Questions to Ask your Wedding Venue
Long gone are the days when a large wedding party would simply opt for a local hotel for their reception. These days you can celebrate your wedding and even get married in a range of exciting wedding venue locations varying from stately homes to lighthouses, railway stations to windmills.
Essential Questions to Ask your Wedding Venue
We have rounded key questions to ask or things to consider when viewing and also booking your wedding venue.
The first question all happy couples to be need to decide on is whether to find a venue just for the reception or whether to actually combine the wedding ceremony and reception at the same location. Some venues can offer you a ceremony and a reception whereas others are not ‘approved venues’ and you will not be able to get married there.
If you are planning to go and visit a range of venues then make sure you download and print off our venue checklist, you can take this with you to help ask the right questions and also take notes.
Once you have got your head around the decision about where you would actually like to be married then you need to consider all the key questions you should be asking a possible reception/ceremony venue. We have compiled some essential pointers and enquiries for you right here.
Not the obvious questions such as what’s your capacity and can I see the menu options but the details you may not have even thought about until it’s too late!
Is my preferred wedding date available?
If you have an idea when you would like to get married, then firstly find out of they are free on that date. Popular venues will be booked up to 2 years in advance, and peak season dates can be quickly booked up, so it is important to see what date that have free and if it is suitable for you.
How long will the venue hold a provisional date whilst you check out other arrangements?
If you need to tie in with a church or Register Office Ceremony then you should probably pencil in two or three possible dates until you are certain that your ceremony can take place on the date that you want and that everyone is available. Most venues will hold a date until they have other interest but some may require a deposit even to do that. Ask whether you can change your date if you have paid a deposit and is the deposit non-refundable should you change your mind completely.
Will you have exclusivity at the venue?
Ok, so most of us will assume exclusivity means exactly that, the only guests at the venue will be the ones who accepted your personal invite but make sure the venues definition matches your expectations. Exclusive use of the terrace could of course mean the surrounding gardens could be filled with hotel guests.
A large hotel may have more than one wedding on a Saturday and you might not wish to share. Find out how many weddings this venue tend to accommodate in any one day or whether you will have exclusivity.
How long is the booking for?
Ask how long you can remain at the venue on the day. Is there a time curfew on the drinks and entertainment licence as this may affect the time that you want to start the actual reception.
Will my ceremony actually be legal?
Many venues will hold ceremonies but may not hold a licence for it to be legally binding within the UK. This could just mean popping to your local registry office before the day which for some can be seen as a formality but for others a disappointment. Keep this in mind especially if you are thinking of a destination wedding. Different countries hold different rules on the legality of UK citizen ceremonies.
Which rooms are licensed for ceremonies?
Ask which rooms are licensed to hold ceremonies. Rooms must be individually licensed so it may not be possible to get married in any room in the building. Most large venues usually have a choice of rooms, some for more intimate ceremonies and others for large gatherings.
What is Plan B if your reception or ceremony is due to be held outside and it rains?
If you plan to get married and/or have an outside reception then you will need a carefully crafted plan for bad weather. Some venues will always have a marquee in place for the season which makes it easy to move under cover, others will use a function or banqueting room. Look carefully at all the alternatives and discuss at what point prior to the event the decision would be made to move indoors as there needs to be time for set up and decoration.
Are outside caterers allowed?
If you would like to bring your own caterers make sure you ask this pretty early on but also ask about the facilities available to your caterers. For example the caterers you really want may require full use of a kitchen, make sure this is something the venue offers.
Do you have any sample menus?
Most hotels will have sample menus you can look at. If you are at a different type of venue then you will need to bring in caterers and usually, there will be a list of recommended companies which you will be offered by the venue, ask to discuss the type of food they produce. Go and see the area where the caterers will work and find out whether you can use your own caterers and whether there are any restrictions surrounding this.
If you intend to have a paid bar, are there any restrictions?
Find out if there is a minimum spend required on the day for a paid bar.
How many bar staff will be available?
Be honest with your potential venues, say things like my family really like to celebrate with a few beers. You don’t want a massive queue of your guests waiting too long, good wedding venues will consider your numbers and will have everything under control but any information you can give them could help your day run more smoothly.
Can I bring my own entertainment?
Don’t assume you can just book in your favourite band, there may be stipulations such as use of their resident DJ only.
Go through your entertainment plans carefully to ensure that the venue can accommodate what you want. You need to consider the physical aspects of music and lighting and special effects and also the extent of the venue’s licensing arrangements. For instance, there may be a time curfew on loud music in the evening.
Is there a noise limit?
Another important one especially if you want your favourite band or a full brass band to perform. Due to proximity to residents or other premises certain venues will have noise limits, it’s worth asking before you loose your deposit on that expensive band. Its also good to consider many performers will be aware of noise limiters and may offer a smaller group so you get the style you want without exceeding the venues limit.
What time will you be asking me to leave?
If you would like to party on through the night make sure this is discussed with your venue. Sometimes there is a specific drink licence or entertainment cut off time and the premises will need to be cleared including decorations by a certain time. Sometimes late licence fees could be negotiated.
Is there any additional provision made for children?
Find out whether there is any provision made for children if you anticipate there will be children amongst the wedding guests. Ask whether the venue can allocate a room for them or whether they provide any toys or outside play equipment.
What provision is made for disabled people or those with limited mobility?
Discuss options for guests with a disability or elderly relatives with limited mobility. It is a legal requirement for public venues to provide disabled access but the natural constraints of terrain and the restrictions of an old building may make this challenging despite the legislation in place.
How many guests can the venue accommodate?
Numbers allowed may depend on how you want to structure your reception. For instance, you may want an intimate meal for select family and friends followed by a large evening reception for the rest of the crowd. Or you could want a sit-down meal for all of the guests so this needs to be carefully discussed with the wedding team.
Can my guests park on-site?
Sometimes it seems obvious there is a big car park out front surely my guests can park there for the wedding. Be aware some venues may say residents only and others may have stipulations such as payments required or no cars to be left over night. It would then be important to pass on this information to your guests before the big day. Uncle Sam might not be happy his car is locked in the following morning!
Do you have an onsite wedding planner or events co-ordinator?
Don’t assume every venues wedding planner will do the same, for example some planners may assist on your menu choice and room layout then will hand over to the set-up team and you won’t see them again. However some planners will be there to walk you through every detail and will be managing every stage of your wedding day from set-up to closing the doors. Again it is all down to personal choice but don’t assume because a wedding planner is available at the venue that everything you have in mind will be included.
Who will be your point of contact at the wedding venue?
Ask your venue if they have a dedicated Wedding or Events Manager, will you be liaising with just one person throughout the planning? This can make life a lot easier for both parties. Is this person there on the day to oversee the smooth running of the reception?
When do the staff start setting up and can you be involved?
Some brides (and even grooms) like to get involved and personalise some of the wedding set-up. Check out with the venue when they start setting up for the reception. If it is a hotel it may not be until late Friday evening or early Saturday morning if the room is being used for another function. These timings may not suit wedding parties who want a hands-on approach to the decoration and arrangement of the reception room.
Do you have security/ storage onsite?
Think about the logistics, you may want to use your own decorations and where can they be kept safely before and afterwards. You really don’t want to be worrying about the whereabouts of the family heirloom centrepieces on the night of your wedding!
Are there any restrictions that may apply to the building or the site?
Ask whether there are any other restrictions you should be aware of. If you are in a very old or unusual property, there may be restrictions for instance, on the use of candles or constraints on the type of decoration you can use and how they are attached if the building is listed. If you have a specific idea or theme for the reception, you should discuss this fully before paying your deposit. It may be possible to tailor your plans to fit around any building or licensing restrictions or perhaps you just need to look for another venue but you certainly don’t want to discover this in the week before the wedding.
How much of the building and grounds will you have access to?
Some reception venues will allow you to hire some or all of the property. For example, you may have the option to hire all or part of a manor house or small stately home. This will probably include bedrooms and other reception rooms, a wonderful way to accommodate the wedding party. Establish carefully what parts of the house and grounds are available and included in the package and for how long. If you are having your reception at a hotel, then there should be a preferential rate available for guests who wish to stay there. If you have a large party then you should check available accommodation before settling on your date, to ensure that there are enough rooms available for your guests.
Exactly what is included in the price?
Go through very carefully an itemised list of exactly what is included in the cost of the package. Most hotels will include tables, chairs, glasses and crockery as standard but a more unusual venue may need to hire in and will add a separate charge for this to your bill so always double check.
Are there any additional charges?
Once your potential venue has a good idea of what you would like they should be able to disclose anything which may be additional. For example some venues may have an additional charge for wedding cake cutlery! It’s also worth double checking the final price includes VAT and if you are planning a destination wedding what currency you will need to pay in.
How much is the deposit and when is the balance payable?
A reception venue will only confirm a booking when a deposit is paid so you need to establish clearly all of the costs associated with your venue before making any payment. Ask for an itemised breakdown of all of the costs and particularly important is the application of VAT. Find out whether charges are quoted net of VAT or whether it is included – an extra 20% on top will give you a nasty shock if you are not expecting it.
Once you are happy with all the itemised costs and are certain there is nothing missing and no hidden extras, paying a deposit will secure the booking and you can then announce the date for your big day. Top tip, check out whether the deposit is refundable should there be any last minute changes of mind!
How much liability insurance does the venue have in place?
Always establish what level of liability insurance cover the venue has in place should they need to cancel your reception due to an unforeseen event such as a flood or major power failure. You should also have your own wedding insurance which will cover you if you cannot go ahead due to other reasons such as illness or accident. This is separate to the cover the venue will have and would apply in circumstances which are different to the type of external issues which could affect the reception venue.
Paying for your wedding reception is likely to be the biggest sole cost of your wedding day. So be careful about the venue you choose and research it thoroughly before agreeing to pay a deposit. You should know every last detail about the reception and how it will be organised and presented before you make the booking so you are certain in your own mind what will happen and what you are paying for.
What is an Approved Venue?
An Approved Venue is a location which has been licensed by the local County Council to hold civil marriage ceremonies and civil partnerships. This is a marriage or civil partnership conducted by a Registrar and is not a religious occasion. Most of these venues usually offer reception facilities as well. There are a huge variety of places which are licensed as Approved Venues so if you know your geographical location, the County Council will be able to supply you with an up-to-date list.
If you are not restricted to a particular location and don’t mind where you get married, then take a look at this link which lists all Approved Venues in England and Wales only.
Think carefully about your choice. It might be fantastically exciting to get married in a lighthouse with those stunning views but how will you feel if there is a coastal gale forecast and will granny really manage all those steps.
If you are planning ahead, don’t forget to check that the Approved Venue you want to book will still be an Approved Venue at the time of your wedding. Approval is given to venues for either three or five years so double check with them when their current licence expires and whether they plan to renew it. Venues must be inspected by a representative from the County Council.
If you have decided on a Church wedding or want to get married in a Register Office then you are at complete liberty to choose any venue for your wedding reception and will be under no restriction to choose from a set list. You will be responsible for co-ordinating the date of the ceremony whether Church or Register Office with a suitable reception date at the venue of your choice, these will need to marry (well it would be rude not to!) together and is the key thing you need to firm up before making any more plans or even announcing the date.
Your reception is the part of the wedding your guests will remember for years to come and is the time when you can share the celebration of your marriage or partnership with your family and friends so choose carefully. So what are you waiting for…arm yourself with our handy list and get planning your big day!