Believe it or not ladies, there are lots of questions to be answered before committing to a venue. Think about it, more than 50% of your wedding budget is your venue. That said, you have to make sure your questions are in order before strutting into the venue of your dreams. This is your day and it should be as perfect as it possibly can be. I'm here to help set you up for success.
I've laid out the necessary questions to ask within each category to make it easier to grasp!
The first category you'll want to tackle is "General."
The most important question and the question you’ll want to start with is: Is the venue available on the preferred date? Picking dates can be the simplest or the most difficult beforehand task. What most do not think about is selecting a handful of date ranges instead of specific dates before stepping into a venue meeting. Other things that can impact the date you chose are the key parties involved, no-go dates, season, year, and how long you have to coordinate the wedding itself. You need to plan to be flexible and go into your venue meetings with an open mind because hey, the venue of your dreams might require you to be!
What about capacity? When it comes to this, you'll need to know the safety regulations and what you're comfortable with. How many guests does the venue hold? What is your personal cut off?
Another thing that is good to be informed of whether or not the venue is exclusive to you. If not, make sure your guests are clear on direction leading them to your ceremony to reception. It's good to clarify what rooms you have access to throughout the event as well. For example, where will the bathroom or coat room be located? These are necessary.
As for timing, when can you enter the day of the wedding and when must you shut down for the night?
Next, "Payment + Insurance."
Ah, the fun part. Just kidding! Some questions you'll want to jot down here are as follows:
What are the wedding packages the venue offers? Are there tier packages or just a standard? And, what do the rates look like?
Of course, you'll also want to know what the packages include. We want to make sure we're getting the biggest bang for our buck. Or at least stay within the means of our budget and don't go overboard. This is where having a safety nets comes in handy!
Is a deposit required? Typically there is always money you'll need to put down to secure your spot. It can get competitive, especially in times such as these, so you need to act FAST. If you need to go on a payment plan, be sure to get the scoop on that as well.
What type of payment do they accept? Do you have to give cash for the deposit?
For vendors, will you get charged if you decide to choose your own?
And, last but not least, ask about the cancellation policy. This is pretty crucial.
For insurance, you’ll just need to understand the requirements and whether or not the venue has its own.
"Setting Up The Venue"
It's good to start with the simple question, how many venue visits do you get? You can ask the venue what they will have set-up and if you can drop in to check out the space when it's occupied to see more of the look/feel. Then ask them, what you're responsible for.
Do they have an event manager on site or will you need to hire a wedding planner? Some venues have one, but they do the bare minimum, so you’ll always want to be clear on this for planning purposes.
Decor can be intense. Some venues only allow so much time to get everything done. The first thing to ask about here is “Can you start the night before?” Ladies, THIS IS CRUCIAL. You need to be clear on when you have free range to enter the room so you ahead of time the work it will require. What are the restrictions (ex. Candles, confetti, ceiling drops, etc.)? You’ll want to also know what it is they provide. You never know, they might have everything you dreamed and you won’t be spending or doing much on your end (CLUTCH). Well, of course the bride touches are in order, but you know what I mean. There are venues that are just so naturally beautiful. If there’s something you notice that you don’t want visible, ask about removal. Lastly, will you need your own place cards?
The ceremony is the most intimate part of the day, it needs to be grilled a bit extra. For instance, can the venue even accommodate one? What is the room sitch? Do they have separate rooms for the ceremony and the reception? If not, you’ll need to make sure you’re clear on the transition of the rooms since it will require some set-up and breakdown in between and how long it will take. Also, you want to note if the rehearsal be at the venue. If not, that’s a whole other ball game. And, these are just starters.
In regards to the food provided, you'll need to ask the following:
How can you serve? Buffet, individual plates? With COVID, it's unlikely that venues will be allowing buffet style anytime soon.
How many servers?
Can you arrange a tasting in which you can taste test what foods you want to go with? Whether in-house or an outside vendor, it's always good to incorporate a tasting of sorts. However, with some venues, you may not have a choice to hire an outside vendor. They might require you to use their services.
Can they accommodate diet restrictions? Ex. special requests such as gluten, vegan, etc.
What are the food choices and how many options are there? Most couples enjoy variety, but there could be a slight chance that the venue provides a set menu with limited foods.
"Parking Specifics and Accommodations"
We all know accommodations can be a pain at times, so it’s best to get this out of the way as soon as you book. But first, weigh out your options. Do you want to stay at the venue if they offer it or elsewhere? Typically, it’s best to have everything/everyone in one place if it’s an option, especially if it's a larger wedding. This provides for a much more relaxed flow. If they provide rooms on site, you'll want to know the rates and whether or not they offer any discounts on room blocks. Chances are, the answer is yes.
As far as parking goes, I always suggest including this as well as accommodations on your wedding website and invites for reference. You'll want to note if they valet or if they charge a fee to park in general or overnight?
"Bar + Alcohol Policies"
Alcohol is something you’ll always want to pay close attention to. Will you need to contact an outside vendor or do they do everything in-house? If in-house, do they have a liquor license? What alcohol is included, some venues only to beer and wine for the open bar? Do you need to pay a corkage fee (this is something that’s almost always overlooked in this category)? Are there any extra charges to be aware of, for example, unopened booze or if you need a bartender? Oh, and I strongly suggest hiring a transportation service should you have guests staying in a hotel other than the venue. For those that do not drink, you'll want to ask what non-alcoholic beverages are available. You cannot forget these guests!
"Music + Entertainment"
How can anyone forget ... MUSIC. This is absolutely necessary to get the party started. With music, there are normally some restrictions in place. Here are the prompted questions around music and entertainment:
Are DJ or band allowed?
What do they have for a sound system? Speakers, microphones, etc.?
When is set-up time?
How many people does the dance floor accommodate? This is important for the sole fact that it’s COVID and regulations will of course be in place.
What time do they allow the music to play until?
And last but not least, rain date. What’s their rate date policies?
And ... that's a wrap girlfriend! I hope this not only prepared you for your venue meetings, but helped you narrow down what's important to you in the process.