So, you found your perfect wedding venue?
It’s stunning and has so much potential and looks absolutely magical in the afternoon light. It’s everything you’ve ever dreamt of.
But what about the practicalities? The boring things like toilets, catering infrastructure and… insurance?
Unfortunately, add-on costs are a regular part of the wedding game. It’s a commercial industry, which means customising and adding extras to your wedding venue will often cost you more. In some cases, a lot more.
To protect yourself and your future bank balance, we distilled wedding expert and Bridechilla founder Aleisha McCormack’s top wedding venue advice from the latest episode of Hitched so you don’t get ripped off.
Psst – you can also listen to it in full below, post continues after audio.
In other words – here are the 12 questions you must ask prospective wedding venues before signing anything or paying a cent.
What time can you arrive and leave?
This might seem mundane, but it’s really important to know if you’re a) planning to hold the entire day at the one venue and b) if you want either a morning/afternoon wedding.
Also make sure the venue’s availability includes set up and pack down.
Ask: what time can you and your people come in and start jazzing the place up? Can you access the space the night before? What time do you need to be out by?
Can you facilitate the ceremony and a reception?
Tying in with the first point, ask if your venue is available and can facilitate your wedding ceremony and reception (and maybe even accommodation too!).
“[Having your ceremony and reception at the same venue] will save you money as you’re not paying two separate venue fees, and time because you don’t have to travel. You also won’t have to make your guests travel or find something to do for hours while you’re taking your photos,” Aleisha says.
Do you offer package deals?
Some venues like function centres and golf clubs offer all-inclusive package deals. This might suit you if you’re busy and you just want to work with someone who knows the venue and will offer the right choices.
It’s not always the cheapest option, but the convenience of a package deal might work for you and your lifestyle, so it’s good to ask if the option is open to you.
Don’t worry, they don’t have to be cookie cutter either.
Side note – what do you think about wedding wishing wells? Yes or no, and if yes, how much? Post continues after video.
Is self-catering allowed?
Attention foodies! If you’ve got hundreds of screenshots of metre-long grazing boards and Instagram worthy hors d’oeuvres in your phone, please, please ask: can you bring someone in or must you use their in-house people?
This one’s really important, especially if you have grand designs for your food. A no could potentially mean your venue is one too.
Do you need to use their vendors?
Some venues will have preferred vendors for catering, florists and equipment hire. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Aleisha’s venue provided them with a list of preferred vendors, which she and her husband found really helpful when it came to making a decision. Preferred vendors are also ideal for the venue because they have the advantage of knowing the venue inside and out (i.e. what equipment to bring, how many staff etc.).
Ultimately, this results in less stress (and in some cases, money) for you.
Are you allowed to throw a party there?
It’s a simple question, but crucial if you’re looking to hire an Airbnb, commercial space or warehouse for your wedding.
“A lot of Airbnb listings now say outright no parties or events, and you need to respect that – it’s a breach of contract if you don’t. If things go wrong, you are in violation of your contract and can get in deep sh*t,” Aleisha says.
As for commercial spaces, art galleries and warehouses that might hire out for commercial events, she recommends just being honest about your intentions for the property. You’ll get a yes or no answer straight up.
What needs to be brought in?
Further on from the above, really think about exactly what things will need to be brought into a venue that’s not set up to hold special events, like a farm or someone’s property.
Think toilets, electricity, heating, seating, fridge, cutlery, tables, entertainment equipment…
Aleisha suggests asking a wedding planner or coordinator to visit the venue with you as they’ll have a professional eye for all the little details that you’ll need to make your guests comfortable.
Do you have public liability insurance?
Yep. It's boring. But just like travel or car insurance, not having public liability insurance is the one thing that'll kill you if you end up needing it.
Ask: does the venue and/or caterer have their own insurance?
As Aleisha puts it, "make sure your ass is covered because some people like to sue other people."
How many guests can you fit in the venue? How much will it cost?
"These are two really simple details that will help you completely eradicate other venues if they're too small, too big, cost too much etc. Ditch them," says Aleisha.
Think about how important a particular venue is to you, even if it's not really the right fit, before ruthlessly culling your guest list or slashing other areas of your budget.
Are there noise restrictions? Does the venue have a curfew?
Also featured on this week's podcast are Melany McBride and Amy Parfett from wedding venue directory WedShed.
They urge couples to think about what kind of party they want to throw, and if the venue's noise restrictions and/or curfews will be able to facilitate it.
"If you've got your heart set on a venue that does have a curfew, we recommend trying to find a local bar or restaurant that would be happy to have you and your mates there into the night. Like a small bar that has a licence until 3am - that way you can ferry your guests there at 10pm when the venue curfew is and keep the good times rolling."
Now... go ahead and write these questions in your phone's notes section or on the back of your hand and get to asking!
Love weddings or getting married and need to ask all the questions about venues, flowers, photographers, wedding dresses, EVERYTHING? Come join Mamamia’s wedding planning podcast Facebook group Hitched.
Got any other great questions to ask your wedding venue? Tell us in the comments!