When it comes to choosing your wedding venue, experts recommend you start looking and booking at least 12 months in advance. However, if you have the privilege of starting to look sooner than this, run - don’t walk. This is especially important now that we’re heading into a wedding boom! You will get a better selection of dates and your most sought after vendors!
That being said, we know that venue shopping can be an overwhelming experience. Not only are you walking into a space for the first time, but chances are you’re also planning a wedding for the first time. Even if you’ve had friends or siblings get married before you, your vision for your wedding day is probably very different from theirs. This can make it tricky to know what questions to ask a potential wedding venue.
Luckily, we’re here to help you with that! With two beautiful venues ourselves, we know what you should be asking any venue you choose to tour. So settle in, grab a pen to take notes, and learn more about the 15 most important questions you need to ask your wedding venue. We always remind our couples that the venue is the biggest and most important piece to start your puzzle, so choose carefully and take this decision seriously.
1. What’s the maximum capacity? Is it the same for the ceremony and dinner?
This is by far one of the most important questions you need to ask during any venue tour. If you have your heart set on having 180 guests at your wedding but your dream venue can only accommodate 130, that’s something you need to know as soon as possible (or, as we have seen in the past, it might be worth cutting a few off your list for your dream venue).
Some venues also have different seating capacities between their ceremony space and dining room, so asking this question right out of the gate will help you understand if they’re really going to be the right fit for you and your guests.
If you have no desire to change your guest list and it doesn’t work with the venue, we highly suggest not touring the venue - it’s kind of like trying on the prom dress that is out of your budget, you fall in love and spend more money, you don’t want the love of a venue to sway your set guest list.
2. What’s included in the venue rental fee?
Depending on the wedding venue, your rental fee could include things other than the physical space itself. Take Cellar52 and The Timber Barn, for example. When couples book with us, they not only get to use our space but also have access to dinner tables, ceremony/dining chairs, place settings, and cocktail tables! So be sure to double check what your dream venue provides – who knows, it might save you money! Often mom or dad might suggest just getting married in their backyard - keep in mind how much all these things you need to rent that venues provide cost, it is usually WAY more then mom or dad remember it being when they were kids ;)
3. Who handles any required space flips? Is there an additional fee for that?
Often, a wedding venue might need to rearrange either the ceremony space or dining room to accommodate the number of guests or dinner tables. Whether it’s just moving the chairs from one side of the space to another or completely tearing down and setting up, your wedding venue might have an additional fee in order to take care of this for you. Asking up front is the best way to avoid any cost-related surprises later on!
(Psst – just so you know, we don’t charge you for that, just in case you were considering us!)
4. Do you have an outdoor ceremony or cocktail space? Does it cost more money?
Similar to the previous question, just because a wedding venue has more than one space doesn’t mean they are automatically included in your venue rental fee. This is especially important to confirm if you’re dreaming of hosting cocktail hour outdoors or in a different part of the venue. Ask early to either see how your wedding vision can come to life or how something you never even imagined could be a part of it!
5. Is there a minimum spend?
I know we’ve already spent a lot of time talking about money, but when you’re planning something as special as a wedding it’s important! A wedding can quickly add up, which is why getting this information up front is so important for making your planning process as stress-free as possible.
In case this term is unfamiliar, “minimum spend” refers to the amount of money that you as a couple have to spend with a venue in order to book. This minimum spend could refer to things like catering, bar services, or additional rentals, and is typically measured in a dollar amount or number of guests. Additionally, these numbers differ from venue to venue and often vary based on the day of the week and the time of year. Budget conscious? Consider what might be off season for your dream venue and ask if there are any savings to explore - it can never hurt to ask, and people are usually pleasantly surprised.
6. How involved is the venue team with planning?
Now that we’ve got the money talk out of the way, let’s talk about some of the fun stuff – like planning! A lot of wedding venues actually provide you with a day-of coordinator who will help make sure that all of your moving pieces are running smoothly on the big day.
Depending on how many other vendors you’re working with, this coordination can be a beneficial service to have access to on your wedding day. Timeline development is extremely important and really impacts how seamlessly your day will flow, it is important to ensure all vendors and your venue are aware of your timeline. Also, make sure you ask for advice! If you book with our venues, you immediately get our tips & tricks package which helps you navigate planning and decisions to make right off the bat. It might seem crazy, but the difference between a first look or no first look makes a major impact on all timeline development!
That being said, these coordinators are typically not wedding planners. That means they are not professional florists or decorators, so make sure you’ve considered hiring vendors for these roles specifically if it’s part of your dream day!
7. What does a typical day-of timeline look like?
Whether your wedding venue offers day-of coordination or not, chances are they can tell you what a standard wedding day looks like in their space. From typical ceremony start times to bar closures and more, asking your venue what other couples have done in your space will help you start putting the pieces together for how your own day will look.
As hospitality experts, we truly care about the event flow and overall guest experience in our space, we want people to know what they should be doing and what they can expect. You want your guests to be in good hands from the start to the end of your special day.
8. What time do we gain access to the venue?
Speaking of your wedding day timeline, knowing when you have access to the space is going to come in handy when you start booking vendors like hair and makeup or decor. There’s nothing more awkward than planning to have your hair artist start at 7 AM when you don’t get access to your wedding venue until 10 AM!
It's also important to consider the cost of early access. Since it requires more personnel onsite and potentially means that cleaning crews have to work alternate hours, weigh the pros and cons of different options. Might we suggest the Chardonnay Suite at Hotel52?
9. Do you have a space onsite to get ready?
Depending on the wedding venue, they might have a dedicated space where you and/or your partner can get ready before your ceremony to help save time and make sure you make it to your wedding on time.
(Don’t laugh – one of our coordinators was late to her own wedding!)
Knowing if this type of space is available might impact decisions you make about other vendors, so don’t be afraid to ask! These spaces are also usually quite decked out for picture perfect moments, so make sure to budget some time for these (or maybe even a group TikTok)!
10. Who is responsible for decor setup?
A lot of couples assume that they and their bridal party will be responsible for setting up decor on their wedding day, but that’s not always the case! The Stella Coordination team absolutely loves helping beautify and customize our space which is why we offer this as a complimentary service. Since this isn’t necessarily standard practice with other venues, make sure those expectations are clear before choosing your wedding venue in case that impacts your timing or other vendor choices.
If the venue does not offer this service, arranging it should become a top priority for you and your partner. Otherwise, your family members and bridal party might have their hands full.
11. Is there any decor that’s not permitted inside the venue?
This is one of our favourite questions because it allows us as the wedding venue to set clear expectations for our couples. We never want to be the reason that someone is disappointed on their wedding day, so answering this question earlier is always our preference!
You might be wondering what types of decor might not be permitted inside a venue so to give you an idea, here are a few of the things that are a no-go at Cellar52 and The Timber Barn:
Glitter and confetti
Real or fake flower petals (no matter how cute a flower girl looks with them)
Candles without wax-catching bases
These rules are in place in order to improve your wedding day’s event flow and guest experience, as well as the weddings that happen the days after yours. We have seen many older ladies slip on a faux flower petal, so let’s avoid it!
12. Do you have any preferred vendors we need to work with?
Depending on the wedding venue, they might have a list of preferred vendors that you as a couple you must work with. For us, the required list is super short and is limited to our caterer. Since we have an in-house catering company (one of our other personalities, Gilt Catering), we strongly encourage our couples to use them. Other than that, though, the sky’s the limit!
Other venues will most likely have a similar list and should be able to share that information with you on your tour – all you have to do is ask! (We even go one step further and provide our couples with a list of our favourite vendors once they book – just saying!)
That being said, don’t be shocked if there is an associated fee to use “non-preferred” vendors. Since preferred vendors understand the space, the owners, and the teams, they just make everyone’s life easier!
13. How close is the nearest hotel?
If you know you’re going to have a lot of out-of-town guests at your wedding, this is a question you need to ask at your wedding venue tour! Not every venue is as lucky as we are to have a hotel attached to their wedding space, but chances are there are hotels nearby. Knowing what’s available so that your guests don’t need to figure that out on their own is a great touch to making every guest feel at home and welcome at your wedding. Don’t forget to inquire with the host hotel about a shuttle service, some will include it complimentary with a certain number of booked hotel rooms.
14. Do Ubers or taxis come to the area?
When you’re offering your guests alcohol, it’s imperative that you know whether there will be ways for them to get home safely. Sure, remote settings are awesome for weddings, but will Uber come to retrieve your guests? Similarly, are there nights that taxis don’t service that area?
Confirming whether guests will have multiple options to get home at the end of the night is crucial for making sure your event starts and ends on a high note. Personally, we love Driverseat! Our friend Doug is quick to respond and the rates are super reasonable!
15. Where do guests park?
I know this seems like a boring note to end on, but it’s so important! Whether people are drinking and need to leave their car overnight or are traveling from out-of-town to celebrate with you, you need to know if there are enough spots for them all to park and whether there’s an option for them to leave vehicles overnight. If not, that might be an indication that you should look into some sort of shuttle service for guests or keep looking for your dream wedding venue.
Ready to ask us these questions? Book a Cellar52 or Timber Barn tour with us today!