10 Questions to Ask Potential Wedding Venues

Photo by Ray + Kelly

Photo by Ray + Kelly

The start of a new year always gets me reflecting on beginnings, and today, I’m thinking about what is often the beginning of the wedding planning process: finding the perfect venue.

In my opinion, choosing your venue is one of the most important - and sometimes difficult - parts of the wedding planning process. Since the date and the venue go hand-in-hand, not much else can be planned until the venue is chosen, a reality sometimes leaves couples feeling rushed and slightly panicked. My best advice as you start to look for venues: take your time. See several venues, ask lots of questions and give yourself time to figure out which place is the best for your big day.

So, if you are starting the venue search, congratulations! This is such an exciting time - enjoy it. To help guide you through this crucial first step in the planning process, I’m sharing 10 questions to ask a potential wedding venue. Since each venue is different, some of these may not apply to all venues, but they’re good things to keep in mind regardless!

Photo by Willow + Stone Photography

Photo by Willow + Stone Photography

1. What items are included in the price? Tables, Chairs, Linens, Candles, Signage, Sound System?

Especially if you’re looking at renting a raw space for your wedding, it’s important to know what items you’ll need to rent. If you’re looking at a more all-inclusive venue, ask to see the included items so you can account for any items you might want to rent replacements for.

2. Do you have an onsite coordinator? What is his/her role?

Some venues will have an event manager who will be your point of contact throughout the planning process. Be sure to ask what his or her involvement will be up to and on the day of the event and the role of the event staff onsite. Will they set up the tables, chairs and linens? Will they be there in case there is a power outage or problem with the bathroom?

A note here --- the site’s event manager is not a substitute for a wedding planner. The event manager will likely have extremely valuable insight about vendors who have worked in the space before, floor plans and room layouts, timelines and more. But when it comes to your floral contract, photography and hair and make-up schedule and rehearsal dinner plans, you’ll likely need your planner to handle those things.

3. If there is onsite catering, are we able to make modifications to the menu without increasing the cost? Are we able to bring in our own cake, beverages, etc.?

One of the great benefits to full-service venues is the convenience of having the catering in-house. But if you have specific kinds of foods you want to serve, or are dreaming of a family-style meal or have a special bakery in mind for your desserts, find out what flexibility there is to customize your menu. 

Photo by Paper Antler Photography

Photo by Paper Antler Photography

4. When can we access the site for set up? When must everything be removed from the premises?

If you’re planning to hire vendors for an elaborate installation, it’ll be important that your vendors have enough time prior to the event for load in and load out. If there is a strict timetable, that will be important to know. If you’re planning on doing any decorating or set up yourself, a wider timetable will be helpful.

5. Do you have any exclusive vendors that must be used for certain services? Any vendors you recommend in particular?

Some venues will have required vendors for certain services, like catering or lighting. Make sure you know what vendors you can use in the space so you can plan and budget accordingly. Also, ask for their favorite vendors --- the venue will have seen hundreds of weddings and will have some great recommendations of vendors who have done good work in their space. Pick their brain to get their favorites! 

6. What are your insurance requirements? For us, for our vendors?

Some venues will require you to get insurance to cover the event. If so, you’ll need to factor that into your budget and make sure to get that done. Also, if your vendors are required to have insurance, that will be important to know when you are interviewing vendors. 

7. Are there any limitations on what decorations we can use? I.E. candles, hanging fixtures, confetti, sparklers?

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but if you have your heart set on doing a sparkler exit at the end of the night, make sure the venue allows it! Be sure to ask about candles (if you can have any live flames, if they need to be contained in a vessel, etc.), and suspending decor from the ceilings if you plan to have those.

Photo by Matt Haas

Photo by Matt Haas

8. Are there spaces onsite for the couple and wedding party to get ready and store items?

If there isn’t enough space for the couple and the wedding party to get ready onsite, you’ll need to budget for a hotel room or another space for that to happen. You’ll also need a space (preferably a lockable one) for storing purses, valuables, etc. for you and your VIPs.

9. Are there any noise or timing restrictions we should be aware of?

Some venues will have curfews (i.e. all events end at 11pm), or sound limitations that will need to be adhered to. If you’re dreaming of a 10-piece band but the space has a strict decibel limit, you might run into some issues.

10. Are there any weekends or dates we should avoid?

Be sure to ask the venue about local festivals, graduation weekends or holidays that might impact on certain dates and weekends. For example, I live in the Hudson Valley, and there are a ton of colleges in this area. On graduation weekends, the local hotels will often refuse to set up wedding room blocks since they have such high demand for rooms. 

Good luck as your start searching for your perfect venue! Need a little help along the way? Get in touch --- I’d love to help you.


You're Engaged....Now What?!

Photo by    Ray + Kelly

Photo by Ray + Kelly

Happy 2019! I am so excited to get to work this year on making beautiful weddings and celebrations. If you are recently engaged, or soon to be engaged, or just getting around to planning your wedding, CONGRATS! Marriage, in my opinion, is the literal best, and if you let it be, this engagement season can be incredibly special and fun.

So, you’re engaged. Now what? If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure of how to get started, you are not alone! Here are three steps you should take to get started on the right foot:

1. ENJOY! First, before you do anything, take a deep breath, and just enjoy. Tell your family and friends, celebrate over dinners and drinks, post those ring selfies on Instagram, and snuggle with your intended and giggle and dream and soak in the joy. Give yourselves time to celebrate before you begin to plan in earnest.

Photo by    Audre Rae Photography   , Bouquet by    Daffodil Parker

2. Get on the same page. This one is important! Before you begin planning this wedding, take time to make sure that you and your fiance are one the same page. If you were anything like me, you might already have some visions and dreams and expectations about how you’d like the wedding to turn out, so take the time to catch your fiance up on those things. Above all, you want to make sure that you plan your wedding as a team. Be sure to talk about these things, and any others that occur to you:

  • Your priorities for the wedding. Perhaps you dream of a live band for dancing, and your fiance is dead set on serving your guests food ‘till they drop at cocktail hour. Spend time outlining your top 5 wedding priorities separately, and then discuss them together. Then, come up with your collective top 5 priorities to guide you as you plan.

  • Finances. Will you be paying for the wedding yourselves, or will funds be coming from multiple sources? How will you decide to spend that money? When you create your budget, keep your top 5 priorities in mind! For some couples, a wedding is the first large set of financial decisions that they make together. Make it a priority to address these decisions with clarity and open communication.

  • Planning strategy. Make sure you talk about how you will plan this wedding --- how much time you’re willing to dedicate each week to planning, if one or both of you will be in charge of certain aspects of the planning, and who else’s opinion (if anyone’s) will factor into major decision making. Setting clear guidelines and expectations early on will prevent friction down the line.

Photo by    Tim Tab Studios

3. Think Big [Picture]. Now that you’re on the same page, it’s time to get planning! I always tell my couples to focus on the big picture --- the who, when, where and why --- and the rest will fall into place. Allow me to explain:

  • Who - The guest list! Before you choose a venue, you need to know how many people you’re inviting.

  • When - When do you want to get married? Is that time frame flexible? Also, speak to your VIPS (family, bridesmaids and groomsmen, special friends) to see if there are any timing or specific date commitments you need to be aware of.

  • Where - Where do you want to get married? Someplace in the city or in the country? Maybe a destination wedding? Do you want to spend part of the day outdoors, or all indoors? Do you need to choose a venue that is close to an airport or public transportation?

  • Why - This one is important! Why are you having a wedding? What is stopping you from running down to the courthouse and tying the knot quick and easy? If it’s because you’ve always wanted to throw an all-out dance party with your favorite people, then plan that wedding. If it’s because you want to honor traditions passed down by your families, then make sure to plan that wedding. Use your “why” (and there may be a few) in conjunction with your top 5 priorities and I’m pretty sure you’ll start to get a clear picture of the day.

Planning a wedding can seem overwhelming, but I firmly believe that if you start off on the right foot --- happy, on the same page and in agreement on your “why” --- wedding planning will be tremendously fun. Do you need some extra support as you plan your wedding? Get in touch with me --- I'd love to support you through this special time.


Editorial Shoot: Orchard Love

Inspired by love in a time of moderation, we pieced together this gorgeous day with the help of some of Madison's finest wedding vendors. Vintage furniture, mismatched china, local flowers and a quilt rack backdrop and a custom gown came together to create this sweet editorial shoot.

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Design: Canvas Weddings | Gown: Monirose Bespoke Gowns | Florals: Alluring Blooms | Cake: Bloom Bake Shop Rentals: A La Crate Vintage Rentals | Linen: Midwest Textiles

Real Canvas Wedding: Laura + Cody

Laura & Cody's wedding was a fabulous combustion of class, style and a hint of bohemian flair. Set against the stunning backdrops of Luther Memorial Church, The Wisconsin State Capitol and The Edgewater Hotel, this day featured textured florals, soft colors and live-band dancing. Many thanks to  BellowBlue for the gorgeous images of this amazing day!


Planning/Coordination: Canvas Weddings | Florals: Flora by Jamae | Ceremony Venue: Luther Memorial Church | Reception Venue: The Edgewater Hotel | Rentals: Event EssentialsA La Crate Vintage Rentals |
Cake: Craig's Cakes | Photography: BellowBlue

Real Canvas Wedding: Brittany + Stu


I first met Brittany and Stuart for the best of reasons --- our dogs. We lived in the same apartment building in Madison, and they had just gotten their dog, Bear when our paths crossed taking the dogs outside.. He and my dog, Rhino, became fast friends, and so did we. It wasn't long before they brought me on board to work with them on their June wedding. 

Brittany and Stuart's wedding was the essence of taste, elegance and simple class. They combined their love of Madison (their reception took place in UW's Wisconsin Institute for Discovery) with lovely flowers, good beer, soft lighting and delicious food --- a recipe for a fantastic party. Brittany and Stuart, thank you for having me (and pretty much all of my favorite wedding vendors) on board for this amazing day. And, thanks to Booth Photographics for these stunning images!


Planning & Design: Canvas Weddings | Photography: Booth Photographics | Ceremony Venue: St. Thomas Aquinas Church | Reception Venue: Wisconsin Institute for Discovery | Florals: Alluring Blooms Rentals: Event EssentialsA La Crate Vintage Rentals

My Story: Why I Became a Wedding Planner

Me on my wedding day. Photo by    Evan Hunt   .

Me on my wedding day. Photo by Evan Hunt.

Two days before my wedding, I had a massive panic attack. It was just after 10:00pm, and I was sitting on my bed in my parents' house watching Season 3 of The Office on my computer when suddenly, and out of nowhere, my throat started to close up. I felt like I couldn’t take in air, so I stumbled to my parents’ bedroom asking for Benadryl, convinced I was having an allergic reaction to something I had eaten. Fortunately, my mother knew relatively quickly what was happening to me, and sat up with me as my body was seized with tension and terror for the next hour or so. The next morning, she took me to a doctor who prescribed an emergency dose of Xanax, which I took faithfully for the next few days --- including on my wedding day.

Let’s back up. This story really begins years earlier. The college I went to was small and conservative, and therefore produced a large crop of young marriages between recently graduated students. Many of my friends were engaged towards the end of my college experience, and I’m not sure why exactly, but many of them gravitated towards me for wedding advice and assistance. I honestly had no idea what I was talking about, but before long I was regularly assembling DIY invitations, making timelines and researching photographers for friends. I enjoyed looking at wedding blogs on occasion, but I was young and single, and hadn’t given any of it much serious thought.

But then my sister got engaged to her now-husband. She was out of state and in law school at the time, so she really had no time or energy to dedicate to planning a wedding. So, a lot of wedding work fell to me, and I loved it. I loved getting to honor my relationship with my sister by planning a day that was just like her --- classic, but whimsically fun. Long story short, the wedding was beautiful, and even ended up getting featured in the pages of Brides Chicago magazine. I was hooked.

My sister’s wedding - the first I ever planned. Photo by    Emily Johnston   .

My sister’s wedding - the first I ever planned. Photo by Emily Johnston.

By this time, I was dating the man who would become my husband, and although he didn’t know it, I had become slightly wedding-obsessed. By the time we got engaged, I was religiously following wedding blogs and had secretly been making phone calls to wedding venues to check on availability.

Something you should know about me (and something my husband could tell you all about), is that I am an internal processor --- I process my thoughts and feelings in the privacy of my own mind, and it’s rare that I actively seek out the input of others on decisions that primarily effect only me. In short, I was already pre-disposed to not asking for help when it came to my wedding --- not to mention that I was terrified of being labeled a wedding-obsessed (I hate this word) Bridezilla. Early on, I had decided that I would avoid talking about my wedding with my friends.

Not only was I committed to keeping my wedding planning private, but I had also put pressure on myself to “outdo” myself by once again creating a beautiful magazine-ready wedding like I had done for my sister. Talk about a recipe for disaster --- I had convinced myself that I needed to impress everyone while burdening no one.

Fast forward to the night of the panic attack --- everything was organized, everything was done and planned and ready to go, and there I was weeping on my bed for reasons I couldn’t understand.

It took some months before I was finally able to piece together what had happened to me in the days before my wedding. Looking back, I can clearly see that I crumbled under immense pressure I had put on myself. Planning a wedding hadn’t caused me to melt down, I caused me to melt down since I didn’t know how to ask for the help that I needed.

Oftentimes when strangers learn that I’m a wedding planner, their first question for me is something along the lines of “Have you had any Bridezillas yet?” or “Have you ever had someone go crazy over something little?” I know these are well-meaning, albeit ignorant, questions for the most part, but I think that our culture doesn’t fully understand the pressure that today’s brides are really under. Difficult and stressful moments in planning weddings don’t often happen because of place cards or hair styles --- they happen because of larger stressors, like complicated family dynamics. Think about it --- the average couple has to feed and entertain perhaps hundreds of people, make hundreds of tiny decisions about one day and manage not only their own expectations about how that day should go, but often also the expectations of their families and close friends. Is it any wonder that conflict and tension can easily arise when planning a wedding?

Now, consider the pop-culture portrayals of brides that are all around us. From the reality television show “Bridezillas” depicting demanding and bossy brides run amuck to the romantic comedy “Bride Wars” where two wedding-obsessed best friends nearly ruin their friendship in pursuit of their dream weddings,  the message seems clear: weddings make women crazy and obsessive. It’s a small wonder that so many of my brides (like I did before them) express their fear of sharing their excitement about wedding details with their single friends, for fear of being labeled “wedding-obsessed.”

John + I on our wedding day. Photo by    Evan Hunt   .

John + I on our wedding day. Photo by Evan Hunt.

Our wedding was special and sweet and everything that we wanted at the time, but I struggle to call to mind specific moments from the day. I honestly believe that this was because I was in charge of the wedding day and I was deeply invested in the success of the plans I had made. There was no one but me to make sure that our volunteer friend who MCed our wedding knew where the microphone was, no one but me to make sure that the guestbook was set where I wanted it set. I wonder how many precious, specific moments I missed with my friends and family while I was managing the schedule or running out early in the morning to buy more umbrellas when the weather forecast called for rain.

In short, am the reason I got into wedding planning as a profession. I so desperately needed someone, anyone, whose job it was to care about my wedding with me. Someone who I could trust to never tire of talking to me about place cards or first dances, someone who would step in to help before I knew that I needed to ask. Someone who would tell me, “yes, Corinne, you need to have a DJ” and that it might help ease my mingling heart if we did a receiving line. Someone who could remind me that I didn’t need to impress anyone at all, and that it was OK to feel strongly about having pretty chairs.

So, in honor of that earnest girl who put her entire wedding on her shoulders, I make a living at sharing the load with brides who are just like me. In the end, I want to give my couples what I so desperately needed: the freedom to experience every moment of their wedding day and the reminder to go easy on themselves. I think it’s important.