Choosing Your Dream Wedding Venue

Last week I shared our reasons for having a destination wedding and our destination. In case you missed it, catch up here. I revealed that we are getting married in Florence, Italy. The next step after choosing your general location, is where within that city you want to get married and when. Today, I’m talking about choosing your venue.

As I previously mentioned, there are two ways to go about this. 1) you can decide on a date and then find a venue that has your date open or 2) you can decide on a venue and then see which dates they have open. We did the latter. We knew the general time of year we wanted to get married (which I’ll share about soon) due to work schedules, but we weren’t set on specific dates. When we began the narrowing down process in Florence, we started with venues.

I probably e-mailed thirty places. I wanted an idea of pricing, open dates in our chosen season, accommodations, etc. When we travel, I  love finding smaller, boutique hotels that have a unique feel to them to stay in. I often use Tablet Hotels as a starting point for finding these. No, this is not sponsored by Tablet (although, it probably should be). I’ve discovered so many amazing places to stay through their site so I figured I should take a look. Within Florence, I saw the stunning Villa Cora Hotel. I had e-mailed them prior after seeing gorgeous pictures of their the stunning property and the most insane mirrored-room for events. The hotel has 46 rooms which was more than we needed or could rent out, so I put that one aside as an option.

A little more research had me loving Villa La Vedetta. I mean… this terrace overlooking Florence with views of the Duomo. Can we say dream? This Villa had 18 rooms and could sleep over 40 people. We likely wouldn’t be able to exclusively rent out the property for the wedding given the minimum number of nights during high season, but we could rent the terrace for our event. This was a front runner. The more we talked about it, the more we loved the idea of having a smaller Villa that all of our guests could stay in but that wouldn’t have tons of other people around. We wanted a few days of events given the destination, so we started keeping that in mind. Villa La Vedetta remained a front-runner.

I stumbled upon Vincigliata Castle. Yup, who doesn’t want to consider a castle for their wedding? The more I looked at it, the more I realized I had seen images of this space before on Pinterest. It is truly dreamy. The castle can hold a ton of people for events and is just 25 minutes outside of Florence’s city center. However, there aren’t on-site places for people to stay and the venue fees were (rightfully so) a little steep. We wanted to continue our search and find a Villa or small hotel where we could rent it out, rather than ‘throwing’ our money away on a venue fee. We wanted to get something out of paying that, so places for people to stay or exclusive use of the grounds throughout the weekend. Onward we googled.

I looked at the Four Seasons Florence, Ad Astra, and several others. I probably looked at over 40 villas within 30 minutes of Florence. A front runner was Villa Le Piazzole. It was classic Tuscan and would accommodate everyone easily. In true Italian fashion, some of the rooms were super outdated though. But, the common spaces were gorgeous and that is where everyone would spend the bulk of their time. 

As I was looking on the aforementioned Tablet Hotels site one day, I came across Riva Lofts.  It was modern meets Tuscan and I was OBSESSED. I googled ‘weddings’ there and only came up with a small handful that had been done there. That made me love it more. I e-mailed immediately. When I didn’t hear back within hours (which I learned through this process that days for e-mail responses is totally normal) I called. Yup. I called Italy. They had gotten my e-mail and were going to send me over details. I stalked my e-mail until I got it. The prices were actually in line with what we wanted, it could sleep up to 28, was walking distance to the city center, had a pool, had a chef in house, etc. I just knew this was the spot. It’s the perfect combination of our styles and modern Tuscan charm. We started talking details.

Before you just jump and sign on the dotted line (trust me, I wanted to the second I saw this place), you need to think through some things, so I’m giving you the top questions you need answers to before making a big commitment to a venue.

questions to ask your wedding venue before signing the contract
  • Is my date available? OR what dates do you have available during ____ time frame?
  • How many people can the space hold? Is that seated or standing?
  • What fees are associate with renting the venue?
  • What does the fee include? Are there rentals included? What about parking?
  • How many hours is rental for? How much for each additional hour?
  • What is the tax and tip rate?
  • Do you set up or take down decor items? If so, is there an additional fee?
  • When do the rentals or other decorations need to be down by?
  • If the ceremony and reception will  be in the same space how will the turn around happen and how long does this take?
  • If the wedding will be outside, is there a backup location in case of inclement weather?
  • Are there restrictions on photography or videography?
  • Are there any restrictions for the space? (such as no open flame candles)
  • Are there any noise restrictions?
  • Do we need to rent sound equipment or is it provided?
  • Is there an in-house caterer or do we outsource?
  • Do you have rentals or do we use a rental company?
  • Do you have a preferred vendor list? What is the policy for approving a vendor?
  • Do we need to obtain any permits or get insurance for the wedding?
  • What is the deposit and payment schedule?
  • What forms of payment do you accept?
  • What is your cancellation policy?

PHEW! Right?! Makes my head hurt just going back through it. The great news is, that most places who do or have done weddings will have almost all of this outlined in their wedding materials or contract. Therefore, you don’t have to bombard them with questions. If not, my recommendation is to ask all of the ones you don’t have the answers to at once. That way, if the person you’re corresponding with needs time to ask a supervisor or someone else the answer to any of questions then they can before getting you a response.

Having an International wedding added a few other fun things we had to figure out such as, signing the contract based off Euros. It’s sort of like gambling to see what the exchange rate does. Luckily for us, it has been going in our favor and is the best for the US Dollar it’s  been in awhile. We hope it stays that way! Even waiting two weeks on payment saved us quite a bit because of how it has been fluctuating. We also had to go between wire transferring money or submitting credit card authorization forms. Also in our favor, our cards don’t have foreign transaction fees, but that is definitely something to consider when planning a destination wedding.

Anddd now my friends– I am so excited to share the photos of our gorgeous venue: Riva Lofts. It’s just perfect for us and I cannot wait! It will allow the majority of our guests to stay on site. We’ll be able to relax by the pool and all spend time together. This space will definitely help the family and intimate feel we are hoping for.

All photos of Riva Lofts c/o of their site. Other photos were found on the site of the mentioned hotel/villa with the exception of the castle photo, which is from Brides.Com.



My Wishlist

  1. 2.1.17
    Greta said:

    All of the photos above are the most remarkable places! Your destination wedding is going to be so beautiful!

    Greta | http://www.gretahollar.com

    • 2.2.17
      Lauren said:

      Thank you so much Greta!!

  2. 2.1.17
    Jessica Sheppard said:

    Wow! What a spectacular wedding venue. So many details to cover, but looks like a dream local. The pics are stunning , such a treasure to have once the celebration is completed. Loved learning the easiest way to do a destination wedding! So helpful!!!

    • 2.2.17
      Lauren said:

      Thanks girl! SO glad to help. It’s been a total learning process so happy to share what I’ve figured out through it.

  3. 2.1.17

    Your venue is absolutely gorgeous! I can’t even wait to see how you decorate! xx

    • 2.2.17
      Lauren said:

      Thank you! We are so excited 🙂

  4. 2.1.17
    Annet said:

    All of these venues look so perfect! Such good tips, too.

    • 2.2.17
      Lauren said:

      Thanks so much Annet!! There were so many pretty ones we found.

  5. 2.2.17
    L said:

    Aw I wish I could relive my wedding! hahaha

    • 2.2.17
      Lauren said:

      haha that’s what the pictures are for girl! 😉

  6. 2.2.17
    sarah lindner said:

    Seriously such amazing places to get married!

    Sarah Lindner

    • 2.2.17
      Lauren said:

      Thank you, Sarah. We are so excited!!

  7. 2.2.17

    I love all of these photos! Thanks so much for sharing that list of questions! I’m going to use that when it’s finally time for me ! Ha!

    • 2.2.17
      Lauren said:

      haha thanks girl! Hope it helps. XO

  8. 2.2.17
    Anna Cobbs said:

    Don’t mind me if I accidentally stay in Italy and show up to your wedding. ; ) I love the venue you chose!!

    xx – anna

    • 2.2.17
      Lauren said:

      Umm that would be FUN!!

  9. 2.2.17
    Stephanie said:

    You have me daydreaming of a wedding abroad now. I’m not even engaged, but of course I think about these things on a daily basis. How incredible is it that you get to have your wedding at such a beautiful location! I can’t wait to hear more about your planning!

    Stephanie // SheSawStyle.com

  10. 2.2.17
    Bella said:

    All these places look so pretty!!! Also awesome tips.

  11. 2.3.17
    L&W said:

    OH my goodness what an exciting post to read (aka dream of an Italian castle wedding!) Such a gorgeous venue you ended up choosing! And what a great giveaway, love Nordstrom!!

    Lindsay & Whitney

  12. 2.6.17
    Jessica said:

    Wow, these are such good tips, and I’m just so jealous you are getting married in Florence, it is such a magical city. I am saving this post for later because I just got engaged last Thursday, so I will need to remember all these questions!
    – Jessica
    Miss Moore Style

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