The wedding venue is oftentimes the most expensive part of a wedding, so it deserves a little extra research and consideration. Your dream venue’s look and location may be everything you’ve ever hoped for, but before you sign the contract, make sure you are agreeing to a mutually reached-upon document. After all, you want your dream venue to not only look perfect and be in the right location, but fit your needs and your wedding’s needs as well. When you are touring spaces and meeting with coordinators, make sure you ask these 15 crucial questions to cover all your bases.
As with any other vendor, this is the most important question. If you have your heart set on a certain date and they don’t have it available, then unfortunately this is not the venue for you. If you are flexible with dates, ask them what they do have and ideally it will be early enough for you to change your plans.
When you’re looking at wedding venues, you probably don’t have a final guest count quite yet. However, you might have a general ballpark figure of the number of guests. Knowing how many people the venue can hold, both seated and standing, will let you know whether or not there is adequate space to host all your loved ones. Make sure there’s plenty of indoor space to hold everyone in case there’s bad weather.
Learning the cost of the venue and what it includes will help you determine if it fits your budget. Even if the initial dollar amount seems high, many venues include various items with the rental fee that helps to offset the total cost. If they provide items such as tables, chairs, linens, power cords, speakers or serving stations, be sure to clarify whether or not they will be in charge of all the set up, tear down and cleanup of these items. One good tip is to ask how much the rates are for the “off days” surrounding your preferred date; oftentimes venues will be cheaper on Sundays or Fridays. Make sure you ask how many hours are included and how much each additional hour would be if your wedding ran over the time limit.
If many of your guests are local enough to drive to your wedding, you’ll need to have ample parking for them. Find out how many spots are included and if you’re able to rent additional spaces if needed. If the venue offers a valet service, ask how much it costs and whether or not it can be bundled into your overall package at a discount.
Some venues will require you to use their vendors as they have already built a trusted relationship with them. This preferred vendors list could include anyone from the caterer to the photographer to the officiant. However, some venues will allow you bring in any vendor you’d like. If you are hiring your own caterer, be sure to ask the venue if they’ll be able to use any kitchen facilities. Caterers will charge an extra fee if they have to bring in their own refrigerators and stoves. If you are required to use their preferred vendors, we suggest that you conduct some research of your own to make sure their styles and services are up to your standard.
Some venues don’t allow any alcohol at all. Some require you order through them. Some allow you to bring your own, but beer and wine only. Some allow you to have an open bar. Make sure you clarify what the venue’s policy on alcohol is so you can plan accordingly. Ask if there is a corkage fee should you decide to provide your own liquor. If you are creating your own bar, ask if they will provide ice and cups as part of your package.
Aisle décor, table settings, centerpieces, the DJ or band, speakers… there’s a lot of details and technical items that need to be set up before your wedding is ready for you to walk down the aisle. If you’ve hired the venue for a certain amount of time, it’s important to know whether or not you are allowed to come in earlier than that, or even the day before, to start setting up. If the venue doesn’t have anything else booked, they’ll most likely allow you to come in early to get started. We suggest also asking if there will be staff members available to help out.
If you are planning an outdoor wedding, there is always the possibility of bad weather. In those cases, your venue should be able to provide a plan B to save the day. They may offer a tented canopy, or to move the entire event indoors. Based on the contingency plan they suggest, make sure that your wedding specs work with the proposed space provided. You wouldn’t want to get rained out and then be cramped for space inside because you didn’t plan ahead.
Some venues won’t allow you to hang things from the ceiling, use flash photography, film in holy areas or use candles with open flames. It’s important to ask these questions ahead of time so you aren’t in for a surprise when you arrive on your wedding day. If your venue doesn’t allow photography or videography in certain areas, you may consider sitting down with your wedding photographer to see what workarounds they suggest in order to get plenty of great shots.
You and your guests will be happily dancing the night away at the reception, but some venues may require you to turn off the volume at a certain time. Or, they might have a maximum noise restriction in place. Knowing what the noise policy is will help you plan your DJ or band and keep your wedding day timeline in check.
Wedding insurance is an expense that is often overlooked. Most couples will think that they won’t need it, but in reality wedding insurance is a safety net that can come in handy. Ask your venue if they have liability insurance or if you should take out your own policy. You may also need specific permits to use certain spaces, such as park areas, or do something spectacular, like setting off sparklers during your dramatic exit. Be open with your venue coordinator about the ideas you have so that you can apply for permits as needed.
Something that surprises couples is when they’ve booked their dream venue and arrive on the big day only to find out that they’re expected to get ready in bathrooms or hallways. This makes for an uncomfortable dressing situation and also looks terrible in wedding photos. Ask your venue if they have special areas set aside for the wedding party to get ready in, and if they don’t have private rooms, where they suggest the wedding party get ready.
Your venue will require a deposit ahead of time to secure the date and the space. The amount varies from venue to venue, but it’s typically a percentage of the total amount of the booking fee. Make sure you know when the deposit is due so that you don’t risk losing your reservation. You should also ask whether or not the deposit is refundable in case anything happens and you have to make last minute changes. If it is refundable, take note of the last day that you can get your money back.
Your final balance might be due a few days prior to the wedding, or it might be due afterwards to account for additional charges incurred on the day of. Or, it might be due immediately following the wedding, in which case you might want to delegate your maid of honor or best man to take care of any final payments. If you have a grace period after the event to pay, be sure to mark it in your calendar so that you aren’t charged any late fees.
Sometimes things don’t work out as planned and you’ll have to cancel your venue booking. Some venues might return your deposit if you canceled within a certain period of time, but oftentimes the deposit is nonrefundable. Ask for a clear cancellation policy so that you are aware of potential consequences if you need to cancel.
After you’ve asked all these questions and clarified any concerns you have, the most important thing is to get a contract with all your agreements clearly written out. When you book a venue, you may have discussed things verbally that aren’t in a standard contract. Read your contract carefully to ensure everything is included, and if not, ask them to revise it to include what’s missing. This is important so that you don’t get in trouble later down the line and don’t have written consent for certain things. Choosing your dream venue is one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning, so make sure you do it smartly by asking the right questions.
This is just one of the planning tools I provide when you book your free wedding photography consultation with me. Call for your free consultation now! (908) 229-1694