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Visiting Wedding Reception Site Venues? Important Questions to Discuss

Sep 5, 2008
Finding the perfect reception venue is an extremely time consuming and involved process. Since sites offer different services in their package, it's important to ask a lot of questions before signing the final contract. Here is an exhaustive list of questions to use when visiting potential venues. Not all of these will apply, but it's good to have a checklist when visiting places to ensure you do not forget any key details.

Basic Information
- How many weddings do they hold at this location each year?
- Are there any special events going at the venue that weekend or in the immediate surrounding area?
- What is the event manager's name, email, phone number and background?

Venue
- For how long will you get the venue on the wedding day?
- What is the capacity for the venue? Do they have a minimum/maximum number of guests for the day/month that you are interested in?
- What are the prices for Fri/Sat/Sun as well as afternoon/evening? What are the prices for different seasons/months?
- Are there any additional site fees for the venue?
- How many weddings do they hold on the same day or at the same time?
- If there are multiple weddings at the same time, how do they keep the event private? Are there different entrances or parking lot?
- Can they hold the ceremony there as well (if needed)? How much extra?
- Is there a room for the bridal party to get ready in and freshen up?
- Is the venue wheelchair accessible?
- Where are the bathrooms located?
- Is there parking onsite? If not, where would guests park and how much would it cost?
- Are there any required vendors?
- Is a bridal suite available at the venue? Is this free for the couple? One night or two nights?

Catering
- Who does the catering? Is it on-site or off-site? If off-site, do you have to use a specific caterer?
- Can you do a tasting before signing the contract? If not, when? What do you get to try during the tasting and how many people can come?
- Can you bring your own alcohol?
- Is a cake included in the menu? If yes, which bakery do they use?

Cocktail Hour
- Where will the cocktail hour be served? How long will it be? (An hour is standard, but some places offer an hour and a half.)
- How will the cocktail hour room be set-up? How many tables/chairs, decorations (votives on tables) will there be?

Reception Room
- What is the square footage of the room? (This is an important metric; rule of thumb is 20 square feet per person if you are in a room with a dance floor. For example, with 200 guests, your room should be around 4,000 square feet or more. If it's less, you may have a very small dance floor. For dinner and no dancing, the estimate is around 10-12 square foot per guest.)
- What is the square footage and shape of the dance floor?
- Are there any obstructions (poles, weird alcoves) in the room that prevent any of the tables from seeing the couple or the dance floor?

Price Per Person
- Food: How many passed hors d'oeuvres (hot and cold) are included? How many food stations? Are chefs for the food stations additional? What is the total number of courses during the meal? - How many entrée choices are offered ?Is beef one of the choices or is it additional? Do they offer a vegetarian option? Do you have to get guests' choices in advance?
- Drinks: What type of alcoholic beverages will be served? Only beer/wine? Hard liquor? What quality of liquor (top-shelf)? Is a signature drink included for free or how much extra?
- Vendors / Children: What meals are given to vendors and how much does it cost? How much does it cost for children and what is on their menu?

Service
- What is the ratio of servers/guests? (Most suggest a 15/1 ratio or ideally a 10/1 ratio of servers to guests).
- What is the service fee (most are 18 or 20%)? Is it necessary to tip anyone on top of the service fee (bartenders, maitre'd).

Room Ambience/Decorations
- Is extra lighting necessary (such as pin lighting) to enhance the room?
- What is the shape of the tables (square, round) and size (8, 10 or 12 person)? Can you specify how many of each you want?
- What kind of linens do they provide, what are they made of and what color are they?

Booking the Venue
- Can you see a copy of the contract before signing it?
- What is the schedule of deposits?
- What is the cancellation policy?
- Will they hold the date for you while you think it over? (Sites will generally hold a date for around a week while you finalize your decision.)
About the Author
Christina White is the editor of www.brideboard.com, where brides advise brides. This wedding website offers the best tips by bringing brides together in the New York area to share recommendations on different vendors and the planning process.
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