Searching for a venue is often the first step to wedding planning – and while it can be lots of fun touring different properties, it’s easy to get distracted picturing your Big Day there and forget to ask some important questions. We’ve compiled a list of the seven things to ask your venue before booking. (And don’t forget to bring along a notebook and take some pictures!)
1. Do you have availability on my date?
If you have a specific date in mind (or at least a range of dates) this is always the first question. Discuss with your fiancé and family ahead of time whether or not you want to be flexible with your date, the time of year, and whether you will consider a Friday or the off-season to save money.
2. What is the cost – and are there taxes, fees, and other service charges?
Often the “per head” cost that a venue starts with is not the actual final cost. Many places will add tax, service fees, and other mark up. So if $100/per head is advertised, it actually ends up being closer to $130 per head, and that’s before any upgrades. And be sure to ask if gratuity is included or if it’s at your discretion. Some venues also may charge a site fee at a flat rate, and you may even have an additional fee to have the ceremony onsite.
3. Are there multiple weddings per day?
You may care about being the only bride at your venue that day, or you may not. (It’s actually something I THOUGHT I cared about at my wedding, and ended up comprising on when I realized it would save me money.) Either way, it’s a good thing to know as it may affect what time you can arrive, whether or not you can rehearse there beforehand, and whether you are the sole focus of the staff.
4. Can we do our ceremony onsite and is there a fee?
If you plan to get married in a church or at a different location than your reception, this may not apply. But if you know you want the wedding and reception in one space, make sure you ask at the beginning if you’re even allowed to. I’m guilty of falling in love with a venue, ready to sign the paperwork, only to find out that a recent policy change by the owner prohibits wedding ceremonies from being onsite. If this is important to you, know the details first and don’t forget to ask if there is a cost for holding the ceremony!
5. Could we utilize both indoor and outdoor spaces?
Many brides want to have access to some part of the outdoors, even if just for cocktail hour. Check out where guests will have access to during the reception, and confirm if there are any areas that are off limits. Winter bride? Think about if you want any pictures outdoors, and be sure to ask the venue for suggestions.
6. Is there a bridal suite to get ready?
This is another question that is only important for some (and another thing I ultimately compromised on). If you plan for you and your maids to get ready at the venue, you’ll want to know that they are able to accommodate you early in the day. And if you do get ready off-site, you may want to guarantee there is a spot for you and the girls to leave all of your stuff and hang out before your grand entrance (or even just a place for you and your new husband to sneak away for a few moments during the chaos of the reception)!
7. Is there a time limit for how early we can start the ceremony and how late we can play music?
Some venues are flexible with the start times and others are very strict – especially if there ARE other weddings that day. If you pictured a ceremony in the daylight but your venue won’t let you start before 6:30 p.m. during the fall, this may affect your vision of the Big Day. And while most weddings typically go for about five hours, some towns have laws against playing music too late and will require you to end the night before a certain time. Know what your time parameters are before you book!
And one last tip…be open-minded!
When I first saw my venue, I didn’t want to go in and take the tour because I was convinced I wouldn’t like it from the outside. It didn’t tick all of my boxes, and I had to make a few comprises, but in the end I realized that some of the small details I thought I cared about really weren’t that important. And I’m thankful my family pushed me to go inside, because it ended up being the perfect place for our wedding!
If you can narrow down your “needs” and “wants” in a venue, check out a range of options, even if you think you won’t like it. The venue is the first step – and often the most important – so it’s easy to get caught up in your perfect image and struggle to have a place you’ve never seen before fit into it. And some places that aren’t a perfect fit may help you realize what is truly at the top of your list, and what can become not-so-essential.