Planning to get married in a hot air balloon, on top of Mount Everest, or while scuba diving with sharks? Chances are, you’ll need to sort out some logistics to make it happen. Even if you prefer the chapel down the street over a mountaintop, there are a few things you need to know. For example, where are all your guests going to sit? And do you have to bring the chairs?
Thankfully, most venues are a whole lot easier to navigate than, say, a small basket floating in the sky. Still, you’ll want to make sure you don’t forget the finer details. Below, we’ve listed everything you should ask your wedding venue before you sign the contract.
Questions to ask wedding venues: the fundamentals
As you start compiling your list of questions during wedding planning, you’re likely to be bombarded with everything from “What are the local fire ordinances? to “Are exotic animal shows allowed?”
But most of those won’t apply to your Big Day. Instead, focus on the key questions below—i.e., details regarding the venue’s availability, cost, and capacity. (Once all those things are squared away, you can finally work out your guest list and get those save-the-dates and wedding invitations mailed out!)
When you meet with the venue coordinator, be sure to keep these Qs at the top of your wedding venue question list:
1. Is my preferred wedding date available? (Alternately, what dates are available in the month I’m considering?
2. Can this venue accommodate my guest count? Is it handicap accessible?
3. What is the venue fee, when does it need to be paid, and what is included in the price? What’s the difference in in-and-off season pricing?
4. How much is the wedding deposit? When is it due?
5. Who will be my primary contact, and what’s the best way to reach them?
6. What is the cancellation policy and/or refund policy? What if details change due to factors outside of my control (i.e. Covid)?
Photo by Isaiah and Taylor; “Prairial” by Putnam & Putnam for Paperless Post.
Other important questions
Before you fall totally head-over-heels in love with a venue, there are a few less obvious questions you should ask as well. The answers could still have a sizable impact on your big day. To prevent any surprises post-booking, be sure to address these details upfront:
7. How many weddings do you host in one day or one weekend?
A larger venue might have the capacity to book multiple weddings each day with no issue. However, if your decor requires an elaborate setup or you’d like a little extra wiggle room in your schedule, you’ll want to know whether a venue might book you back to back with other events and then avoid that. (On the contrary, there have been reported instances of couples actually benefiting from sharing a wedding date or weekend, so long as they split the cost of their shared decor.)
8. Are there any other significant events occurring on or near the date of our wedding?
For you, your wedding day is probably the biggest celebration of the year. But it might coincide with local events that could make logistics… tricky. For example, you’ll want to know before you book if the town’s world-famous 24-hour tractor parade falls on your date. This will keep you in the know of things like increased hotel rates, crowds, and traffic conditions.
Many venues keep track of large local events that could impact factors like this. Avoiding these events when you pick your date, or at least knowing about them in advance, can help you navigate any problems they may pose.
9. What is your weather contingency plan for outdoor weddings?
No matter how much you enjoy those wedding photos of happy couples embracing beneath umbrellas (so romantic), any unexpected changes in weather can require last-minute adjustments. If you’re planning an outdoor wedding, having a backup option available through the venue provides immense peace of mind.
10. What is the difference in rates for weekdays vs weekends?
Hoping to devote more of your budget to hiring that hard-to-get indie band for your reception? Some venues offer significant discounts to those booking on weekdays, so you might consider this as a money-saving option. Plus, a weekday wedding gives you more flexibility to choose a meaningful date.
11. Are there changing areas available to the wedding party?
Having a space at the venue where the soon-to-be spouses can get glammed up before the wedding ceremony or wedding reception is a huge help, as you’ll avoid any potential wrinkles, makeup smudges, and misplaced accessories on the car ride over.
12. Can we choose our own vendors?
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive venue with a wedding package that takes care of vendor selection, go for it! However, if you’re more interested in hand-picking your caterer, cake decorator, and decor, it’s crucial to confirm that your venue will allow it.
13. Do you have an exclusive or preferred vendor list?
Alternately, if you need assistance in finding reputable vendors, a venue might be able to recommend some tried-and-true options. In that case, finding the right vendors will be a piece of cake.
14. Is there an area where kids can hang out?
This question is important to ask if you’re planning to host an adults-only party, but will have a babysitter on-site for those parents who must bring their children. Likewise, if you’ll be hosting babies, it could be helpful if there’s an area where you can set up a travel crib when it’s bedtime.
“Fionola” by Paperless Post; Cake by Sweet Details Atlanta.
Finer details for day-of delight
Now let’s break down even more specifics to make your venue planning as perfect and stress-free as can be.
Food and drinks: What’s on the menu?
Want to wow your guests with servings of gold leaf-garnished wagyu beef, or hope to feature the artsy cuisine of your favorite local restaurant? In either case, it’s important to know where the venue stands on food and drinks. Ask these questions for a palate-pleasing experience:
15. Is there a food and beverage minimum?
This question is especially important if your venue is a restaurant or other place that serves food regularly. Even if you’re only inviting a select few, you may have to pay a minimum amount for food and drinks for your guests.
16. Can we do a food tasting before the menu is finalized?
Even if you have confidence in the venue’s culinary expertise, this is a crucial query for those with selective taste buds. Ask about attending a group tasting, where you’ll also have the opportunity to see your venue decked out for an event.
17. Are tables, chairs, plates, silverware, and glassware provided?
Whether you’re sticking to cocktail hour or serving a five-course meal, you’re going to need dinnerware and a place to sit. It’s good to know what you might need to outsource.
18. Can I bring a wedding cake from an outside baker?
We’ve all dreamt of it: that towering, showstopping cake as delicious as it is worthy of wows. If you want to choose your own bakery, ensure your venue doesn’t require an in-house option.
19. Is there a cake-cutting fee?
If you opt to bring your own gâteau, don’t be caught off-guard by cake-cutting fees. This extra charge usually covers the service of the venue staff cutting, plating, and serving your cake to your guests.
20. Can we bring our own wine, beer, or champagne? What about hard liquor?
Sourcing your own bubbly to toast with can be a cost-saving option. However, be sure to check that your venue’s fees don’t include alcohol—and that they don’t prohibit you from bringing your own.
21. Is there a corkage fee?
If you go ahead with a BYO-beverage option, you’ll want to get acquainted with corkage fees—a charge some venues require to serve any alcoholic beverages you bring.
22. Are you licensed to provide alcohol?
For those who plan to serve drinks, this question is as vital as the best man’s toast. Some venues get licensed themselves, while others hire licensed bartenders or caterers. Also, ask whether there is a maximum amount of time per event that alcohol is permitted to be served.
23. Is there an additional fee for bar staff?
Whether your guest list necessitates one bartender or seven, be sure to factor in any fees the venue charges for their services.
Floral Design by Rogue and Fox; “November Herbarium” by Rifle Paper Co. for Paperless Post.
Decor: the backdrop of your big day
Perhaps you’re the kind of person who’s saved every scrap of wedding inspiration you’ve ever come across since kindergarten, or you’re a minimalist who dreams of getting hitched in a warehouse. Either way, your venue could have special terms and conditions that affect your decor possibilities. Relevant questions include:
24. Are we allowed to bring our own decorations?
If you’re going to the effort of ordering monogrammed tablecloths and specially commissioned ice sculpture centerpieces, you’ll want to make sure your venue will allow you to bring them in.
25. Do you have an inventory of decor?
Believe it or not, you could add some extra sparkle and save some cash by using a venue’s pre-existing stash of supplies. Some venues might include these with your booking, while others could require rental fees.
26. Are there any decor restrictions? Can we use candles, confetti, sparklers, etc?
Whether you’re planning to tie the knot under the light of a thousand flickering candles or just want to know if bubble machines are allowed, this is an important one. Venues might pose limits on certain decorations for safety reasons, or to lessen the post-event cleanup.
Vendors and staffing: The people who make it all happen
Even if your wedding venue takes care of all the outsourcing, it’s helpful to ask about vendors, staff, and the role they’ll play in your celebration. Here are a few questions to ask when your venue discussion turns to vendors and staffing:
27. What time can vendors start setting up on the day of the wedding?
To achieve your vision of an under-the-sea-themed reception, your wedding vendors will need plenty of time to set up. Be sure to also find out the timeline for taking down decorations afterward (and if the venue can help with set up and clean up). Some venues charge a cleaning fee if it’s not done properly.
28. Do you offer on-site coordination? What services are included?
Having someone else available to run the show can take a lot off your plate, resulting in a more relaxing and stress-free wedding day for all involved. Oftentimes, the day-of coordinator is your point-person throughout your whole wedding planning journey.
29. Can the venue accommodate a DJ or live band?
Whether your ideal musical entertainment features an Elvis impersonator or a string quartet, they’ll need a place to perform. Find out whether the venue can provide a stage or dedicated space for them to use, and for your wedding party to do the wedding toasts.
30. Do you provide a coat check service?
You’re likely familiar with the struggle of finding your coat amid heaps of others at the end of a party. Providing a coat check is a thoughtful convenience for your guests on arrival and departure. It also ensures them a safe place to stow any personal belongings.
Paperless Post: An effortless way to gather together
When all’s said and done, choosing a wedding venue is a getting-to-know-you process to rival that long-ago first date with your significant other. Ideally, it should feel just as delightful. However, if choosing your wedding venue seems overwhelming, try to remember that all the preparations will make your actual wedding feel like a breeze. Eyes on the prize, baby!
At Paperless Post, we believe that planning your wedding shouldn’t mean having to spend less time with those you care about. That’s why we’ve reimagined online wedding invitations, with easy-to-use templates, stunning designs to suit any theme, and easy host-to-guest communication.
With Paperless Post, gathering with your loved ones is as easy as saying “I do.”