by Linda DiProperzio
Choosing a wedding venue is no small decision. Whether you’re having both the ceremony and reception there—or just the party after the vows—you want a place that has more than simply an open date on the calendar and looks pretty. In fact, asking the right questions when touring a wedding venue can save you a lot of stress (and regret!) during the entire planning process. Here are the top questions you need to ask before you put down that deposit on a venue.
- What is your maximum capacity?
Don’t fall in love with a venue before figuring out how many people you’ll be inviting to your wedding. If you plan to have over 300 guests in attendance, it is a waste of time for you (and the venue) to look at a location that can only hold 100. You want your guests to be comfortable and safe, which simply can’t happen if they’re packed in like sardines. And the same goes in reverse: Do you really need a grand ballroom if you’re planning a more intimate party?
- What dates do you have open?
Some couples come in with a particular season they want to hold their wedding, which makes finding an open date a bit easier. But others want to swap vows on a set day in order to honor an anniversary, birthday or other meaningful date. If that date isn’t available, then you need to move on to the next.
- Do you have liability insurance?
Hopefully no one will have to use it, but just in case, you should make sure any venue you consider is fully insured. In fact, if a location you look at doesn’t have the proper insurance, that is a huge red flag.
- Can you explain your pricing?
Most venues have different price packages so be sure to go over each one in detail. Find out if each one includes taxes and gratuities, if there are any service fees, how much the deposit will be, and what your payment schedule will look like.
- How long do we have the venue?
Couples should know how many hours that price will get them in the venue--and what happens if for some reason there is a delay and they run over that time.
- Is there space to get ready?
A suite or separate area for the wedding party to get ready is a great perk for any venue. Knowing that everyone is already at the location is one less thing to worry about on the day.
- Do you have a liquor license?
Not every venue wants to pay--and deal with the red tape and regulations--of having a liquor license. And if they don’t, are you allowed to bring in your own alcohol (remember, this will be an added to-do in the planning process for you).
- Is there an on-site caterer?
If so, the venue can set up your menu tastings and be your liaison between yourself and that vendor. If not, then you will need to hire your own chef for the event and make sure they are comfortable working in the kitchen at your chosen location.
- Do I need to bring in any rentals?
Some venues allow you to start with a clean slate, which means you have to bring in all of the basics: tables, chairs, linens, glassware, plates, etc. These rental costs can certainly add up and put a strain on your wedding day budget, so be sure you’re aware of any of these costs before you book.
- Can the venue accommodate a DJ or live band?
If you’re looking at a smaller space, there might not be room for a large band or all of the DJ’s lights and equipment. If you have your heart set on a certain entertainer, make sure they will have the space to do everything you’re looking for.
- Are there accommodations nearby?
According to Zingerman's Cornman Farms, this is one question many couples forget to ask, although it is super important. Some guests might be traveling to your event and will need a place to stay overnight. Once you find a local hotel, don’t forget to secure a block of rooms for your family and friends.
- Is there a food and beverage minimum?
A minimum means that you will have to guarantee a specific amount of food and beverages will be served for your event—no matter how many guests will be attending. And keep in mind that most minimums do not include taxes and gratuities, so you’ll want the venue to be very clear about those numbers before you sign a contract.
- Do you have a list of preferred vendors?
If you want to hire certain specific vendors for your wedding day (like a videographer you’ve been eyeing on our site!), make sure you are allowed to bring in your own people. If so, your professionals will most likely have to show proof that they are insured.
- Do you have an on-site planner or coordinator? Are they my main point of contact?
A professional employed by the wedding venue solely to help couples through the planning process or just on the day-of can be a lifesaver. If a location has someone on-site to fill this role, that is definitely a bonus.
- What time can my vendors begin setting up?
Whether it’s you or your wedding planner, there should be a timeline for the big day so everyone knows where to be and when. You need to know when your vendors can actually gain access to your venue to start getting everything ready for the event.
- What's the backup plan in case of rain?
There is no way around it: If you are having any of your event outdoors, your wedding venue must have a Plan B in place in case Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. If there is no indoor option, are there tents available? What about heaters and generators? This is not something you want to leave up to fat
- Will my event be the only one held at the venue at that time?
Some couples don’t mind being at a venue that is holding multiple weddings or events on the same day, while others want the focus of staff to be solely on them. If you’re the latter, this is something you’ll definitely want to know about.
- Are there any noise restrictions?
Certain locales have specific ordinances when it comes to noise, which means your wedding will have to end at a specific time. That could put a real damper on your plans if you hoped to party well into the night.
- Is there parking available on-site?
This is another feature many couples assume every wedding venue has, but that’s not always the case. If there isn’t ample parking on-site, how will older and disabled guests get to your wedding? If the venue doesn’t supply shuttle buses, that is an additional expense you will have to take on.
- What is your cancellation policy?
Hopefully, this will never happen, but if we’ve learned anything after the past year, it’s that couples should know their options if they have to cancel or postpone their nuptials. Make sure your wedding venue has a clear plan in place if the unforeseen happens, and that it is spelled out in detail in the contract.
Not sure where to start when searching for a location? Take a look at some wedding venues near you.