Updated: Mar 23
Most couples start their wedding journey by selecting three things first up - somewhere to get married and celebrate (venue), someone to marry them (officiant/celebrant) and someone to capture it all and create memories (photographer/videographer).
As a Wedding Photographer and Videographer, sometimes we chat with couples who have not yet selected or secured their venue, but for the most part, they usually already have their venue (and wedding date) sorted when we chat with them. For that reason I want to share some ideas on questions to ask to help in choosing your ideal venue!
If you haven't already seen my blogs on 5 SIMPLE STEPS TO START PLANNING YOUR DREAM WEDDING and 5 WAYS TO BUDGET FOR YOUR WEDDING you might want to check those out FIRST - they give you the foundations on what your dream wedding will need to have, what's nice to have and what you are prepared to cut back on. This will be really, really important in selecting your venue because this is usually by far the most expensive part of most weddings - so you need to choose carefully.
Once you have some idea of the essential things your venue needs to have to meet your "Dream Wedding" expectations and budget, you will no doubt want to check out your shortlist in-person and ask a lot more in-depth questions beyond the obvious - dates available, cost of packages or hire etc.
So what other kinds of questions might be useful for you to know the answers to.... depending on your venue and location not all of these might apply but they can be a starting point for you to springboard off with your own ideas for your "Dream Wedding" venue.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR WEDDING VENUE
First Up - the obvious!
What is the seating capacity? Does it meet your guest list numbers?
Is your desired date still free?
Does it fit with the style and theme of your wedding?
Does it fit with you budget?
COVID 19 AND ANY CHANGES
What are the terms and conditions relating to changing your date due to Government Mandates or Regulations (eg Covid 19), or cancelling?
Do they have any reviews from couples who held their weddings there during covid so you can see how the venue navigated and managed?
Do they have a covid safe plan and what safety measures are in place?
Does the venue have any additional restrictions or rules about Covid 19
Is there someone responsible for greeting guests and undertaking any mandated Covid 19 check-in requirements such as SAFE WA or Vaccination Passport Checking?
What are the seating options and layout for the Ceremony and for the Reception due to Covid 19 requirements?
Are buffets or food stations permitted?
In the event of a Covid 19 related lockdown or any Covid 19 issues will the venue reach out out to all your vendors to notify of closure/postponement?
What kind of ventilation is available indoors - eg can windows and outside doors be opened or is is all air-conditioned only.
Is there sufficient space for safe movement of people from one area to another?
How is social distancing managed by the staff?
Is hand sanitiser be provided for guests? If not can use set up your own stations?
Are masks provide for guests to do they need to bring their own?
Can live streaming be facilitated and if so what internet speed is available?
CO-ORDINATION BEFORE AND ON THE DAY
How will they support you in the lead up and on the actual day of your wedding?
Is there a dedicated wedding coordinator supplied through out the whole process and will they be there on the day? If so will they be there through the entire duration of the reception?
If there is no wedding coordinator who will be the main contact on the day and will they oversee things?
Will the venue liase with your chosen vendors?
PARKING, TRANSPORT & ACCOMMODATION
Is parking easily available on site or nearby and how many bays will be made availalble? This is really important if the venue also does a public lunch and dinner service as well. You need to at least make sure there are quarantined parking spots for your wedding cars and photographer/videographer's car at a minimum.
Can guests leave their cars parked overnight?
In the event of an emergency (fire, flood etc) is there an alternative escape route for cars and people to get out safely?
Is there public transport available? Are there reliable taxi companies in the area?
Is there accommodation available onsite and is there a reduced rate for you and your guests? If not can they provide a list of other hotels or B&Bs nearby?
Is the bridal suite included in the price? Are complimentary rooms provided for the parents or any of the wedding party?
When is the check out time?
Can you block book rooms for guests? If so, how long can they be held for?
EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE VENUE AND BACK UP PLANS
Will you have exclusive use of the venue or will parts still be open to the public?
Is the venue available for exclusive use? If so, is there a minimum number of guests for exclusivity?
What areas of the venue will you have private access to and what will be public eg Toilets? How many toilets are there?
Does the venue have a one wedding per day policy?
Are there any other "events" happening at the venue on your wedding date?
Is there a wet weather back up plan for your ceremony and reception if any part will be outdoors?
Do they have an alternative indoor area (that's not the main reception room) in case guests need to come in from outside (rain, heat etc)
Are there any changes planned to the building before the wedding (renovations, painting etc)?
Are they a pet friendly venue? If so, how do they cater for food and water for your fur baby?Is there an option for dinner the night before or a BBQ the day after?
SAFETY & FACILITIES
Does the venue have disability access/facilities/lifts for guess with mobility problems?
If it's in a natural bush setting ask about any wildlife issues such as snakes or spiders etc.
Can the bridal party get ready at the venue?
Is the venue child friendly? What facilities are available for entertaining children?
Is there enough parking for my guests and is it free?
Is smoking permitted outside? Is there a heated outdoor space for guests who smoke?
Is there somewhere secure to store wedding gifts?
Does the venue have public liability insurance?
Can you have the Ceremony there and is there an extra charge?
What time can a ceremony happen? This can be critical if you want to get the best light for your photographs afterwards before the reception (generally 4.30pm onwards is better than earlier the sun is very harsh)
Can they show you photos of the what ceremony area looks at the time of year you are getting married - if it's outdoors the lawn can be dry and dead or there it could be muddy bog!
If the Ceremony will be in the same room as the reception - what's the change over plan for conversion.
Can arrangements be made for guests between the ceremony and the start of the reception? Most couples have formal portraits done and might even travel to other locations during this time. These photos generally take between 1 - 2 hrs.
Is confetti, rose petals, rice etc permitted?
CLIMATE CONTROL, POWER & ANY RESTRICTIONS
Can you choose your own vendors or do you have to use their preferred vendor list?
Is the venue on the mains grid? Some are eco friendly and that can mean no heating or cooling or aircon in hot weather.
Is there a back up generator in case of any power outages?
Are there any restrictions around noise - will you DJ or Band be able to play all night long or will they have to stop at a certain time.
Are there any restrictions about decorations such as no candles or open flame, no hanging installations, no confetti etc?
THE RECEPTION ROOM, FOOD AND BEVERAGES
Can you hold your rehearsal dinner there?
Can they offer a cocktail hour or drinks reception between the Ceremony and Reception? If so where will it be held?
What time can the reception start from and what time will it need to finish?
What table and chair options do they have for your reception - shape, size etc. Will there be a top table for the wedding party?
Do they provide any linens, decor, stationary or decorations that are included in their packages or are they at extra cost? eg menus, centrepieces, red carpet, flowers, cake stand etc.
Can you change things around and decorate the way you want?
Can you set up the day before? If so from what time.
Can items be dropped off and stored in a safe area prior to the wedding day?
When can your vendors get access to set up? If it's a tight turn around your vendors may cost you or as they need to hire extra people to make that happen.
Do items brought in by you or our vendors have to be removed on the night or can they be collected the next morning? In either case, what are the time frames for access?
Can they give you a written list of equipment and furniture available for you to use?
Is there a complimentary tasting session included for the menu and wine selection and if so for how many people?
Whats included for "drinks" per person in your packages? Is there an option for upgrading to premium wines?
Do you offer complimentary champagne for the toasts?
Can be BYO and is there a corkage charge?
Can we serve signature cocktails?
Do they offer an "on consumption" bar tab in case you go over your drinks package time frame or limits?
How late will the bar be open and is here a charge for bar extension?
How many staff will there be for your wedding - you don't want poor service and food being late for your guests due to not enough staff.
How will the meal be served and at what timings? Is there a late night food option?
Can they cater for any special diets - Vegetarians, Diabetics, Coeliacs, Allergies etc
Is there a table for the wedding cake and will there be a cake cutting and plating up fee?
Can the wedding cake be on display or only brought out at the time of cutting due to Covid regulations?
Is there a dance floor or do we have to provide one? If so how big I the space?
Where and when can the band/DJ set up? Is there separate access for them or will they need to go through the reception space.
Does the venue have an in house sound system or will you need to hire one?
Are there restrictions on amplified music?
Does the venue provide microphones for the speeches?
Are you permitted to connect an iPod or laptop up to the venue sound system?
What time do your guests have to leave the venue?
COSTS & FINANCE
How much deposit is required to secure your wedding date?
When is the balance due?
Do they offer any payment plans or schedules?
Are there required numbers for accommodation discounts or deals?
Are there any "off-peak" discounts for weekday or out of season dates?
Is the GST included or additional.
Are there any extra or hidden fees or charges?
What’s the cancellation or postponement policy? Are there any time limits? Are there extra fees? What is availability in the same year, next year or year after?
Is there a minimum spend required.
How flexible are your packages?
What costs are incurred if the numbers who actually attend are different from the final numbers booked?
If the venue has to close how do we get in touch?
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of questions to ask, and something might not apply at all to the wedding venues you are considering, but there might be some hidden gems you haven't thought of that could help you find your ideal "Dream Wedding" venue! Happy Hunting!!!