Finding the perfect wedding venue can be as daunting as finding the perfect wedding gown. Very often I have couples that walk through my door with their venue already signed, sealed and delivered. This is great except when I begin asking them questions about their contract or the venue that they can't answer. By not asking the right questions this can actually cost you more money and cost your vendors more time.
So I thought I would put together a list of questions we typically ask over the phone when looking for venues for our clients. I had so many thoughts to share that I have broken it down into two parts. So here it goes… part one!
First and foremost ask if they have your date available. If looking for an evening wedding be sure to stress "evening". Some venues do two weddings a day and they might be booked for the evening but have the morning or afternoon available. Getting straight to the point as this will save you and them time.
Friday vs. Saturday vs. Sunday
Ask the venue if there are any differences in cost or packages provided between Friday evening, Saturday "day", Saturday evening and Sunday "day or Sunday evening. Typically most couples want an evening wedding, but if you can save say $2,000 by doing a Friday or Sunday "day" wedding - heck that's $2,000 toward something else!
Most venues have minimums - that means the minimum revenue or number of guests they will book an event for. Find out what their minimums are for the date you are looking for. Also find out if the minimums vary from the date, time of day and time of the year. If they have a minimum of 100 people and you think you might have 125 go the 100. You can always add more later, but you can't take away after the contract is signed. If you end up having less than 100 guests and have already signed the contract, you will still be charged for those people. Again, these minimum requirements could save you money…
Holding the date until you visit the venue
Some venues will and some venues won't hold your date until you see the actual venue. It doesn't hurt to ask. However, if you ask them to hold the venue and they do be courteous to them and keep your appointment. If you aren't interested don't string them along. Be honest and let them know they can release the date. You don’t want them to lose business and another bride may want your date.
Gratuity and Tax
Ask your venue if gratuity is included and what the tax percentages are and what they are applied to. It doesn't hurt to ask to get a sample breakdown for an event your size. Also "Service Charge" is NOT the same thing as gratuity! In most cases the "Service Charge" is the minimum pay for the wait staff, bartenders and captains. Therefore, ask the venue what their staff typically gets tipped. Remember, the people waiting on you don't just live on pay alone. Factor their tips into the overall budget and cost - this isn't an area you want to skimp!
It never hurts to negotiate, I do it on a daily basis. The key here is to be reasonable…You can always ask if they will lower the minimum guest count, the cost per person or if they will waive the chefs captain fee. But don't start asking them for the price per person amount they charge in December for a wedding in June. (June is the busy season for weddings, so prices will typically be more expensive). You might be able to negotiate the deposit amounts due or ask if they can divide them into more payments. Just remember negotiating is a give and take so be reasonable about it.
Find out how the venue expects payment. Some will take a credit card (I know you want those miles for your honeymoon) for the deposit but only a certified bank check for the remaining payments. Find out and see what they say. In most cases this is non-negotiable.
When booking your date find out what will happen if you have to change the date. Unforeseen things can happen so you want to have a bit of flexibility. If you have to rebook will you lose money, is there an additional cost involved to change the date? Find out what the details are and get them in writing in your contract.
This is one area most clients don’t think of. For example here in NYC there may be security and fire marshal costs that are in addition to what you are paying per person. Some loading docks are union and cost more to open early for your florist to load in and stay open later for your band to load out. Find out what those costs are and get those in your contract as well. You don't want to find out later on that your vendors don't have enough time to set up and to break down, and then be charged with pesky overtime fees.
Some venues have union staff, so find out if your venue is one of these. If so, what happens in the event the union goes on strike the day of your wedding. Will the venue rebook at no additional cost? Will they cover the cost to rebook your favorite band? All this should be spelled out in the venues contract, but it's always a good thing to ask!
Find out if Coat Check is included in the price per person and if not what is the cost per person. In some cases I've been able to negotiate the coat check out of the contract especially if the wedding is in one of the warmer months. But remember, if there is a cold snap and guests bring jackets this may be added to your final bill. The coat checkers have to get paid too!
So that is it for now....be sure to check back for 11 more tips in Part Two on Monday!
Have a fabulous weekend and if you are in NYC, enjoy the snow!