You might’ve heard someone say that wisdom lies, not in having all of the answers but knowing the right questions to ask. When you’re in the middle of planning your wedding, no truer words have been spoken.
While you’re trying to find the balance between having the perfect day and not going broke in the process, it’s important to go through every detail with a fine-toothed comb, especially if you're planning a wedding on a budget. This begins with hiring a wedding planner and having them help you with interviewing all of the individuals you will need to make your day go off without a hitch.
What should be on the top of your planning list? Finding a wedding venue. Even if you decide to plan a DIY wedding, you'll still need to interview your venues. While you’re touring wedding venues, in order to end up with one you’ll love that you can afford, here are some questions you absolutely must ask each vendor manager.
What’s your availability?
Just because you have the perfect wedding date in mind, that doesn’t mean the venue is available. Depending on when you want to get married and where, many venues are booked months—sometimes even a couple of years—in advance.
That’s why, one of the very first questions that you need to ask potential venues is “What is your availability?” Just in case the day that you want is already booked, it’s also a good idea to have a couple of other dates in mind. That way, if one doesn’t work, perhaps another will.
If none of the dates are available and you were dead set on that venue, you might want to ask the manager if they have a suggestion of another venue to consider. You’d be surprised how many venues have semi-partnerships where they receive small “finder’s fees” for referrals.
How much does the venue cost?
If the venue that you want does have the date available that you’re interested in, the immediate follow-up question needs to be “How much do you charge?” Even if the rate is listed on their website—the most reputable venues will have an impressive-looking website, by the way—it’s a good idea to confirm the price and to ask a few other questions about the quote.
What do we mean by that? Ask them how much tax is added, if there are hidden fees and what exactly comes with the rate that they are giving you. Also inquire how much of the property you have access to; can you use both indoors and outdoors? Can your wedding party get dressed there? Can you take formal pictures on the grounds, and use the venue to get all of the wedding photos you must have taken? Things like that.
If you don’t ask and you merely go on assumption, you could end up with a hefty bill that was as much as 35-40 percent more than what you had planned to pay.
How much is the deposit?
Once you’ve agreed on a date and a price, now it’s time to get to the fine print.
That said, be leery of any venue that doesn’t require you to sign a contract. Contracts are designed to protect you and the company. A solid contract is going to list the rate, the date, and all of the amenities that the venue has to offer.
What it will also mention is what your deposit is. A deposit is important because that is what helps you to secure the date so that if the venue happens to overbook, you have proof that your date was already locked in.
By the way, make sure to pay your deposit with a check, cashier’s check or money order. That way, you’ll have a record of your payment should monies end up “lost”.
What is your cancellation policy?
A huge mistake that some people make when it comes to booking airline tickets and wedding venues is not asking about a company’s cancellation policy BEFORE making a payment.
Life happens and sometimes we have no control of our plans going awry. In the case of booking your wedding venue, if during the planning process, you realize you need more time or, if in the weeks or days leading up to your wedding, there’s a family emergency or you decide to call the wedding off altogether, there is no guarantee that you’ll get your deposit back if there was no clear cancellation policy in place.
So, as you’re in the process of reading all of the fine print on your contract, before you sign, be very clear what the cancellation policy is. (If there isn’t one, you might want to consider going with another venue.)
Do we have to use your staff/catering?
This one gets couples caught up in fees they didn’t plan to pay every time.
Suppose you love the venue and the rate, but in your mind, you were going to use your own catering. Then, two weeks before your wedding day, the venue calls to confirm what time their staff should arrive.
Initially, this might not seem like too big of a deal; that is until you realize that using their staff costs more money and comes with a certain additional set of rules.
As you’re going through all of your lists of questions, never omit “Do we have to use your catering and staff?” If the answer is “yes”, ask how much more the cost will be (INCLUDING GRATUITY). If it’s more than what you can afford to pay, see if the venue is open to negotiating or use this as another reason to look elsewhere.
Do you have sound equipment?
Sound equipment alone can run you several hundred dollars to rent if the venue doesn’t already have it. And remember, if you’re holding your reception at the same location where you plan on getting married, you need reliable equipment, not just for your ceremony but for the reception too.
If you have no clue what to expect the venue to have available, at the very least, there needs to be an amplifier, a set of speakers, a few microphones, cables, a CD player, and a few tables and stools.
The best way for the venue to accommodate you is by you sharing with them what kind of music you plan to have for your wedding, along with what kind of entertainment you want to feature at your reception.
If they tell you that they will have all that you need, don’t just take them at their word. Make sure that’s listed in the contract as well.
What are your overtime fees?
In a perfect world, all weddings would start on time. This world is anything but perfect, though. Thing is, a lot of wedding venues don’t care about that. If you said you’d be there from 11-1 and you run over 30 minutes, most are going to expect you to pay for that.
How much can a late fee potentially cost you? It depends, but it’s not uncommon for it to be as much as 15-20 percent (on average).
It would be a shame if, as you’re going through your list of questions, you overlook one very important one: “If my wedding runs over, how much will I owe you?” Just because you forget to ask, that doesn’t mean the venue will forget to charge, so be prepared.
Do you have other scheduled events for the same day?
It’s YOUR DAY. No doubt about that. But as you’re in the process of touring wedding venues, never forget that there are other brides in the world who happened to choose the same day as you; some might’ve even selected the same venue.
The reason why this is relevant is because you don’t want to go with a wedding venue that’s going to make you feel hurried or rushed simply because they’ve either got a wedding party coming in before or a wedding party coming in right after you.
It’s actually best to go with a venue that either has no other weddings on that day or one where you’re the last party for the day. That will ensure that you and your guests can enjoy your wedding day without feeling like you’re on the clock.
Are there any restrictions?
Do yourself a favor. One day, when you have 20-30 minutes, go to your favorite search engine and put “wedding venue restrictions” in the search field and see how many complaints from other brides (and grooms) comes up.
Unfortunately, another thing that a lot of couples forget to ask wedding venues is what their restrictions may be. Some might not allow alcohol on the grounds (because they don’t have a liquor license). Some may not want you to use certain rooms in the venue. Believe it or not, some do not allow children. Others will even restrict the kind of decorations you can use or they’ll “force” you to use theirs.
You want your wedding day to be just like you pictured it. In order for that to happen, you need to know what each potential wedding venue’s restrictions are—beforehand.
Do you have a “point person”?
What you don’t want to happen is you read through the contract, book the venue, pay your monies, and the arrive to the place on your wedding day with no staff person on the grounds.
If this were to happen, all kinds of issues could arise. No keys to certain part of the venue. Various questions that you and your wedding planner may have going unanswered. Accidents or problems occurring that you don’t know how to resolve.
For all of these reasons (and more), the final question that we think you should ask is who the point person for your wedding day should be. Will they be available all day long? What is their phone number? Is this also listed in the contract?
A professional wedding venue is not going to find this to be an odd question. If the venues you are considering do, that’s a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored.
You’re paying good money to use a wedding venue. A reliable point person should be factored into the cost.