The start of a new year always gets me reflecting on beginnings. Last week I shared the three things every couple should do before beginning to plan their wedding, and today, I’m thinking about what is often the beginning of the wedding planning process: finding the perfect venue.
In my opinion, choosing your venue is one of the most important – and sometimes difficult – parts of the wedding planning process. Since the date and the venue go hand-in-hand, not much else can be planned until the venue is chosen, a reality sometimes leaves couples feeling rushed and slightly panicked. My best advice as you start to look for venues: take your time. See several venues, ask lots of questions and give yourself time to figure out which place is the best for your big day.
So, if you are starting the venue search, congratulations! This is such an exciting time – enjoy it. To help guide you through this crucial first step in the planning process, I’m sharing 10 questions to ask a potential wedding venue. Since each venue is different, some of these may not apply to all venues, but they’re good things to keep in mind regardless!
1. What items are included in the price? Tables, Chairs, Linens, Candles, Signage, Sound System?
Especially if you’re looking at renting a raw space for your wedding, it’s important to know what items you’ll need to rent. If you’re looking at a more all-inclusive venue, ask to see the included items so you can account for any items you might want to rent replacements for.
2. Do you have an onsite coordinator? What is his/her role?
Some venues will have an event manager who will be your point of contact throughout the planning process. Be sure to ask what his or her involvement will be up to and on the day of the event and the role of the event staff onsite. Will they set up the tables, chairs and linens? Will they be there in case there is a power outage or problem with the bathroom?
A note here — the site’s event manager is not a substitute for a wedding planner. The event manager will likely have extremely valuable insight about vendors who have worked in the space before, floor plans and room layouts, timelines and more. But when it comes to your floral contract, photography and hair and make-up schedule and rehearsal dinner plans, you’ll likely need your planner to handle those things.
3. If there is onsite catering, are we able to make modifications to the menu without increasing the cost? Are we able to bring in our own cake, beverages, etc.?
One of the great benefits to full-service venues is the convenience of having the catering in-house. But if you have specific kinds of foods you want to serve, or are dreaming of a family-style meal or have a special bakery in mind for your desserts, find out what flexibility there is to customize your menu.
4. When can we access the site for set up? When must everything be removed from the premises?
If you’re planning to hire vendors for an elaborate installation, it’ll be important that your vendors have enough time prior to the event for load in and load out. If there is a strict timetable, that will be important to know. If you’re planning on doing any decorating or set up yourself, a wider timetable will be helpful.
5. Do you have any exclusive vendors that must be used for certain services? Any vendors you recommend in particular?
Some venues will have required vendors for certain services, like catering or lighting. Make sure you know what vendors you can use in the space so you can plan and budget accordingly. Also, ask for their favorite vendors — the venue will have seen hundreds of weddings and will have some great recommendations of vendors who have done good work in their space. Pick their brain to get their favorites!
6. What are your insurance requirements? For us, for our vendors?
Some venues will require you to get insurance to cover the event. If so, you’ll need to factor that into your budget and make sure to get that done. Also, if your vendors are required to have insurance, that will be important to know when you are interviewing vendors.
7. Are there any limitations on what decorations we can use? I.E. candles, hanging fixtures, confetti, sparklers?
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but if you have your heart set on doing a sparkler exit at the end of the night, make sure the venue allows it! Be sure to ask about candles (if you can have any live flames, if they need to be contained in a vessel, etc.), and suspending decor from the ceilings if you plan to have those.
8. Are there spaces onsite for the couple and wedding party to get ready and store items?
If there isn’t enough space for the couple and the wedding party to get ready onsite, you’ll need to budget for a hotel room or another space for that to happen. You’ll also need a space (preferably a lockable one) for storing purses, valuables, etc. for you and your VIPs.
9. Are there any noise or timing restrictions we should be aware of?
Some venues will have curfews (i.e. all events end at 11pm), or sound limitations that will need to be adhered to. If you’re dreaming of a 10-piece band but the space has a strict decibel limit, you might run into some issues.
10. Are there any weekends or dates we should avoid?
Be sure to ask the venue about local festivals, graduation weekends or holidays that might impact on certain dates and weekends. For example, I live in the Hudson Valley, and there are a ton of colleges in this area. On graduation weekends, the local hotels will often refuse to set up wedding room blocks since they have such high demand for rooms.
Good luck as your start searching for your perfect venue! Need a little help along the way? Get in touch — I’d love to help you.