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Securing a wedding venue location is one of the first steps to planning your wedding and is also one of the most difficult tasks that you’ll face.  This is where time is especially important because many popular venues get booked up quickly well up to a year in advance.  Knowing what to ask and what to expect will ensure your big day is a big success.

Having a wedding planner can make this part of the planning process much easier and less stressful because they can save you time and money in your search. Your wedding planner will have the resources and business relationships to help you quickly find the perfect venue that meets your vision and your budget. Here are some common questions that you and your wedding planner should ask potential wedding venue sites:

Do I have to be a member of the country club or yacht club?

Since club memberships are usually very expensive, most clubs let outsiders hold events there if they are sponsored by a member. Before you even visit any club spaces, inquire about the membership requirements. With the exception of super-exclusive country clubs, there are usually ways around them.

Will a shuttle to and from the ceremony and reception be provided?

Making wedding-day transportation a no-brainer for your guests will ensure that things run on time. If the reception site does not make shuttles available, rent your own.

At what time will my guests have to leave the venue?

Understanding the timeline of the day will help you plan more efficiently. Some outdoor or beach wedding venues are subject to city ordinances and your wedding reception must end by 10pm.   Ask the reception hall to write the time in the contract. Some sites charge up to $500 an hour for overstaying.

Is there a service charge on top of the bill? If so, how much?

Generally speaking, there’s always a service charge for the food and beverages. The average is usually 20-24 percent of the food and beverage bill. Don’t forget to also add Sales Tax. These two charges are not part of your food and beverage minimum and is added to your total. So remember to review your wedding venue contract thoroughly so you understand what you are paying for.  Ask your contact at the reception hall about tipping on top of the service charge. Typically, if the bar is hosted, the bartenders won’t accept tips. If it’s a cash bar, ask about the standard tipping protocol.

Do I have to use the recommended vendors?

Some venues will expect you to use their caterers and florists. Know that you can sometimes avoid this, but at a hefty cost. Normally, you have to pay a fee to the house caterer for not using it, in addition to paying your own caterer. Sometimes the recommended vendors from the venues can offer you additional discounts compared to other vendors. Some venues allow you to include the cost of the recommended vendors into the cost minimum of the venue.

Do you allow alcohol and open flames?

Many museums have restrictions about the types of alcohol that can be brought in. Red wine might be a no-no, as might mixers with serious staining potential. Also ask about having candles. Flames are not always a welcome element in places containing storied art.

Will there be a hosted bar, a cash bar, or a combination of the two?

This is a personal decision that you and your fiancé should make based on your budget, not one that should be dictated to you. The best answer you can hope for is that there will be a combination. Most venues will include an hour of hosted bar into their wedding package. Work with the wedding venue to work out a bar package that works best for your budget.

Who is responsible for setting up and tearing down the decor, and when will it be completed?

No matter where your wedding is, find out if you need to hire an extra person to take care of constructing and deconstructing the wedding set. Sites will normally cover this portion of the program for a fee. If your wedding is in a park or public beach, offer to pay the florist and the caterer extra to help out.

Will you rope off an area for parking?

Most likely there will be a parking lot, but there may also be an extra charge for it. Additionally, some wedding venues require you to use a valet service, which can be a hefty expense, because you have to pay and tip the attendants (about $40 to $60 per attendant). Check to see if parking is complimentary for your guests on the day of the event or see if you can host the parking for a discounted rate.

What’s the backup plan for inclement weather?

Make sure the facility has a contingency plan when it comes to bad weather or other unforeseeable circumstances.

What’s the corkage fee if I bring my own wine?

Supplying the wine-no matter where your wedding is-could save you money, depending on the corkage fee. Standard fees, which vary from city to city, might run from $8 to $20 a bottle. Even at the higher end, however, this still may prove to be more of a bargain than using the site’s wine selection, which is generally sold at a triple markup.

How early can I get into the site to set up?

Reception halls generally allow you ample time for this. But with museums, galleries, theaters, and stadiums, inquire early and often about how much time you have. Occasionally they won’t permit a setup until the public hours of operation are over. For instance, if a gallery closes at 5p.m. on a Saturday and your reception begins at 7 p.m., that will pose a severe time crunch.


Are there restrictions for the photographer?

If you’ve booked the reception at your favorite art museum, only to be told that flashing camera lights are prohibited near the painting where your fiancé first kissed you, you might want to rethink that location.

Are there any additional costs-cleaning fees, insurance-fee waivers, etc.?

Get it all in writing so there are no surprises.

How many weddings will be booked on my day?

Only if you’re booking a massive event space should there be more than one event scheduled on your day. Make sure that you’re getting the time you’ve been allotted and have paid for.

Other important questions that you must ask are:

What is included in the wedding package? Is chair covers and sashes included? What type of chairs and linens are available? Is the site fee for the ceremony included in the minimum (Sometimes you can work this fee into the minimum at some venues)? Are they any discounts if you hold your event on a friday or sunday? 


Use these questions to help you decide on a wedding venue and better understand what is included in their wedding package. Be open to different venue sites that can help you stretch your dollar and get the most for your money. There are so many great wedding venue locations in Los Angeles and Orange County that include quite a bit in their packages. Stay tuned for our upcoming blog on affordable wedding venues in Los Angeles and Orange County.

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