15 Questions to Ask Wedding Venues Before You Book Them
So, you’re engaged and ready to tackle one of the first major wedding planning steps… booking your wedding venue! There are a few things that you should discuss with the wedding venue coordinator. Though their role seems pretty obvious, every wedding venue will handle your wedding day differently, so it is important that you fully understand what services each wedding venue will be providing.
If you read my previous blog, which covers the 5 first steps of wedding planning, you know that before you even start researching wedding venues, you should have already set your wedding budget, determined an approximate guest count, and started thinking about your wedding aesthetic. By taking the time to think through all those details first, you will be able to find a wedding venue that is suitable for your budget, style, and capacity needs!
So, now you are about to tour a venue and should come prepared with a list of questions. What exactly should you ask the wedding venue coordinator? The following questions will help guide you in deciding on a wedding venue that will best fit your needs.
1. Do you include wedding catering?
Many wedding venues are “all inclusive,” which means they handle most of the details, including the catering. If outsider wedding caterers are not allowed, then you are not only choosing your wedding venue, but your wedding catering company as well. If your wedding venue does not provide wedding catering, ask them if there are any rules regarding who can cater your wedding. Though some wedding venues might not provide in-house wedding catering, they may still require you to select from a list of preferred wedding vendors.
2. Do you require us to use any preferred wedding vendors?
A lot of wedding venues are very particular about what wedding vendors their clients are permitted to use, even outside of the realm of wedding catering. Think about it... their reputation as a wedding venue is dependent on the success of your event, which is directly impacted by the vendors you hire! Therefore, many wedding venues have a preferred list of wedding vendors and may even require that you choose from that list so it is important to understand what your limitations are before signing a contract with your wedding venue.
Vendor Spotlight: Coastal Discovery Museum
More and more wedding venues are seeing the value in wedding planners and coordinators. Sherri Rees, the events coordinator at Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head, SC, requires her couples to have a wedding planner.
"Every couple who chooses to have a wedding at our venue should have the wedding they have dreamed of with success to the very last detail. Our recommended coordinators have the knowledge and expertise to help you select your professional vendors to create the most memorable wedding for you and your guests while ensuring that all of the additional requirements from licensure to insurance are covered, giving you peace of mind.” - Sherri Rees, Coastal Discovery Museum
3. Are chairs/tables/linens/place settings included?
Many wedding venues offer chairs, tables, linens, and place settings. However, if your wedding venue does not include these items, you will need to hire an additional wedding vendor or rental company to provide them. This may also come with additional delivery and set up fees. Similarly, if you aren’t satisfied with the tables and chairs provided by your wedding venue, you may have the option to pay an additional fee to rent ones that better match your wedding aesthetic.
4. Do you include the centerpieces and décor?
Some wedding venues will provide you with centerpieces and décor. This can be super helpful if you are looking for a wedding venue that is able to handle most of the details for you! However, it is important to understand your options. If your wedding venue does provide its own décor, you may find your customization options too limiting.
5. Is there a Plan B for inclement weather?
It is always crucial to understand your wedding ceremony and reception Plan B! If your wedding venue is outdoors, make sure to find out if there are tents or indoor areas available to you in the event of inclement weather. As beautiful as the outdoor option may be, you don’t want your wedding guests stuck in the rain!
6. Do you offer heat or A/C?
Surprisingly, many wedding venues (especially older or outdoor wedding venues) do not offer heat or A/C. If you are planning to get married in a season where heat or A/C would be a necessity, make sure you understand what options your wedding venue is able to provide. For example, does your wedding venue have power available to use if you opt to bring your own space heaters or A/C units? The last thing you want is to find yourself sweating off your wedding makeup with no way to cool down!
7. Do you run the rehearsal?
Many wedding venue coordinators will run your rehearsal for you, but wedding officiants or wedding coordinators may also take on this responsibility. It’s important to know who out of your wedding vendors is the most experienced in providing this service, so there aren’t any surprises a few weeks before your wedding day.
8. Do you create a wedding vendor day-of timeline?
Most wedding venues will dictate when wedding vendors are allowed to arrive on the day of the wedding. Many wedding vendors need ample time to get set up, especially if they are also responsible for setting up décor. A wedding vendor timeline will help ensure every wedding vendor knows when to arrive. Mapping out these details ahead of time will help make sure your wedding vendors aren’t crunched for time, which will in turn make sure your wedding day is off to a smooth start. If your wedding venue does not provide a day-of timeline for you, it is strongly suggested that you or your wedding planner take the time to coordinate all of these details. The more you are able to plan before your wedding day, the less likely you are to find yourself faced with day-of issues or delays.
9. How long do my wedding vendors get to set-up/break down?
If your wedding venue doesn’t provide you with a wedding vendor day-of timeline, you will at least need to be able to tell your wedding vendors approximately how much time they will have for set-up and break down. If your wedding venue only gives you an hour of set-up time before guests arrive, then your wedding vendors may need a larger team to get everything ready in time. Additionally, your wedding vendors will likely require you to pay an additional fee for the extra assistance.
10. Do you do more than one wedding in a day?
You are more likely to experience logistical hiccups if your wedding venue is hosting multiple weddings in one day. If your wedding venue has a morning wedding before your scheduled evening wedding, you won’t be able to set up until the wedding before you has completely finished their breakdown. Some venues have multiple rooms and weddings happening at the same time. In this case, you’ll also want to ensure the wedding venue has a plan for parking and other logistics. This isn’t a complete deal-breaker, but you’ll definitely want to ensure your wedding venue has significant experience in coordinating more than one wedding in a day and has a successful process in place.
11. Do you do set-up and break down?
Many wedding venues will take care of set-up and break down, especially wedding venues that provide in-house wedding catering. However, it is important to ask your wedding venue coordinator about this service. Do they set up all your decor as well? Or just the chairs, tables and linens that they provide? Some wedding venues also offer this as an a-la-carte service, so you’ll also want to verify any additional costs this may add to your wedding venue agreement.
12. Are you open to the public?
Many beautiful wedding venues are in public places that will not close down just for your wedding day. Any wedding venue that operates on town property or that operates publicly like a storefront or hotel, will inevitably have random people around. For example, if you want to get married on a beach, be mindful that you very well may wind up with unflattering strangers in the background of your wedding photos. If this is something that you know will bother you, you may want to rethink your wedding venue, or budget a little extra to pay your photographer to work their Photoshop magic!
13. Do you create a floor plan?
Hopefully your wedding venue provides you with a floor plan. But if for whatever reason they don’t handle the placement of the bar, the DJ, dance floor, or tables, make sure that you can have access to an empty floor plan of your wedding venue to work with and share with your vendors.
14. Do you create a seating chart?
You will need a seating chart, place cards, or escort cards a few weeks before your wedding day, once you’ve gotten all of your RSVPs back. Ask your wedding venue coordinator if your wedding venue covers this detail, especially if you would like your place cards to include your guests pre-chosen meal. If your wedding venue does not provide this service, it’ll be one more thing that you'll need to check off your list in that pre-wedding crunch time. Alternatively, if you’ve chosen to hire a wedding coordinator, this is a detail that they could take care of for you.
15. Do you oversee and manage my wedding vendors directly?
While every wedding vendor usually has their own timeline, it is crucial that all of your wedding vendors are on the same page and understand the ideal flow of your wedding day. The last thing you want to be dealing with is wedding vendor conflict-resolution on the day of your wedding. Ask your wedding venue coordinator if they can work with your wedding vendors directly. Again, if this is out of your wedding venue coordinators area of expertise, you could ask a wedding coordinator to handle it in the final month leading up to your big day.
While these are a lot of questions to ask potential wedding venues, they are expecting it. Hiring a wedding venue is a huge commitment! They will understand because asking all of these questions upfront will help to ensure that your wedding day is a complete success.