If you are a couple looking for unique ceremony sites, first off, know that you aren’t alone! Lots of couples are opting for an interesting place to tie the knot that isn’t the typical banquet hall or church setting.

Photo credit: Aron Goss Photography

Here are a few of my tips for when you are scouting for the perfect location:

Are there chairs?

This seems like a no-brainer, but if you are looking at unique spaces that aren’t typically used for wedding ceremonies, sometimes they are just an empty shell of a space and you must bring everything in. Take this into account for budgeting purposes, because renting chairs can run you $5-10 a pop, with a delivery/setup fee. With 100 guests, that can run you close to an extra $1000 you must account for. Need a signing table? You might need to rent this too.

Alternatively, if you are interested in holding a standing ceremony without chairs for guests, at the very least ensure that elderly and important family members have a seated spot. If having a standing ceremony, ensure that you and your spouse are elevated so everyone can see you.

Limited choices in ceremony spaces only

If you are setting out to find a ceremony site that is separate from your reception site, and you are looking for something fab, know that it may be a difficult find (not impossible, just challenging!). Many venues only allow ceremony plus receptions to be held at their venue, and not just the ceremony only. The venues that do allow ceremony only may only allow them at a certain time of the day (usually morning), so that the reception plus ceremony clients can still get booked. Know that this will limit some of your planning, but as long as you are flexible and open-minded, you will have options.

If you don’t have a reception site in mind yet, consider finding a venue that has two spaces that can be used – one for the ceremony and one for the reception. I’m not a huge fan of the room flipping, because it’s more interesting for guests to move from one room/event to the next. Ideally a space would have an outdoor or terrace ceremony where you can hold a ceremony and pass around some cocktails, then a beautiful indoor space that is set up for the reception.

If held outdoors, what is your backup plan for rain?

If your ideal ceremony is envisioned outdoors, ensure that you are asking what sort of backup plans a venue has in the case of inclement weather. Sometimes this is an indoor room that will also be reserved and sometimes they will suggest renting a tent. Tents can also run a hefty rental fee, so be sure to price this out ahead of time to know what you are getting into. If the backup plan is indoors in a room, make sure you can also picture yourself getting married there. On the off chance you get bad weather and are tying the knot inside, be sure that you would be just as happy with that indoor setting.

At the ceremony pictured above at Graydon Hall Manor, we worked with the venue to have 2 backup plans. The ideal ceremony plan was to hold it outdoors on the grass. In case of rain, we would hold the ceremony on the covered patio. What actually happened was a ceremony held on the terrace, because the grass was still wet from raining the night before, but it wasn’t raining the day of to need the covered tent. Good thing we walked through each scenario at the rehearsal!

If holding your ceremony outdoors in the summer heat, consider reading up on my tips for how to keep your guests cool in my past post here.

Need help in your search?

If you’ve set out to find the perfect ceremony (or reception site) and are coming up with no luck, consider bringing on a wedding planner to help you out. Quite often, they will have insider knowledge of venues that might or might not work for your situation, and they can help do the legwork of the research and calling.

For me, my experience is not only in weddings but also in the special events industry, opening up my pool of knowledge to the newest event venues and latest trends (not just typical wedding venues). I thrive on finding the perfect venue for my couples! My wedding planning packages can be found here and to get in touch, simply send me an email at weddings[at]rebeccachan.ca.

Rebecca Chan is a Toronto event designer and event planner. If you have a brand activation, media launch event, design project, trade show or a special event, connect with her today to see how we can collaborate on your next project.