Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Wedding Venue

I recently wrote a blog post on how to find your wedding venue. I discussed a number of questions about the costs of the venue — which I think are important enough to reiterate! I also am adding questions to this list that you should keep in mind before actually signing any contract with a venue. If you’re looking to double check questions that you should ask, be sure and check out the Here Comes the Guide questions to ask when evaluating a wedding location.

Photo from The Wedding Lens

General questions on costs/facilities to ask

  • Seating/guests
    • How many people can they seat/fit?
    • How much is the deposit/down payment? Is it refundable?
    • Does the venue provide chairs? Do you need to rent chairs?
    • Do they charge for the chairs/setting up chairs?
  • Facilities
    • Is there a dressing area for the bride & groom?
    • Are there bathrooms accessible to guests?
    • Is it wheelchair accessible?
  • Food, drinks, & catering
    • Does the venue provide food, drinks, or other catering? Do they have preferred vendors?
    • If they have food & drinks for weddings, then find out a price range, you will select your final food/drink options later. Most venues give a per person rate. (Be sure to check whether each price option includes a buffet, a seated dinner, an open bar, limited drinks, etc.)
    • Can vendors use the kitchen facilities? (Are there kitchen facilities on site?)
    • Is there a per-person cake charge?
    • Is there an additional charge for linens and utensils?
    • Is there a service charge for serving the meals?
  • Music, Dancing, Flowers & Decorations
    • Does the venue have a dance floor? Does it cost extra?
    • Does the venue permit amplified music?
    • Is there a sound system? Can an outside DJ or band use it? Is there a cost
    • Do they permit decorations/flowers? Can you bring in decorations from outside or does it have to be done through the venue? What is the charge?
  • Miscellaneous
    • Do they charge for clean up
    • Does the venue require wedding insurance? (Check out the blog post on wedding insurance if you have no idea what this is!)
    • Are there restrictions on the site? (no confetti, etc)
    • Do they have any other costs and fees? (service charges, etc)

Specific Questions to ask yourself to make sure the venue is right — at the right time

  • Go to the venue at the time of day you want to get married to make sure the lighting is right and sufficient.
  • Is there sufficient lighting? Ask the venue if there is additional lighting available.
  • If it is outdoors, are there coverings or tents that can go up if it rains? Can you bring in umbrellas? (Are there charges for tents? What is the charge?
  • Do you like the people at the venue? Can you work with them?
  • If they require a certain vendor, is that okay with you? Do you like the vendors?

Questions to ask about the contract before you sign

  • What happens if one side or the other has to cancel? Do you still have to pay fees? Can you get reimbursed if it’s their fault?
  • Is there a contingency plan if it’s outdoors and it rains?
  • Are they requiring you to do something you do not want to do or incur costs that you dont want to incur?
  • READ it thoroughly! Make sure you understand it. Take your time, don’t feel strong-armed into signing it. If you can, have someone else who isn’t involved in the process read it too. They might see something you didn’t.

~ Natasha

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Wedding Question: Is it common for venues to charge additional catering fees?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

I just received another question via email: “The wedding venue that I’m looking at does not provide food, but they have a list of approved caterers we can choose from.  The problem is that the venue is charging an extra 28% over what the caterer charges.  Is this common practice?”

This is an interesting question! Many times venues have preferred vendors or caterers – that part is very common. The additional charges are, however, different with each venue.

Some venues charge you a certain percentage or amount if you do NOT use their preferred vendors. And if the venue offers catering, but you choose to use another caterer, they usually have high fees (like a corkage fee) to discourage that.

Some venues DO have a charge for vendors also, though they call it a “service fee.” The service fee can include a plethora of things, such as a cake cutting fee or, perhaps, a fee if your caterer needs to use their kitchen and facilities. BUT 28% seems really high for that kind of a fee — though it really depends on what services they are providing. Will they be providing the plates & utensils? Will they be serving the food? Pouring drinks? Even then, from my understanding, 10-20% is more standard for pricing. But find out what this includes before you sign (or don’t sign) anything!

Check out other venues in the area and see if they have similar practices & fees. That will give you a better idea of what to expect. Also, consider having the reception at a restaurant so you eliminate those kinds of additional fees that don’t get you much!

Hope this helps! Good luck!

Do you have a wedding question? Email me! natasha@theweddinglens.com!

~ Natasha

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Choosing the drinks!

Most people know that there’s a whole process for figuring out the food and catering at the wedding – mostly taste tests. One of the food-related areas that does NOT require taste testing (unless you’d like?) is selecting the alcohol for the wedding.

photo from The Wedding Lens

photo from The Wedding Lens

There are a few ways that the couple can go: wine, wine & beer, hard alcohol, or no alcohol. And any combination thereabouts. Oh! And the champagne!

If your venue provides options, then you can weigh the taste + cost value yourself. Obviously you have to work within your budget — and it is unlikely that a venue that already provides wines will have bad ones available as options.  If the venue does not provide the alcohol, and you have a favorite wine, beer or hard alcohol that you want to have (and it’s within your budget) – go for it!

If you are at a loss about where to start, I have a few suggestions:

Selecing the wine & champagne: Go to a wine shop in your area. Many times the people who work there are very knowledgeable and can give you tips on what you might want, given what you are having as food and what your budget is. And sometimes you can get a discount that way!

Note on champagne: “Champagne” is only from France, and therefore expensive. There are sparkling wines from California that are equivalent to champagne — but from California, instead of France. Those are a bit cheaper since they’re not imported.

Selecting the beer: Local wine shops may also sell beer, but they might not be able to help you with what works best. Since people don’t think about paring beer with food, you should go with what you like and what you can afford. If you don’t know anything about beer, you should ask your friends and family members who might be more knowledgeable.

Selecting the hard alcohol: Usually people have preferences about what kinds of hard alcohol they like — rum, vodka, tequila, scotch. Perhaps start with a list of the ones you prefer and the brands you prefer and then cut from the list until it is within your price range. (Incidentally, one blog says that selecing the booze is a great way to get the groom involved in the planning because he’s naturally going to have preferences!

How much to buy?? If you’re looking for a guide for how much to buy (and you’re getting all of the above), check on this site. Another site says that the general rule of thumb is one drink per person per hour. This includes everyone — since some people won’t drink at all and some people will have more than one an hour.

One other note: make sure that the venue has a liquor license!

Happy drinking!

~ Natasha

How To Pick Vendors for Your Wedding

So you’ve picked your venue and your wedding date and NOW you have to figure out the vendors… For what, you ask? Vendors for food, flowers, music, and any other miscellaneous things you might want (like a photobooth!). How do you even begin to pick your vendors?

vendor

Step One: Find options

  • Ask friends for suggestions.
  • The internet makes finding vendors pretty easy. There are tons of websites with suggestions. And most vendors have websites that give you an idea of what they do.
  • Look at ads on the web. One of my friends found her photographer through a Facebook ad… which led her to look at his website. And they loved him!

Step Two: Find reviews

  • Search any potential vendor on the web. There are so many sites with reviews (like www.yelp.com) that can provide valuable feedback and advice for a particular vendor.

Step Three: Find out their rates

  • Contact the vendor to find out what they charge AND whether that cost is within your budget.

Step Four: Find a time to meet

  • There’s no replacement for meeting people in person. You’ll have to work with them and the best way to judge that is in person! Find some time to meet and see how it goes.

Step Five: Check references

  • Ask the vendor for references and check them out! No harm in finding out what the real deal is.  Of course, you may not need to do this if a friend referred you to the vendor.

How did you find your vendors?

~ Natasha

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