Grilling the Venue Manager – Questions you really should ask

Published date: 17th January 2019

The wedding venue sector tends to be very professional these days, though occasionally you hear stories that make you wince. But given the choice of a reception venue is right up there with finding the right dress and getting a great photographer, it’s worth doing some homework before you visit potential places (if you want to marry there as well as party, no point in visiting any without licences for that).We can start you off with some ideas about questions to ask of the venue manager.

Most critical first – is it available for the date and time you’ve set or prefer? If the day isn’t fixed, check if you get a better deal for Fridays or Sundays (or even midweek), and if they have special winter rates – why restrict yourself to ‘the wedding season?’ If it’s free for your date, will there be other weddings or events then?

Financial matters matter. What and when is the deposit required, and when is the balance due? If there’s a paid bar, what’s their pricing policy, and is there a minimum (if it’s not reached, what’s the penalty?)? And speaking of penalties – what’s the cancellation fee and date limit? It can happen (illness etc as well as arguments).

The venue’s website should detail their service, and/or they’ll send a brochure, but check if they have package deals and what’s included in them (they want your business, so there may be extra touches negotiable); do they provide catering, and/or allow external caterers (is there an ‘approved list?’); do they arrange the entertainment (with your input), or can you bring in a band or DJ (in which case, any charge for helping set up? Do they have sound gear?); are there restrictions as regards stopping serving drinks and the playing of music? Are you allowed to bring your own drinks, and if yes, is there a corkage charge? Any problems with providing snacks in the early hours?

It makes sense to walk around the facilities with the manager, to check out the standards – dirty bathrooms = we’ll get back to you; if the bar is a small hatch and you’re inviting 200… Is there a place for you to change in privacy and comfort? Are there sufficient toilets for your party size? If kids are coming, is there a room for them? Where do they hold receiving lines? Can they store any presents safely overnight? If you’re using a marquee, what provisions are there for biblical weather? How does the car park look (and a general one, what sort of area is the venue in – would you feel safe leaving it at midnight?), is it big enough, do they guarantee parking spaces, and is a parking space costed as an add-on?

You want your reception to look just right, and have a colour scheme in mind perhaps, so does the place fit that, and are there plans to redecorate in different colours? Do they allow candles, and your own centrepieces etc? And depending on the time of year, how do they cope with cold or very hot weather (air-con, heating?)? When can you set up any personal decorations? Is there a cleaning fee add-on?

A venue has to feel right and function well. A big part of that is people, so who’ll be your point of contact? If not the person you’re currently meeting, can you have a quick word now? Do they have a routine for meetings before the big day?

Professional wedding venues will be happy to detail things for you, and most will want signed contracts (and so should you). But as a back-stop, do ask what services (and service charge for example) are not included, and what they will cost. Your wedding day should be full of nice surprises, not nasty ones.

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