Congrats on your engagement! I’m sure there are wedding planning images and thoughts swirling around your brain right now and it can be pretty overwhelming. After you’ve chosen your wedding date (or a few different dates for options), the biggest thing I wanted to tackle first was finding the venue. To me, having a venue and a locked in date gave me an anchor point to work backwards from. It was slightly more difficult for us because we were planning a wedding in a state we didn’t live in. This meant a lot of emails back & forth with venues, requesting prices and package information, narrowing down our list to a final five across three states on the East Coast that we were interested. We flew out for a long weekend of wedding venue tours & celebrating!
I know it can be a crazy time, but I put together a comprehensive list of the questions we asked each venue as well as questions that were answered during the emailing process. I break them into categories so feel free to bounce around & pick the ones that apply to you! You can also personalize it if you have your own twist for how you want your day to be (e.g. Eóin wanted karaoke so he asked whether or not there were options to have that set up or a close by karaoke bar?). Biggest piece of advice is to keep the answers for each venue organized separately! I put all of mine in a google sheets doc; the rows were the questions and each column dedicated to a different venue’s answers. You can also put the answers in a notebook, a planning binder if you have one or the notes app on your phone.
Before the Tour
- Do you have our requested date available? (you can also ask what dates are available across the month you’re considering)
- What are the rates for different days of the week and times (Mon – Thur, vs Weekends; morning, afternoon, evening)? What about different seasons?
- What is the site rental fee?
- What does your site fee include?
- Can we have both the ceremony and reception onsite? Is there an additional cost for having both?
- What kind of restrictions does the space have? (some venues may not have a liquor license and just allow wine or beer, the wedding venue may only allow you to book from their specific approved vendor list, there may be décor restrictions around things like open flames or sparklers. Also check to see if there’s a noise restriction after a certain time).
During the Tour
- How many people can this space accommodate?
- Is this space disability accessible and/or ADA compliant?
- If the wedding venue is outdoors, what is the backup plan for inclement weather?
- If the wedding venue is a hotel, do you offer a discount for booking multiple rooms or a block of rooms, is there a complimentary room or upgrade for the bride & groom?
- If the wedding venue isn’t a hotel, is the space near solid accommodation or hotel options you’d recommend?
- If the wedding venue is a restaurant, can we have our rehearsal dinner here?
- Are there reliable public transportation options?
- What kind of services do you offer? (Some spaces have dressing room options for the brides/grooms, separate location for cocktail hour, coat check, parking, or a space for childcare options etc)
- How many hours will we be able to have the space for? Is there a fee to extend that time?
- What is your deposit/cancellation/refund policy?
- What is included in the total cost? Does it cover service charges, gratuity, and cleaning fees, or are those additional line items?
- What is the payment plan for the entire bill and what forms of payment are accepted?
- Do you have liability insurance?
- Are we allowed to bring in our own decor and decorations?
- Do you have an inventory of décor (lighting, candle holders, vases, etc.) we can borrow from?
- If your venue is an outdoor space, do you provide heaters or umbrellas for the guests?
- Is the onsite lighting adjustable?
- How many weddings are there in a day? How will you separate or keep guest overlap from happening?
- Do you have microphones or a built in sound system?
- Can cabs/lyfts/ubers/shuttles easily access the facility?
- How many restrooms will our guests have access to?
- Do you have a recycling policy?
- Who will be our point person or event coordinator for the wedding & can we meet them today?
- What percentage of the state and venue’s taxes and fees can we expect on the bill?
Food & Drink
- Do you have an in-house caterer or a list of approved caterers? Even if there is an in-house caterer, am I allowed to bring in an outside caterer instead?
- Is food prepared onsite or in advance?
- If an outside caterer is hired will they have access to the onsite kitchen if one is available?
- Is there a food & beverage minimum spend?
- Are you licensed to sell alcohol?
- Can we bring in our own alcohol? If so, is there a corkage fee?
- Can we do an open bar for part of the evening and cash bar after dinner?
- Is there a bar minimum?
- What staff will be provided? (regarding waitstaff & bartenders)
- How many bartenders will be provided?
- Are tables/linens/chairs/plates/glassware/silverware provided?
- Can we have an outside bakery make our cake?
- If using their in-house caterer, are there other dessert options than wedding cake?
- Would we be able to do a food tasting prior to the wedding? If so when? Does it cost extra?
Vendors & Staff
- When will vendors have access to the wedding venue?
- Does your staff handle setup and takedown?
- Do you offer onsite day-of coordination?
- Can the venue accommodate a band and/or a DJ?
- Do you offer hostess or security options for entry?
- Do you provide assistance getting gifts and/or décor back to a designated car or hotel room after the wedding?
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This is an excellent overview to get comfortable with your wedding venue. As a professional in the transportation industry, it is important to have anything related to travel covered with the venue provider. Guest parking? Public transportation? Can the site accommodate busses? All good questions.