Hitched 2.0: 10 Questions To Ask A Potential Venue

When we started venue-hunting, we had literally no clue what we were doing. On the outside, we tried to appear to be a sophisticated, knowledgeable couple touring each potential venue. On the inside, we were two clueless twenty-somethings wondering what the hell we were supposed to ask these events directors and catering managers to avoid awkward silences or complete embarrassment. After a few (okay, several) appointments, though, we started to pick up on what kind of information we were supposed to be gathering. To help you avoid the same slow-moving progress, go to each venue meeting armed with this list of crucial questions.

1. How many hours do we get the venue? Is there a charge for extra hours?

The venue may give you a flat price, but make sure you know what that gets you. Do you have to start at 6 pm and end at 12 pm? Can you shift the times earlier or later, or do you have to be out by a certain time? Some venues will also allow you to break up the times—so, if you pay for six hours, you can do cocktails from 5-6PM, break for an hour, and then do the reception from 7-12PM.

2. What are the out-of-the-box ideas past weddings have done at this venue?

No two weddings are alike, and that includes ones at the same venue. But, you can get ideas from ones that have come before you—ones you know will work!

3. Do we have to do a seated dinner?

Many couples are opting for a less traditional meal at their reception in the way of “action stations.” Rather than the standard ‘chicken or fish,’ guests can have the option of a stir-fry station, a pasta station, a carving station, or a crepe station—the possibilities are (nearly) endless. Not every venue has this option though, so if you’re interested, make sure you ask.

4. Are there any restrictions on the music?

It’s safe to say most venues will allow either a band or a DJ, but you should definitely make sure. Sometimes, especially in more residential areas, there are sound restrictions that will prevent you from having a live band in house—as well as ones that will require the music to stop by a certain time.

5. Can we come see weddings beforehand?

It can be difficult to imagine your wedding just by looking at the blank space. Ask if it’s possible for you to take a look at another wedding happening in your venue. It’ll help give you an idea of how everything will flow, and how the space can truly be transformed. You may be able to pop in while they’re finishing set-up—or if you get really lucky, a couple may allow you to even check out the actual wedding, live. Just maybe skip the part where you do the worm in the middle of the dance circle; strangers might not appreciate that.

6. Are we responsible for set-up and clean-up? When do we need to have our things out of the venue?

This varies greatly from place to place. Some may take care of all of the set-up and tear down; some require you and your vendors to do so. Your venue may be able to store some of your personal pieces/décor (think: framed photos, centerpieces, etc) overnight so you don’t have to worry about that as you head to the honeymoon suite, but it’s definitely not a guarantee.

7. Are we responsible for carrying liability insurance?

Most venues carry liability insurance that will protect them from any injuries or mishaps that occur at your wedding, but there are a few that will require you—and/or your vendors—to carry it. If you are required to carry it, it adds some cost, so be prepared to add it into your budget by asking in advance.

8. Do you have an exclusive list of vendors we need to go through?

Many venues like to keep things simple—and maintain relationships with other businesses—by requiring couples to contract catering, flowers, lighting, and more from an approved vendors list. While this does take the guess-work out of choosing vendors yourself, it can also be restricting. Make sure you know your options before signing a contract. It’s also worthwhile to ask if there are any restrictions with décor: Can you hang things from the ceiling? Can you affix things to the wall?

9. What level of privacy do we have?

Some of the places you’re looking at may operate solely as event venues, in which case you’ll likely have the entire space. Other places, though, like restaurants and hotels, still operate as a business during your event. Ask if that will be the case for your wedding and, if so, what restrictions there will be to keep patrons from crashing your wedding.

10. This is out of our budget, but I really want to have my wedding here. Can we make this work?

You fall in love with a venue, only to find the price tag doesn’t fit your budget. Don’t just walk away. The wedding industry isn’t black and white, and there is almost always room for negotiating. You’d be surprised how many venues will come back and ask what price will fit your budget (it’s happened to me!), and work with you to find a happy medium. Dream wedding, here you come!

Hitched, our weekly column about getting married, is back! This time around, we’ll be walking down the aisle (well, in spirit) with writer Emma Sarran, who will be sharing her thoughts on long engagements, the institution of matrimony and that godforsaken wedding industrial complex every Thursday. Follow her on Twitter!