
  • No restrictions on decor: These venues are pretty flexible when it comes to decor and you can turn the place into a sophisticated and intricate affair!

Cons:

  • Rentals required: You’ll have to dish out on furniture rentals to make sure to accommodate all. You will also need to hire a DJ with full sound and lighting equipment, so keep that in mind.
  • External catering: You may also need to bring in the external catering company if they don’t have a team in-house. All of this might add up to your total wedding costs.

  1. Banquet Hall Wedding

Pros:

  • Capacity: Banquet halls are made for grand, glamorous celebrations so go all out! They usually fit up to 500 guests and are perfect for dancing the night away.
  • Variety: There are so many banquet halls to choose from. From elegant castles with a classic vibe to lush and modern hotel halls, you can find any aesthetic to your liking.
  • Experienced staff: As banquet halls specialize in weddings, their in-house staff are pretty knowledgeable on all things wedding. Feel free to pick their brain for all your wedding related inquiries.
  • Built-in accommodations: There is no need to rent extra tables and chairs, as banquet halls have you covered. They also may be able to provide the DJ stands and lighting equipment, turning your wedding into an unforgettable soiree.
  • Location: Banquet halls tend to be located within the surrounding city making it perfect to schedule your wedding portraits taken at a nearby park or any other location whatsoever! They also come with their own parking area, which is super comfortable not only for your photographer, but all the guests too!

Cons:

  • Hidden costs: It’s important to find out what exactly is included in your rental costs. Overtime costs, valet parking and cake cutting services are something to look out for in those hidden charges.
  • Limited flexibility: Because they are so popular, there are usually a few other weddings happening at the same time. So, you might be restricted to stay in your designated area, which means lack of variety of locations where you can take your photos.
  • Tricky lighting conditions: Banquet halls feature grand and tall ceilings and often use spotlights to light the space. That is why the lighting might get tricky, so make sure your photographer knows how to work in those conditions.

  1. Barn Wedding

Pros:

  • Capacity: There are no limits to how many guests you can host inside and outside a barn! This makes barn weddings a go to choice for a large groups of families. The sky’s the limit!
  • Charm & textures: As artists, we get high off barn locations because there are so many textures and lighting scenarios to work with. Exposed beams and raw textures make for beautiful countryside inspired wedding photographs.
  • Intimate wedding feel: If you want an intimate, laid back, yet super fun setting, a barn wedding is definitely something to consider. I love them for their small wedding feel and vibe.
  • Blank canvas: You have free rein over decor and styling. Bring in dramatic chandeliers and draping and you have a glamourous affair. Keep your decor to candles and dimmed light, and you’ll have yourself an intimate dinner. Let your imagination run free!
  • Natural light: I love barn weddings for the amount of natural light I can work with during the ceremony if it’s outside. Because of their proximity to nature, I can also take my couples to do their creative portraits in the nearby woods for wedding pictures that will look spectacular printed in a frame.

Cons:

  • Unpredictable weather: If you’re committed to an outdoor ceremony or reception, make sure you’re prepared for the craziest of weather scenarios. Stacking up on clear umbrellas and warm blankets would be a good idea.  
  • Indoor lighting: Barns tent to be pretty dark, so make sure you have enough lighting for the reception. Wooden walls and ceilings may make the flash coverage tricky, so make sure you’re getting an experienced photographer who’s been there and done that..
  • Transportation: Barns and farms are usually located at least an hour or two away from the city. Make sure you consider transportation time for your guests and make necessary accommodations.

I hope you find this guide helpful! Whether we’ve been there before or not, here at Mango Studios our photographers always do their homework and scout your venue. We are also pride ourselves in maintaining great relationships with top venues who pinpoint the best backdrops, suites and views. As always, feel free to pick my brain on all things weddings and reach out to me using the form here