You’ve found the space that you absolutely love. It’s got the atmosphere, the lighting, the landscaping, the whole thing you had pictured in your mind for your special day. You want it. You tell them that. And they hand you a contract. But don’t sign it until you ask a few questions…
What is included in this rental?
Do not automatically assume that the tables, chairs and linens are included in the rental price. Too often couples sign a contract, wowed at the inexpensive price, only to find out later that they now need to provide all of the necessary equipment (which can end up being more expensive than a contract where it is included). If tables, linens and chairs are included, ask what color linens, what specific linens (napkins are sometimes a separate fee!), what specific chairs and what specific size tables are included. Also ask if cocktail tables, buffet tables and bar tables (if your venue does not have a specific bar area) are included or if only dinner tables are in the contract.
Do you have an exclusive caterer/caterers list?
You don’t want to lock into a caterer without knowing anything about their food or reputation. Also, you will want to know a caterers prices and if their guaranteed minimum is included in the venues, or if it is separate. Ask to take a look at your menu options and pricing before signing that contract.
What time will we have access on the day of the wedding?
You will have a lot of deliveries arriving that day (florals, cake, etc) as well as others who will need time to come and set up (musicians will need time to set up, photographers and videographers will want a little time to shoot details and test lighting). You want access to the space at least 3 hours prior to any guests arriving. So, if your reception starts at 6pm, you want access by 3pm at the latest. If you are having your ceremony there as well, again you want 3 hours prior to the ceremony, and more if you and your intended plan on doing a first see at the location.
Do you have a policy on having either a band or DJ?
Some venues specify the size of band that is permitted, or state that bands are not permitted at all (for various reason; mainly for space constraints, but it can also be due to noise ordinances for the specific area). Other venues will ask the band or DJ to pay them a stipend for using their electricity (which could fall back onto you). This is a more rare occurrence, but it still warrants asking.
Will ours be the only wedding going on that day?
This is not that a venue that runs multiple weddings at one time are bad; many do it and do it just beautifully. However, if this is something that is going to make you nervous or fearful that your venue will not have enough time to spend with you, it is something to consider. Also, if the space is split by a collapsible wall, know that you are likely to hear the music from that event, and may perhaps get some trickle in guests as well!
If their ceremony space is outdoors, ask what the Plan B is.
I cannot drive this home enough – you have to like the Plan B. Mother Nature is the one thing no wedding professional can control, and Plan B’s are used more often than expected. If Plan B is in a paneled room that you hate, or means your guests have to stand and you do not want that, or has carpet coloring you will hate forever in your photos, you need to consider another location.
Enjoy your planning!!