The venue is one of the biggest ticks on the wedding to do list and one of the items you’ll spend the most money on, so you need to ensure you fully understand exactly what you’re getting. Now I hope you have a cup of tea and biscuit beacsue this could take a bit of time but I wanted to explain everything fully and as I used a be a wedding co-ordinator at a venue this is my kind of subject! As you can see what it comes to venues I could talk for hours, so I hope you find this wedding venue checklist useful.
It’s probably one of the most important questions you’ll need to ask your venue. Even if you’re planning your wedding with more than a years notice you’d be surprised how many venues will still only have selected dates available for those peak months. Once you know what dates they have available it’s worth checking if you can provisionally hold your preferred date (i.e. pencilled without putting down a deposit) whilst you check with your church or registry office to ensure they also have availability before you start signing on the dotted line.
Most venues will have a wedding co-ordinator who you will work with for all the pre-planning for the big day and then someone operationally who will oversee things from the venue point of view on the day. When you initially enquire, they will probably not know the exact person who will run your wedding on the day so they can tell you this nearer the time but it’s good to establish how things work. If there is someone different looking after you on the day, it’s important you ask for a final run through meeting to ensure that the operational person is fully understanding of the details.
If you’re holding the ceremony at the venue, you’ll need to understand where the ceremony will be held i.e. will it be in the same room and need to be turned around before the reception or can it be in a different room. If it’s in the same room, you’ll need to know how much time they need to re-set the room, so you can factor this into your timings. The same goes with if it’s outside, where is the wet weather alternative? You need to ensure you are clear on what the maximum capacity is of the room, so you know how many people you can invite to the ceremony. Other questions that are good to know are if the room has music playing facilities in or if you need to bring something in yourself to play music. Will a member of the venue’s staff be able to press play on the music during the ceremony or do you need to assign that role to one of the ushers or a guest? Lastly and most importantly you need to know which local registry office they are covered by, to know who you need to contact to book a registrar for the ceremony with.
The Drinks Reception
You’ll want to establish where this will be held, is there access to outdoor space and what happens if it’s raining. Again, do they have music playing facilities? Will they have waiters to serve the drinks or will you just have a drinks station for guests to help themselves from? Will there be a bar if guests want to purchase additional or different drinks? Also, it’s good to know what seating there will be, as no doubt some guests will want to sit down especially if they’re wearing killer heels.
The Wedding Breakfast
Where is this held and what’s the maximum capacity? You’ll also want to find out what shape and sized tables they have, as well as how they suggest the tables are laid out so you know how to do your seating plan. Once more, do they have music facilities in that room? So you can plan your timings for the day you’ll also want to know how long they take to serve the meal.
Ideally you want to have a microphone for the speeches so check if your venue has one you can use.
Similar questions to the wedding breakfast; where is this held, what is the maximum capacity? Most of the time the evening reception will be in the same room as the wedding breakfast but you’ll need to establish from your venue whether they will just discreetly clear away cutlery, glassware etc around your guests whilst the evening reception gets underway or if you will be asked to vacate the room whilst it is turnaround, before welcoming guests back into the room for the evening festivities. Either way find out if they need to remove tables to make space for dancing. Where will the Band/DJ set up and what time can they get access to set up? Some venues will have restrictions on how late food can be served so you’ll need to ask what time the kitchen stops serving.
The Set Up & Decorations
It’ll be an important question to know so that you can relay the answer to your suppliers, and that is what time you can have access to set up from. Does the venue provide the tables, chairs, linen, cutlery, crockery, glassware? If not, you’ll have to hire these items in which you’ll need to factor into your budget. Do they have any extras in house that they can provide such as easel for the table plan, red carpet, cake stand, centrepieces etc. You might not want all of these items but it’s worth knowing what they have in case there is anything you can make use of. Are there any restrictions on what the venue do allow before you start planning only to find out it’s a no no? A common restriction is candles, but you can always use cool candles (battery powered) candles to get around this. Do you need to have an actual dance floor put down or is the flooring suitable to dance on? If you need a dance floor do they have one in house or do you need to hire one in?
Not all venues offer a menu tasting as standard and some that do don’t offer it complimentary, so don’t assume. Check if they do and if there is a charge. Either way I would suggest you ask to have one, as it’s really beneficial to trial the food before you make your final decision about what you want to serve. Find out which dishes are included in the price and what items on the menu are available but at a supplement? You might also want to talk to them about whether there is any flexibility on the menus and what’s included. Learn how they deal with special dietary requirements so youare aware. If you want to have canapes you’ll want to know what they can offer during the drinks reception, as well as food options for the evening reception. Some venues will allow you to bring in outside caterers whereas others are very strict on this, so you’ll need to enquire if you are considering this.
I always think it’s worth taking a look at the bar menu and seeing what’s available as well as understanding the kind of prices they charge. You definitely need to know if they accept cards or just cash. If they only accept cash, you’ll need to let guests know in advance (I normally suggest you detail this on the invites). Corkage, for those not familiar with the term is the charge some venues will enforce if they allow you to bring in your own alcohol. Normally it is only for wine or champagne and is charged per bottle. Now not all venues will allow this and I should warn you that for those that do often the cost per bottle plus the shop price you buy them for is not much of a saving from buying the wine directly from your venue so bare that in mind. You definitely need to know what time their license is until, so you know what time drinks will stop being served. As an optional question you could find out if the bar team could create a bespoke cocktail especially for your wedding.
You need to check that firstly they have a license for music and whether you can have live music such as a band. Some venues will have a restriction on the noise level and if they do it’s best to advise your band/DJ in advance. Check what time music can go on till. If you are having a band it’s also worth asking if there is a room they can use a changing/storage room as most bands will ask for this.
If the venue has bedrooms onsite, find out how many they have and how many are available for the night of the wedding. If they don’t have any bedrooms they might have suggestions of local hotels that guests could stay at. You might want to enquiry if you can hold a block of room for a period of time to allow guests to book them before they get booked up by other people. Some venues will offer a special rate and if they do you’ll need to know if you need to give guests a code or reference to use when booking the rooms. Find out how long the rooms can be held for so you can advise your guests how long they have to book. Good questions to ask are what time check in as well as what the situation is for anyone who might arrive before check in, such as if they can leave their luggage or if there is somewhere people can get changed. Talk to them about if you can get ready at the venue the morning of the wedding and if this means booking a room for the night before. Some venues will include a Bridal Suite in the package for the night before the wedding, so you’ll want to find out if yours does.
The Next Day
Sorry I know this is the “back to reality” section but they are still questions that need to be asked. You need to know what time you need to vacate the venue by to ensure you allow time to pack things up, but if you don’t fancy this bump down to earth you can always hire me to do the task for you! See if you can organise a group table or private room for all your guests to have breakfast in so you can reminisce about the day before, over coffee and toast. Check out time is also another important question to ask.
A lot of venues have a preferred suppliers list, now you are not duty bound to use these suppliers however it’s worth perusing the list as their suppliers will be familiar with the venue so might help you get the best out of it. You’ll need to provide meals for the suppliers who are going to be with you for a good part of the day so find out what the venue normally does; sometimes they offer the bar menu or have a set price and then serve the main course from the wedding breakfast. Now we live in a world where health and safety has gone mad so a lot of venues require certain paperwork from your suppliers such as public liability insurance, risk assessment and PAT testing certificates etc. Your suppliers will often have questions about access (i.e. stairs, lift) especially if they have lots of equipment to bring in so ask the question early and then you’ll be prepared to give them the answer from the off.
This is such an important question to ask…do the prices include VAT? Not all venues or suppliers for that matter automatically quote including VAT and if they haven’t it will be another 20% on top so you need to know for sure. You also want to check if they add service charge. In some places it is discretionary but it’s worth checking so you can budget accordingly. You’ll want to know how much they will need for the deposit so you can gather the cash for when you’re ready to confirm and you’ll also need to know when they want further payments so you can schedule these in your diary. Some venues will have varying prices depending on the month or day of the week which might affect your decision on which date to go with. If they offer a package, you’ll want to understand how much it is and what’s included. You may want to enquire as to whether there is any flexibility on what’s included in the package and if there are costs in addition to the package. For venues that don’t offer packages check if they charge a room hire. There may be a minimum spend you need to reach for food and beverage items. If so, you’ll want to check the food and beverage costs to ensure you can get what you want within the minimum spend of if you need to budget for more than this amount. Again, find out about extras and the costs for these. If you’re having the ceremony at the venue, you’ll need to establish if there is a cost to hire the ceremony room. Some venues will give you the option to pay to extend their license so that you can keep the party going on longer. If you’re planning to invite children, ask the venue how much they charge for them and what’s included.
The Nitty Gritty
All venues will have a deadline for when they need final numbers. You’ll want to find this out so that you can send your invites and ask for RSVPs back with enough time to give the venue your final guest numbers. You might be bound by minimum numbers so check what these are. If in doubt, try to ask if the venue will let you set these as low as possible as a precaution. To give yourself a date to work to, ask when they need all of the final details and the seating plan etc, so you know how much time you have to get things in order.
Not all venues operate a one wedding per day policy, so you should probably check where they stand on the matter. Check if they allow confetti, a lot will say yes but only biodegradable which is information worth relaying to your guests in case they bring their own confetti. Ask the venue to talk you through where the good spots are for photos so you can plan your shots for the day. Does the venue have parking and if they do can cars be left overnight at the venue? This is again information you can relay to your guests in your invites. Venues need to keep updating themselves, refreshing the look so it’s worth just asking if they have any planned refurbishment works for around the time you are getting married. They will have local taxi firms they work with on a daily basis which are handy to get and include in your invites for guests. If you wanted to have fireworks or sky lanterns, you’ll have to see if the venue even allows this as some will have restrictions especially if they are under a flight path. There could be other restrictions they have in place which you should know about so make sure you ask the question. Open days are a great way to see the venue set up, talk to their preferred suppliers and get a good feel for the place so find out when they’re holding one and pop along.
Lastly, when you get your contract through read the contract and its terms & conditions really thoroughly. I know terms & conditions can be very wordy and complicated, but you need to fully understand what you are signing to.
There you go it might seem like a lot but it’s better to ask all the questions and be fully informed.
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