Planning a dream wedding usually begins with finding the right place, but the process can be both confusing and time-consuming.
Asking the right questions when scouting out places can help in the decisionmaking. Based on the experience of wedding planners and recently married couples, here are nine questions to ask before booking a wedding site:
1. Do you have a venue coordinator and, if so, what do they handle?
Not everyone can afford to hire a full-service wedding planner, which costs, on average, $1,500, according to WeddingWire.com. Fortunately, many places offer an event coordinator, but this person’s role can vary significantly. Day-of coordinators are on site during the wedding to make sure the event goes smoothly. Other places will provide site coordinators who meet with couples in advance to help them plan the event, in addition to serving as a day-of coordinator. Therefore, it’s important to clarify what a venue coordinator’s role entails, said Angelica Waltman, a wedding planner and coordinator in Bloomsburg, Pa.
2. How are the acoustics?
Some places simply have bad acoustics. Danielle Bayard, 31, and Ryan Jackson, 34, learned this the hard way when they married in Tampa in 2017. “I spent 18 months planning every single detail of our special day,” Bayard said. It wasn’t until after the ceremony that she discovered that the guests couldn’t hear the couple’s vows clearly because of how the sound echoed in the room.
Unless you’re getting married in a space known for its acoustics — a symphony hall, for instance, Paula Marrero, a Boston wedding planner, said couples should ask whether a sound system is available for the officiant.
3. How many weddings do you schedule a year?
Everyone wants their wedding to be unique, but a lack of experience can sting. Like new restaurants, new wedding venues need time to work out the kinks.
4. What is the restroom situation?
Make sure a venue has enough bathrooms to accommodate guests, said Diana Romero, a wedding planner in San Diego. You don’t want the cost — and the decor — of bringing in portable toilets.
5. What equipment do you provide?
Everyone thinks about tables and chairs, but some commonly overlooked items will be needed, too. Some places provide linens, china and glassware, but others don’t, said Nicole Simeral, a Boston events planner.
Also keep in mind that a low fee might mean more add-on expenses. Kristin Watkins, the owner of a San Diego wedding planning company, has encountered this issue a number of times. “We plan lots of weddings at nontraditional venues: the beach, a ranch, a backyard with a view,” Watkins said. “Couples always think these venues will be simple and save them money, but once you bring in every table, chair, fork, napkin, restroom, lighting, generator and pay the extra delivery fees for carrying furniture to your reception space, the wedding is always way over budget.”
6. How many guests can the dance floor comfortably hold?
The key word here: comfortably. Couples generally can expect 30 to 50 percent of their party to be dancing at any given time, said Patti Davis, a Cincinnati-based wedding planner. Typically, each dancer needs about 5 square feet. So, let’s say you’re having a 150-person wedding, which means roughly 45 to 75 people will be dancing at a time. In that case, you’d want approximately 225 square feet, or a 20- by 20-foot dance floor.
7. Do you allow multiple events at the same time?
Most places will host only one wedding a day, but some venues will allow other events on the same day or even at the same time. This likely won’t be a problem if you’re dealing with a large hotel that is used to having multiple things going on. But Holly Patton Olsen, a Seattle wedding planner, once worked with a couple who didn’t realize that on the morning of their wedding, the venue was hosting, of all things, a Tough Mudder race. The race ended before the ceremony started. But during the couple’s first-look before the ceremony, which is supposed to be an intimate and romantic moment, there was loud music blaring over the speakers and mud-caked runners wandering around, drinking beer.
8. Will you be doing any remodeling before the wedding day?
That beautiful banquet hall you looked at last week could transform into an eyesore if remodeling work is done before your wedding, Watkins said. “I had a couple book a hotel ballroom because the bride fell in love with the chandeliers in the room,” she said. “Two months before the wedding, she went to see the venue and the ballroom had been redone to be more corporate, and the gorgeous chandeliers had been replaced by modern light fixtures. She was devastated.”
9. Do you provide security?
Patton Olsen said this question should include both the guests and personal property. Are there security cameras? Is there a room where you can lock up gifts and other valuables? Will there be a security guard on site who can screen out wedding crashers?