A major decision over the past few months for us has been where to have our wedding reception. We decided fairly early on that we’d rather have a hotel than a hall for the reception dinner and party. Then came looking at close to a dozen places in person, from hotels to golf courses, and even a private club, all without a wedding planner. We have now made the big decision for our wedding later this year! A big shout out to my mom for joining me to meet event coordinators to ask them questions about their wedding venue and packages. I compiled our notes and came up with the top 9 questions to ask wedding venue before booking the space for your big day.
1. Is your wedding date available?
A key question! Make this question one of the first ones that you ask. Going into the “interviews” with wedding venue coordinators, I had my first choice for date already picked out. As it’s on a weekend, and many people get married on weekends, I also had second and third choices for the wedding date.
The reality is that many people set their date a year or more in advance. I didn’t know that going into the planning stages and boy was that an eye-opener! I figured as long as I started planning 6 months ahead I’d be fine. Well a lot of local places were already booked up in our ideal month of November on the weekends. Thankfully we did get a terrific place for our reception. We booked it, woohoo!
2. Is a cocktail hour possible before the wedding reception?
A relatively new trend is to arrange a cocktail hour before the wedding reception dinner at a hotel, club or another location. We will do this at the same hotel where we’re having the reception. It will encourage our wedding guests to mingle before the dinner and speeches, especially since there will be lots of out-of-towners who haven’t seen our family and friends in a while. Plus, the cocktail hour bridges the gap between the ceremony and the reception, as there are usually a few hours between the two events while the wedding party takes photos. Lastly, the cocktail hour is a fun way to welcome guests into the hotel too.
If this pre-reception idea sounds like fun to you, ask about the wedding venue coordinators about available options. Not every place offers a cocktail hour. But if it is possible, here are a few follow-up questions:
- Does it take place in the same room as the reception or elsewhere?
- How many platters of appetizers does it include and what are they?
- Is a signature cocktail possible or do guests simply order drinks from the bar?
- Are there non-alcoholic choices to drink too?
If you are renting a hall then you’ll have plenty of room to decide these things for yourself, of course. These guidelines of what is possible or not refer to locations where the hotel or other facility provide not only the physical space but also provide the food, servers, hosted bar, and more for your convenience.
3. What hours are the room available?
The hours when the room is available for your use on the wedding day will vary depending on the location. And it’ll depend on whether you’re having your ceremony and reception at the same place (ours are at different places).
So, be sure to ask wedding venue before booking when the room where the wedding reception will happen opens up. For some places here in Victoria, it’s 9 am, while others it’s at noon.
If there are decorations you want to put up, such as table centerpieces, draping, and chair covers, then your wonderful volunteers (friends and family are awesome!) will come in before the reception and put them in place for you. Typically the wedding venue coordinators will not help with the setup of these extras. But your volunteers need to know the earliest time when they can do so! That way it looks amazing when guests start to arrive at the venue.
Along with knowing when the room opens up, also ask when the party has to shut down at the end of the night. I found that for most local hotels and clubs, that time is midnight or 1 am. If it’s earlier like 10 pm and you want the party to go late then the place you’re looking at might not meet your needs. That’s why it’s one of the important questions to ask wedding venue before booking.
4. What’s included in the rental fee?
For a hall, it’s usually up to you to arrange to bring the chairs, tables, food, decor, and other items to the venue. In other words, you rent the physical space for the event and that’s it. But in our case we’re using a hotel that includes a wedding reception package.
After looking at the packages for many of the places in Victoria BC that we looked at, I noticed a lot of the same things included in the rental fee.
Some of those inclusions are:
- Room rental
- Table wares (plates, glasses, and silverware)
- Linens (tablecloths and napkins)
- Dinner buffet or plated dinner
- Music license fees
- Menu tasting
- Podium and wired mic
- Guest suite for the night for the newlyweds
Some places will include extras or you can find out if they’re included at a reasonable rate. Take the reigns and try to barter for a better rate than they may at first offer. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Remember that you’re bringing in a sizable monetary amount to the wedding venue coordinators on the wedding day so they want to keep your business. They are likely willing to work with your budget to prevent you from booking your wedding reception elsewhere.
5. Plated vs buffet dinner: What to ask wedding venue before booking
One of the big decisions to make for your special day as a couple is whether you two want a plated dinner or buffet style instead. If you’re not sure which one to do, asking some or all of the following questions to the venue’s wedding representative will probably help you start to lean toward one dinner option over the other.
Here are some great questions to ask the wedding venue coordinators about the reception dinner:
- Are plated and buffet dinner style the same price? If not, what are the cost differences per person?
- What about food choices? Ahem, what are they?
- Is a meat carving station included? If not, how much extra per head to include it?
- What is the process for guests who are vegetarians?
- Is there a separate kids menu? And, while we’re at it, do kids eat cheaper than adults? They should, so make sure you speak up if you get told “no.”
- If plated, where do the guests go to get their food? See what the atmosphere is like for this option. If it’s an awkward space, you may want to go for plated instead.
By asking these questions, we came to the conclusion that we will do buffet style dinner. And yes I asked all of these questions to the wedding venue coordinators at the location we’re using in November.
6. When do decorations have to come down?
In most cases, from my experience, the decorations come down after the wedding reception ends. So, the same night. If that’s the case then you want to know about it so that you can plan the take-down activities beforehand. You know what I mean, asking Auntie Julie and her adult kids to help at the end of the night to take down the decor. After all, you and hubby might want to leave before the night finishes.
In some cases, take-down services are included in the rental contract. If that’s the case, great! And that leads me to the next question to ask wedding venue coordinators…
7. Does the wedding reception package include the cake?
While I could have included this one in question #4, it’s such an important one that it really deserves its own section in this post. That’s because the wedding cake is a HUGE part of the day!
While some venues will tell you that they make the cake in-house, others outsource the baking task to a catering company. And other places leave it to you to find someone to make the cake. In our case, it’s up to us to find a professional baker to make the sweet treat.
Don’t assume that simply because the dinner is included in the wedding package that you’ll also get a cake. That’s not always the case, at least not in my experience. And I really want you to have the wedding cake of your dreams, whether you have a traditional wedding or not.
8. Ask the wedding venue: Is there a photo area there?
For some locations, there’s a photo area (or two) conveniently right there for taking photos of the couple and the wedding party as a whole, as well as pics with family. Typically these photographs happen between the wedding ceremony and the reception.
While your photographer will likely have an idea of great local spots to take pics, the venue itself might have some nice areas for photos that you don’t know about. So take the time to ask! One hotel I went to had a rooftop balcony available to reserve for photo sessions.
Ask for a tour of the venue to see any possible photo spots for the special day. If any of them seem appealing to you two then ask to book them for the time between the ceremony and reception on the wedding day. Make sure they’re not already in use when you want to go there with your hired photographer!
9. Make any special requests
Is there something that you’ve always wanted at your wedding reception? Now’s the time to see if it’s possible. Think ahead of time about it and then make it one of the questions to ask wedding venue before booking.
For example, I asked if a chocolate fountain would be possible for the kitchen to make on the special day. Interestingly, some places were all for it while others suggested I hire an outside company to do so.
If the venue itself will make it for you, ask for a quote for the price for the special item. It may be cheaper to bring it in from an outside company than have it made in-house. But not every location will let you do that. If you’re renting a hall then ensure this type of item is allowed on the property.
A lot of questions to ask wedding venue before booking.
But it’s worth it.
Trust me when I say each of these questions is important to ask! By knowing what a wedding venue can and cannot do, as well as the prices of the services, you’ll find out which location best meets the needs of you and your partner. Obviously the location is a major part of the wedding planning process.
The good news is that it really does get easier with each interview. By the third place, my mom and I had the questions down pat. And the more places you go to, the more you understand what is “typical” and what seems out of the norm or overly expensive. Then decide what prices and options make sense for the special day.
I hope this guide of questions to ask wedding venue before booking helps you narrow down the choices to the most suitable location to you and your partner’s needs and wants. May your wedding day be amazing!
What are some other questions to ask a wedding venue? Would you rather attend a wedding with a plated or buffet style dinner, and why?