Are you planning on getting married in Detroit? Are you envisioning your perfect venue in the city? As you're dreaming about your day, I've created a list of 10 things to consider before your book your Detroit wedding venue! After documenting countless weddings in Downtown Detroit and Metro Detroit, I've learned a thing or two about what to look for when choosing a venue. I've learned from my past clients' mistakes and I'm here to tell you everything you need to know before your book your wedding venue in Detroit. A wedding in the city is timeless, yet contemporary! It can be exhilarating and fun, or laidback and casual. I'm here to help you choose your perfect venue! Check out my list below, and don't skip number 5!
1. Availability and Tours
As you begin your search for the perfect Detroit wedding venue, you need to first check if the venue is available for your desired date(s). If you have a season you’d love to get married in, rather than a set date, you’re more likely to find availability. As you’re checking availability, make sure you ask about any upcoming projects or renovations that may interfere with your wedding. Yes, couples have had renovations happening during their wedding, it’s not great! Additionally, ask if there will be any other weddings at the same venue on your planned date. Also, typically venues book at least one year in advance, but sometimes they have more openings in off-seasons such as winter.
As you’re checking availability, make sure that the venue is available for a tour as well! Even if it’s just a virtual tour, it’s a good idea to do a walkthrough of the space so that you can fully envision it for your big day!
2. Capacity and Space
Thinking about your guest list, you want to make sure that your venue can fit everyone you desire to invite! You want to be at or under capacity, as venues legally cannot go over capacity limits. Don’t forget about your vendors! They’re often included in the count as well. To get the best idea of what the space will look like full of guests, furniture, etc. you can ask to schedule a tour when the venue is set up for a similar-sized wedding so you can see the layout of the tables and how much space there is. If this isn’t possible, you can always search the venue online to find photographs.
When you’re envisioning the layout, be sure to consider additional spaces and layout. Sometimes there are other rooms or areas that are designated for cocktail hour, mingling, dancing, etc. If you want the cocktail hour in one room and the reception in another (highly recommended for logistics) ask if this is a possibility. Also, some smaller venues have two separate areas for dinner and dancing. Consider how that will impact the flow of your wedding.
As you're planning the space, make sure that there isn’t too much extra room as well. All that extra space can affect the experience. Guests will often spread out to the space you have designated. If you’re planning a micro wedding or elopement, choose appropriate venues for that size of wedding!
Here’s a list of my favorite micro wedding and elopement venues in Detroit!
3. Style and Ambiance
Your venue truly sets the tone for your wedding. Make sure it fits your style or can be adapted to fit your style! If you’re not sure about what style you want, head over to Pinterest for some inspiration. Since your venue is the backdrop for your wedding, or at least your reception, make sure it fits both you and your partner's vision. Touring the venue can help you envision the space as well! When considering style, ask yourself if you want something that feels vintage or modern? Classic or contemporary? Dark and moody or light and airy? Some factors that can affect the style are lighting and view! Think about the type of natural light available or what type of lighting they offer. Do you want large chandeliers or large windows? Do you want to overlook the Detroit skyline or the Detroit River?
When considering the style and ambiance of the venue, think about the exterior, the architecture, the decor that cannot be removed (like wall art and lighting). Consider all aspects, big and small, as each will impact the feel of your wedding. If there are certain elements you don't love, ask if they can be removed, replaced, or covered up. It's amazing how drapery can transform a space!
If you’d like some examples of different styles of venues in Detroit, check out my list below!
For a great view of Detroit, check out The Monarch Club.
For a great view of the Detroit River, check out Waterview Loft at Port Detroit.
For beautiful natural lighting, check out the Highland Detroit.
For great artificial lighting, check out the Detroit Opera House.
For rustic and modern, check out the Whiskey Factory.
For classic and timeless, check out The Colony Club.
For clean and edgy, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
For bold and vibrant, check out the Majestic Detroit, Theatre and Alley Deck.
For natural and scenic, check out Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory.
The experience that you have on your wedding day is important, but also the experience for your guests! While considering the ambiance you want to create, consider the experience you want to curate as well.
From the moment your guests arrive, the wedding experience begins. For some guests, that will be when they pull up to the venue, for others that will be when they check into their hotel. Check your venue to see if they partner with hotels nearby and if you can book a block of rooms. Oftentimes, these hotels will also offer shuttle services. Luckily, in Downtown Detroit there are a variety of amazing hotels that your guests can choose from! Some venues are even hotels, like The Antheneum, Shinola Hotel, and The Westin Book Cadillac.
If guests are not staying at a hotel, then consider how they are getting to the venue and where they are parking! If you need to direct guests to the parking garage, rather than the venue, make sure you specify that on your invitation or your wedding website if you create one. Ask your venue if they have a designated parking lot or structure. Ask if there is an additional cost associated with parking and if a valet is available as well.
This may be overlooked at times, but make sure all of your guests can easily access the venue. It should be fully handicap accessible, including elevators and ramps when needed.
Acoustics is another aspect of the experience that is never even considered. If it's a smaller venue that will be full of guests, consider the volume level. Similarly, if it’s a larger venue with fewer guests, will it echo? This is especially important to consider if you’re having a live band. You want to make sure that your guests can enjoy the music, clearly hear it from any place in the room, but not be too loud. The same goes for speeches. You want guests in the back to be able to hear your hilarious maid of honors speech!
Another key factor for the experience is privacy. Is the venue connected to another space, such as a bar or restaurant? Are you going to have exclusive access to the venue? Is it easy for party crashers to wander in? Things to look out for and ask about!
5. Photographic Opportunites
Of course, as a photographer, I have to bring up photography! As your selecting your venue, consider the photographic opportunities at the venue or nearby in the city. Does your venue offer space or a suite to get ready? If so, consider the aesthetics and if there is enough natural light. Does your venue have a gorgeous lounge, rooftop terrace, balcony, or stunning staircase that would be perfect for photographs? Having indoor spaces inside of your venue is also great if it's raining. Maybe you planned to take photographs around Detroit, but the weather isn't cooperating. Having a large enough space to fit your entire bridal party at your venue is perfect if that situation arises!
Your venue may not have many photographic opportunities inside, but consider the architecture of the building! Just to name a few, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Belle Isle Casino, and Colony Club all have amazing architecture and provide a great backdrop for your photographs. Additionally, your venue may not offer a perfect backdrop, but it may be located near other ideal locations in Detroit to take your photographs. Shinola Hotel is right next to The Z Lot, The Belt, and Parker's Alley which are popular locations for photography! Similarly, Eastern Market offers wedding venue space but the surrounding architecture and murals are great stops for photographs.
6. What's Included and Amenities
Don’t assume anything is included unless specified! Some venues include tables, chairs, linens, candles, and decor while other venues don’t include anything other than the venue space. Ask about lighting, sound equipment, furniture, and access to the entire space.
When reviewing the packages that the venue offers, get clarification on anything you’re uncertain about! Ask about when you can access the space, and when you need to be cleaned up and out of the space. Ask about different bar packages, or if they don’t have their own bar, inquire about liquor licenses or bringing your own bartender. Some venues include champagne toasts with dinner, too, so make sure you ask about that as well. Inquire if there will be a coordinator there to make sure things run smoothly and if there is valet parking available.
Like I mentioned, check what staff will be present for your wedding. Will there be a coordinator on-site? Is there someone who can help with technical issues should they arise? Is there a dedicated valet crew? What about bartenders? Is there a dedicated set up and clean up crew? It’s good to know who you can count on for your wedding day!
Bathrooms should be on the top of your list! Yes, they should have restrooms available, but know how many and where. If your venue is upstairs but your restrooms are downstairs, that’s a bummer! Similarly, if there is only one lady’s room with one stall, there may be a long line. You want your guests on the dance floor, not in line to pee. Ensure that the bathrooms are clean and tidy as well!
Everyone has wifi, right? Think again! Some venues restrict wifi access to employees only, so make sure that your guests can access it. Yes, your guests shouldn’t be streaming the game or on social media all night, but if they want to post a story on Instagram of your stunning wedding, make sure they can do so with ease. DJs may need access as well. Alternatively, if you want an unplugged wedding, no wifi may be a benefit! If you want your guests to put their phones away at your wedding, make it abundantly clear in multiple places and you’ll likely need to state it more than once.
Other than wifi, you’ll want to be sure your space has enough outlets, especially if you want a DJ, a photobooth, and lights plugged in. If you want to stream lights around the venue, check to see if there are outlets on the ceiling, or if you’ll need to run extension cords from the ground. Additionally, check if your venue has AV (Audio Visual) capabilities and equipment. If you’re hiring a DJ, they often bring their own equipment, including speakers and microphones, but it’s always good to know! I once photographed a wedding where the DJ never showed up. The venue luckily had their own AV equipment, house mic, and speakers so the party could continue! I hooked up my phone to their speakers to play their first dance song!
7. Finances and Budget
This should be obvious, but make sure that the venue is in budget! You can ask for a proposal or breakdown of the costs as well. Venues often offer packages with different levels, from all-inclusive to just the basics. There are also often additional fees and taxes associated with booking your venue. If your venue is just a space that you’re renting, like The Jam Handy, and not a full package with tables, chairs, caterers, etc. think about all the additional costs associated with that venue when booking. Silverware and chair covers can add up! Before you book, make sure you understand what’s included, and be sure it’s in writing! And lastly, if you love a venue, but it’s a bit out of budget, ask if they offer discounts for weddings on Fridays, Sundays, or during off season times, like the winter.
Deposits and Refunds
Another thing you want is writing is their deposit and refund policy. You want to be fully aware of how much the deposit is, when it’s due, what type of payment they accept, and if any of it is refundable. Some venues only accept checks as their method of payment, so if you’re booking out of state, that might be a hassle! Also, with rescheduling weddings, make sure you understand (again in writing), what their full policy on rescheduling, refunding, and cancelling. You also want to be aware of when your final payment is due, sometimes it’s due up to six months prior to your wedding. Once you have all of this information, and you’re confident in booking, to secure your date, you’ll likely need a signed contract and deposit. Ask if any other couples are looking at the same date you are and if they can hold the date while you decide.
8. Limitations and Rules
If you dream about your wedding night lasting all night long on the dance floor, ask about the limitation on rental hours or how late the venue can stay open. Bars often close one hour before the party ends, so consider that as well. If you plan to party all night, consider another location nearby for an after-party! If your wedding is in Downtown Detroit, there are a ton of awesome bars in the area that you could go to. The hotel you're staying at may even have a bar for an after-party!
If you’ve got your favorite wedding planner, florist, or caterer, make sure the venue doesn’t limit any vendors! Many venues have limitations of caterers as they often offer in house catering only. If you’ve got your heart set on a caterer, find a venue that you can bring in your own food! Also, even if the venue offers a coordinator as part of the package, ask if you can have your own wedding planner or day-of coordinator! It’s often a yes!
If you want to have a sparkler exit or bring along your furry friend, be sure to ask about the venue’s rules! Often venues create limitations on any activity that can cause damage, such as sparklers, animals, etc.
9. Warning Signs
When considering which venue to choose, don’t ignore the warning signs! If the venue took months to get back to you about an inquiry, consider how long it might take them to answer an email when you have a question. As your tour the venue, think about how the staff is treating you and each other. Does the staff seem friendly and welcoming? Or are they off-putting and rude? Does the venue coordinator make you feel valued by answering all of your questions and treating you well? Or do you feel like you were on the bottom of their to do list for the day? Make sure your questions are answered directly, and not roundabout responses that leave your wondering.
Other warning signs may not be as obvious, but they’re still important. Check out the cleanliness of the venue, including the bathrooms! Make sure you stop in one of the restrooms before your leave. Also, consider the temperature. If the venue seems excessively warm and you know you’ll be drenched in sweat by the time you hit the dance floor, ask about their air conditioning. Some older venues in Detroit don’t offer air conditioning. While they’re beautiful venues, they may be best for winter or fall, instead of summer!
10. Backup Plans
Flood, fires, power outages, worldwide pandemics, you name it, you want to know the back up plan for it! If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony, ask if they have an indoor back up plan. Yes, a rooftop ceremony or reception in Detroit is stunning, but if it rains the day of your wedding, you want a plan B that can be easily implemented. Speaking of rain, if there is a crazy storm and the venue loses power, ask if they have back up generators! I say this from personal experience. One night there was a huge storm that took out the power. The venue I was photographing at had a backup generator and we never even noticed that the power went out before dinner. Had they not had a backup generator, dinner would have been delayed. A friend of mine who was photographing at a nearby venue that night, had to completely change locations because they had no backup power supply. I know, this is crazy over preparation, but these days you want to be prepared for anything!
Ask your venue, if there is a flood, fire, etc. that destroys the property, do you get a refund? Is there another space in the venue that is available? Or do they have “sister” venues nearby? These things are unlikely to happen, but it’s good to know all of your options. For examples of "sister venues", Gem and Colony Events manages The Colony Club and Gem Theatre. Additionally, on Belle Isle, there are a multitude of venues, including the Belle Isle Casino, Belle Isle Boat House, Detroit Yacht Club, Flynn Pavilion, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory.
We’ve learned from experience that the unthinkable is possible. If something were to cause the venue to close, ask about their policy for refunds, rescheduling, and changing dates, specifically to another year. Again, you want to be fully informed before you make a decision.
As you're considering all of your options for Detroit Wedding Venues, take time to sit down with your partner and make a list of things you desire before scheduling tours. You may realize that a venue isn't the right fit before you ever tour. There is a lot to take in and consider, so it's okay to take your time! Remember, as soon as you've finalized the details with your venue, start looking for wedding vendors. Wedding photographers are typically what couples book next after finalizing their date with their venue. If you'd like more insider tips, you can sign up to receive monthly emails here!
I'm over here sending you all the good vibes and best wishes as your find your Detroit wedding venue!
All my love,
There are always frequently asked questions, so I made a list just for you! If you’re interested in booking, check out my FAQ to get more information!
Curious about the investment of a wedding photographer? I get it! Reach out and let’s talk about your unique day and all the moments you want beautifully documented. You can also read about the real investment of a wedding photographer here!