Finding your place: How to pick the perfect spot for your wedding

Cara Sullivan / New York Times News Service /

Published Jan 6, 2013 at 04:00AM

Here’s a little secret to designing the day of your dreams: Pick a meaningful wedding location, and the rest of the details — from the date to the decor and even your dress — will naturally fall in line.

Select a style

Your venue’s vibe sets the tone for your entire event. What type of bride are you?

• Homebody: “Exchanging vows at your family’s house or a private manse is personal and intimate,” says event designer Samantha Darr, of Soireebliss Events in Houston.

The pros: You set the timing (within town ordinances, at least), choose vendors and have freedom with decorations. The cons: Renting everything (linens, tableware, tents, portable bathrooms) gets pricey.

• Beachgoer: Sizzling sunsets and lapping waves supply mood, atmosphere and some free decor. Just have a Plan B for high winds, rain or excessive heat.

• Traditionalist: A reception in a hotel or club’s event space can be a grand experience — ballroom dancing and all. You may have to work with its preferred vendors, but there’s often a built-in rain plan and existing decor.

• Nonconformist: If a unique place is a priority, look at an art gallery, a museum, loft space or century-old bank. Be sure to inquire about noise restrictions, security issues and food or drink stipulations (some sites don’t allow red wine, for example).

Stick to your bottom line

Repeat after us: “I will not blow my budget on the venue. I will not blow my budget on the venue.” Follow these pointers.

• Pick a number: As a rule of thumb, “plan on spending no more than 10 to 15 percent of your overall finances to the location fee,” Darr says.

Since costs are as varied as the spaces, it pays to shop around. A public park, for example, may require only a small donation, while an urban loft could charge $15,000 and up.

• Price out a few dates: Saturday nights during wedding season (June through October) are generally the most expensive. Opting for a Friday or Sunday will likely knock off a few thousand dollars, as will choosing a less popular month.

• Do the math: “When you take rentals into account, a bare-bones venue could end up costing more than a pricier, all-inclusive one,” says Darr.

If you fall hard for a spendy spot, investigate what, exactly, you’re getting for your money. If you’re still swooning over a perk-free place that’s out of your range, jot down a list of the particular elements you loved about the site, and use it to refocus your search. Decide on distance

Once the miles are traveled, a destination wedding can offer a dayslong celebration for you and your nearest and dearest. Don’t book that flight, though, until you answer these four questions.

• Will your VIPs be able to travel?

It’s one thing if your fourth cousin can’t make it, but if Grandpa has health concerns or your sister is too pregnant to fly, “you should stay close,” says Darr. Extenuating circumstances aside, it’s normal for fewer guests to RSVP for an event that’s far away or potentially costly.

• Can you afford a planner?

If your answer is no, you may want to unpack that suitcase. You’ll need someone in the know to negotiate permits, customs and other specifics of the region where you’re swapping vows

• Are you up to playing host?

“When you ask loved ones to take a vacation on your behalf, every moment has to be considered,” says event designer David Beahm, of David Beahm Design in New York City. As unofficial tour guide, you’ll spend time planning pre-wedding activities — some of which you might want to foot the bill for.

• Are you willing to relinquish control?

Flexibility is crucial, especially when executing an overseas affair. Your vendor and rental options will likely be limited, the majority of your communication will take place over email or video chat, and you can expect a last-minute change or two. All of which means: Type A brides, be wary.

Your venue can be pretty in pink

It’s time to rethink pink! Sure, it can be sweet and girlie, but when you reimagine the color all grown up, it brings style, polish and a playful attitude to any nuptials.

Play up your posies

Gather ye rosebuds — and zinnias, protea and lisianthus — in an array of romantic hues, and then pass them on to your equally colorful attendants. Just as no two flowers are exactly alike, neither are your bridesmaids. Supply a selection of distinct bouquets, and let each tote her favorite:

• Packed with personality, an electrifying assembly of “Yves Piaget” roses, andromeda, protea and curcuma is tailor-made for your pluckiest pal.

• It doesn’t get more charming than a softly shaded cluster of zinnias, curcuma and astilbe.

• Have a doe-eyed dreamer among your ranks? She’ll love the enchanting vintage vibe of a clutch of dusky protea, lisianthus and garden roses.

Paper Trail

For a clever and super-easy way to pep up plain programs, print your knot-tying info on a piece of white card stock, and then slip it into a tinted Jam Paper vellum sleeve (from 40 cents each, jampaper.com). The sheaths come in several shades, so you can coordinate them with any color scheme. For even more festiveness, toss in confetti made from hole-punched construction paper.

Set a soft scene

Stick to a less-is-more approach, and your pinks will really pop. A neutral backdrop can provide the canvas for a striking tablescape. Think luxe velvet runner, gilded votives, sparkling rose wine, and bunches of densely clustered dahlias, garden roses, andromeda and protea. And keep things short and chic — soaring centerpieces and towering tapers need not apply.