01 Apr 10 Questions to Ask While Venue Shopping
Guest Post by Colleen Kelly, Venue Manager at Cedarmont Farm.
Choosing your wedding venue is often the first thing on your wedding planning checklist. At Cedarmont Farm, we see so many couples who are so excited to start their lives together but aren’t sure what to ask about or where to start. Finding a venue that fits your aesthetic is important, but there are some key questions you need to find answers to before making your final decision. Ultimately, finding a venue is kind of like finding your spouse. You want something pretty, but you also need to make sure that you’re compatible.
1. Do you have an open vendor policy?
Some venues require that you choose vendors from their preferred list or use only their vendors in an all-inclusive package. Other venues require pre-approval of all vendors that you hire. If the venue is all-inclusive or has a mandatory preferred vendor list, is there a “buy out” option to bring in an outside vendor?
At Cedarmont Farm, we require all vendors to get pre-approval. This process involves agreeing to our policies and providing copies of their liability insurance among other things. All of this is to ensure that our client’s weddings go as smoothly as possible and that all vendors respect our venue.
2. Do you have liability insurance? Am I required to have event insurance?
Many venues require clients to purchase event day insurance. Even if your venue does not make this mandatory, we highly recommend it. A big party of 100+ people with an open bar…what could go wrong? Unfortunately, a lot. For this reason, it’s great when the venue has its own insurance and all of the vendors and the couple are covered as well. If you are purchasing and providing alcohol for guests, you also need to make sure that your insurance includes host liquor liability.
At Cedarmont Farm, we have liability insurance and we require all of our vendors and couples to purchase a policy as well.
3. What is the average wedding budget for your clients? Are there any extra fees?
This is a very important question that will help you avoid a lot of stress down the line. You know the term “house poor”? (I am very familiar with that term because one time I spent all my money on the loft of my dreams and lived without furniture for quite a while, but maybe that’s just me.) Well, you can also be “venue poor.” It’s important to ask your venue what to expect so you can better budget for it. Is gratuity included or expected? Are there any additional fees (taxes, operating fees, security fees, wedding insurance, etc.)? Most venues should be able to answer these questions to some extent, and if they can’t, it may be a red flag.
4. For outdoor weddings, what is your rain plan?
Outdoor weddings are beautiful, but be sure to ask your venue what their rain plan is. If it’s a move to the reception space, will the chairs be set up for the ceremony and then flipped, or will it be California style with guests seated at their tables? If there is a flip, where do guests go during that time frame, and who is responsible for flipping the space? How much notice does the venue require if the rain plan needs to be enacted?
At Cedarmont, our rain plan is to move the ceremony in front of our large windows in our event space. Our staff flips the space while guests are on our enclosed cocktail porch, and it normally takes 45 minutes. We ask for 24 hours notice.
5. How much time do we have to access the space?
What time can vendors start setting up? What time can the bridal party arrive? When do ceremonies usually start? The allotted rental time for a venue often includes set up and clean up, so make sure you find out if you’ll have time to do hair and makeup on-site, and be aware of the event end time.
6. What is parking like? Is it lit? Can cars be left overnight? Is there ADA parking?
This is a particularly important list of questions at rural venues. If the parking is on grass, ask if cars frequently get stuck after rain and how they handle this issue. Is the parking well lit? The last thing you want is for guests to be trying to find their cars in heels in the dark. If guests have a few too many drinks, can they leave their cars overnight? Is there any paved ADA parking for guests who may have special accessibility needs?
Cedarmont Farm has ADA parking as well as a gravel lot that is lit for guests.
7. Do you have any limits on types of décor? What is allowed for our exit?
If you have one of those must-have wedding décor items that’s been sitting on your Pinterest board forever, now is the time to ask if you’re allowed to have it. Just because your cousin has a surplus of string lights, don’t assume the venue will let him hang them in their space. If you are doing an exit, ask what materials they allow for this. Many venues don’t allow sparklers for liability reasons.
At Cedarmont Farm, we still allow them, but that could change. (It may only take a few more weddings with mischievous children.) We don’t allow confetti or glitter in our building at all. Have you ever tried to vacuum confetti out of the grass? Trust us, it’s not fun.
8. What are your alcohol policies? Can we have a full bar? Is alcohol offered through the venue?
Some venues only allow beer and wine to be served and others allow liquor. At some venues, the client purchases and supplies the alcohol, but bar service is required. If your venue has a liquor license, they will probably require you to purchase the alcohol through their own bar service. Venues also have different rules about cash bars, how long the bar can serve, and if security must be hired.
At Cedarmont Farm, the client provides the alcohol and we require that it be served by a pre-approved bar service. We do not allow cash bars and have rules about open and closing times.
9. Do you have overnight lodging? If not, where do most out-of-town guests stay?
Overnight lodging is always a plus at a venue if you have lots of out-of-town guests, but many venues don’t offer it. If you’re expecting lots of guests who will be traveling, it’s important to have lodging close to the venue and available transportation (rideshares, shuttles, etc.) for any guests who over-imbibe.
10. What are the setup and breakdown processes? What are we responsible for? What does venue staff help with?
Venue staff are most often NOT wedding planners, so it’s important to know what to expect so you aren’t surprised the day-of when the venue team isn’t setting up your table numbers and décor. If the client is responsible for cleaning, make sure you understand exactly what that means. Does it mean just clearing all your décor out and putting trash in the cans, or does it mean sweeping the floors and taking trash off-site or to a dumpster?
At Cedarmont Farm, our clients are responsible for clearing out their items at the end of the night. We require clients to hire full-service caterers as well as a day-of wedding planner who will help with many of these setup and breakdown tasks so the newlyweds can just sit back and enjoy their day. We also offer day-of planning for an additional fee.
Photos by Kelsey Shea.