Did you have that aha moment when searching for a wedding venue? The mix of peace and excitement when you finally laid your eyes on the venue of your dreams?
While finding a venue that you love is one thing, finding a venue that suits your situation is another. Don’t be hypnotized by the beauty of wedding venues! Try to look past the aesthetic and dig deeper into the details. Making the effort now to find out all the rules, regulations, fees and other information about your venue will set you up for smoother planning and wedding down the road.
Before you sign any contracts or make any deposits, make sure you ask these questions of the venue staff:
1. How many people can the venue accommodate?
You should have already determined the approximate size of your guest list before looking at venues. Stick to that number! If a venue is not intended to fit your number of guests, you will have to think of alternative options. Even if the space looks large now, decorations, furniture, and other wedding day items will quickly clutter the space.
2. How many hours are included for the rental rate?
Some venues will let you choose your hours, but others will set a time limit for set-up, the event, and tear-down. Most venues will give you a total of 8 hours, and you must make sure that you can complete your event from start to finish in that time. If you think you will need more time, inquire about how much additional hours will cost.
3. Which spaces are available in the rental?
Get an idea of the full extent of options that are available to you. The venue may have a second floor, a pavilion out back, or other hidden gems. Also find out if there is a bride’s changing area and an area for the men to hang out.
4. What is the plan in case of bad weather?
If any part of your wedding day festivities are set to be held outdoors, you will need to consider weather. Some venues have indoor spaces available for you to use as a backup plan. Talk out the logistics of how decorations, tables, chairs and more could be switched last minute.
5. Are we able to rehearse the ceremony on location?
If the venue allows for rehearsals, get all the details about how they typically handle that situation. Figure out what times of the week/day they allow rehearsals to take place and how long the rehearsals can last. And if possible, book the rehearsal time immediately!
6. Are there any restrictions on the decorations?
Some venues don’t allow confetti, sprinkles, rice, or other small items to be thrown on location. Others prohibit open flames, including sparklers. If these are the case, consider whether or not you can imagine your wedding without those aspects.
7. Is there anything we should be aware of while setting up and tearing down?
If even part of your venue is housed on an upper floor, you will have to consider how you will carry decorations, furniture, and more to that location. Ask about elevators, stairs, and loading docks. Use this information to estimate how long your set up and tear down will take. Then compare those time estimates to the length of your rental and determine what is possible.
8. Is any equipment provided?
Take inventory of any tables, chairs, audio and video equipment, and lighting that is included in the rental of the venue. Also think about silverware, glassware, dishes, and linens. Don’t just assume — ask to be sure of what resources you have at your disposal. The venue staff may even be willing to share an equipment inventory list with you.
9. What lighting is used at the venue?
If possible, visit your potential wedding venue around the time your wedding festivities are set to take place. Take note of how well lit the space is and ask about what type of lighting is used. Remember that you will want both bright lighting and more dim lighting depending on the different aspects of your day. Dimmable lighting will be more romantic than the more industrial fluorescent variety.
10. How much electrical power can the venue handle?
Between the food, DJ, and photobooth, you will need a fair amount of electrical power to pull off your big day. Get a sense of how many outlets are in the venue and ask about how much power they can handle. Note where the outlets are located so that you can plan the layout of the different elements of your event accordingly.
11. Where are the restrooms?
It’s a basic question with a very vital answer. Consider how accessible the restrooms are for guests, particularly for any elderly or handicapped ones. Also crunch some numbers to see if the number of restrooms will be appropriate for your number of guests (100 guests = 4 bathrooms). You don’t want long lines or broken sewage systems!
12. Can I bring in my own caterer?
Some venues have an in-house caterer that you are required to use and pay for. Others provide a list of suggested caterers from which you must choose. Figure out how strict the catering guidelines are if you are interested in finding your own caterer. If you are willing to use the in-house caterer and don’t mind the fee, make sure you actually like the food!
13. Where can the caterer work?
The best case scenario is a kitchen on site specifically for the caterer. But some less traditional venues will not offer this amenity. Ask about how the venue typically handles catering. The caterer’s work space should be located as close to the reception area as possible.
14. Where is parking?
Figure out if there is parking on site and how far it is from the location of your ceremony/reception. Also ask to ensure that parking is complimentary. Consider valet parking, off-site parking, and shuttle services if necessary.
15. What is your cancellation policy?
Life is unpredictable. There are countless circumstances that could result in the need to cancel a wedding. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with the policy.
There’s nothing wrong with getting excited about wedding venues. But you must exercise self-control and pair that excitement with a desire to look below the surface level. Once everything seems to suit your situation, or you are at least aware of the terms, then you can truly freak out with excitement!