We’ve all done it — run head-first into an important decision without taking the time to think through all of the consequences. Booking an event such as a wedding reception or a business meeting requires careful attention to details.
Since most of us don’t make decisions like these on a regular basis, it’s important to review certain questions in advance.
Here are our Top 10 Questions to Ask a Venue Before Booking Your Event:
1. Can the venue handle the number of guests I’m having?
Seems like an obvious question, right? But the real question you should be asking yourself is not how many people did I invite, but how many people do I think are actually coming to the event and can the venue handle the size?
2. What is my budget?
It’s surprising how many people do not go through budget considerations before choosing a venue. It’s worthwhile looking at all the costs such as catering, event planner, invitations, photography, flowers, lighting, liquor, and band (to name a few), and determine how much of the total event expenses do you want to spend on the venue.
3. What type of event am I having? Small or large, formal or casual?
Is the room too large and will it make your event seem tiny? Can it be adjusted for a smaller or larger event? If you want a formal event and the room screams casual (or the other way around), will you have to spend a lot of money to transform the venue to make it look the way you want it to? It may be early to know when you are ready to book a venue, but you may want to ask early in the process whether the venue can accommodate your needs. A good thing to ask the manager of the venue is for pictures of prior events.
4. Can I use my own caterer? Are there any restrictions for food? Can I bring my own liquor? Can my caterer use the kitchens or do I need to use your kitchen staff?
Many facilities require you to use their in house caterer and staff, or their preferred list of caterers. If you love their caterer(s), then there is no issue. However, for most of us, food is high on the list of important elements in the consideration for a venue. It is very important that you know ahead of time. If you are unsure about the quality of their catering, then ask for a tasting. Another thing to consider is that some venues have certain food restrictions—no nuts, kosher food, kosher wine, etc. Some venues allow you to bring your own liquor while others have corkage fees if you want to bring your own, and some require you to use their own bartenders. Another question for the caterer is when do they need to know numbers of guests? Can you add at the last minute? The bottom line is that you need to find out all the details before you sign the dotted line, and make sure you are comfortable with their requirements and any additional costs.
5. What hours do I have for my party? How many days/hours ahead can my crew come in to set up? Is there a chance another event will be taking place on the same day in the venue? And if so, how is that handled?
If your event is held on a Saturday night, and the venue has a booking for the afternoon of that same day, the timing for setting up your event may be tight. Check that before you book. And you may want to check closer to the event to make sure that you are on the same page as the event manager.
6. Are there extra charges for audio/visual, parking, corkage fees, WiFi?
Small fees can add up quickly. Get any extra fees that you may incur in writing ahead of time.
7. Is parking on-site? If parking is on-site, how many spaces are available? Is valet available? Are there additional costs?
I once had an event at a local venue where I assumed their parking lot was free for the event. A few weeks later, I received a bill for $300 for parking. It turns out the parking lot was owned by an independent facility. The lesson for me was that it never hurts to ask!
8. For a wedding, what other rooms are available (bride’s room, room for groomsmen). Is there any additional fee?
Most venues today have rooms available, but there may be a charge associated, or it may be not available on that day. Again, it never hurts to ask!
9. How do they handle last minute cancellations for bad weather, or other unexpected events?
As much as we try to control everything about our event, bad weather happens, especially when we book far in advance. Check with the venue manager about their policy.
10. Do they have a list of party planners, florists, caterers that they can recommend?
Most venue managers keep lists, and would be happy to oblige. Some will even honestly tell you the pros and cons of each company if you ask.