After 25 years of being in the wedding and special events industry, I have visited a good majority of locations here in Southern California, as well as planning my own wedding and helping couples, friends and family find their dream venue. There have been a lot of questions from couples, vendors and my own curiosity about the industry. Our industry is constantly changing and evolving, and it’s important to stay on top of issues that affect planning a wedding.
As a newly engaged couple, it can be extremely stressful when choosing a venue without knowing the proper questions to ask. Choosing a venue is one of the crucial steps in wedding planning. It’s important to have a wedding date and a venue chosen before hiring other vendors such as myself to be a part of your wedding team. My job as a vendor is to ensure that my couples have the least amount of stress on their most important day. Keep in mind, this is just my opinion and my suggestions from my experience of being in the industry for 25 years. When you are looking for venues, the following are things you should consider and questions you should ask a wedding venue before you book.
- Come up with a budget
- Come up with a guest list; find out how many guests your venue will hold
- Determine geographically where you want your wedding venue to be (Orange County, LA, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino). Then ask yourself if you want to be by the beach, mountains, desert or destination. Then determine if you want a hotel, country club, hall, restaurant, banquet hall, park or private residence
- Figure out if you want your ceremony at the same place as your reception or if you want to get married in a church or park or the County Courthouse
- If you are having your ceremony at the reception venue, ask if there is a ceremony site fee. Also ask if they allow you to do a rehearsal, if there is a fee and who will be present to conduct the rehearsal.
- What is included in the ceremony set up (i.e., chairs, microphone, music, sound system, etc.)
- Find out how many hours the package includes at the venue
- Ask if your venue allows outside food and catering (if needed) (i.e., catering, alcohol, food trucks, desserts, bakery items)
- Ask if you can hire outside vendors (i.e. DJs, photographers, florists, rental items such as dance floors, tables & linens, chairs, etc.) or if you are required to use their vendors
- Ask if they have inclusive packages which includes vendors
- Ask if they require a Certificate of Insurance from vendors
- Ask your venue if they require a wedding coordinator (I strongly suggest hiring one)
- Ask if they have a cancellation policy
- Ask if they do a food tasting and if they charge for it
- Always ask up front what their food and beverage minimum is and any additional fees that are assessed, such as corking fees, cake cutting fees, audio visual or power needs, gratuity, tax, service fees or any type of rigging fees.
- Ask if there is a list of all items that are included in each pricing package such as tables, linens, floor length linens, etc.
- Is there a discounted rate for a block of rooms for out of town guests? Is there a wedding suite included for the wedding night?
- If your venue is not a hotel, do they have a hotel they partner with for a block of rooms for guests
- Ask about valet parking, validated parking or where guests will park
- Are there any off season discounts or a discount for Friday, Sundays or weddings during the day before 4:30 p.m.?
- Find out who will be your on-site contact on the day of your wedding (sales and catering director, banquet captain, etc.)
- Are there any noise ordinances (such as from the city, hotel guests, neighbors) or if music must be turned off at a certain time
- Does your venue have Wifi and are the guests and vendors able to use it? If it’s not free, what is the fee?
- Are you allowed to have open flame candles on guest tables and sweetheart tables, as a part of your decor/centerpieces?
- Ask how flexible your reception venue is for vendors setting up and breaking down; some only give you 2 hours for set up and 1 hour for breakdown depending on the venue’s event schedule
- Does the venue allow more than one wedding in a day in your room.
- What is required to secure the date and when is the final headcount and final balance due? Is there any security or clean up deposit due?
Go with venues who are willing to go that extra mile for you, who are accommodating, who want your business and who will do everything in their power to make sure your wedding is a complete success.
If you have any questions or are in need of additional resources, feel free to send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.