Top ten key things you need to know when scouting a wedding venue
Everyone’s needs are different, but understanding the ins and outs of what each potential venue offers or doesn’t offer can really help you determine which venue is right for you. Here are the key things to ask when you are scouting a wedding venue.
Is the space right for a group of your size?
Too big, or too small, both can present a problem. If a room doesn’t have air walls to divide the ballroom into a smaller space, or screens to “bring the walls in” so to speak, it just may not feel right and the acoustics could also be thrown off. Too little space and your dance floor size or table service could potentially suffer and no one wants to feel like a sardine, unless of course you are a sardine. Be sure to consider this when scouting a wedding venue!
What is and what is not included in the wedding package?
Your wedding venue may include a host of things but it’s what is not included in your wedding package that you are going to want to know about. Here are a few examples of things you might not have thought of. Adequate power to supply all everything you planned on, or a sound system for the ceremony, especially if it’s being held outdoors. Specialty cocktails such as a welcome drink, for example, or a champagne toast, even if you are paying for an open bar. Don’t take it for granted that these are part of your open bar package because often they are not. Even freebies like a free suite wedding night are less of a bargain if you need to check in (and pay for) the day before, in order to be there early enough to have hair and makeup services done in the suite on the morning of the wedding.
How do you calculate the service charges?
Before signing the wedding venue contract ask for a proposal so that you can get a clear estimate of how much everything will cost and which method they use to calculate those charges. Some venues charge a service charge on top of the food and beverage costs only, while others charge a service charge on top of everything they provide, including any rentals that they get for you and/or on top of their flat venue, ceremony or room rental fees. In some cases the difference can be pretty substantial. At 18-24% which are typical mounts, this could add up to thousands of dollars. Before you sign that contract, be sure you are prepared for all these charges so you can plan accordingly.
What is taxable and what is not taxable?
Some wedding venues charge tax on top of the service charge and others calculate it only on the tangible items, so having an estimate prior to signing will help eliminate any surprises later down the road. The laws and loopholes are different in every state so don’t make any assumptions. An estimate in writing will alleviate any guesswork.
What is your wedding cancellation policy?
Both the wedding ceremony and the wedding reception could be subject to a cancellation policy. This policy might not only hold your deposit, but it also sometimes allows the wedding venue to collect the full balance of the contract, should you cancel the wedding. The venue is holding space for you on that date and turning away other clients as a result. While some venues might agree to a new date without penalty or agree to try to rent the space out to someone else thereby returning some or all of your money, most will not do so. If the wedding continues as planned, food and beverage minimums will likely need to be met even if guest count goes down. You’ll want to know in advance what the minimum spend that is required no matter what the final guest count is, in order to make an informed decision.
What are the terms for the room block agreement?
This is a tricky one, as navigating room block terms can be a challenge for the layman. And it can be especially tricky when planning a destination wedding in another country. Very often, most hotel room blocks that you may set up will be subject to cancellation policies and you’ll need to have a very clear understanding of what those are, and the deadlines that are involved. Penalties can be steep and you can be held liable if guests don’t fill all the rooms set aside on a room block or if guests have a change of travel plans.
What time can my vendors start setting up on the day of the wedding?
Before you get your heart set on hundreds of tiny lanterns hanging from the trees or an elaborate lighting package that requires all day for installation, find out how much time they will give your vendors to make it happen. What a shame it would be if you commission a florist to provide you with an elaborate decor package only to have the venue tell you they couldn’t get into the space with enough time to accomplish the set up. Or, you might be required to pay for extra set up time should the space not already be promised to another group using that space before you, but if you don’t ask you may be out of luck.
What is the contingency plan for inclement weather?
If you are interested in an outdoor wedding, be sure that the venue manager can walk you through exactly what would happen should an outdoor wedding need to move inside. Rain, wind, cold or heat may be cause for concern. You may be planning for 100 or more guests outside on the lawn outdoors but when you move indoors, there might only be enough seating space for 75, for example. Or it may simply not be what you envisioned. Would you be allowed to tent and is there adequate space to do so? Have a "worst case scenario" plan, so you won't be caught in a panic if Mother Nature wreaks havoc on your wedding vision.
Is there a noice ordinance and how does that affect my wedding?
Indoors or outdoors, noise restrictions may affect what you had in mind for your wedding reception. Most areas have a noise ordinance that requires you to stop playing music outdoors. In some cases, you may be able to continue playing if the volume is lowered significantly, but not in every case. In most parts of the United States, if your venue is located in a residential area and someone complains about the notice, the local police have the right to shut it down or make you lower the volume significantly, even if it is earlier than the restricted time. It’s also important to keep in mind that even in an indoor space such as a hotel ballroom, you might be required to shut down the music at a set time even if you were willing to pay the extra fees to party until the wee hours. The noise might affect other guests staying at the hotel or neighboring venues and for that reason you may have a time limit.
Are there any other restrictions to be aware of?
Maybe you planned to have your pup walk down the aisle. Maybe you envision a canopy of flowers over the dancefloor, or a confetti cannonblasting a surprise burst of confetti as you complete your first dance as a married couple. Even simple votive candles can be cause for alarm with some venues. You’ll need to ask what the restrictions are when it comes to attaching decor to the venue walls or ceiling, their pet policy and their policy on open flames and items such as confetti. If there’s anything else they don’t allow, be sure that it’s all clear from the get go so that you don’t have to face the disappointment of canceling something you had your heart set on.