You’re engaged! Congratulations! You’ll find that planning your best day ever will be like an intricate puzzle and one of the biggest puzzle pieces will be finding the perfect venue. To help you in your search, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the most important questions you should ask on your venue tours.
1. Is my date available? If not, do you have a list of dates available or a wait list for my choice?
If you’re flexible about your date, this will be less of an issue. Try to visit venues before you’ve zeroed in on one specific date, or have a few date options in mind that meet your needs. You’ll need to determine which the priority is for you – the perfect date or the perfect venue.
2. How many hours are included in the rental? How early can we arrive? How late can we stay?
A five-hour wedding is pretty standard. Typically, you’ll reserve 30 minutes for the ceremony, an hour for cocktails (cocktail hour – hello!), an hour for dinner, and two and a half hours for dancing. If you think you’ll want more time, some venues will allow you to add more at an hourly rate.
3. How many events do you host per day and per weekend?
Depending on the space, it is ideal that you’ll be the only event on-site on your wedding day. Other events can affect the time you have for set-up, venue access, and can cause confusion for your guests. If the event has multiple large ballrooms and is set-up for hosting multiple events, this may be less of an issue. Make sure you understand how your access and staffing will be affected. You can also find out how much it would cost to do a complete buyout of the venue’s spaces.
4. How much is the deposit?
This can vary greatly from venue to venue. You’ll find that some will require only $500-1000 to reserve the space, while others may ask for 50% of the expected event total. If you are unhappy with the venue’s deposit policy, you can always try to negotiate. If you have a wedding planner, they can help with this task (they have a lot of experience!).
5. What is the payment schedule?
With most venues, you will pay a deposit upon signing the contract. The balance is paid in installments between the day you sign and your wedding date. All payments are completed two weeks before the wedding date.
6. What is included in the price quote? Are there additional service charges, gratuity and/or cleaning fees?
Make sure to include the “plus plus” (sometimes shown as “++” on your contract) in your budget projection. That means you’ll be paying tax and gratuity on top of the cost that is listed.
7. What is the cancellation policy?
No matter how unlikely it is that you will cancel, you need to know the policy. Find out how long you have to cancel and how much (if any) of your money you will get back.
8. Do you have a list of approved or recommended vendors?
Some venues have restrictions regarding which vendors they will work with. Before signing the contract, make sure you are happy with all of the required vendors. If they don’t have required vendors, you’ll want to know who they recommend. These will be vendors that they have worked with often, who are already familiar with the venue (including quirks and challenges of the space – because there are always at a couple!). This can make the planning process much smoother.
9. Are there noise restrictions?
Some venues are at the mercy of town or county noise ordinances. Some have their own internal set of restrictions. How late you can stay will affect the timeline for your entire day, so make sure you know your limitations.
10. How many bathrooms are there?
This may seem like an odd question, but you want your guests to be comfortable. Make sure there are plenty of bathrooms easily accessible from your ceremony and reception sites. If any events are being held outdoors, you may need to rent additional portable restrooms.
11. What is the parking situation?
Is parking available on-site? How much space is available? Is there a charge to park? Sometimes this is included in your site rental fee, sometimes it is not. If you’re looking at spaces that charge every day visitors to park (state parks, beaches, hotels), there will likely be a charge for your guests. Work with your venue so that you can pay for this ahead of time (and include it in your budget!) or setup shuttles from an alternate, free location.
12. Is there a space to host the ceremony at the venue as well?
If you’d like to hold your ceremony and reception in the same place, you should make sure there is space available. This can be a convenient and budget-friendly option. However, if you plan on getting married in a house of worship or other location, this won’t affect you.
13. Is there a bridal lounge?
Many venues have a bridal lounge/suite available for the bride and her entourage to get ready. This is ideal for many reasons. Logistically, it is incredibly convenient to get ready on-site. This gives you more time back in your already jam packed day (no travel time between sites). If there is no space available at the venue, the next best option is the bride’s hotel room. But, you won’t want to end your wedding night back in the same room that you spent hours trashing earlier in the day.
14. What is the venue’s max capacity? Are there different rooms with different capacity options?
Go into your venue tours with at least an idea of how many people you expect to invite. The number doesn’t have to be firm, but it will help guide you in finding a site that fits your wedding comfortably. You’ll want to understand how many people will fit based on different scenarios as well – band vs. DJ, round tables vs. square or rectangular tables, different size dance floors, etc.
15. Do you provide sound equipment?
Your band or DJ will likely have their own equipment. However, some venues have built-in speakers that your musicians can simply plug into. Other locations may have zero equipment, requiring you to rent what your band or DJ may be lacking.
16. What is the backup plan for inclement weather?
If you are planning any portion of your big day outdoors, you need to have a backup plan. Your venue likely already has one in place. Make sure you understand what it entails (renting a tent vs. moving it to an indoor location), how that will affect your budget, and if you like the backup space that is available. If it will be moved indoors, make sure to tour this space. Rain happens. Wedding backup plans are implemented every day. Make sure you like your options!
17. Are there décor restrictions?
Some spaces, such as hotel ballrooms, may require very little decorating because they are already so ornate and beautiful. Some spaces may require a lot of décor to be brought in. Either option can be beautiful, but make sure you know what you’re allowed to do. Can lights and drapery be hung from the ceiling? Are open candle flames allowed or do you need to purchase LED candles? Make sure you know the answers to these questions before designing the décor.
18. When can vendors arrive to setup?
As I mentioned at the beginning, the venue is just one piece of the puzzle. There are many other pieces (vendors) that need to be coordinated throughout the day. Make sure they will each have the access that they need to make their contribution on the wedding day.
19. In what capacity will your staff be involved in setup and cleanup?
Some venues will have staff available to help setup the tables and then pack everything up at the end of the night. Confirm exactly what work they will complete on-site so that you can inform your vendors.
20. Do you have an in-house caterer? If so, are food and beverages included in the venue rental fee?
Often, when a venue has an in-house caterer, your fee will be determined per person based on the menu that you choose and the site fee will be included in that fee instead of separate. Make sure you understand the breakdown.
21. If there is no in-house caterer, do we have to choose from a list of approved options or can we hire our own?
This is similar to the question above about the approved vendor list. You may have a caterer that you are dreaming of working with. Make sure your venue will allow it. Your wedding planner may be able to negotiate this for you.
22. Is there a food and beverage minimum?
Check your contract, venues with in-house caterers will often have food and beverage minimums that you must meet. Make sure you understand what additional fees will be assessed if you don’t meet your minimum. Work with your venue to see what upgrade options may be available to help you meet the minimum.
23. Do we have to purchase liquor through you, or can we have it brought in from elsewhere?
Having alcohol sourced on-site is really the most convenient option, but it comes at a price. If the venue will allow you to bring in your own booze, shop around to see where you can get the best deal or consider bringing it in yourself.
24. Is there a coordinator on staff? Who will be my main contact?
This is important, especially if you’re a DIY bride. If there is not a coordinator on-site, consider including a day-of coordinator in your wedding budget. You need someone there on the day of to make sure the tablecloths are ivory and the guest book has a pen, etc., etc. There are a million moving parts on the wedding day that you will not have time to oversee. If the venue offers a coordinator, make sure to meet the person you’ll be working with to ensure you have a good rapport and feel comfortable putting your best day ever in his or her hands.
25. If the venue is a hotel: What room rate can you offer our guests? How many rooms can you guarantee us at that rate?
If you’re having your wedding at a hotel, your guests will naturally want to stay at that specific hotel. Try to get them the best deal possible (you’re spending a lot of money there!) and ensure you have enough rooms to accommodate everyone that will need one.
If you’re planning your wedding in Chicago or its suburbs, contact us to learn how we can help design and plan your best day ever!