It’s your wedding. One of the more memorable events in a lifetime. Months of planning, sometimes a year or more, go into making sure everything is right.
Especially now, as I finish the 2020 update. We are in a time where there are restrictions when it comes to gatherings. Consequently, I’ve added “bonus questions” consisting of other considerations due to social distancing requirements.
With as much as 50% of your budget going toward your wedding venue alone, you want to make sure it is as dreamy as possible. And avoid costly mistakes.
Here you will find 101 must-know questions to ask your wedding venue. The guide also includes a “pre-visit” list of questions. A sort of “wedding venue guide within the guide.”
These will help you makes some decisions before you begin contacting venues. Use this guide in conjunction with our complete wedding checklist and timeline as a wedding planning roadmap.
This wedding venue guide is split into sections:
Following this guide should help you with the process of finding and reserving your wedding venue. And should help protect you from common mistakes that could eat into your budget and affect your big day.
Standard Terms: Speaking the “Wedding Venue” Language
Terminology can be confusing. Before we get started, here are a few terms you’ll need to know.
What is a wedding venue?
A “venue” is a location your wedding ceremony and/or reception will be held. You may have a single venue or multiple ones. Some venues only allow reservations for the ceremony or reception. Which requires you to book or plan separate locations. Such as a church for the ceremony, and a ballroom for the reception.
What does “vendor” mean?
A “vendor” refers to the people and/or businesses that will handle the planning, performing, and service parts of your wedding. The venue itself is considered a vendor. But you may also have other vendors. They may handle the catering, cake, photography, wedding coordination, music, and flowers, etc.
What, exactly, is a venue contract?
Once you select a venue, you will most likely be required to submit your deposit and sign a contract. This reserves your date. Each place may have it’s own unique contract, but there are a few items you can expect to see on it regardless of the venue:
- The names and addresses of you and the venue.
- Event date(s).
- What, exactly, you have access to during your event.
- Your costs and dates deposits are due.
- Who provides vendors or what vendors are allowed.
- Cancellation terms.
- Liability insurance and security provided, or requirements. (Wedsafe has a good FAQ about wedding insurance here.)
- Licenses, if any, provided or needed.
- Their rules. These cover items like alcohol, decorations, music or noise, and the time you must leave.
- There will be a place for legally binding signatures, where both you and the venue manager will sign.
If you want your venue search and selection to go smoothly, preparation is key.
Something as simple as a questions checklist about your preferences, along with a budget, can help narrow your options. And assure you end up with the place of your dreams without breaking the bank.
Read below for ideas on what you might put in your own DIY wedding venue guide. Read below for ideas on what you might put in your own DIY wedding venue guide. It may help for you and your partner to each make your own questions checklist. Then work together to settle on a solid plan.
Venue checklist questions to ask yourself.
Your wedding’s style, budget, guest count, and preferred locations all affect your venue. Here are some questions to ask yourself before venturing forth into location visits.
What are your location requirements?
Around where do you want the wedding to be held? Do you want an outdoor ceremony or an indoor one? How about the reception? The location alone may narrow your options significantly.
Check out the 76 non-traditional wedding venues post for some types of places you might not have thought of!
What is your guest count range?
Do you want a large, grand ceremony and reception? Or a smaller, more intimate affair with just family and close friends?
It may be a while until you have a final guest count. But your venue choice may depend on the size of the wedding you want to have. Critical questions for each potential venue will revolve around room sizes and capacities.
What is your budget?
The venue alone may require up to 50% of your total budget. So first read How to Manage Your Wedding Budget to get started with a ballpark figure. Your numbers may change later once you decide on more of the details, but you should at least have a rough number to go by.
It’s easy to fall in love with a specific venue during your search. But if it is way beyond your budget, it’s best to know ahead of time. So get the room rental and package costs early. So you can move on to something more realistic without wasting time. Your wedding can still be amazing!
What date or season for your wedding?
Much like the location, the season of your wedding will change your venue options.
Do you want an outdoor wedding in the Spring? What if it rains? How about an indoor wedding in the Fall with an outdoor photo session? Visualize the ideal setting and go from there. And make a not to ask appropriate season-relevant questions.
Don’t know what the weather conditions are like at the time and place you’d prefer? Check out Weatherbase. The site contains monthly temperature and precipitation data for nearly 40,000 cities.
Will the venue accommodate your unique style and preferences?
Do you want a traditional wedding, or non-traditional? (Also see my popular post 35 Non-Traditional Wedding Ideas You May Not Have Thought Of)
Do you want an all-inclusive wedding, or do you want to select every vendor and detail yourself? Do you have any specific religious requirements?
These questions can change the way you search for a venue, and which venues may be available to you.
Once you have your checklist and budget in hand, it’s time to put together a list of venues that meet your criteria.
Most venues will likely have a website or other resource available with the information you’ll need to make an informed decision. But, sometimes the process can be overwhelming. And you could forget to ask an important question only to regret it later. Hence, the questions above. They help you think about everything before you approach your first potential venue.
I’ve put together a list of questions to get to the in-depth details you need to know. Know the answers before signing on the dotted line and paying that deposit!
Topic 1. Seven Questions About Availability & Time Constraints
Knowing when and how you will have the venue available to you is important. Even more critical when a location may be under health-related restrictions.
Bonus Question: Are there any special procedures for entering the buildings that may take more time?
- When is the space available? Is the calendar open on (or around) my target date?
- How long do we have for set up and break down?
- What time can we enter the venue?
- What time must we leave?
- Are extra hours an option?
- If so, is there an extra charge for the additional hours? How much?
- Will we be the only group in the building or will other events be happening, too?
Topic 2. Questions About Contract Procedures
There are nuances to contract negotiations that most of us do not think about. Here are some questions to be sure and cover.
Bonus Question: What if there’s a change to laws or health guidelines that affect when or how we have our wedding? What happens to our original agreement? (Hint. You don’t want to be held responsible if the town, county, or state government imposes restrictions that effectively cancel your original wedding date or size.)
- Can I read your standard contract?
- What’s your cancellation policy?
- What is the last date we can make changes to the reservation?
Topic 3. Questions to Ask About Cost and Payment
Bonus Question: Do social distancing limitations affect functionality of your different locations? If so, how does that change my costs?
- What is included in your quoted total?
- How much is the deposit?
- When is the deposit due?
- How does the payment schedule work?
- Is there an added charge for using my own vendors?
- Are there wedding packages available?
- What do the packages include and how much do they cost?
- Are the prices lower if I choose a date in the off-season or time frame 0ther than a Saturday night?
- Are chairs, tables, tablecloths, and other furnishings & rentals included in the price?
- Are breakdown and cleanup included, or are we required to do that ourselves?
Topic 4. Questions on Insurance Requirements Details
More than likely, all your potential venues will require you have some kind of insurance. Here, from USA Today, are some advantages of buying wedding insurance.
- What are my insurance requirements?
- What about insurance for any vendors I bring into the venue?
- Do you, the venue managers, have insurance coverage for my event?
Topic 5. Questions to Ask Re Room Capacity and Event Logistics
Bonus Question: Has social distancing change your room capacities from what was previously discussed or published?
- What is your capacity?
- Where do guests park?
- Is parking free or included in the contract?
- If not, who pays for parking?
- Is there a valet?
- If so, how are attendants’ tips handled?
- Is your venue accessible via public transportation?
- Are there heating or air conditioning controls we can access?
- If this is a nontraditional wedding venue, are there electric and kitchen facilities?
- What are the accommodations for disabled guests?
- What are the restrooms’ sizes and layout?
- Will the restrooms easily accomodate a large or long bridal gown?
- Are there changing tables for babies?
- What will the room layout look like?
- Where will guests sit?
- Where will the dance floor be relative to seating?
- What rooms are included in the rental?
- Is there a designated smoking area?
- Is there a secure area for wedding gifts?
- Does the venue have a backup generator in case the power goes out?
- How large are the guest tables?
- How many can comfortably be seated at each?
- Are there seating accommodations for the kids (booster seats and high chairs)?
Topic 6. Questions to Ask Related to the Ceremony
Bonus Question: Do you require the wedding party, officiant, and/or guests to wear healthy masks to limit virus spread?
- Can I hold both the ceremony and reception here?
- If so, what is the cost to have both the ceremony and reception at the venue?
- Will the ceremony be held in a separate room?
- Does the contract include seating for the ceremony (if applicable)?
- Can I have a rice or petal toss?
Topic 7. Questions to Ask About Venue Coordination and Point-Person
- Is there a coordinator on staff?
- Will the coordinator be here during my event?
- Who will be my main contact person?
- What’s the alternate plan if it rains?
- What are your guidelines for setting up and taking down before and after the wedding?
- Do you help or provide full service? Or is it all up to us?
Topic 8. Questions about Photographer and Videographer Limitations
- Do you have restrictions on where photographs or video are taken?
- Are there any other media guidelines?
- What are the best vantage points for photography?
- Do you have photos of other weddings I can see?
Topic 9. Questions to Find Out About Vendor-Related Food and Drink
Bonus Question: If the catering or serving is in-house, what sanitizing steps do you take to assure virus or other germs are not spread?
Another Bonus Question: Do you have special requirements regarding sanitizing or use of anything we bring to the venue.
- Do you have an in-house caterer?
- Can we arrange for a tasting?
- Is there a cost for tastings?
- Can we (or is it required that we) bring in our own caterer?
- What drinks, if any, are provided?
- Do you charge per drink or per person?
- Is there a list of approved vendors?
- Can I use my own preferred vendors?
- What are the different ways food can be served? Buffet? Plates? Family style?
- Do cost procedures differ according the serving style?
- How many, if any, wait staff will be provided?
- Do you provide a storage location in the back for the cake?
- Is a cutting knife available?
- Do you charge a cake plating fee?
Topic 10. Questions Regarding Liquor-Related Vendors
Bonus Question: How do you sanitize drink between uses? Or do you use all disposable items?
- Do you have a liquor license for the venue?
- Can we bring our own alcohol?
- What liquor do you (or can you) include in our package?
- What setups do you provide?
- What bar options are available? Open bar? Cash?
- Do you provide bartenders?
- If so, is the bartender’s wage included in the contract?
- Or is each bartender an extra charge?
- What about the charge for unopened bottles? Will I be charged for those?
- Is there an extra corkage fee, a charge for opening the bottles, if I bring my own wine?
- Can I have any type or amount of alcohol at the reception?
- Are there other alcoholic beverage related restrictions?
Topic 11. Music & Entertainment-Related Vendor-Related Questions
- Can I bring my own DJ, band, or soloist?
- What is your sound system like? Do you provide microphones, speakers, and other equipment?
- How far in advance can musicians set up?
- How large is the dance floor and how many can dance at once?
- When must the music end?
Topic 12. Questions About Decor
- Are furnishings/decoration rentals available? Or are those included in the contract?
- Do I provide my own place cards?
- Can the centerpieces contain candles?
- Are there any rules against certain décor?
Topic 13. Questions to Ask About Overnight Accommodations
- Do you have overnight rooms or partner with local hotels?
- What are the room rates?
- Is there a wedding discount for blocks of rooms?
Topic 14. Gratuity Questions
- Does gratuity cover everyone?
- Is it customary to tip some staff extra?
Topic 15. Other Restrictions Question
While people aren’t usually intentionally deceptive, they may leave out information that is important to your decision. So, the final question to ask: Are there any additional rules or restrictions we haven’t discussed? Bonus Question: What other changes have you made in response to pandemic or other public health related restrictions?
After you’ve selected your venue, it’s time to sign the contract and pay your deposit. Read the contract carefully, and be sure to get clarification on anything you don’t understand completely.
Review the questions to ask your wedding venue above to refresh your memory. Then make sure everything you agreed to is in writing in the contract. Getting all in writing avoids trouble later.
Here are some additional items to look for:
Extra or Hidden Fees
Make sure everything that was to be included in the price is listed in the contract. If you are unsure, ask first. Sign later!
Certain services incur additional fees. Catering, for example, may not include gratuity and tax in the listed price.
Likewise, bar and alcohol services may have hidden costs. If so, make sure to discuss maximum charges to make sure you don’t go above budget or end up with a surprise bill at the end.
A Strict Cancellation Policy
Double-check the cancellation policy. While canceling might be the last thing you want, life happens.
Wedding cancellation insurance is a great idea to help prevent deposit losses. Most deposits are non-refundable.
A Clause Preventing You from Reviewing the Venue
Some venue or vendor contracts may prevent you from legally posting a review on their services after signing. This should make you very cautious and skeptical about choosing them. A vendor typically wouldn’t be concerned with blocking reviews unless it had something to hide.
Some venues require a minimum number of guests in order to honor the pricing discussed. This may also come into play with vendors, such as the caterer or the bartender. So check for minimums on drink service, and any additional fees you may incur.
Incorrect Dates or Times
Scheduling is one of the biggest stressors on your wedding day! Double check the dates and times listed on the contract. Then check them again! Once you sign, it’s most likely set in stone.
It is not unheard of for a careless mistake or accidental typo to make it feel like your wedding plan is ruined. So make sure everything you agreed to is listed.
Go back over every question for the wedding venue above. Then crosscheck your notes with the contract before signing.
Wedding Venue Contract and Questions FAQ
What questions should I ask my wedding venue?
There are several areas to cover, and it will depend on how transparent and detailed the venue is in the contract. Ask about availability, costs & payments, rules, any adjustments due to social distancing or other public health requirements, and other logistics. The 100 questions in this post cover everything.
What will the wedding venue include?
That depends on the venue. It may be the space only, everything, or something in between. Review the wedding venue contract and ask questions about anything that is missing. Or anything that is unclear.
How far in advance should I book the wedding venue?
Popular locations are often booked a year or more in advance. So begin looking early in the wedding planning process.
What is a wedding venue contract?
It is the document that legally secures your wedding date and finalizes the details. See what details you can expect (insist on) in the What, exactly is a venue contract? section.
What are some wedding venue contract tips?
Be aware of the cancellation policy as well as hidden or missing costs. And check the details. See Before you Sign: Reviewing the Contract for more.