Booking a wedding venue isn’t as simple as it sounds

Olivia Hubert-Allen / The Baltimore Sun /

BALTIMORE — And so the wedding planning process begins.

I told myself I’d wait until after the holidays to really start thinking about it. “I want to savor my engagement,” I replied to anyone who asked about a date and location. And for a while, that worked.

But when I talked with friends, it felt like I was in an echo chamber of anxiety.

“Venues book up so fast!”

“You better set a budget!”

“How many people do you plan on?”

All the questions stressed me out and turned this seemingly-manageable task into a gargantuan one.

I only know of one way to put my mind at ease when I get stressed, and that is to get to work. So I’ve been spending my free time recently doing some extensive online research on venues. The only thing I’ve learned so far? Sam and I are a lot pickier than we like to pretend.

On the wish list:

• Somewhere with a nice ceremony space or in close proximity to the church I’ve been attending.

• Tents are OK, but we’d prefer the reception be indoors so weather isn’t a factor.

• The place can’t feel like a wedding factory.

• Wanted: unexpected, modern or scenic spaces. Not wanted: Anything that feels cliche.

• Reasonably priced.

It’s a lot to navigate, especially considering many venues don’t list prices on their website. And to make things even more tricky, there is a wide range of what comes included in the bottom-line price. Linens? Chairs? Food? A wedding coordinator? A tent?

My only piece of advice so far: learn to love Microsoft Excel.