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Close your eyes and imagine your wedding: What do you see?

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POSTED January 24, 2013 6:20 p.m.

While other elements of the big day might flash by in a blur, images of your venue and the way it made you feel to be there will remain with you forever. It's important to take time to envision your entire event's style and the atmosphere you want to remember -- whether it's funky and hip, elegant and modern, or intimate and sentimental. Think about places you have visited, parties you have enjoyed and other things close to you that bring you joy.

SETTING THE STAGE

Tara Wilson, a professional wedding planner and president of Tara Wilson Events in Fort Worth, Texas, says there are a few main style cues. A traditional bride might lean toward a church wedding and hotel reception, while someone who is earthy and free-spirited might do best outdoors, in a barn or in custom tents. Eclectic brides might consider environments that are new and modern, such as a boutique or hotel, or even something old and historic, like a library or mansion.

Once you have narrowed down the choices -- at least a little bit -- it's important to visit multiple venues to get a real idea of what they offer. Many questions will begin to pop up. Marcia Hemphill, professional wedding planner of Chicago-based An Urban Affair, recommends considering overall budget, the city where you are getting married, the number of guests you expect and the overall style and ambiance you desire. Other details to consider may range from the dates and times certain venues are available, the space rental fee and what it includes, what materials are provided (tables, chairs, linens) and whether other parties can be held at the same time. Don't be afraid to keep asking questions. Every venue is different in its rental inclusions and capabilities.

LOCATION CONSIDERATIONS

Some venues offer in-house catering, which can simplify planning by reducing the number of vendors you must juggle. Hotels are making a comeback for this reason; their fees generally cover all venue and catering costs. Consider locations that can host both your ceremony and reception to make planning and guest coordination more manageable.

"Brides are valuing their guests' convenience in not having to travel back and forth for the wedding and reception," Wilson says.

According to Hemphill, art galleries will continue to be a popular venue. They are increasingly open to hosting private evvents. Another option is a simple, loft-like space.

"Raw spaces are popping up more and more," she says. "In these spaces, the rules are generally much more flexible. You can bring the caterer you want, provide your own liquor, decorate as much or as little as you would like and really make it your own."

For all the venues, don't forget the significant details.

"Always look at the bathrooms," Hemphill warns. "That could be a deal-breaker."

Plan strategically and separate your wants from your deal-breakers. The first thing to consider: The number of guests at the reception, which will have the greatest affect on your bottom line. According to wedding planner Tara Wilson, many brides are favoring more intimate environments over lavish extravaganzas as a way to stay simple without sacrificing quality. "Home-style venues, including backyards and homes, are gaining popularity," she says. "We're also seeing a rise in unexpected locations, such as boats and bowling alleys."

 

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