Essential Questions for Venues

Today I received an email from a bride requesting the list of questions she should ask her venue prior to signing a contract.  Obviously the type of venue will dictate this a bit, but here is my advice to her (and you):

Pricing/Hours

  • How many hours are alloted for my event?  What is the overtime policy if I exceed those stated hours? 
  • Do the stated hours include time for set-up and break-down or must I pay extra? 
  • Is rehearsal time the day prior included in the rental fee?  If it is not, what is the cost?
  • If I am holding a morning or evening event, will you book another event for the alternate time slot?
  • Does the venue require any security personnel?  Is that included in the rental fee?
  • What is the payment schedule and cancellation policy?  In the event of a breach of contract by either party, what is the legal recourse?

Logistics

  • Is there an in-house coordinator?  Will they be present for my event and rehearsal, if applicable?
  • What are the maximum capacities in the venue (each room)?  How much foot-space does the reception room provide with the maximum place settings?
  • My guest list is approximately ___.  Is there sufficient space for a dance floor, cake cutting station, band/DJ, and my guest tables?
  • Are there restrictions on where the band or DJ may set up or where the dance floor is located?
  • Can you provide a detailed floor plan, including the locations of the electrical outlets?
  • How is parking arranged?  Is there an optional valet?  If there is rain, will there be conditions that make walking from the parking area to the venue difficult?
  • Ask to see the coat check facilities, the restrooms, and the bride’s and groom’s dressing room.  Be sure that the dressing rooms are sufficiently far apart if you do not want to see each other prior to the ceremony.
  • Are there any neighborhood noise restrictions?

Decor

  • What is the policy on lighting candles inside the facility?
  • What decor will be present in the venue during my season?  Is it removable?  What items of decor are off-limits for use or removal?
  • Is using the in-house florist (some venues provide) a requirement?  If not, what are the restrictions with regard to bringing in my own florist?
  • What audio/visual features are available in the space?
  • Are chairs and tables included in my rental fee?  Linens?  Silverware and glassware?  Does the rental fee cover the labor to set-up and break-down?  Ask to see a sample of every item that is included.  If tables are included, note the size, shape, and quantity.  If you will be bringing in any items from a rental company, inquire about storage for the in-house items you will not be using.  Ask to see photos of a full set-up with their in-house items.
  • Can I string lights in the trees or decorate the outside of the structure?
  • Is rice allowed for throwing at exit?

Catering

  • Is using the in-house caterer (some venues provide) a requirement?  If not, what are the restrictions with regard to bringing in my own caterer?
  • If I must use the in-house caterer, will they provide a tasting prior to contract signing?
  • Is there a preferred baker?  If I do not use that baker, what is the cake-cutting fee I will be charged?
  • Do you provide a cake stand and serving pieces if requested?
  • What are the restrictions, if any, on alcohol?  Does the in-house caterer allow me to bring my own?  What is the fee, if any, for bringing in outside alcohol?  Is there a corkage fee per bottle?
  • Are there restrictions on where the bar is allowed to be set up?

Other

  • Do you have arrangements with local hotels for room block discounts?
  • Can we schedule a visit for my photographer so that he/she can check the lighting and get the lay of the land?
  • If any portion is held outdoors, what are the contingency plans for inclement weather?
  • Do you allow fireworks or sparklers on the grounds?

This is by no means a fully comprehensive list, but it’s a good place to start for the first meeting!  I also highly recommend reading Blue Orchid Designs’ feature on 30 Days to Plan a Wedding – Liene has such useful information and has compiled an in-depth look into many topics covered above.

Happy planning!

E.