Once you are done budgeting, you should figure out where you are having your ceremony. Are you getting married in your parents church? Your fiance's synagogue? Or did you want to have your ceremony and reception in the same place? The reason for figuring this out first is simple. If you are getting married in your church, you should not hold your reception an hour away from your church, especially on a Friday or Sunday. Most of your guests will not attend your ceremony if the reception is far away from the ceremony location. Also, places of worship can only accommodate one wedding at a time, so you need to book them first.
If words like "vintage", "rustic", or "boho" describe your dream wedding, you probably want a more informal wedding. Informal wedding venues include barns, wineries, art galleries, and historic landmarks, just to name a few. A lot of informal wedding venues do not include catering at their venue, so be prepared to look for a caterer.
Next, come up with a rough number of guests. There is a huge difference between a 70 person wedding and a 270 person wedding. The higher the number of guests you need to invite, the harder it is to find a venue. If you need a space for 300 guests, your options on venues will be limited.
Your reception venue and food will cost the most money from your wedding budget, so it is important to take your time making this important decision.
Schedule a tour with the Venue Coordinator. These are usually done on weekdays or early in the morning on weekends (venues are busy holding events on the weekends!). Bring a list of questions with you, take pictures, and take notes! If you're going to see a few venues, you might start getting confused about the different venues. If you plan on getting married at your reception venue, look at the exact location of where you would be getting married. If it's outside, ask what the back up plan is for rain. Can you imagine yourself getting married there if it rains? If you are undecided between two venues, ask to do a food tasting. Sometimes this will help determine your venue! And always look for online reviews or ask the venue to provide you with references. If you know someone who recently had their wedding at the venue, reach out to them and ask them about their experience.
If the venue has a "preferred vendors" list, ask if you have to use these vendors. Most venues will let you bring in your own insured vendors, but some venues do not allow this. Always ask before you sign!