Like any other meaningful, big-decision event in your life, such as buying a house or deciding whether or not to accept a job offer, when booking your wedding venue it’s important to have all the information to hand first before taking the leap. There’s a time and a place to live impulsively and where spontaneity can pay off in the end, but we like to leave this approach to the smaller decisions. Things like choosing which takeaway to go for on a Friday night, or whether to give skydiving a go (ok, that one might require a little more thought), but when it comes to picking a wedding venue, it helps to be armed with all the correct information before full steaming ahead and booking.
Once you’ve decided on a date, make a list of all the things you’d like your wedding to include. How many people are you planning to invite? What sort of food and drink would you like to serve? Do you have a dream for the décor? Everyone’s big day is personal to them, of course, so you’ll need to narrow down exactly the questions that apply to you and your own perfect wedding. Write them up as a list so you don’t forget and take them with you when you visit each venue. If you’re really serious about your research, it’s likely you’ll visit multiple wedding venues before deciding on the place that’s best for you and it can be easy to forget to ask the right questions while you’re there.
Seeing as this is likely to be your first time planning a wedding (or not – no judgement here), we’ve made a list of all the questions you might need to ask a wedding venue before putting down a deposit – eek! To cover all bases, we’ve listed out plenty of general questions that you've probably already thought of, all well as a few that might not have occurred to you to ask, but are actually really useful. Good luck!
1. Is our preferred date available? Or, what dates are available within our month of choice?
Even if you already have a wedding date in mind, it can help to have a couple of back-up options on standby in case the venue is already booked on that particular day - especially if it’s a popular place. To avoid disappointment, approach your chosen venue with the month you’d like to get married, then prepare to be a bit flexible!
2. How long can we reserve our date for?
If you think you might have found ‘the one’, but still have a few more venues to see, find out how long you can reserve the date for before it gets booked by someone else. Some places let you hold a venue for free, while others may require a deposit to lock it in.
3. How many people does the venue hold – seated and/or standing?
It’s important that you nail down exactly how many people you’d like to invite to your wedding before viewing venues, to ensure it has capacity for all your guests. You might decide to have a smaller ceremony in the day, for example, and to invite more people to the evening reception, so double check it can accomodate your guest list.
4. Is the venue licensed for civil ceremonies?
If you’d like to hold both the ceremony and reception at the same wedding venue, you’ll need to make sure it has a wedding license. You don’t have to do it all under one roof though. Many get married at a church or registry office beforehand, then travel to the wedding venue for the reception afterwards.
5. Is the venue available for exclusive hire?
An ‘exclusive use’ venue means that your wedding, and only your wedding, will have hire of the venue on the day. Large venues, for example, might host more than one wedding on a given day so if you want it to be a truly personal affair, triple check what ‘exclusive’ actually entails!
6. Do you provide decorations or do we need to provide our own?
Sometimes certain decorations are already included in the wedding package, but double check exactly what it provides and what you’ll have to source yourself. Or get a wedding planner to do it for you!
Image: Burley Manor
7. Are there any décor restrictions?
Find out if there are certain places within the venue that can’t accommodate certain decorations. Candles can be a tricky one (open fire and all that) while some might have limitations as to where you can place flowers due to things like water marks from containers.
Food and drink
8. Do you have an in-house caterer?
Many venues offer their own catering service which you have to use, while others give you the option of using your own caterer. If you don't want to be tied down to using its in-house supplier, then consider venues that provide a little more flexibility.
9. Is catering included in the package and, if not, how much is it?
This one’s pretty straight forward. It’s important to clarify exactly what’s included in the rental hire so you don’t get caught out by hidden costs. Catering can come with a hefty price tag.
10. Can I source my own caterer or do you have a list of specific suppliers that you work with?
Many venues work with a specific list of suppliers who are experienced at working with the venue and already have an existing relationship with them. It can take the stress out of having to source one yourself, so make sure to ask about this.
Image: Manor by the Lake
11. Do you provide alcohol or should we source this separately?
If you have to purchase alcohol from the venue, or if its included in rental, find out what the prices are and if you’re able to work out a deal to bring costs down. And if you're deciding booze seperately, take a look at the next question...
12. Is there a corkage fee?
If you opt to source your own alcohol, some venues still charge for corkage which is often costed per bottle. It might seem expensive at first (around £15-20 per bottle) but it often works out cheaper than buying bottles directly from the venue, depending on what you go for. Plus, you get to choose what you drink!
13. How much does it cost to hire the venue?
Make sure it’s within budget and read up about the payment plan, which will spread the cost over several months and could help lighten the load.
14. How much is the deposit?
Check if the deposit is refundable or non-refundable, as this could likely sway your decision. It’s important to act fast to get your dream venue, but don’t feel rushed into booking somewhere you might change your mind about (and lose money in the process).
15. Are there any additional costs, such as cleaning or service charges?
Find out exactly what’s included in the wedding package and whether there are any hidden or extra charges. There usually are, such as clean-up afterward or staff costs, so it’s best to confirm everything up front so you don’t get caught out.
16. Are we able to make changes to our booking if needed and when’s the latest possible date to do so?
Life can throw all kinds of curveballs, so find out how flexible your booking is and when the latest possible date is to make changes. This could involve a date change, an amendment to the number of guests attending or a change in supplier, so enquire if any charges will apply to the above.
17. What is the cancellation policy?
Depending on when you cancel your booking (although hopefully it doesn't come to this!), it could cost you the deposit, but hopefully not much more than this. Find out if you won't be able to get your money back after a certain date.
18. Do you provide overnight accommodation?
If you’ve booked a place that requires people to travel, they’ll need to find a place to stay overnight. Find out if the venue offers rooms, or were the nearest hotels are in the surrounding area. Many venues offer a discounted rate for guests staying on-site, or can even include it in the wedding package.
19. Are there areas for the bride and bridesmaids to get ready before the ceremony?
Whether it’s a space to have your hair and make-up done or a glass of Champagne with your bridesmaids, find out if there’s a pre-wedding area available to get ready for the big day. Not all places offer this.
20. Can you accommodate a live band or DJ?
And a dancefloor! You might want to find out if there are any noise restrictions, or a curfew that music can be played until, so you can warn your supplier accordingly.
Image: Cain Manor
21. Is there on-site parking?
It’s likely that a lot of your guests will be driving to the wedding, so find out if there’s a car park within the venue and how many cars it holds. It would be useful to know if there’s any parking in the surrounding area, too, including whether cars can be left overnight.
22. When can suppliers arrive to set up for the wedding?
If you have outsourced certain elements of the wedding, such as the décor, food or music, you’ll need to let them know when they can arrive to set-up. Find out what hours rental of the venue covers, including the earliest time that suppliers are able to start arriving.
23. How many toilets are there on site?
With everyone eating and drinking all day, this is a surprisingly crucial one! No one wants to have to stand in a queue so allow 3-4 toilets per 100 people.
Still need help narrowing down your wedding venue? Take a look at these top venues in London, Glasgow, Sheffield and Edinburgh