Monday, September 21, 2015

Wedding 101: Questions to ask during your venue search

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we finally picked a venue for our wedding next year. It's such a huge relief to have such a big piece of the puzzle all figured out! The search to get to said venue, however, was a bit on the lengthy side. We ended up viewing twelve venues in two different cities over the course of the summer, and wading through the sheer amount of options was one of our biggest challenges. One of the best ways to do this and keep track of the pros and cons offered by each of the locations, however, was to ask the same set of questions at each place. Even though nearly all the venues provided us with an information packet detailing the specifics of their wedding packages, I found that creating my own list ahead of time allowed us to stay on task during each site visit, easily compare and contrast all of the options, and temper the analysis paralysis that was threatening to take over my brain.

The internet is teaming with lists of questions to ask your wedding venue, but below are the questions that helped me in my venue search. I organized them in what seemed to me to be the most natural progression of information, and not to toot my own horn, but it is an incredibly comprehensive list. It's also long - three pages and nearly 100 questions - but my philosophy is that preparedness is next to godliness (or something like that). Download the PDF here to print it out as is, or view it below to use it as a basis for your own list of questions - and good luck in your venue search!

 * Questions to ask when looking for a Wedding Venue *

·       What dates are available during the month(s) I’m interested in?
·       How many weddings will be booked that day?
·       Is the venue available for exclusive use? If so, is there a minimum amount of guests that have to book accommodation for exclusivity?
·       Are there different rates for different days, times, or months? (peak vs. off-peak)
·       How flexible are your packages?
·       Are there any changes planned to the building before the wedding (renovations, painting, etc.)?
·       Is there an outdoor space where my guests can smoke or mingle? Is this space heated/covered if necessary?
·       Is there a coat check area?
·       How many toilets are there?
·       Is there somewhere secure to store wedding gifts?
·       Does the venue have public liability insurance?
·       What security services do you offer? Do I need to hire my own security guards, or does the site hire them or have them on staff?
·       Do you have a recycling policy?

·       Who will be our point person before the event?
·       Who will be our point person on the day?
·       Can we meet that person now?
·       Is that person the facility director? If not, who is this person?
·       Does the venue provide assistance getting gifts/décor back to a designated car/room/etc. after the event has concluded?

·       Is there a payment schedule?
·       What kind of deposits are required?
·       Are there hidden costs – service charges, gratuity, cleaning fees, overtime charges?
·       What’s the cancellation policy?
·       What costs are incurred if the numbers on the day differ to the final numbers?
·       What’s the last possible date that we can make changes?

·       What time will my guests have to leave the venue?
·       Will a shuttle to/from the ceremony and reception be provided?
·       Transportation to/from the airport?
·       Is the bridal suite included in the price? Are rooms provided for the parents?
·       What accommodation does the venue offer, and is there a discounted rate for guests at the wedding?
·       Are these rates dependent on a certain number of guests booking accommodation?
·       Can the bridal party get ready at the venue?
·       Is the venue child friendly? What facilities are available for entertaining children? Is there an age cutoff?

·       Which rooms are licensed for ceremonies?
·       Is the ceremony to take place in the same room as the reception?
·       What is the changeover plan for converting to reception?
·       How much time is allocated for the rehearsal?
·       What is the sound system for the ceremony site?

Food and Drink
·       Is there an in-house caterer?
·       Do we have to use that caterer? If not, is there a limitation on which outside caterers we can use?
·       If I hire my own caterer, are kitchen facilities available for them? If so, is there an extra charge?
·       Can I brink in a cake from an outside cake maker or must I use a cake maker on the premises?
·       Is there a cake-cutting fee? If I use a cake made on site is the fee waived? Do you provide special cake-cutting utensils?
·       Do you have a liquor license?
·       What is your pricing for alcohol? Is it a hosted bar, cash bar, or combo of the two?
·       Is there a bar minimum?
·       What is the average bar tab for the number of people attending my event?
·       Are there any consequences for not fulfilling the food and beverage minimum?
·       What time does the bar close? Is there a charge for a bar extension?
·       How much wine is included per person?
·       What are the wine choices and upgrade costs?
·       Is there a complimentary champagne toast?
·       Will you allow us to bring our own liquor?
·       If so, is there a corkage fee?
·       Is there a service charge on top of the bill? If so, how much? What about additional charges for bar/wait staff?
·       What time is the meal?
·       Do you cater for special dietary requirements?
·       Is a complimentary menu and wine tasting included? How many people can attend?

The Reception – Décor & Styling
·       Must I use vendors of your choosing?
·       When can my vendors arrive for setup?
·       Who is responsible for setting up and tearing down the décor, and when will it be completed?
·       Are there any decoration limitations? Can we use candles?
·       What crockery/linen/cutlery is provided as part of the package?
·       What types of tables do you have? Are there options?
·       Is any décor/stationary provided (menus, centerpieces, flowers, cake stand, etc.)? Are there alternatives available?
·       Can I move things around and decorate to suit my purposes or do I have to leave everything as is?

The Reception – Logistics
·       Does the venue own sound equipment and speakers, or will that equipment need to be rented?
·       Do you have microphones in the venue for the speeches?
·       Can I hook an iPod/laptop up to your sound system?
·       Where does the DJ/band set up?
·       Where are the room’s outlets in relation to the tables/windows/layout of the room?
·       Where is the dance floor/how big is it/does anything have to be moved to make the dance floor?
·       Will the band be able to set up beforehand or does it have to be during changeover?
·       Will the band have to go through the reception to set up or is there a separate entrance?
·       Are there restrictions for the photographer in terms of flash usage?

Caterer/Food Specifics
             ·      What services are included? Table-side water service, wine pouring, coffee service, etc.?
             ·      What services are NOT included?
             ·      Where do you source your ingredients?
             ·      What is the server-to-guest ratio?
·                    Have you ever catered an event at my venue?
·       How will the food be prepped – cooked at your kitchen and warmed at the venue, or prepped at your kitchen and cooked on-site just before serving?
·       Who is handling rentals? Tables, chairs, linens, tableware, barware, heaters, etc.?
·       How many weddings have you catered before?
·       How many events will you cater on my wedding day?
·       Re: menu – what are you making that you are excited about? What do you suggest?

·       Re: tasting – is this what the portion size will be? Is this what the dish will look like? Will you be preparing this dish any differently on the day of my wedding? Are you open to changing X,Y.Z?


  1. I photographed a fundraising conference here recently. What a wonderful place for photos. I almost always hate being anywhere at 6am, but this breakfast event proved an exception. The manger and his staff from venues in NYC were extremely professional.