If you really think about it, you’ll realize that your wedding venue is probably the most important purchase you’ll make for your wedding day. It really determines and sets the mood for everything else. Your venue determines what your photography will ultimately look like, how the flow of your ceremony will go, your stress level when it comes to the forecast the day of your wedding, the accessibility the DJ/band will have, etc. etc. etc. I could keep going on. Basically, your wedding venue is a big deal, and one of the first things you’ll book, so you’ll want to really put a lot of thought into it.
You’ll obviously want to tour a few options, and the venue coordinator will answer a lot of questions for you, but there are some specific things you should ask so you don’t end up incurring a bunch of extra fees or spending way more on special vendors. Let’s jump in!
Personally, I think this is ridiculous, but my opinion doesn’t make it not exist. Some venues dictate exactly which vendors you can pick if you get married there. It’s VERY common that you have to use the venues own caterer, but some venues take it further than that—they’ll only let you book certain tent/rental companies, certain photographers, certain DJs, etc. There are even venues out there who won’t let you book vendors that aren’t on their recommended vendors list. This is extremely important to ask about because if you can’t afford the $60/per plate dinner their caterer offers, you can’t get married at that venue. If you already have your own DJ or photographer in mind, vendor restrictions will probably be a deal breaker for you. Recently a bride was telling me how upset she was that her venue was making her use a specific tenting company, and the tents were INSANELY high. She was worried about rain on her wedding day, but didn’t want to have to fork out so much money for a tented backup plan. Keep this in mind and be sure to ask if the venue you’re thinking about has restrictions on which vendors you can hire. (In some cases, it’s ok if you have to use specific vendors. At our wedding, we knew who the caterer was and that was one of the main reasons we picked that venue. (We LOVED the caterer.) It’s important to know these things up front though, so be sure to ask!)
Another thing you’ll want to remember to ask about is whether or not you’re allowed to do sessions at the venue if you book and how much they cost. A lot of venues will let you do engagement sessions and bridal sessions for free if you book them for your wedding, but some venues charge for that. I can think of one venue in particular that charges $550 for their own brides getting married there to do a bridal session at the venue. (This is crazy to me, but I digress.) ASK about these things. Some venues let you do sessions free, some give you a discount, and some make you pay full price.
The venue coordinator will most likely tell you how many people the venue can hold, but be careful here! If they say the venue holds 300 people, that doesn’t necessarily mean it holds 300 people sitting down. That probably means it can hold that many people in the building, but if you want them all sitting down at a table, it will fit 150. Be specific when talking this through, especially if you want everyone to have a seat.
Lastly, ask about their policies and any other fees you may incur. Most of the time, they’ll walk you through all of these (whether or not you can have sparklers, yes or no to bringing your own alcohol, cleanup fees, etc.), but it’s still a good idea to ask about anything else you might incur. One thing to consider here is parking. What is the parking like at the venue—where will guests park, where will you park when you get there, and does any of it cost? (Hotels, city venues, and parks all sometimes charge for parking—for you and for guests. Ask about small things like this, because they really do add up!)
The last thing you’ll want is to be nickel and dimed by your venue, especially when you’re under so much other stress! Ask questions about fees, restrictions, special vendors, etc. and then prepare for these costs in your budget before you say yes to any venue. Count the costs before making a decision, and in the end, you’ll be so happy you did!
My passion is in documenting the lives of our families well (mine and yours), and teaching you how to do it too. Follow along as I share photography tips, inspiration, and beautiful portraits.
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