Okay, so you’ve searched high and low and you have finally found what seems like the ultimate wedding reception venue. But wait, before you sign on the dotted line and hand over that deposit, make sure you’ve asked all of the right questions. What? You want to know what the right questions actually are? Then read on, bride-to-be, for a primer in how to plan a perfect party without getting burned.
The Size and Particulars of the Venue
Can the facility comfortably accommodate the size wedding and number of guests you are planning? If you’re planning a large wedding, inquire as to the largest reception the facility has handled. Does it have handicap access? Does it have air conditioning? Is there a room available for the bride to use during the reception to change clothes or just freshen up?
Your Wedding Date
Is it available? Ask if there are any other events or weddings booked for that day. Some facilities will only book one wedding a day and that’s great! Other reception locations may book two weddings back to back. And of course, large hotels can have many weddings going on simultaneously. Just be sure you know all of the details for the day of your reception.
If you haven’t seen it already, ask to see pictures of the facility as it would be set up for a wedding. Can you make any changes? Make sure that if there are certain decorations that you see now and like, that they will still be available on your wedding date. Ask if they are doing any remodeling or redecorating from now until your wedding day. When booking sites sometimes a year or more ahead of time, some brides have been a little disappointed when they’ve fallen in love with a certain look of their reception site and come back for their wedding to find that it looks totally different!
The Number of Hours
Most receptions last for four or five hours. Ask how many hours you will have for your reception. Some facilities will give you four hours and charge you additionally (sometimes another $500) for every additional hour. Be sure to ask when you must be out of the facility and if there is an additional charge for going over the allotted time.
How much is the total rental fee? And specifically, what does the price include? Ask about the deposit, how much and when is the balance due? Ask if they have any “wedding packages”. Sometimes facilities will offer a wedding package including food, flowers, wedding cake and even a limo. Although you limit some of your choices, it can save you lots of time and money!
If it’s a banquet hall or historic estate, do you have to rent chairs and tables, and if so, is this an extra charge? What about linens and glassware are they included? Is there a cake cutting fee? What about a corking fee? (When you purchase your own alcohol for the reception, a corking fee is sometimes charged for each bottle of wine opened.)
The Food (and the Cake, too)
If the facility is a hotel or restaurant and will provide the food for the wedding, make sure that you’ve had an opportunity to sample the food and talk about menu choices. If you choose a location which requires an outside caterer, ask if you’re required to choose from their approved list or can you choose any caterer?
Alcohol and Bar Service
Does the facility provide the alcohol and bar service or do you bring your own alcohol? What about bartenders? Are there any restrictions about the type or quantity of alcohol to be served? Do they require a cash bar or is open bar an option? Ask about their liability insurance and if it is sufficient for your size wedding.
Make sure the dance floor is big enough to accommodate your guests. Ask the facility manager to show you where the band or DJ would set up their equipment. Make sure the facility can accommodate them adequately. Does the venue have an in-house DJ?
Is it readily available? Do you need to hire a parking attendant or valet? Are there any events (i.e. festivals, parades, sporting events) that will make parking difficult for your guests?
Ask if there are any restrictions in regards to using the facility. For instance, some historic estates have certain restrictions or rules regarding smoking, lit candles, and alcohol.
Ask if the facility has overnight accommodations for your out-of-town guests. If it is a hotel, can you reserve a block of rooms at a discount?
The Wedding Coordinator
Many facilities will have a Wedding Coordinator on staff and at no extra charge. The role of the Wedding Coordinator is to make sure that everything runs smoothly for your wedding day! The Coordinator keeps the wedding on schedule and is “the person” for the caterer, DJ/band, florist, or even the bride to go to if they have questions.