One of the biggest headaches when planning a wedding are all the logistics of people and stuff. When you first start the search for a venue it can be easy to gravitate to the pretties option, but make sure that the one that will look amazing in all your photos is also the one that will cause you the lest stress. Today I’m sharing 25 questions that you should ask potential reception venues before you book.
1. What is the seating capacity of the space for dinner? Does the style of dinner service change this number? This number is your guide to the entire venue, it will completely dictate your guest list and total reception cost. Occasionally venues will offer a different seating capacity for a dinner that is plated verse a buffet style. Buffets require a larger space in the room for the food itself and also for guests to navigate around it.
2. Do you have a separate space for the cocktail hour or would it be held in the main reception room? Often couples are looking to create a variety of experiences for their guests and want distinctly different areas for the various elements of the wedding celebration. Is it important to you that cocktail hour have its own space or are you fine with it happening in the same space that dinner will be served?
3. When can set up of the space begin? This all important time is key for both you and your vendors- the type of decor you will be able to achieve in a space can come down to how much time is available to set it up.
4. Can Items be stored on site before set up? Will you be bringing in design and decor elements yourself or will the be provided by vendors? If you are supplying items its nice to be able to deal with those logistics in the days leading up to the wedding, not on the big day itself.
5. When will items need to be picked up following the reception? Will all elements of your reception need to be removed in the evening directly following the party or can things be picked up the next day or the next business day. Make sure to factor this time into your schedule. If things need to be taken care of immediately following the reception delegate this task to someone other than yourself and your new spouse.
6. What rentals are included with the space? Tables, chairs, linens? And what do those items look like? Often the most basic styles of tables and chairs are included in a venue rental, if that venue typically hosts events like weddings. Ask whats included in your rental fee, ask to see a sample of the items to know if they will work in your decor plan or not and also ask who is responsible for the set up and tear down of the in house items.
7. Is there a private powder room or quite space for myself and the bridal party? If your wedding reception is at a different location than the ceremony you will want to inquire about a private space to freshen up. Likely you won’t need to spend much time here, but it can be nice to have a private restroom or just a sofa to catch your breath before rejoining the crowd.
8. Do you have an in house caterer that I would need to use or am I free to bring in an outside vendor? Many venues have a house caterer that they require you use as terms of the venue rental. If this is the case are you alright with the type and style of food that company provides? Is the price point doable for your budget? If you can bring in an outside caterer before it can be wise to select one that has previously served at that spaces and understand what type of kitchen/ prep space they will have to work with.
9. What about dessert, may I bring that in? Occasionally a venue will require that you use their house caterer for everything including the wedding cake. Be clear on this point before booking particular if there is a particular style cake or other dessert you would like to serve.
10. Do you have any flame or candle restrictions? Nearly every venue has a horror story of candles gone wrong. Check with them on candle and container restrictions. They will know the ins and outs of the local fire code and will know what works best in their space.
11. Do you have decor installation restrictions? Most venues are going to be pretty particular about how decor can be installed in their space. Consider what type of design elements you wish to include and who will be installing them. Often times there there are several ways that a decor element can be installed, so examine the situation from multiple view points. When in doubt hire a professional.
12. Is Wifi available? This might sound like a strange question to ask as you hope guests won’t be glued to their phones but consider what tasks vendors will need to preform. Wifi can come in handy for a DJ to stream any song that might be requested.
13. Will I need to take out a specific insurance policy? Do you require proof of insurance from my vendors? Some venues require that couples hold a limited liability policy for the day of the wedding. Most often I’ve seen this come into play when the venue is an art museum or gallery where there are pieces that could be damaged by guests behaving badly. Check also as to the coverage that may be required of specific vendors.
14. Do you have music or noise specifications? Venues that are located in residential neighborhoods may have restrictions on how loud music can be played after a specific hour. Do you have a reception in mind that will be rocking until the wee hours the morning? If so make sure that your venue can accommodate this.
15. Do you have rental delivery and set up policies? Beyond knowing the time that items can be set up it is important to understand when larger rentals like tables and chairs can be brought in. Is there a specific entrance that is only for vendors?
16. Do they have any restrictions on the types of favors that you can distribute? On rare occasion venues will have policies against food products as favors if they were not produced by the in house caterer. There may also be restrictions against messy favors that include glitter or confetti.
17. When does the bar need to close? Many venues will require that the bar closes before the reception officially ends. This policy is in place to protect the venues liability for folks leaving your wedding and driving under the influence. Most guest will leave before the true end to the night, but last call is always a helpful time to know.
18. What is the parking/ valet situation? If you will be providing shuttle service to the reception you can bet that most guests will take advantage of it. There will, however, always be someone who wants to drive themselves. Ask about the parking location for guests and if valet service is available though the venue.
19. Is the venue handicap accessible? Even if there isn’t anyone on your guest list who would traditionally be considered handicap think about elderly guests. Is there an elevator for those who have trouble with stairs? Are there parking areas closer to the building for those who need them?
20. Where is the shuttle drop off/pick up location? Depending on the venue shuttles may not be able to pull up to the front door, keep this information in mind when planning signage and decor to welcome your guests no matter what door they enter through.
21. What is the electrical capacity? If you will be bringing in a number of lighting or sound elements be sure that your venue can support them. This is a particularly important consideration for outdoor celebrations.
22. What are the post wedding clean up expectations? What state will you be expected to leave the rented space in? Will staff at the venue be responsible for clean up or do you need to make arrangements with outside vendors to take care of the mess.
23. What is the venues Emergency policy? It isn't fun to think about in relation to your wedding, but emergencies do happen. Ask potential venues what happens in the case of you experiencing a personal emergency and also in the case of weather or fire damage to the venue.
24. Do they have wet weather alternatives? Are you dreaming up a gorgeous outdoor reception? Be sure to ask potential venues what steps they can take should the weather take a turn for the worst on your big day.
25. What is your payment schedule? Be clear before booking what the terms of your agreement with the venue are. Most likely they will ask for a deposit to hold the date and then one or two more payments as the wedding draws closer. Understand what you are responsible for and when those invoices are to be paid.
Selecting your reception venue is one of the biggest decisions you will make for your wedding day and its also one of the first that gets crossed off the list. Don't go into this choice blind, ask lots of questions and take photos when you visit. If you aren't getting answers to your satisfaction, move on. If the venue is a hassle to get information from before you sign a contract you better believe that it won't be easier down the road.
Do you need more information on how best to prepare for venue visits? Drop me a line, I'm happy to offer one-on-one advice.
Photo: Ben Rosett