Wedding venue shopping tips
questions to ask your venue before you book
Top Questions, tips, & tricks for selecting the perfect venue
Selecting a wedding venue is a BIG decision. The venue determines a lot about your big day from the availability of dates, the inclusions, and onsite amenities the venue plays a huge role into the overall vibe & aesthetic of your wedding. Although there are a lot of factors at play, the wedding venue selection process doesn't have to be stressful or overwhelming.
Follow these tips and tricks to find the perfect fit for your big day.
- Cast a Wide Net - Don't be afraid to start with a dozen or so venues that you love. Casting a wide net and narrowing down the venues you actually tour allow you to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Gather your "interested list" by browsing Google for venues in your area. Additionally, put some feelers out there. Ask friends and family for their recommendations of venues they've been to & loved- word of mouth is often the most trusted source of information.
- Gather information on their pricing structure & packages- This is when you can begin narrowing down your original list based on your budget. Request pricing information from venues online. If your date is set in stone, ask for their availability on that date. Try to compare apples to apples for example, one venue may be more expensive but offer more inclusions and end up being more affordable in the long run. Use the information you find online to weed out the venues that don't match up with your budget or style. Consult social media profiles & websites of venues where all of their best features are highlighted.
- Determine which inclusions or amenities are most important to you- After you've reviewed the pricing and inclusion list for some of your favorites, take a step back to think about the things that REALLY matter most to you in a venue. For some its a venue with wide variety of upgrades & inclusions for a more all-inclusive feel, for others it may be the ability to DIY with an open vendor policy & no restrictions on outside alcohol. Other important qualities to consider are rain backup plan, is there an exclusive vendor list, how many guests are included in base package & what is the charge for additional guests, number of hours of exclusive use of the venue, and guest accommodation options nearby.
- Tour your Top Three or Four Favorites- After carefully considering your budget, comparing the venues apples to apples, you should be able to narrow it down to three or four venues that are real standouts. Never, ever tour a venue you cannot afford in your budget- it will only set you up for disappointment and heartbreak. Instead, focus on the venues that DO fit within both your budget & make the cut of the top qualities you are looking for in a venue. Another tip is to not tour too many or too few- three or four seems to be the sweet spot. Any fewer may not give you the full picture of what is out there and too many may overwhelm you with indecisiveness.
- Pay Close Attention to How Responsive & Helpful the Venue is When Communicating- When communicating with potential venues, pay attention to their level of responsiveness, attention to detail, organization, preparedness, and even friendliness. These qualities are SO important when selecting a venue and will be revealed during the touring process. How the venue communicates and presents themselves before, during, and after touring is how they will communicate after you book with them. Are they rooted in hospitality? Are they attentive to your questions & respond quickly to emails? Are they client-centric & organized? Do you feel as though they personally care about you and the quality of your wedding? Do they educate you through the process and offer helpful tips? Do they offer creative solutions to potential problems? Pay very close attention because these qualities MATTER and ultimately WILL impact your wedding planning process as well as your big day. If you feel as though you are just another booking deposit to your venue, your wedding will feel the same way. Be very cautious of venues who are focused solely on the financial side, are pushy, and shamelessly try to up sell you. Your venue should feel like an old friend and less like a business transaction. Take time to get to know the faces behind the venue because those are the same faces that will be ensuring your day goes off without a hitch. The more the venue knows about your style, vision, and expectations of the wedding day the more they can personally do to make it exactly what you have dreamed of- communication is key.
13 Questions to Ask while on your tour
While touring is the best time to get the low down on information from your potential venue. Preparedness is key & arriving full of questions will allow you to get so much more out of your tour.
- What is the list of inclusions in the package?- As a standard rule of thumb most venues include tables & chairs in base packages for x number of guests. However, its worth asking the question to make sure you fully understand the fine print of exactly what is included. The biggest financial needle movers of inclusions are tables, chairs, and linens. Which would be hundreds of additional dollars to rent them individually if not provided by the venue. Its also worth asking what type of tables are included so you can begin figuring out layout & seating arrangements for example 60" tables seat 8 guests comfortably, 72" seat 10 guest comfortably.
- What does the venue staffing look like on wedding day & what will their responsibilities be? Determining many dedicated staff members from the venue will be onsite during wedding day offers a glimpse into how involved the venue will be at executing day of tasks
- Are set up & tear down fees included in the base price? Make sure you understand if the venue is responsible for full set up and tear down of if you will be
- Is there an exclusive, preferred, or recommended vendor list? Here's the breakdown of vendor lingo....make sure you understand these differences because vendor lists often mean more $$$. Exclusive vendor means you MUST select these vendors in order to have your wedding at the venue. Make sure you understand this policy and research the vendors on the exclusive list as their pricing could impact your ability to choose the venue. Preferred vendor means the venue may provide a list of preferred vendors & you must pay a fee to use anyone outside this list. Recommended vendor means the venue has a list of vendors they have previously worked with, had a good experience, and recommend to other couples without a financial implication on your decision. Open vendor means you have the flexibility to choose any vendor you like.
- What is the venue seated capacity? This is good information to know for your maximum number of guests. It's also worth making the distinction of "seated" capacity, some venues include standing room only as part of their capacity which could potentially be misleading. Also make sure that number is calculated separate and won't interfere with designated dance floor, cake table, etc.
- How many guests are included in the base price? This question could have a big impact on how many make the cut on your guest list
- Is there a bad weather backup plan? Texas weather can change by the minute, so its important to have a solid backup plan in the event of rain or high winds. Ask your venue how they make the determination of "bad weather" & what the process of changing the game plan looks like from a venue perspective
- Are there any mandatory financial obligations NOT included the base package pricing that are required?- Some common examples include security guards, host liquor license, TABC licensed bartenders, professional coordination services & event insurance
- Are there any venue restrictions I should be aware of?- Common examples include reception must end by a certain time, local noise ordinances, must be out of the bridal suite & grooms suite by a certain time
- What is your alcohol policy? Is there a fee to bring in outside alcohol? Is guest BYOB allowed? TABC licensed bartender policy?
- What is required to get the security deposit back & when will it be returned?- Most venues have a departure cleaning check list that details everything required to ensure the full security deposit is returned- ask them for this list so you can gain better insight into what is required at the end of the event in terms of cleanup. Its also important to ask their policy on returning the security deposit, most venues return deposits less any damages within a week or two of the event date but some can be up to a month later.
- What percentage of couples get 100% of their security deposit back?- Do they have a regimented, strict, cleaning check list where one item out of place forfeits the security deposit? Or are they relatively lax in their requirements?
- Do you offer a cleaning fee charge in lieu of completing a cleaning check list?- Some venues allow couples to opt to pay a base cleaning fee instead of cleaning themselves. Find out how much this fee is so you can later determine if its in your budget.