Planning a dream wedding usually begins with finding the right place, but the process can be both confusing and time-consuming for many couples.
Asking the right questions when scouting out places can help in the decision-making. Here are some to consider, based on the experience of wedding planners and recently married couples.
1. What does your venue coordinator handle?
Not everyone can afford to hire a full-service wedding planner, which costs, on average, $1,500, according to WeddingWire.com, which operates an online marketplace for the wedding industry. Fortunately, many places offer couples an event coordinator, but this person’s role can vary significantly. Some spots provide “day-of coordinators,” who are on site during the wedding to make sure the event goes smoothly by handling tasks like setting up décor, assisting the wedding party with photos, overseeing all vendors, and solving any last-minute snafus (think a broken zipper for a bride’s dress). Other places will provide site coordinators who meet with couples in advance — typically six to 10 weeks before the wedding — to help them plan out the event, in addition to serving as a day-of coordinator. And, some venues don’t provide a coordinator at all.
Therefore, it’s important to clarify what a venue coordinator’s role entails, said Angelica Waltman, a wedding planner and coordinator in Bloomsburg, Pa. If the site doesn’t provide one, Ms. Waltman recommends couples hire one independently. Though costs can vary depending on the scope of the person’s job and the wedding budget (coordinators tend to charge higher rates for big-budget weddings), the starting cost for a day-of wedding coordinator is $800, according to the WeddingWire.
2. How are the acoustics?
Though sound is crucial, some places simply have bad acoustics. Danielle Bayard, 31, and Ryan Jackson, 34, learned this the hard way when they married in Tampa, Fla., in September 2017. “I spent 18 months planning every single detail of our special day, but it wasn’t until the wedding was over that I realized I failed to ask one very important, but seemingly minor, question,” said Ms. Bayard, who wishes she had asked about the acoustics. Guests couldn’t hear the couple’s vows clearly because of how the sound echoed in the room, she said.
If you don’t mind having a loud venue, a room with bad acoustics may not be a deal-breaker for you. Still, assuming you want your vows heard by allof your guests, and not just the folks in the front row, Paula Marrero, a Boston wedding planner, said couples should ask whether a sound system is available for the officiant.
3. How many weddings do you schedule a year?
By choosing a new events space, you may be booking the hottest wedding spot in town, but lack of experience can sting. Like new restaurants, new wedding venues need time to work out kinks before they can provide customers with top-notch service. That’s why Michele Anderson, 27, and TJ Anderson, 29, asked how many weddings were performed a year at each location before choosing their site for their wedding in 2016 in Prospect, Pa. “Our venue only opened in 2012, so they were still relatively young, but they had done a good amount of weddings in that time so I knew they were organized,” Ms. Anderson said.
4. Do you have enough restrooms for our guests?
Don’t want a long line at the bathrooms? Make sure a venue has enough restrooms to accommodate your number of guests, said Diana Romero, a wedding planner At Your Side Planning in San Diego. “A couple who hired us last minute to assist with their urban wedding at a new spot near downtown San Diego had challenges the night of the wedding that could have been avoided by knowing the restroom availability,” said Ms. Romero. The space had only one restroom with a single stall, which wasn’t enough for the 60-person wedding. “Needless to say, with a hosted bar, lines for the restroom were long and one stall was not enough,” Ms. Romero said.
If it’s an outdoor venue, you may be able to add extra bathrooms to accommodate your needs. But, instead of bringing in portable toilets, consider getting a luxury restroom trailer so that your guests have access to a convenient, and more classy bathroom.
5. What equipment and décor do you provide?
Obviously, you’re going to need tables and chairs for your wedding, but there are some commonly overlooked wedding equipment and decorations. For instance, some places provide linens, china and glassware, but others don’t, said Nicole Simeral, a Boston wedding and events planner. Also, “those items may be dated, or they may not fit the desired aesthetic for the event and will require the couple to rent items that fit their desired look,” said Ms. Simeral.
Kristin Watkins, the owner and lead planner at Stephanie Rose Events in San Diego, has encountered this issue a number of times. “We plan lots of weddings at nontraditional venues: the beach, a ranch, a backyard with a view,” said Ms. Watkins. “Couples always think these venues will be simple and save them money, but once you bring in every table, chair, fork, napkin, restroom, lighting, generator and pay the extra delivery fees for carrying furniture to your reception space, the wedding is always way over budget.”
The morale: Find out what you’ll need to rent or buy in order to make an events space suit your needs.
6. How many guests can the dance floor comfortably hold?
The key word here: comfortably. After all, you don’t want an overly crowded dance floor, nor do you want a dance floor that’s too large for your wedding party. So, how much space do you actually need? Couples can generally expect 30 to 50 percent of their party to be dancing at any given time, said Patti Davis, a Cincinnati-based wedding planner at Elegant Whims. Typically, each dancer needs about 5 square feet. So, let’s say you’re having a 150-person wedding, which means roughly 45 to 75 people will be dancing at a time. In that case, you’d want approximately 225 square feet, or a 20-by-20-square-foot dance floor.
The caveat? “You know your guests better than anyone,” said Ms. Davis. Translation: You will want to assess in advance how many people you expect will dance. Depending on how large the room is, you may be able to expand the dance floor by adding extra panels.
7. Do you allow multiple weddings or events to take place at the same time?
Most places will host only one wedding a day, but some may host multiple weddings or other events in a single day. Holly Patton Olsen, a Seattle wedding planner and coordinator at Perfectly Posh Events, recalled a couple who hired her, and who had already signed a contract with a venue that allowed more than one event at a time on the premises. A few months before the wedding, the couple learned the place had double-booked their wedding day with, of all things, a Tough Mudder race. “Needless to say, the couple was distraught and considered switching venues, but it would have meant that they would lose their 50 percent payment and they couldn’t afford to do that, so they kept the venue,” Ms. Patton Olsen said.
Luckily, the race ended just shortly before the ceremony started. But, “during the couples’ first-look prior to the ceremony, which is supposed to be an intimate and romantic moment, the music blaring over the loud speakers from the race was playing a rap song about a stripper on a pole,” Ms. Patton Olsen lamented. “It was the worst possible song choice for that moment.”
Ms. Patton Olsen said couples should sign a contract only if it states that another event will not be held on the property during their rental period.
8. Will you be doing any remodeling before my wedding day?
That beautiful banquet hall you looked at last week could transform into an eyesore if remodeling work is done before your wedding, Ms. Watkins said. “I had a couple book a hotel ballroom because the bride fell in love with the chandeliers in the room,” she said. “Two months before the wedding, she went to see the venue and the ballroom had been redone to be more corporate, and the gorgeous chandeliers had been replaced by modern light fixtures. She was devastated.”
If there is remodeling scheduled to take place before your wedding, ask what the project entails so you know how the changes would impact your event. In general, routine repair work should not be a deterrent.
9. Do you provide security?
Ms. Patton Olsen said couples should ask what measures a wedding location takes to ensure the security of the event, the guests and personal property. Are there security cameras? Is there a room where you can lock up gifts and other valuables? Will there be a security guard on site that can screen out wedding crashers?
“Most venues don’t provide security, so this is a good thing for the couple to be aware of prior to the event so they can take the necessary steps to hire security if needed,” Ms. Patton Olsen added. Need to hire your own surveillance? An unarmed security guard typically costs $15 to $20 an hour, while an armed security guard costs around $20 to $25 per hour, according to Thumbtack, an online company that connects customers with service professionals.