Searching for the perfect wedding venue is one of the most significant tasks in your planning process. Not only does it take up the largest chunk of your budget, but it may also determine how many of the other planning pieces fit together. It's vital to have a game plan going in, and by knowing what questions to ask you can make the entire process easier.
Questions to Consider Before Your Visit
Fortunately, most wedding venues have websites and online listings that can provide useful information about whether or not it might be the right wedding venue for you. Many couples start with the online photo gallery and Instagram page(s) to see if "the look" suits their needs and desires. Here's a list of several items to look for before you schedule a site visit:
- Do they have the date you're considering available?
- What are the rates for different days of the week and times (Friday, Saturday, Sunday; morning, afternoon, evening)? What about different seasons?
- What is the maximum capacity? Will it accommodate a wedding of your size?
- How many events can they host at the same time?
- Does it have spaces for a ceremony and a reception if your ceremony is not in a house of worship? Are there any additional fees to hold a ceremony?
We suggest you go in with an open mind and flexible goals for a smooth site visit. You may go in and see that it's absolutely your dream venue, but they don't have your wedding date available due to prior bookings. If you're not flexible in some areas you could miss out on a beautiful venue, and even discounts they could provide you by taking advantage of "off dates" and/or off-peak season. A lot of the information you need before scheduling a site visit might be found on the venue's FAQ page. Also, consider looking at online reviews from previous weddings. They might mention details that the venue doesn't freely provide on the rest of their site.
Questions to Ask During Your Visit
- Does the venue have hotel accommodations?
- If not, how close are the nearest hotels?
- What are the average room rates considering the season?
- Does the venue discount room blocks for weddings?
- What percentage of the rooms are currently held for groups?
- How many hours and what items (tables and chairs, etc.) are included in the rental fee?
- Do those hours include setup and breakdown time?
- Is there an overtime fee?
- Is parking available on-site? If so, how many spaces would we get? Is there an additional cost?
- If there's no parking on-site where can guests and family park?
Parking, especially in major cities, can really add to the room rate or make it challenging for guests to park for the day. These items may be deal-breakers. A great wedding venue with no hotel rooms, costly hotel rooms, or not enough rooms available can cause you to change your mind, and that's okay!
Catering can be the single most expensive part of your wedding budget. It's important to ask all of the right questions so you know exactly what your venue offers and/or allows.
- Is catering provided in-house by the wedding venue?
- Is there a food and beverage price minimum?
- If the venue is providing catering, are there any provisions for specific catering requirements?
- Does the venue allow outside kosher catering, halal meats, or specialty catering from Indian, Nigerian, or other ethnic restaurants/caterers?
- Can we do a tasting before we finalize our menu? Is there a charge for a tasting?
- What are the taxes, service charges, and gratuities?
- Are there optional liquor packages?
- Can we provide our own liquor?
- What are the requirements for liquor service?
- Is there a corkage fee if we bring in our own alcohol?
- Is there a fee for bringing our own cake or desserts?
- Is there a cake cutting/serving fee?
- If catering is not provided in-house, is there a preferred catering list, or is it open to work with whomever we choose?
- Is there a kitchen space available to outside catering persons/groups, and if so, is there an additional fee?
Policies & Procedures
Just because a venue has "the look" and seems like a good fit doesn't mean there aren't strings attached or hoops to jump through. In 2020, with all the craziness of COVID-19 shutdowns and regional requirements, couples got caught up in whether to cancel or postpone. Beyond that, many were forced to move forward, not feeling completely safe, and/or face the loss of their deposits. Here are some specific policies you should absolutely ask about:
- How much is the deposit and when is it due?
- Is the deposit refundable?
- What's the venue's payment schedule?
- When is the final payment due?
- What's the cancellation policy?
- What's the policy should you need to postpone?
- Are there any permits or insurance requirements to be aware of?
- Does the wedding venue carry liability insurance?
- Are clients required to have liability insurance, and if so, how much?
- Are vendors required to have liability insurance, and if so, how much?
More Rules & Regulations
More and more venues are requiring a wedding planner. Some wedding venues that used to have an on-site wedding coordinator are coming to realize that many couples need more assistance than they can provide. So it may do you well to ask what exactly the on-site wedding coordinator can help with and consider their involvement while also hiring your own planner as well.
- Are there noise restrictions?
- What are the décor rules?
- What are the regulations regarding open flames?
- Are sparklers or fireworks allowed?
- Does this venue have a preferred vendor list or vendor restrictions?
- Does this venue require a wedding planner?
Other Questions You Might Want To Ask
- Does this venue have any scheduled construction projects?
- If any portion of the wedding is outdoors, is there a backup plan in case of inclement weather?
- Is the venue handicapped accessible?
- Are taxis/rideshares easily accessible from the venue?
- Are there "ready rooms" available on-site?
- If there's a band, tell us more about the electrical power specs, outlets, and breakers.
- What time can vendors start setting up on the day of the wedding?
- How many bathrooms are available?
- Will we have to rent toilets, and if so how many are reasonable?
This list covers many questions and things for you to keep in mind when you have a venue site visit. However, there may be additional questions to ask depending on your specific circumstances. Make sure to use your best judgment when visiting any site for your big day. You know what's best for you and your guests.
Hero photo courtesy of Stetten Wilson