Congratulations on your engagement!
Of course, you're ecstatic about planning your perfect wedding and spending the rest of your life with that perfect someone. And while taking care of things like floral arrangements and invitation fonts can wait, it's not unwise to set your date and book your venue as soon as possible.
Places get booked well in advance. And whether your engagement is 6 months or 18, the sooner you start checking out venues, the better chance you have of landing the one you want. If you have your heart set on a specific location, let that dictate your date. If you're more open on your venues, keep time in mind when deciding on a date; busy periods at work, high-traffic events in your area and nearby holidays are just a few things to consider when thinking if a date is doable, especially if you have a large number of guests that you'll need to reserve hotel rooms for.
If you're getting married in a house of worship, get a list of dates that are available and mash it together with a list of available dates at your desired venue to figure out which works best.
Style & Simplicity
Throughout all the venue-picking, keep your weddings theme and style in mind. You don't want a huge space if you're having an intimate wedding with only a few guests, and vice versa.
If you're going to have a lot of out-of-town guests who aren't familiar with your area, it may be wise to go with a hotel location or a venue with one nearby, so that the overall logistics of the weekend remain simple.
One thing you might not think to ask about is privacy/intimacy: Will there be other weddings/events taking place on the same day?
The Total Package
Obviously, budget is a big thing when picking out your reception venue. Your venue may have a "wedding package," which includes obvious things like food and drinks but also some other items that may be less obvious. To get a handle on costs, keep these points in mind:
Most places will require that you spend a certain amount of money. Obviously, you'd like to be committed to the lowest possible tab, especially if your guest list isn't super large. A gratuity or service charge often is built in. When you're spending thousands of dollars, a 1- to 2-percent difference between venues will make a big difference. And if you're looking at spots in different townships, again, the slight difference in local tax will make a difference on your total bill.