You’ve just gotten engaged and you’re overwhelmed by an increasingly long list of things to do, from letting everyone know the good news, to setting a date for the wedding. But before you jump into deciding that perfect date, consider this: booking your venue may very well decide it.

Booking a venue is one of the biggest and earliest steps most couples take when planning, and for good reason. Some sites, especially popular ones, require you to book several months to a year or more in advance. Keep in mind, too, that the peak of wedding season, generally late Spring to early Fall, will require even more advanced booking.

Once you’ve honed down the season and type of venue you want, narrowing down your options to the right venue is easier if you know the right questions to ask.

So skip the sales pitches and come prepared to ask a representative these questions to ensure you’ll be satisfied with the venue you select:

  1. Will you work with my caterer? Reception places vary greatly in policies surrounding catering. Some venues require you to book with an on site caterer, while others will have a list of suggested caterers they like to work with. It’s also possible that the venue will not allow you to bring outside food or catering of any kind. For couples who don’t have a caterer, an all inclusive deal might be great; for those who have someone specific in mind, those venues might not be as good of a fit. There are even venues that do not have any associated catering at all (this is rarer but certainly possible). Be sure to make this one of the first questions you ask.
  2. What does the price include? On a similar note, what does the quote include? Will you be permitted time for a rehearsal dinner, and if so, how long? When will you be allowed to decorate, if you are doing so? Does the price include food, staff, waiters, or  day of coordinator? For a wedding held in a barn or somewhere rustic, will there be any heating or cooling? Better yet, ask for an itemized breakdown of costs. That way you’ll be sure to understand exactly what you’re paying for.
  3. Is there any room for customization? If the venue offers a certain type of decor that doesn’t fit your theme, are there other options to choose from, or can you add your own decor? Whatever you want customized, be sure to also asks if there are any extra fees associated with such a swap.
  4. What could result in extra fees? Alas, a quoted price is just that: an estimate. If your reception goes overtime, how much extra will you be charged, and is it by the hour or the half hour? Ask also about fees for additional servers, alcohol selections, and deluxe menu items. Something most couples don’t think to ask: linens, silverware and dishware  can either be additional costs or vary depending on what you select. Also be aware of charges that could ensue regarding any damages or accidents, and what, if any of these, the deposit covers.
  5. Are there any other policies I should be aware of? This question is more general, but it’s equally important. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with prohibited items and activities, smoking and alcohol policies. If you’re an innovative bride or groom who can’t imagine the day without a beloved pet, you’ll certainly need to ask about this.
  6. What is your cancellation policy? Finally, before you sign a contract, you need to ask what happens in the event you need to cancel. While no one wants to consider this possibility, it’s best to be prepared regardless. Most places will offer a certain amount refunded to a certain point, while most places will have a non refundable deposit. Never assume though: it’s best to ask.

Photographer Credit: Morgan Alanna Photography

Venue: The Lake at Apple Hill