Tips on Selecting a Wedding Venue When You’re Stuck on the ‘Where’

Cornman Farms Owner Tabitha Mason on What You Need to Know to Make This Key Decision

Marketplace Story

One of the most critical decisions engaged couples will make is choosing a ceremony and reception venue. These choices will impact almost every other choice, so it’s important to get it right, but it can be challenging to narrow down the options and find something that feels like the best fit. Tabitha Mason, managing partner at Zingerman’s Cornman Farms in Ann Arbor, shares her insights to help couples navigate the early planning stages.

1. Nail down the basics.

Mason suggests sketching out the big event by answering some basic questions that will inform your decision-making throughout the planning process:

When do you want to get married?

Are you hoping for a quick turnaround or do you want to plan farther ahead? Is your heart seat on a specific day or a particular season? “Once you announce your engagement, your well-meaning friends and family members will immediately start asking, ‘When are you going to get married?’ and being able to answer that question will buy you some time to figure things out,” Mason says.  

What is your budget?

Mason urges couples to address finances early in the process since that information will determine the wedding’s scale, guest count and overall feasibility. There’s another benefit to setting and adhering to budget early: “A well-documented budget can prevent conflicts and enhance the planning experience,” Mason explains. Trust her — as the owner of a very popular wedding venue, she’s seen it all!

Are you thinking big or small? 

Define the size of your wedding to align with your preferences and budget. “Having a general idea about whether you prefer an intimate wedding or a grand guest count will also help you think about budget and will ensure you don’t spend time looking at venues that won’t work for your wedding size,” Mason says. Most importantly, she adds, consider who you want by your side on the big day. This will help you narrow your venue options. 

Make choices that align with your values and beliefs.

“One thing we see more and more couples prioritizing is ensuring they are spending money with businesses and people whose values align with theirs,” Mason explains. “It is easier than ever to see if a vendor you are interested in shares your beliefs. You can gauge a lot of insight based on the language they use on their website and the type of content they curate can quickly reveal whether or not they do not discriminate and are making a commitment to show they are focused on inclusion.”

Zingerman's Cornman Farms. Photo: Mae Stier Photography
Zingerman's Cornman Farms. Photo: Mae Stier Photography

2. Narrow your choices.

Check out multiple venues that fit within your budget. Be sure to see them in person, and take lots of notes — you’ll be thankful you did later on. 

Get organized.

Whether you’re a super planner who loves a good spreadsheet or more of a tactile note-taker, old-school notebook in hand, Mason recommends documenting everything and centralizing your notes and quotes for efficient comparison between venue options. 

Identify your unique priorities.

As you explore venues, you’ll likely find yourself drawn to certain elements. Try to define what those qualities include. Is it the aesthetic appeal? Culinary reputation? What calls to you about your top choices? Identifying those qualities will help if your top pick isn’t available. 

“The reasons couples choose Cornman Farms are as diverse as our couples,” Mason notes. “Some come to us because they see a breathtaking picture on Instagram and fall in love with the beauty of our garden. Others choose us because they know Zingerman’s reputation for great food and service and are thrilled to share that with their guests on the most important day of their lives. Some have eaten at one of the restaurants around the world that my partner, chef Kieron Hales, has cooked at and can’t believe they can provide a meal prepared by a chef of his caliber. Once we hear what they’re excited about, we craft a day that builds off of that.”

3. Read. the. contract.

Mason can hardly stress how important it is for couples to understand the legally binding contracts they will need to sign to secure a venue and other vendors. “It’s not glamorous, but read that contract!” she says. “It’s true that I almost always check the box telling Apple I’ve read and understand their updated terms and conditions without actually doing so, but wedding contracts are a different beast.”

She urges couples to read these documents very carefully, checking details like last call, decoration rules and venue restrictions that may not have been discussed during the tour. “Contracts are there to protect you — the couple,” she says. “Don’t assume anything… get it in writing. If you can’t imagine walking down the aisle without flower petals strewn everywhere or making a grand entrance in a cloud of dry ice smoke, it’s best to know if the venue allows it or not before putting money down.”

A happy couple at Zingerman's Cornman Farms. Photo: Lolagrace Photography. Design: J Bennett Design
A happy couple at Zingerman's Cornman Farms. Photo: Lolagrace Photography. Design: J Bennett Design

4. Enjoy the planning process.

“Take time to enjoy being engaged,” Mason says. Reach out for advice from recently married friends and family. “And remember — wedding planning is a collaborative process, so keep it fun and positive,” she adds.

This content is made possible through our partnership with Zingerman's Cornman Farms. Cornman Farms is a collection of things: an authentic 1834 farmhouse, a carefully restored four-seasons barn, a working farm and a culinary destination. On their own, perhaps each thing can be found elsewhere, but brought together into a cohesive property with the sole purpose of hosting perfect events, they are transformed into an experience that feels fresh and luxurious while also being grounded in roots that keep it comfortable and welcoming.  

The 27-acre farm and its venues were restored from their 1834 foundations with the most discerning guests in mind. Featuring a beautiful exhibition kitchen, chef’s garden and historic yet comfortable, modernized venues, guests can enjoy the beauty of the countryside just minutes from downtown Ann Arbor. 

Learn more about LGBTQ-friendly Cornman Farms at


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