I caught a proposal in real time this weekend. My husband and I were at one of our favorite restaurants near the boardwalk. On the other side of the room, there was a young couple sitting across from each other at a tiny round table. They were too far away to hear anything, but like a magnet, my attention swung over to them as soon as he reached across the table for her hand. There was a knowing look in her eyes even before he spoke. The restaurant was full and buzzing with activity, but they were in their own little love bubble. When she answered, his smile revealed complete vulnerability. She started laughing and crying. I did my best to contain my own tears for their sake, hopeless romantic that I am.

It is definitely engagement season, but the number of proposals popping up all around us doesn’t make any of them less special. It does, however, mean there are a lot of other couples starting to make plans and reserve vendors and venues, which are in limited supply. What is the one most important detail to lock down? Your venue—because until you’ve booked that space and time, all of your efforts are only hypothetical.

Why the Venue Has to Come First

Let’s look at a list of the details you can’t put into motion until you book the venue:

• Sending out Save the Dates

• Reserving the date with a photographer and entertainment

• Determining the best catering option for your space

• Deciding on a theme and color scheme that fits the space—and all the theme-driven details

You may have a clear vision in your mind of how the wedding will look and feel, but none of those details stand alone. The sooner you can graduate from thinking about potential details to grounding your vision in reality, the more likely your dream wedding will actually come true.

Don’t Get Stuck on a Date If It Limits Everything Else

Let your venue inform when you get married, not the other way around. You may have a sentimental attachment to a date now, but your wedding is going to be its own kind of special, independent of external associations. It’s one thing to have a season in mind or to navigate restrictions around work or school, but if you get attached to a certain date up front, it will limit the where and how of your wedding dream. Many venues fill up six months to a year in advance, especially in the Santa Cruz area because it’s such a popular spot for destination weddings. I meet with couples who have their hearts set on a particular calendar date, and they find themselves hopping around from one venue to another holding their breath. Your dream wedding is not a competition to be won, but you do need to put your priorities in order so you won’t have to make compromises based on what’s available to you. If you put the venue first, you could already be making decisions and locking down other vendors and details.

Pinterest Is Not Taking Reservations

All of the imagining you’ve done so far is valuable, but Pinterest is not a venue. I can’t put into words the experience of walking through a space and feeling the possibilities coming to life. Countless times, couples have come to tour our venue with lots of specific ideas in mind—all inspired by other people’s stories and photos—but as soon as they start walking around, their vision takes on a life of its own (as it should). The venue itself introduces possibilities you hadn’t run across in your preliminary planning: maybe you’ll be able to incorporate more outdoor components than you’d originally imagined, and maybe you’ll want to rely on the natural elegance of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the redwoods, and the gardens more than on added decorations. Whatever that maybe turns out to be, you won’t know until you’re there.

Get Clear on What You Need and Want from Your Venue

Sit down together and come up with two lists: the things you really need from your venue, and the things you want from your venue. They might look something like this:

wants and needs list for the perfect wedding venue

Why should you settle for anything less than falling in love with your venue? As the setting that makes all of the details possible and influences the atmosphere, it plays the biggest role in how your wedding day actually comes together—more than the date itself, more than the dress or the music or the food. So plan some visits! Give yourself the opportunity to fall in love all over again—because your venue will be there with you for all of your wedding moments and all of your memories.

Chances are good that the items on your Needs list won’t change, but the Wants could very well be informed by what you find as you tour different venues—you may decide to compromise on things, or you may find that a venue makes it possible to upgrade those wants in ways you hadn’t imagined possible. Either way, experiencing venues in person takes the thinking and planning about your wedding from abstract ideas to realities. Plus, when you visit venues together and both of you have the chance to start imagining your wedding in a real way, there’s a better chance that you’ll both be involved in the planning together!

Because Kennolyn is a private venue, each tour is an entirely unique experience geared toward your interests and hopes for your big day. Visit our Weddings page for more details, and then get in touch with us to schedule a visit.

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