Now that you’re engaged, it’s time to decide where you’ll start your happily ever after. One of the most critical choices you will make as you plan your big day is venue selection.

While cost and style are essential elements of a venue, smart couples dig deeper. You want to feel confident that your site is right for you and your guests.

Be prepared to ask the right questions before you start to tour possible venues.

You may be able to cross several venues off your list before you visit. If the site doesn’t meet your needs when it comes to these questions, it’s time to move on.

Scheduling

Do you have a firm date in mind? if your special date isn’t available, there’s no need to continue the conversation. However, if you’re flexible, you may end up finding the perfect venue location for your dream day.

Capacity

Is the venue going to be able to hold all the friends and family you want to share your beautiful day with? If the venue isn’t large enough, it simply won’t work. If you’re not sure how many people you’ll be inviting, calling a venue might be premature. Make sure you have at least a ballpark idea of how many guests you expect to invite before you contact a venue.

With that number in mind, ask the venue:

What is your seating capacity?  Some venues will offer a variety of spaces to accommodate both large and small weddings. How are the seats arranged?

Make sure the seating arrangement matches your vision for your guests’ experience. You may not want long tables or oversized round tables, for instance.

Can you accommodate unexpected guests?

Did Aunt Rita forget to RSVP? Or did your favorite cousin find a way to make it to the wedding at the last-minute? Events that include sit-down meals can be tricky to organize. Check to see if the venue has a procedure for handling extra guests, and what the charge is for that service.

Cost

What is the average price for a wedding with x-number of guests at your venue?

It can be beneficial if the venue can give you a ballpark estimate of what a wedding typical costs there. If that number is way off base for your budget, you can eliminate it as a choice right away.

Can you send me a list of potential expenses?

Most large event venues have price lists that outline expected costs, payment deadlines, and optional add-ons. However, depending on the venue, you may need to pay an additional fee for venue staff, put down a substantial security deposit for any property damage that might occur, or purchase a special event day insurance policy.

Does the cost include “extras,” and does the venue require you use their services for these needs?

Some unexpected required costs might include:

  •  Valet parking, mainly if the venue is located in a busy city center
  •  Rental fees for chairs, tables, table settings, and many other necessary items
  •  Extra charges for changing rooms and coat check facilities

Inquire about catering, in particular. Some sites allow couples to bring in outside catering, but many require the use of their in-house catering service. Most venues allow wedding cakes to be brought in, but it’s always good to confirm that with the venue coordinator.

The Details

If the venue meets your basic needs, hurray! Now, it’s time to make an appointment to visit the facility to make sure it will live up to your expectations.

Food & Drink

What are your food and drink packages?

The venue will typically have set menus on hand describing their catering and drink options. You’ll need to decide if you want to offer an open bar, limited drink options, or no alcohol at all. Check to see if they will allow you to have a cocktail hour or bring in your champagne (and if there’s a corkage fee for this option).

Other concerns might include how the venue handles special food requests for guests with dietary restrictions or food allergies, how they handle set-up and clean-up, and whether or not you can bring in your own cake.

Decor

Can I use my wedding planner or decorator?

Will you want to bring in your own decor? First, Find out if the venue allows couples to provide that. Some sites require their in-house designers and planning services for events and will charge accordingly.

You’ll also want to ask about any decoration rules or requirements. If you want to use candles on the guest tables, for example, make sure the venue allows it.

Most Importantly

No matter where you decide to hold your event, remember that this event is above all, a celebration!

As you navigate through each wedding venue site tour, you may find some surprises. A venue might meet all your needs on paper, but not feel “right” when you get there.

You’ll remember this moment much longer than you’ll remember details about the venue.

 Ask the right questions, but trust your instincts, too.

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