The person who shows you around should be able to answer your questions and you should try and find out the following (obviously ignore the questions that don't apply to the type of wedding you're planning but this list is a good starting point) -
How many people can they accommodate in the various rooms?
Do they offer full meals or various buffets? Can they cater for barbecues or hog roasts?
Are they planning any price increases to food, drink and other items between your visit and your wedding date?
Are there any planned room refurbishments or building works?
Do you have to have their drink or can you provide your own? If you can, how much is their corkage charge?
How do they cater for vegetarians or people with other dietary requirements?
Do they allow confetti/rice/candles?
Do they provide a stand for the cake/table plan or any other table stationery such as menus or place cards?
Is there any choice on linen colour? And is there a charge for this?
How many different ways can they lay the tables out in the room? Are the tables round or rectangular? Is there a choice of chairs or covers?
When can suppliers get in to the venue to set up in the morning?
When does everything have to be cleared by?
Can you get a late licence for the bar? Is there a charge for this?
How many waiting/bar staff will be allocated to you on the day?
Check the parking/toilet facilities
Find out exactly when they need final numbers and what their policy is on alterations to details after that point
If you pay for a certain amount of alcohol, what happens if it’s not all used? Also, what would happen if what you’ve paid for runs out?
What are their booking terms with regards to deposits and balances?
Can you block book accommodation and do they give any form of discount to guests?
Can you taste test the food or wine before you make a final decision? Is there a charge for this?
If you’re planning a summer wedding with drinks outside etc, find out what would happen in the event of bad weather.
If you’re having a band/dj, is there somewhere they can change?
Is there somewhere secure where you can store wedding gifts?
Do they allow guests to start a tab for drinks or does everything have to be paid for in cash?
The list of questions that you could ask is literally endless but just make sure you find out about the things that are most important to you, not what the venue wants to tell you!
If you’re feeling positive about a venue, before you leave, make sure that they still have availability for your date? Are they able to ‘pencil you in’ for a few weeks to give you time to make your decision? Ask about the booking procedure before you depart as well – how much are you required to pay as a deposit? If you’re then heading off to visit another venue, make a few quick notes before you arrive at the next location because it’s quite easy for things to become a little blurred once you’ve seen a few rooms and gardens!
Once you’ve visited your shortlisted venues, it’s quite likely that you’ll have a pretty clear idea which one it will be that you book. If not, think about the ‘pros and cons’ of each site or even book a second visit and take someone else for a second opinion. Whilst you’re making your decision, do keep in contact with the venue because it isn’t unknown for someone else to book up in the interim period. Ask that they keep you informed if anyone else shows an interest in your date so that you’re not disappointed. When you’ve made your decision, let the venue know as soon as possible. Some might require you to put your confirmation in writing before they send out contracts and others will be happy with a verbal ‘yes’ over the phone.
After you’ve told your chosen venue that you’d like to go ahead and book, they will send you a confirmation form or contract. This will confirm the main details of the day at this point and will include your names, address, date of wedding, room or rooms that you will be using, other services they will be providing such as food and drink and any other relevant information. There’s unlikely to be a mention of the final bill at this point (although they may include an estimate) and any costs that are listed will be noted as being subject to change. You need to double check that all the information that they have is correct and note when you need to provide them with final numbers and choices for your food and drink as this can affect when you send out your invitations. Any information regarding dates for further deposits should also be put into your planning file and budget spreadsheet. Before you sign and return the contract to them, read all the terms and conditions thoroughly to make sure there’s no hidden surprises in there and nothing that contradicts what you were told at your visits. If you want to question anything or if you just want clarification on any point, ask now because once you’ve signed and returned the contract, it’s too late.
Make a copy of the contract for yourself before you post it back to the venue so you can refer it to during your planning if necessary. When you return the contract to them, request that they acknowledge your booking and deposit payment in writing. The majority of venues will do this as a matter of course but you need to be sure that they’ve received everything.
Congratulations, you’ve just booked your wedding venue!
If you'd like me to answer your wedding query, just send me an e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
Images courtesy of Hillbrooke Hotels