One of the first orders of business when you start planning your wedding should be booking your venue. Once you have your venue booked, a whole lot can fall into place. Booking a venue can also be one of the most difficult aspects of planning your wedding, since so much that you end up determining will be based on your venue (alcohol you serve, hours of your wedding, decor aesthetic, how many people you invite...the list goes on). With so much of your wedding depending on the venue, here are a few key questions you should make sure to ask before booking!
1. What is the venue's capacity? An even better question would also be to ask "What is the most successful number of guests in the space?" Seated and/or standing, depending on the space and how you plan to use it for your wedding (ceremony space vs. cocktail space vs. dinner space). Just because the capacity of a room is 200, doesn't mean that many guests will comfortably fit with the large dance floor you were planning on having.
2. Are there certain vendors we have to work with? If the venue has an in house restaurant or chef, the answer will most likely be that you have to use them for all of your food service, and possibly dessert if there is an in house pastry chef as well. While that is a more obvious vendor you'd have to work with, some venues also have lists of vendors that you have to choose from for all of your services.
3. What time does music have to be off? If you have an entirely outdoor wedding, there might be a clause in the contract that states you have to have music off at 8pm or 9pm in order to not disturb neighbors. Be conscious of this if you were planning to have a dance party until midnight.
4. What time can we access the venue on the day of? Some venues, like wineries, museums or restaurants, won't close their doors the whole day just because they are holding your venue in the evening. Some have strict rules that you cannot access the venue until 3pm, which means if you wanted to have your wedding ceremony start at 4pm... you might have to cut WAY back on the decor, or rethink your timeline if you want to work with that venue. Some venues, you can pay to have earlier access time, but certain kinds are more strict and won't even allow you to pay for earlier access.
5. What time do we have to be out of the venue? With venues with strict rental hour periods, you should ensure you end your music and close the bar at least an hour before your rental time ends to ensure vendors have enough time to load out and clean up so you don't get charged for any overages. If a venue has a non-negotiable start time, and early end time, you might want to look elsewhere if you wanted to have a longer wedding day.
6. How is alcohol charged? If your venue has an in house catering team that has to serve your alcohol, check how they are charging you - ideally, you want them to charge by consumption so you aren't paying a flat rate, which is often more than the amount your guests will consume.
7. Are there fire or candle restrictions? If you were dead set on having a wedding filled with lots of ambient lighting from candles, but your venue only allows LED candles, you will either have to rethink your wedding decor, or try to find another venue. Most venues in San Francisco require the candle wick to be a few inches below the top of the candle holder - so tea lights are okay as long as you get the correct holder, but the candelabra style candles are a no go. Make sure you find this out before you order all of your candles or a fire pit, just to end up being told on the day of that you can't use them!
Many venues have particular sets of rules, and this is by no means a comprehensive list of all of the questions you should ask your venue. Your wedding is unique and the questions you ask your venue should pertain to what you plan on having at your wedding. Just be sure to check off these key items before booking your venue - it's a whole lot easier to plan around these items, than to be locked in to certain rules without realizing it.
What is the hardest part about finding or booking a venue for your wedding? Let me know in the comments below!