Top 21 Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Venue
— By Lorna Urwin
16 January 2017
Deciding on a venue is often a case of going with your gut and what looks or feels right. While these impulses are undeniably important, it’s crucial not to forget about the less instinctive parts too. No one wants to set their heart on a venue only to discover unexpected restrictions or limitations. To help make your venue hunting as easy as possible we’ve gathered the essential questions below - slip this list into your wedding planning folder and you’re good to go!
Dates and timings
Image by Bohemian Simplicity
1/ Is my date (or an appropriate date) available?
If you have a specific date in mind this is a make or break question! If not, you may still want to determine if something will be possible in your season of preference, or on your ideal the day of the week.
2/ Will there be multiple weddings in one day?
Large venues sometimes hold more than one wedding in a day, particularly during peak times. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may have implications for the atmosphere of the day and for set up/clean up.
3/ What times will the venue be available to us?
Get a clear picture of when you’ll take control of the space (to begin set up) and when you have to be finished (some venues have a closing time in place, or require further payment/overtime beyond a certain point).
4/ What’s the capacity?
Whether or not a venue can accommodate the number of guests you want is a top priority. As such, you should have at least a rough idea of the headcount you want when browsing venues. View the spaces yourself (including facilities like car parking and bathrooms) to ensure there’s plenty of room and facilities to fit everyone comfortably, without there being too much empty space.
5/ If the space is convertible, what is the conversion process from ceremony to reception venue?
You’ll want to have a clear picture of how the changeover will happen. Will the venue take care of this? How long will it take? Where will the guests be during this time?
6/ If it isn’t convertible, what are my options for the ceremony/reception?
The logistics of travel between the ceremony and reception site will be a significant factor in any venue decision. If you have one or the other picked out already (say, your local church), be sure to consider the distance from there to each reception venue you consider. If you’re flexible with one or both, enquire about nearby ceremony options when speaking with reception venues and/or vice versa.
7/ Is there a bad weather backup plan?
If you’d like for any part of your wedding to take place outdoors (ceremony, cocktail hour, even the whole event!), it’ essential to ensure there are alternatives available should inclement weather hit.
Image by Jose Villa Photography
8/ Is there adequate accessibility?
If you have any guests where accessibility is a concern, be sure to check that each part of the venue will be suitable for their needs. This may include entrances and exits, doorways, space between tables or other furniture, distance to facilities and ease of movement across the floor.
9/ What are the accommodation options at the venue/in the local area?
If you have guests travelling from afar, or if you’d like to indulge in a stay of your own, you may want to check whether the venue has their own rooms, while also enquiring about options (at a range of price points) nearby.
10/ Are rentals (of glassware, crockery, linens etc.) available?
It can save money to rent from your venue, but you’ll want to be certain that they have the right quantity for your guest list, that the items are of good quality and in line with your taste/décor plans.
11/ Are there any restrictions on decorations?
If you already have ideas about your dream décor, ask early on to make sure the venue can cater for your vision! Don’t forget to ask if you’d like to remove certain things (flowers normally on display, for example) as well as add them.
Image by Avodah Photography
12/ Am I free to use my choice of vendors?
Occasionally venues will specify that you must adhere to in-house or venue-approved providers. It can be reassuring and useful to have a pre-approved list to work from, but ask in advance if you’d rather have the freedom to use other vendors.
13/ What staff will be available to support my event?
Who will my point of contact be? (You’ll want to meet with and get to know this person prior to making your decision.) Will there be an event coordinator? Who will do what on the day? Getting a clear idea of the role(s) venue staff play should enable you to budget appropriately for any additional help you’ll need.
Are there any restrictions on…
Image by Sorella Muse
Assuming you want to serve alcoholic drinks at the wedding, make sure you understand any limitations or requirements.
15/ Photography or videography, use of flash?
Generally, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re looking at public buildings like museums or places of worship, there may be rules about using flash.
This is particularly relevant for venues set in or near residential areas.
17/ Anything else?
There is any number of other restrictions that a venue might stipulate, from use of open flames (candles) to insurance to rubbish disposal. It doesn’t hurt to ask about this in an open-ended way!
Image by Fineline Photography
18/ Is there a rental fee? If so, what does it include/exclude?
For most couples, costs are one of the most important factors when deciding between venues. Venues may quote in different ways, so be sure to compare prices on an equal footing. For instance, some might include crockery/linen hire in their price while others don’t or some may have an increased cost because the timings of the rental are longer.
19/ How much is the deposit, when is it required? When is the full fee due? What's the cancellation policy?
Be clear about how much payment is required and the deadline for those payments. It’s a very good idea to expect the unexpected and understand up front how cancellation will work should something get in the way of the date or location you’ve picked.
20/ Are there any extra fees or customary donations?
In a church setting, in particular, there may be extra costs for securing an organist, other musicians or a choir. Similarly, you may be asked to donate towards facilities/the verger in a larger venue.
21/ Do you have an overtime policy?
If you’re planning to party long into the night/morning (and the venue allows the party to run this late – see question 3), ensure you ask about the overtime policy for staff and/or vendors. You’ll want to budget for this within your venue costs from the beginning.