Think saying “I do” is going to be the most emotional moment in your wedding? Probably so, but putting down a deposit on your wedding venue could be a close runner-up.
Reception costs consume almost half the budget for the wedding, which these days means you can expect to lay out almost $13,000, including food, for a very small wedding. And the venue you select can not only limit your choice of caterers or bakers, it’s sure to affect how much you spend to “cover up” its weak spots or accent its highlights. Most stressful of all, the popular venues book far in advance, forcing brides to make the big decision almost as soon as they set the date.
For that reason, the savvy venue-hunters wants to know what questions to ask before walking in the door, much less signs the contract. Here are a few ideas:
Do you have a preferred vendor list pre-set, or can I choose my own?
Some venues — have their own catering staff, or some allow the clients to bring in their own catering team, however the most popular is working with a list of their preferred vendors. Scheduling taste-tests can seem a little useless, but it is, well worth is (for your pocket and your stomach). If you have to use a vendor approved list (which is more than likely your best bet) search high and low for brides who have “been there, done that” and ask for their honest opinions, even feel free to ask the venues’ coordinators.
Any restrictions on decorations?
Many venues have them, but rules vary from location to location. Common restrictions include: no open flame (or no flame whatsoever), no tape or tacks on the walls, or no confetti. When linens are provided, some halls will prohibit the use of pins. Ask if the hall can provide any decorations themselves, especially if your wedding day aligns with a specific holiday. Even ask if they have any items that the could rent to you, such as centerpieces, we all love hurricane lamps or Eiffel vases!
Can we bring our own liquor, is there a “corkage” fee, and do we need a license?
If the liquor’s to flow freely at your wedding, you’ll save an immense amount of moolah by bringing your own. But some venues prohibit this and require you to buy from them. Please keep in mind that some venues, allow the clients to bring in alcohol, following a “corkage fee” to serve it, if this is the case please ask the venue or catering rep for all associated fees. You’ll want to be crystal-clear on the fine print regarding alcohol before you commit to a venue.
As for licensing, many states consider wedding receptions to be an “unlicensed social function,” meaning you don’t need one as long as you’re not charging anyone for the alcohol. But be sure to check your local regulations before moving ahead — and ask your venue if they know of any licensing requirements.
Is there a cake-cutting fee?
Aside from the preferred vendor list, check to see if bakers made the cut. If there are not limits on the preferred cake vendors, determine if the baker will cut the cake or if you have to ask the venues catering team to assist. Please note that cake cutting is not typically free, services such as these can start at $1 per slice!
– Bring a tape measure. Get the dimensions of the room, the tables, and the distance between any features that might impact your decor, like windows. How many outlets are there and where are they located? What kind of climate control is available to you?
– Check the kitchen. Does it look clean, roomy and suitable for your catering staff to work from?
– Check the hall itself. Where will you put the band, the cake table, the coffee service? Is there a sound system available?
– Check out the parking. Is it ample? Is it paved, or can it get muddy in the case of rain? Is there handicap access?
One final thing to get clear before you autograph that contract is your venue’s cancellation policy. Please be sure to read the cancellation policy in full and ask all questions, literally ALL QUESTIONS, before autographing.
This is just a starting point for your list of questions to ask. Feel free to add more questions and no need to be shy about it!