15 Must-Know Questions to Ask Your Wedding Venue Before You Book
photo: Adam Szafranski for The Venue Report
Choosing a wedding venue is the biggest piece of your planning puzzle. It’s likely your largest expense and the decision that dictates so many other exciting wedding details to follow. With such an important task and so many choices, how do you narrow down your favorites? Start by asking the right questions. Armed with information, the perfect property will likely come to light. So we’ve compiled a list of 15 must-know questions to ask your wedding venue before you book.
And of course, the most important questions to ask your wedding venue before you book - is the date you want available and can the property accommodate your guest size and budget? Armed with these answers, you’re well on your way to wedded bliss at a wedding location that’s just right for the two of you.
Many wedding venues have noise restrictions, some self-imposed to keep hotel guests happy and others required by the city they are in. A 10pm outside music curfew is common in many places. If you plan to party late, be sure to inquire about an indoor after-party space or what your options are for late night music. When in need, call on a silent DJ.
If booking an outdoor venue, what is the property’s backup plan in the event weather goes awry? It could be an indoor space you will want to tour or it may be a more costly tent so plan ahead and organize your budget accordingly. Always plan for the worst and expect the best!
Is cake included in your catering costs or is that charged per person a la carte? Are you allowed to work with an outside baker you love or bring in grandma’s cookies or will you be working with the on-property pastry chef? If dessert is a priority point for you, ask about your sweet treats before you book.
When event hosts book a guest room block at the wedding hotel or a nearby property, it’s critical to understand the contract. Are you financially responsible for that number of rooms whether or not a guest books through the room block? If you are, be sure to be smart about your room count estimation since this arrangement will need to be made well before your RSVPs are in.
Don’t be alarmed by the fine print. There can be a lot of it but most you’ll find is industry standard. You’ll simply want to compare apples to apples when looking at the bottom line of multiple properties. Does one wedding venue include tax and service (which can be approximately 20-30% of the total bill) in your final estimate and another adds it in at the end? That may be a big price difference so know your numbers. Then understand the payment schedule for that balance, the due dates of your final headcount, and just in case, the cancellation policies (in the event you have to move your date or otherwise).
Does the wedding location offer in-house catering or are you encouraged to bring in your own company? There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s what’s best for your needs, but that may sway your decision one way or another.
If the venue is providing the catering, when do you try the food? Before or after contract? (Hint: most properties will say after. It’s not ideal, but it’s common practice so be sure to read reviews and ask trusted sources to get a sense of what to expect.)
Is staffing part of the venue fee, does the property come with tables, chairs that you love, linens that touch the floor, and other basic rentals for dining? If not, be prepared for the additional expense – and the fun of picking out specialty goods for your big day too.
This may or may not impact your property. Large resorts have big teams and multiple venues so no two groups ever mix, even on the same day. At smaller properties, the answer to this question is more important.
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Don’t forget, in addition to a four-hour reception, cocktail hour and ceremony, your vendors need time to set up the wedding and break it down. Depending on how elaborate your design plan might be, that could take a few hours or a few days. Get a good understanding of your access to your event spaces before you plan your décor.
Can you hang product on the walls, light open flame candles or organize a sparkler send-off? Find out the rules of the venue early on and design a day that’s picture-perfect for you and respectful of the space too.
Does the wedding location charge guests a premium to park? Is that included in your contract or is it an additional expense you’ll incur for valet? If a parking lot needs to be rented, you’ll want to find that out as well.
It’s always a great idea to work with a wedding planner regardless of venue, but some properties will require it. So if you weren’t planning on hiring a planner, ask the question first. Then ask a follow up question – does any vendor, planner included, have to come from their recommended list or can you hire your own team freely? You may have done some hiring already so double check before you book.
Beer and wine only or liquor too? Can you bring in your own alcohol or must it be purchased and served through the property? These days the bar menu and mixology program can be part of the entertainment so ask what your options are to elevate and upgrade the experience.