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Choosing Your Wedding Venue

Questions to Ask Before You Sign the Contract

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Banquet Tables in Ballroom
Stephen Mallon/Digital Vision/Getty Images

When brides and grooms start looking for wedding venues, too often they fall in love with the beauty of the place and sign a contract before they've considered the more practical things. It makes sense -- who wants to look back and say only, "Well, it was practical"?

But unless the place is so magical that you're willing to plan your whole event around it, your shouldn't choose between wedding venues until you've decided approximately how many guests you're inviting and the size of your budget. You'll also need to decide if you want to have your ceremony and reception in the same place, or if you want an all-in-one wedding venue.

Once you know these things, and you have a few wedding venues in mind that fit that budget and size, then it's time to start asking questions!

  • What's the decor like? Does it fit your style and wedding colors? Will you have to spend a lot of money on flowers and decorations to make it beautiful?

  • Do they have an in-house caterer, and do you like that food? (While an in-house caterer can be easier and cheaper, sometimes the food is not as beautiful as the room. So make sure you taste it!) Do they have a limitation on which outside caterers you can use?

  • Do they have adequate coat check and bathroom facilities?

  • Is the wedding venue wheelchair accessible? If not, are there many stairs to climb? How close is the parking to the ceremony and reception rooms?
  • What's the cancellation policy?

  • Is there a payment schedule? What kind of deposits are required?

  • Are there any hidden costs? (Before you sign the contract, read it carefully.)

  • What are the overtime charges?

  • Do they have a liquor license?

  • Will they allow you to bring your own liquor? (This is usually cheaper, even with the customary corkage fee.)

  • Is there room in the wedding venue for a band and/or dancing?

  • Does the wedding venue already own a sound system with adequate speakers or will that need to be rented?

  • Is there a space for the bride and groom to change and/or relax?

  • Where will you take photographs? Is there a park nearby, or do the coordinators have recommended spots on the grounds?

  • Who will be supervising and troubleshooting before the day of your wedding? Who will be supervising and troubleshooting on the day of your wedding? Can you meet them now?

  • Where can your guests park? Are there extra fees for parking? Do they have valet parking?

  • Is the wedding venue convenient to public transportation, especially in big cities? How long will it take your guests to get there?
  • Especially in museums or private clubs, are there limitations on decorations? Do they limit food and drinks to only certain areas of the wedding venue?

  • Are candles or other open flames allowed?

  • If its an outdoor location, do they have any backup plans for rain or other inclement weather? If not, is there a place that you can put up a tent? Tips for Outdoor Weddings

When Looking at Separate Wedding Reception Venues and Ceremony Locations

  • How far is it from one location to the other?

  • Do the two places have the same level of formality and a coordinating style?

  • Do they both accommodate about the same number of guests?
  • Does the wedding reception venue have any experience with weddings from your ceremony location?


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When Looking for Wedding Venues for Both Ceremony and Reception

  • Do they own enough chairs for the ceremony, or will they need to be rented?

  • Does the wedding venue have an entirely separate area for the ceremony? {It is not uncommon that while the guests are at the cocktail hour, the caterers will transform the ceremony room into the dining room and/or dance floor.)

  • If not, how long does it typically take for the staff to change over the room?

    Hopefully, these questions will help you cover the basics while you're looking at wedding venues. In your search for a wedding venue, there will probably be even more questions that arise for you personally. For example, you may want the menu to reflect your heritage, or with a large wedding party, you may need ample parking for limousines.

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