Choosing your wedding venue is one of the most exciting parts of planning a wedding. And for good reason! This magical location is where you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.
Given the ‘wow factor’ of these beautiful places, it’s
easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to ask some important questions when you’re taking a tour.
To help you, we’ve put together a handy list of things to ask. This list aims to answer most of the big questions you'll want to know about, but feel free to add more of your personal ones. After all, each wedding is unique to the couple planning it.
Start with the practicalities
1. Is the venue available for my date?
It’s easy to get so excited about a venue that you forget to ask the most important question of all - whether it’s available for your preferred date! A good tip is to keep your dates flexible while you’re venue hunting, so that you have a better chance of securing your first choice.
2. What is the maximum number of guests you can accommodate?
Understanding the venue’s capacity and flexibility at the first meeting or viewing can help you to avoid disappointment later on. Some couples plan their guest list around the venue (rather than the other way around), but either way, this is a critical piece of information to find out up-front.
3. Are there peak and off-peak rates?
“Wedding season” is a real phenomenon: in South Africa, it falls between September and April. Venue hire rates may be lower outside of this period, or on less popular days, like weekdays.
4. What is included in the venue hire fee?
This will help you understand how much of your budget needs to be set aside for additions like decor, service fees or the wedding coordinator's services. The great news is that at Hazendal, our Wedding Coordination service is included in our venue hire fee.
5. Is there easy accessibility for guests with special needs?
This is important for guests who would require wheelchair access, lifts or handrails. Make sure that any areas accessed by steps or uneven terrain have alternate options for those who require it, as well as older guests like grandma and grandpa and your favourite flamboyant aunt who will surely take part in the celebrations.
6. How does your venue’s payment structure work?
When are deposits due and what percentage needs to be paid when? Now more than ever, it is important to also understand cancellation or postponement clauses as well as their potential impact on your planning. These questions will help you to stay on top of your budget and your to-do list.
7. Is there an extra cost involved if we exceed a certain time?
There may be an hourly rate charged if your party extends past a certain time in the evening, for example, past midnight, particularly if staff is required to remain on site to provide ongoing bar service or similar.
8. Are break-down costs and services included?
This can add a significant additional amount to your budget. Also find out whether you’ll be required to deal with vendors the day after your wedding (for example, when returning hired items), or whether the venue will handle it for you.
9. What is your cancellation policy?
Cancelling (or postponing) your wedding is likely to be the last thing on your mind when touring wedding venues but as unpleasant as the subject may be, it’s worth asking about it. Changing regulations and rules means even bridal couples need to be flexible with some of their plans.
10. Are there any special rules or policies?
Remember that when you book your wedding venue, you’re committing to a contract between yourself and the specific venue, and there are various terms and conditions involved. These will be emailed to you once you decide on the venue, but to be safe, it’s a smart idea to familiarise yourself with these as early as possible, so that you are fully aware of what you’re committing to before you sign on the dotted line.
Questions about the venue and décor
11. Is there a contingency plan if the weather is unpredictable?
Some venues have indoor venues in case of wind or rain, but it’s a smart idea to ask about a potential solution, as even the weatherman can get the prediction wrong on your special day. If your chosen venue does not have a backup venue, ask about alternative solutions or arrangements, just to be safe.
12. Is there a list of preferred vendors I should make use of?
Many venues have a list of preferred vendors who supply things like lighting, decor, and other elements you may desire. Because these vendors understand the venue and what is possible, they can be a valuable asset to you as you plan your day, ensuring that everything you choose will work well in the venue, and enhance each special moment. It also reduces the amount of time you have to spend searching for vendors to bring your dream wedding to life.
13. I’m thinking about having lawn boules / a flower arch / a gin bar. Is this possible?
Always discuss any ideas you have with your venue to make sure they’re possible. It’s not necessarily about the flexibility of the venue, but whether these ideas are practical in the space – and your venue host is the best person to advise you.
14. Are there any sound restrictions?
Some venues only allow loud music until a certain time or prefer acoustic sets to full bands.
Questions about the menu and catering
15. Is the menu flexible?
Some of your guests are likely to have specific dietary requirements ranging from gluten-free to vegan. Can your venue deliver a menu that is in line with your vision, while being delicious and accommodating everyone's dietary needs?
16. Does the venue cater to Halaal and Kosher requirements?
This is a very specific and important requirement, and generally speaking, outside caterers are required for Halaal and Kosher meals. Be sure to raise this with your venue so that it can be coordinated for your special day.
17. Do you charge corkage?
Some venues allow you to bring in your own wine (and sometimes other alcohol), while others prefer you to enjoy their selection, which has usually been thoughtfully chosen to pair perfectly with the menu.
18. Do you charge ‘cakeage’?
If you’re bringing in a cake from an outside vendor, you may have to pay a ‘cakeage’ fee, much like corkage. This is worth knowing about in advance so you can add it to your budget.
Questions for on-the-day
19. Will we be given access to the venue the day before the event, or only on the day?
This will help you to plan your décor and any other little details you’d like to set up in advance.
20. Will there be a venue manager on site on the day?
On your big day, you won’t want to be running around meeting vendors or arranging chairs. Find out whether your venue has a dedicated coordinator or venue manager to see to all the set-up as well as break-down tasks.
At Hazendal, for example, our wedding coordination service takes care of all on-the-day tasks so you can focus on the most important thing: having the best day of your life.
If you're looking for some more help in planning the perfect wedding, we created a nifty month-by-month wedding planning timeline to help you. Simply click the button below to get your very own copy.