It’s no secret that wedding planning is full of surprises and hidden costs (not to mention the costs that AREN”T hidden!). If you have not hired a wedding planner (most people don’t), it can be tough to anticipate how to avoid bad situations along the way, particularly when deciding on your wedding venue. Be sure to consider these thoughts before signing a contract and paying any fees. Let’s just say that after you pay your deposit, your negotiating power is limited.
Venue and Contract Details
Space Issues: Even though your Seattle Wedding Venue will give you the facts on how many people your space will hold, it is critical to ask them if they are taking into consideration the deejay or band size, cake table, gift table, etc. It is easy for them to say that they can fit 10 tables of 10 people into a room, but the real question is whether or not there will be room for anything else.
Administrative Fees & Taxes: Make sure to find out if there are administrative fees. Administrative fees are typically enforced to cover staffing costs for the night and are almost always a percentage of your total food & beverage costs. Be sure to ask exactly what that fee covers. Also, make certain you know what will be taxed and how much tax is associated with certain items.
Time Limits: Definitely find out how long you have the venue. If a venue requires that you and your guests be out of the space by 11:00 p.m. but you want your reception to last until midnight, most venues charge you a fee for that extra hour. Also, ask what time your vendors will be allowed to bring in their goods. This is important when considering vendors’ time restraints.
Parking: Do not assume that parking is included in your cost. Some venues will charge a fee for their valet service as well as their parking garages.
Food & Beverage
Minimums: Your venue will probably give you some information on the food and beverage details up front, but hidden costs are almost certain when dealing with food and alcohol. If your venue does not give you the food and beverage minimum ahead of time, you will need to ask for it. Keep in mind that the food and beverage minimum is not the minimum for anything else (i.e. linens, table rentals, etc). It is strictly the minimum for food and drinks.
Set-up Fees: Be sure to ask about setup fees because you will probably not hear about them until you get your contract. Many venues charge flat setup fees for the room setup, the bar setup, etc. and they can be quite expensive.
Waiter, Bartender, and Attendant Fees: Almost all venues charge another separate flat fee for waiters, bartenders, and attendants for various things such as manning the coat check or stationary hors d’ouerve tables.
Bar Fees: If you are planning on having an open bar, check into potential hidden fees such as, bartender fees and check into what is stocked at your bars. Some venues only stock beer, soft drinks, and wine or particular brands. If you want hard liquor you may end up paying extra. Also, don’t assume a champagne toast is complimentary.
Restrictions: First and foremost, make sure that outside vendors are even allowed. Some venues require that you use their “approved” vendors because they have strict contracts with them (which is ridiculous). Approved vendors can include cake companies, flower companies, entertainment companies, and photographer & videographer companies. So if you were hoping that your cousin could be your photographer, you better check to see if that is allowed.
Vendor Meals: Most photographers and band or deejay members require that you provide them a meal at your wedding. Most venues have something written into their contracts to ensure your vendors get a meal, often at discount prices. Make sure to ask about the price of these meals. If the venue DOES make you pay the full cost of the meal, you will have to factor that price into your budget.
Restrictions: If you have visions of 300 votive candles twinkling at your reception, be sure to ask if that’s allowed. Some venues will not allow certain candles or flowers.
“House” Supplies: Some venues have “house” supplies which are basically supplies that they keep stocked at their venue that are included in your cost. Unfortunately, most often these “house items” are low quality garbage, so make sure to check the first. For example, most venues’ house linens are white or ivory cotton linens. If you want silk or decorative linens, you may have to pay for your venue to rent them. Also, venues often have the lowest quality house chairs and china. The beautiful chairs that they have set up when you view the venue might not be the chairs that they stock.
Permanent Fixtures: Some venues will not remove anything from their space for your reception. So although the 30 year old pastel artwork on the entryway wall was cutting edge and lovely back then, if you don’t want it there the night you celebrate your wedding, you might want to ask if they are able to take it down beforehand.
Night of Reception Details
Other events: Be sure to ask if there are any other events going on at the venue on the night of your reception. Although they can’t really guarantee that you’ll be the only event there that night, if there is another event going on, it’s important to ask how that will affect your guests (parking, noise, traffice, etc.). For example, ask whether or not your guest will have their own bathrooms or whether they have to share them with guests at another event. Also, if you are not at a hotel, you may want to ask whether a bridal suite or area will be provided to you so that you can change if needed or fix your dress throughout the night.
Coordinator: If you are working with a coordinator or sales person that the venue has provided, you may want to ask if they will be there for the duration of your reception. If you have a problem during the reception, you want to make sure you have someone there who knows the details of your reception plans to help. Many of these people are there at the set up but leave shortly after that.
References: Asking for references can be helpful. It allows you to ask specific questions and get an unbiased answer.
Correspondence: When you are in the middle of choosing a venue, venues are after your business so there is a quick turn-around time on emails and phone calls. However, once you sign the contract and hand over your first payment that is likely to change. Ask the venue what their average turn-around time is for corresponding with you throughout the entire process.
My best advice is to ask a venue for a sample contract before you sign your own contract. You can then view what the average wedding reception costs are for that venue. It may seem that there are a lot of questions to ask, but by asking, not only are you avoiding surprises, you are showing the venue that you are a serious customer and that they should treat you accordingly.