Since you were young, you've likely dreamt about your wedding — exchanging vows with your significant other, surrounded by your closest friends and family, with beautiful flowers and the perfect venue. Now, you're engaged, and it's finally time to make that dream a reality.
Do you imagine your dream wedding at an event center, hotel, historic mansion, winery, or golf club? As part of planning your wedding, you will probably be touring a variety of different venues before identifying exactly what you want. When visiting each location, you’ll want to ask a lot of questions in order to get a good idea of what the venue could look like, how much support you'll get from the staff, and how much it will cost.
Here's a list of your must-ask questions when touring wedding venues.
Pricing and Availability
What dates are available for my preferred month(s)?
You've probably had a certain time of year in mind for your special day. Do you like the lush greens of summer, vibrant colors in autumn, a snowy winter wonderland, or blooming flowers in spring? Having a specific time of year in mind will be helpful in choosing a venue, but be flexible with dates because many venues book up a year or more out.
What is the rental fee and what does it include? How do Friday, Saturday, and Sunday rates differ?
Of course, one of the first questions you'll want to ask when arriving at a new venue is the cost of rental. Then, go one step further and find out what's included in the cost. Some venues charge extra for dinnerware, silverware, and linens. There might also be a food, or a food and beverage minimum you'll have to meet.Does the total cost cover service charges, cake cutting fee, taxes, and gratuity? What is the difference between a gratuity and service charge? And how many hours do you have access to the space?
Rates for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday can vary. If you're flexible and looking to save money, choosing a Friday or Sunday could be a great choice.
Other questions to ask regarding pricing and planning include:
How much is the deposit, when is it due, and is it refundable?
What's the cancellation policy?
What’s the payment plan for the entire cost?
Vendors — Food, Beverage, Dessert, Decoration
Do you have in-house catering, preferred caterers, or do we choose anyone?
While some venues give you the choice to hire any caterer you please, others have an in-house caterer or a list of preferred caterers you can choose from. Find out what your options are at each venue in case you have a preference.
Having the choice to pick any caterer is a nice way to customize your wedding reception, but being able to pick from a list of preferred vendors or having an in-house caterer definitely makes your decision easier.
Are you licensed to serve alcohol?
Most wedding venues have a license to serve alcohol or work with vendors who do, but in some cases, there are restrictions such as the ability to only serve beer and wine. If providing libations to your guests is important, make sure you find out what the rules are.
Is there a host and security on-site?
On-site hosts can help with logistics throughout the day if vendors or guests have questions, that way you don't have to. And security is typically required if you're serving alcohol, so find out if someone is provided by your venue or if it comes at an additional charge.
How many guests can you accommodate?
The number of guests a venue can accommodate is likely the first question you had when searching for wedding locations online, so you probably already know the answer when you arrive to tour. However, this number can fluctuate depending on the setup of the room.
If your venue says it can accommodate 200 people, but you have a large wedding party that will require a larger head table, that may affect the number of guests that can fit into the space. Be sure to talk about the layout of the space and how each one affects the overall number of guests.
Can I have my ceremony here, too? Is that an additional charge?
If you haven't selected a ceremony site, find out if your venue hosts both ceremony and reception. Sometimes, having your ceremony in the same location as your reception is included in the cost, and your guests don't have to drive from one place to another.
Are there restrictions on how we can personalize/decorate the space?
You probably have an idea of how you want to decorate a room the second you walk in, so ask what the rules and restrictions are on decorating. Some venues restrict you from decorating certain areas of a room, require you to use certain adhesive while hanging decorations, or only allow you to use certain vendors for decorations. This can be a big deal for some brides who want the freedom to customize the space as they wish.
Other questions you'll want to ask include:
Is the site handicap accessible?
Where are the nearest hotels? Do you partner with certain hotels/offer shuttle service?
What’s the weather contingency plan for outdoor spaces?
What are the parking accommodations?
Extra Tips for Your Tour
Reading online reviews by couples who’ve had their reception at the venues you’re considering can help you narrow your search and make the best use of your time. Asking a lot of questions will definitely be helpful in determining which venue is right for you and your fiancé, but we have a few other tips for your tours.
● Take photos of the space — Your phone will do just fine. Any photos you can get of the space overall — indoors, outdoors, details about the space you love — will help after you've toured multiple venues and want to remember what each looked like and how they compare to one another.
● Pay attention to the venue as a whole — You may have certain details you're looking for in a venue — wood beams, a fireplace, lots of windows — but look at the venue as a whole. Does it meet your needs and your wants? How do you feel when you walk in and around the space? Can you envision your wedding here?
● Get everything in writing – Your date is not reserved until you sign a contract or give a deposit to hold the date. Make sure if you love the venue, you get it.
Finding a venue is likely one of the first items on your long wedding planning list, but it can be one of the most enjoyable steps in the process. Take your time and have fun daydreaming about your special day with your fiancé at each venue you see!
Photo Credit: Janelle Elise Photography