Keep in mind that everyone you meet with knows you’re planning a wedding for the first time, and are likely to have a plethora or questions. You’re not expected to be an expert, but with varying levels of service throughout the industry, it can be extremely helpful to arm yourself with some important knowledge. These are some of the very important, but still fairly basic questions you want to make sure you’re asking your prospective venue.
1. How full service is the venue?
The answer to this question will help you determine how much work you’ll need to do for your wedding, whether or not you need a planner, and how you should view pricing. If a venue is not full service, you’ll simply be renting an empty space, and will need to bring in a caterer, party rentals for equipment, furniture and dinnerware, and more. A planner is definitely more necessary in a case such as this and it’s important to remember that the venue cost will only be a small portion of your overall budget. In a more full service venue, you’ll find on-site catering, as well as the necessary equipment, though many allow additional rentals to customize your event design.
2. Is there a rental fee, or any other fee outside of the per person price?
Many venues, especially in the NYC area, come with varying fees and per person costs. Asking specific questions about fees will help you understand exactly what you’ll be paying, as the initially discussed pricing can sometimes be misleading.
If you’re looking at more of a blank space, you’ll want to know the site fee and ceremony fee, as well as any fees associated with bringing in catering, rentals, etc. Some venues may even include a “waste removal” fee to cover the labor for cleanup at the end of the evening. If your venue has outdoor space that would require a tent in inclement weather, inquire about tenting fees and an estimate of the cost of the tent itself.
At a more full service venue, it’s still wise to ask about those same fees. Many venues will quote a per person price that applies only to catering, and could still charge a ceremony fee or an additional site fee if you don’t reach certain minimums.
No matter the circumstances, always get this information in writing.
3. Is catering done on premises? Is there flexibility with the menu?
Most caterers will offer a plethora of options as far as menu choices go. It’s ideal to have an on-premises caterer with a great reputation because they know the space and are comfortable preparing and serving in it. A caterer like this will also be more accessible than caterers who work multiple spaces.
It is important to keep in mind that caterers and chefs offer what they do because they know what works as far as execution and pleasing large amounts of guests. While every couple has their own preferences and tastes, you should think about what your guests will want as well! You should make sure that the caterer is capable of and willing to make important edits, such as leaving out pork and shellfish or providing a vegetarian option, but also trust their expertise and experience. Come prepared with questions on best practices, so you fully understand the dinner service and quality.
4. Is there expected gratuity in addition to the service charge?
Generally all venues include or quote some kind of service charge in their pricing. The industry standard for this fee ranges from 18% to 22% and basically covers the cost of staff and labor for the day. However, a service fee is NOT the same as gratuity. A service charge covers the wages of laborers for the event as restaurant pricing covers a waiter’s wages. Any gratuity is typically additional, and you should ask what the expectations are. Some venues will even provide a “Suggested Gratuity Sheet,” outlining recommended amounts for different staff members, while others will tack on an additional mandatory gratuity. It’s wise to know this up front so you can consider it in the budget along with the other costs, and avoid awkward questions late in the planning process. Queen of Weddings Martha Stewart has a helpful article to help with all gratuity questions.
5. Does the venue have an appropriate restroom setup?
While many venues often transform their space into wedding venues, it does not mean that they are properly set up to host such a large number of guests. For instance, a single men’s room and a single women’s room is not an appropriate restroom setup for a wedding hosting 100+ guests.
6. Are you hosting another wedding right before, after, or during my wedding?
Though many venues do it, you should try to avoid hosting your wedding at the same time as another. Your wedding is YOUR big day, and you want the staff and everyone around you to know that and treat it as such. Simultaneous weddings can confuse focus, and you certainly do not want guests—or worse, the brides!—running into each other in shared spaces.
Take a moment to check out our FAQ section. While the answers apply to Brooklyn Winery, it’s filled with great questions to think about.