Selecting a wedding venue is one of the earliest, and most important tasks on your to-do list. If you've never planned a wedding before, how can you be sure of the questions you'll need to ask to find the perfect venue? That's where we can help!
Perfect Wedding Guide planning expert, Susan Southerland, shares eight questions to ask each venue before booking your reception site: #1: What is NOT included in my rental fee or catering package?
If your reception is at a hotel or a restaurant, tables, chairs, and linens will probably be included in your rental package. That isn't always the case, though. Regardless of where you hold your reception, whether it be in a park, garden or other wedding facility, ask whether you will have to rent additional items. Ask these questions up front, as part of your initial interview with venue sales staff as these additional costs can have a significant impact on the overall budget for your wedding #2: What's the backup plan?
All weddings need a backup plan - not just outdoor weddings! Electricity can fail or the venue could be shut down for any number of potential emergencies. Know whether your venue has a contingency plan and what your options could be if something were to happen. If this is something the venue has thought through, you’re generally in good hands. #3: Should I tip my bartenders and servers?
Service staff is always paid for their work, but there are two common ways caterers price this expense: some build the cost into their overall fee and others charge a separate service fee. Determine whether the cost is included in the caterer's estimate and whether you'll need to tip service staff after the reception. Know in advance how you'll be charged for staff when planning your budget. The amount could be pricey if not planned for in advance. #4: Will you let us bring our own cake?
Check with the venue to see if the cake is something provided in the catering package or if you need to use a separate vendor. Some venues and caterers will charge an additional cake cutting fee if you purchase through an outside vendor. Cake cutting fees can seem like an unnecessary expense, but can often include the addition of decorating the plates or adding garnishes to the cake (e.g., chocolate covered strawberries or flowers). #5: How long can we dance?
If you're dreaming of an all-hours party, make sure your location doesn't require you to leave at a certain time. Consider that some venues have limited hours due to local noise regulations or personnel contracts. Other wedding venues will allow you to stay later for an extra fee, or simply keep the bar open with or without music. #6: What rules do you have on decorating?
If you have grand plans for hanging chandeliers, balloons, or lanterns, ask which fastening materials they allow for ceilings and walls. Many venues have strict policies against nails, tape, or staples that could end your vision, well after you're locked into the contract. Candles and open flames are other items you’ll want to check their permission on as well.
There are other options if you don’t want to spend much on decorating. Consider choosing a site with natural beauty; gardens or a water view will draw guests’ attention, requiring very little extra décor to set the tone of your event.
You might also ask your coordinator whether they have in-house décor that you can use - many allow you to use their plants, arbors, candles, or even centerpieces as part of the contract. #7: Can other weddings be scheduled the same day?
Larger wedding venues often have multiple events in one evening, especially if your reception is at a prime time on a Saturday night. The trick is to find out how other events are scheduled.
It's best not to have both parties start at the same time as guest arrival quickly becomes confusing. If possible, schedule your cocktail hour at least an hour apart so that guests from one party will already be seated for dinner when the other party arrives. Also, make sure to ask how other resources like bathrooms and staffing are divided up for multiple events – you want to ensure your guests are able to enjoy the event as much as possible without the worry of a second wedding interfering. #8: Is there plenty of on-site parking?
Make sure there is sufficient parking for your guest count. If parking is going to be limited, you could ask your caterer to arrange for valet service. This creates an additional expense, but the flow of your event will be much smoother than if people have to struggle to park.
Another option is to find a convenient parking lot and ask if you can use it for your wedding reception. Keep in mind however, that you would then have to provide shuttles back and forth to the reception. If your wedding is taking place at a hotel or restaurant, there should be plenty of parking, but there could be a charge. If you pay the parking costs for your guests, you may be able to negotiate a discount.
There are many factors to consider when booking a wedding reception venue. Asking these eight questions before booking is sure to help you find a space that suites your style. Ready to browse local venues in your area? Click here to get started!