Friday, October 23, 2009

Interviewing Potential Venues & Vendors (a Series)

You're engaged!  Congratulations!  People have been fawning over your gorgeous new ring, asking you when the big day will be and how he proposed and you just can't stop smiling.  You've cleared the local grocery or bookstore of all of their recent magazines having anything to do with weddings and have started saving all kinds of pictures of gowns, flowers, favors, etc.  You may have even started browsing the internet for local ceremony and reception venues.  But in reality, when it comes time to start planning and actually make some decisions and LOOK at things...well, it's time to wake up and smell the bridal stress! 

The fact is, most newly engaged brides have no idea about all of the details that are involved with planning a wedding.  They don't have a clue what questions to ask a photographer or DJ, they have no idea what a plated vs. buffet meal means and never realized that flowers (which grow freely in their own front yard) will be the most expensive budget item of the vendors they will hire apart from the food!

Now me, I'm an over-planning, overly controlling, detail-oriented, get 'er done, gather all the info, spend hours on the internet researching freak!  And so I went into this planning process fully prepared and knowing exactly what I wanted and who to go to in order to get it!  Those vendors were not prepared for me when I showed up with my huge binder and not only a ton of photos but a personally created excel page interviewing sheet with places for all kinds of notes and lots of rating and circle the appropriate answer fill-in questions.  They laughed at me, but they also respected me and knew they better have their stuff together!

So over at Blogger Brides, I answered a newly engaged bride's question as to what questions she should ask when visiting venues...I realized, I should just blog about this as I am sure many have this same type of question not only for the venues but for the vendors as well.  And thus, I am beginning a series of suggestions, questions and such that every bride should think about if not be prepared to ask when interviewing all of those special companies who will make her and the future hubby's dreams come true on the big day!
For the venue (of course this needs to be modified depending on whether you are having your ceremony and reception in the same location or two separate locations):

1) What are the limitations or restrictions (during different seasons, weekdays, etc)? Do they not allow weddings in December due to all of their holiday festivity goings-on?

2) What do they consider peak and off-peak times of the year, days, dates and hours? We booked on a Friday because our venue gave discounts for non-Saturday weddings.

3) How many people can you accommodate? What do you do if there is overflow? If you have 150 guests in a place that can only accommodate 100, don't waste your time! Some of the venues we looked at had to put guests in separate rooms where they could barely see during the ceremony or dinner and that was not acceptable to me.

4) Obviously - what's the overall cost, what deposit is due to hold date, when is balance due and what forms of payment do you accept? What do you charge for tax and gratuity and are they included? Are there any returned security deposits? Our venue holds a separate $1500 sec dep that they return as long as we leave the place clean and undamaged.

5) What are the restrictions regarding the activities you may want to include? Some places don't allow tossing petals (like in churches) or releasing doves. Some places restrict music outside after a certain time of night. Some don't have wheel chair access, etc.

6) What are your options for uncooperative weather conditions? If the ceremony happens outdoors and it rains, what do they offer as an alternate? For us, we can either pay to have a large canopy tent brought in over the ceremony area, or we would have to have the ceremony in the reception hall with the guests seated at their dinner tables (something I do NOT want to do).

7) Are any rental items required or not included? What are the additional costs? For our venue, we had to pay a HUGE venue rental fee and nothing is included. We had to pay for the rental of all items from tables, chairs, linens, dinner plates/serving items, heaters, etc.

8) Do they offer a coordinator or who runs the event for you? At my sister's wedding at a golf and country club, they had an event coordinator (or banquet coordinator) who helped us with running the ceremony, helping the DJ/Photographer/Videographer, etc with the timeline of when something was about to start (like toasts, bouquet toss, etc). But our venue offers NO ONE for assisting on the big day so we hired a day of wedding coordinator to run the show. She will do everything from helping pack up the gifts, setting out favors, our toasting flutes, etc to telling each bridal party member when it's their turn to walk down the aisle.

9) Do they have any restrictions about the rehearsal? What days and times will they let you in to rehearse for the wedding ceremony? For us, we have lots of out of town family in our wedding party so we needed to have our rehearsal on the Thursday night before our Friday wedding. But if you're getting married on Saturday and there is a Friday wedding, then you obviously won't be able to have your rehearsal the night before.

10) For catering/meals, there is a host of questions like what do they offer for vegetarians, do they offer children's meals, what's the difference in cost between buffet and served meals, what are the restrictions regarding alcohol, do they allow for a cash bar, is there a corking fee for wine or a cake cutting fee?

11) Is there a separate ceremony fee? If you are getting married at a golf club, they will charge one price for the reception and meal and then an additional price for the ceremony.

12) Do they have any restrictions on what vendors you can use for photography, DJ, bands, etc? Some venues require you to select from their preferred list of vendors. I didn't like that idea at all. Some may let you bring in vendors off their preferred list but you have to pay an additional fee!

13) Where do they set up the dance floor? How many people can it accommodate? Where does the DJ set up? If your DJ is stuck in the back corner of the room far from the dance floor and behind several dinner tables, you may not feel like he is able to 'get people going' and be part of the dancing.

14) Where do the bride and groom get ready? Do they have a room for you to wait in? What time or how early are you allowed to arrive on the wedding day and what time does the event have to be over by? Who handles clean up? Are there restrictions regarding photography/videography?

It's overwhelming I know and there's lots of questions, but these are all things most brides don't think about and then end up being disappointed about after they've already booked a venue! I always say the best plan of attack is being prepared. People laugh at me for being so 'overly anal' and detailed about this stuff, but it pays off in the end :)

** I made an excel sheet (it's pretty rough but gets the job done) of pages for each of the major types of vendors that I can print out and take with me as a 'fill-in-the-blank' questionnaire when I go on my appointments. If you'd like me to e-mail it to you, send me a message to


Stephanie said...

This is great - I totally didn't ask any questions about our vendor because we just wanted to get married at the Louisville Zoo! Everything worked out though :)

Thanks for finding me so I could find you! The kids at our wedding loved the zoo, we enjoyed having the wedding take place at a place that was important to us (our first date was at a zoo and it's become our thing when visiting new cities) and we loved the vibe we had - whimsical elegance :)

Can't wait to read all about your big day!!

Born to be Mrs. Beever said...

Whimsical elegance is a great somewhat would apply to what I am going for too I guess :) I want a modern, unique, FUN wedding that my guests have never experienced before...but still with the wedding tradtitions and beauty and elegance that some guests would expect. Guess I'll blog about this at some point :)

Katerina @ GirlWithARing said...

These are great - I'm going on my first set of vendor visits this weekend, and I am definitely including these in my list of questions. Thanks for sharing!

AmyJean {Relentless Bride} said...

I LOVE Your blog... not only that, i love that we are both using Allison from Flower Allie AND Cheesy Photobooths! Thanks for stopping by my blog and i hope you continue to read... i just subscribed to yours! :)

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