What to Ask Your Wedding Venue Checklist (Advice from a Real Bride)

white estate house from the side
Wadsworth Homestead, Geneseo, NY – Photo by Lauren Page Wadsworth

Choosing your venue is one of the most important decisions when wedding planning. There are lots of factors you might not even think about when you sign that contract. Personally, I wish I knew there was a 10:00 PM noise ordinance in the neighborhood I got married in. (We didn’t get fined, but I’m still not over it.) To prevent you from making my mistakes, I’ve made a comprehensive list of questions to bring with you when you visit venues.

What should you ask your potential wedding venue?

The most important questions to ask your wedding venue are availability, logistics, decor, food, and entertainment.

These five factors will help you determine if the wedding venue is right for you. Make sure the non-negotiables are spelled out in the contract.

Let’s break down these five categories into the 26 questions you need to ask your venue before you book.

Questions about Availability

1. What dates are available at the venue?

You probably already have an idea of when you want to get married. It’s important to ask what dates are available. If the space is already booked for your ideal season and year, you will have to choose another venue or be flexible about your dream date.

Not sure how early you should be looking at venues? Check out this article about timing your venue search.

2. Does the venue offer discounts for off-season, midweek, or morning weddings?

Your wedding venue might offer discounts for less popular wedding times and days. A wedding on a Thursday or at 10 am might be a little offbeat, but so what? Some people might not be able to make it, but with enough notice, your most important people will take the day off of work. Also, you have a good excuse to serve Bloody Marys.

Here are some of the pros and cons of having a weekday wedding and more information about the cheapest months of the year to get married.

If you’re looking for affordable wedding venue ideas, check out this article on the best places for a cheap wedding reception.

3. Does the event space host multiple weddings on the same day?

Sometimes venues host multiple weddings on the same day. If they do, it’s not a deal breaker, but it’s a “yellow flag” to ask some more questions. How will they handle overlap from the two events? Will another wedding’s cocktail party be right on top of your photography location? Make sure there is enough space and time for the venue to host two large events on the same day.

4. Can I see your ceremony locations?

Scope out the ceremony locations beforehand if you want to get married in the same location as the reception. There’s a lot of benefits to having the ceremony and reception in the same spot, like, less rushing around on the day of, easier for the out of town guests, more time for photography (and celebrating!)

If you have to transition from one area to another yourself for the reception, read my tips for a seamless transition here.

5. Is there a dressing room at the venue? Will we have access to it for the entire wedding?

If a venue has a dressing room on site, you and your crew can get ready before the wedding and not stress about fitting a poofy dress in a limo. Check if they have multiple dressing rooms so your fiancé(e) and their side can get ready there too. If the dressing room is available to you all night, you’ll have a spot for quick touch ups or if you just need a second to breathe.

wedding rings on a white table

Questions about the contract

6. How many hours are included in the venue’s rental fee?

At a minimum you will need: 1. Time for vendors to set up (or drop off their items if the venue is setting things up for you), 2. Ceremony (if at the same location) 3. Cocktail hour / time for photography portraits, 4. Reception including all the dances, speeches, and dinner.

If you are getting married in a community center or park, factor in time for cleaning up and breaking things down. And then what happens if your time is up and you want to keep the party going? Find out how many hours are included in your contract and what the fee is if you end up tacking on extra hours.

If you need more pointers about how many hours you need for each activity and building a day of timeline, check out this article on how to build a day of timeline.

7. What are the venue’s policies regarding refunds and cancellations?

It’s not fun to think about, but ask about the venue’s cancellation policy. You will likely pay a deposit around 25-50% of the site fee in order to reserve your date at the venue. The deposit may be refundable if you cancel with enough notice for the venue to book another wedding on that day. If it’s short notice, say within 30 days of your wedding, you might be on the hook for the deposit AND the remaining site fee. Eek!

8. What services cost extra at this wedding venue?

Don’t get caught off guard by hidden fees! Ask about service charges, taxes, and gratuities so you know the real price before you book your venue. These can add an additional 20-30% onto your venue fee. Also ask about corking fees and cake cutting fees–these are extra charges when you bring your own wine or cake.  

Questions about logistics

9. How many people can the venue hold?

Make a rough guestlist before you visit venues and ask what their capacity is. Keep in mind that their maximum capacity numbers may need to include catering staff, your photographer, and other professionals. If the venue is too small to fit everyone (and you don’t want to slash the guestlist), it’s a dealbreaker. 

Not sure who to invite and who to cut? Check out this flowchart for who you should invite to your wedding.

10. Is the venue handicap accessible?

Don’t assume that a venue is handicap accessible just because you don’t see stairs. Historical sites may have small doors and hallways that are difficult for someone in a wheelchair to navigate. Outdoor venues might have uneven ground that makes for a fall-hazard. Look out for your loved ones and make sure the venue is safe for them.

11. If the venue is outdoors, what is the rain plan?

They say rain on your wedding is good luck, but you should still plan for it. If there is an alternative site for rainy weather, check it out and make sure you’re happy with it.

Many outdoor venues offer a tent in case it rains. But if it’s a downpour, even a tent might not protect you from the elements that well. So that’s something to consider if you’re getting married during a rainier season in your area.

12. How far is the reception venue from the ceremony site?

If your reception venue is at a different location from your ceremony site, it shouldn’t be longer than a 20-30 minute drive. To minimize inconvenience, the two sites should be as close as possible or you should provide transportation from one to the other.

13. Do you have enough restrooms at the reception site?

This typically won’t be an issue for traditional hotel or ballroom weddings. But if you’re doing something a little different like a house or a park, check out the facilities before you commit. You can also rent portable restroom trailers if necessary. 

14. What’s the parking situation at your venue?

Find out if there is enough space to accommodate everyone. Unless you’re getting married in a city with great public transportation, you will have approximately 1 car per 2 guests. If there’s not enough space, you may need to hire a shuttle service for your guests. If it’s a tight budget, you can ask guests to carpool or take taxis. Make sure you let people know on the website that parking is limited. 

15. How far is the venue from hotels?

If your wedding is going to have a lot of out of town guests, consider how far it is from local hotels. Your guests will be inconvenienced if it’s a long drive to their hotel at the end of the night. Ask about reserving room blocks if you’re getting married at a venue that has lodging onsite. Reserving a room block shouldn’t cost you anything to do at most hotels but some may charge a fee if they go unused.

16. What kind of transportation is available in the area around the venue?

Some venues are in rural areas and may not have public transportation or ride share services. Consider booking a shuttle service from the wedding reception to the hotel so your guests leave safely. 

stack of jenga blocks that says "leave us a note"

Questions about decor

17. Does the venue have a preferred florist?

All-inclusive venues often have an in-house florist or a list of preferred vendors to pick from. The benefit of using a preferred florist is they are already vetted by the venue and familiar with the space. The downside for couples is less options at different price points. 

18. What time can we start setting up for the wedding?

Typically, you will need at least 2 hours to set up your wedding venue if you are DIYing it, but that can vary depending on the complexity of the decor and the number of people helping. Professional vendors like your florist will also need at least an hour to set up.  Be cautious if your venue books events back-to-back and won’t let you get in before your ceremony time. 

19. What is the lighting like in my wedding venue?

Take a look around the venue and make note of the lighting situation. If your wedding is during the day, look for big windows to let in natural light. For evening weddings, try to avoid harsh fluorescent lighting. The venue may offer up-lighting to match your colors and add ambience to the dance floor. If not, ask if the DJ can supply up-lighting. If you’re looking for romantic lighting, ask if the venue can set up candles, string lights, or lanterns. 

20. What restrictions does the venue have on decorations?

You’d be surprised what restrictions are out there for decor. My husband used to run weddings at a zoo and forbid any decorations that animals might try to eat, like confetti or balloons. A friend had a beautiful wedding at a library and she was told no flowers or glitter because they could damage the historic book collection.

wedding tent lit up at night

Questions about food and drinks

21. Does your venue provide catering onsite?

Often venues have a caterer onsite, which is convenient because the food doesn’t need to be transported and you don’t need a separate contract. Some venues will allow you to bring your own food or hire an outside caterer, which can save money.

Looking for ideas of what you could add to your day if your venue allows outside catering? How about a food truck for the cocktail hour? Or pizza at the after-party?

22. Can we bring our own wedding cake to the venue?

Sometimes couples want to choose their own bakery for their wedding cake, either because they want a specific style of cake (gluten-free maybe?), they want to support their favorite baker, or they are trying to save a little money. Make sure you ask if this is allowed at the wedding venue. Some venues charge additional fees for “cake-cutting”, because their staff still needs to serve the cake and wash the dishes. 

23. Can we bring our own alcohol to the reception?

Smaller venues like community centers or some restaurants will allow you to bring your own alcohol. This is a great way to save some money because you can buy beer and wine wholesale. See our tool here to find out how much alcohol you need for your wedding

24. Does your venue have a full liquor license?

If it is important to you and your fiance that your wedding has a full bar, make sure your venue can accommodate this request. In some states, restaurants need a separate license to serve liquor so they may choose to only serve wine and beer. 

Questions about entertainment

25. Are there any noise restrictions?

This is a good question to ask your wedding venue because some towns have noise ordinances that prohibit outdoor music past a certain time. Definitely ask this question if your wedding is in a residential area, or a protected space like a park or beach. You don’t want to cut your party short because the cops show up and tell you to turn it down.  

26. Does the venue have a preferred DJ or band? 

If your wedding venue only allows a DJ or band from their vendor list, scope out those options beforehand. You don’t want to be stuck with a lame band because you didn’t research them before signing a contract.

Speaking of music, check out our checklists for DJs and bands before you book one.

27. What is the electricity set up like at the venue?

It might seem silly to ask about the electricity set up at the wedding venue, but consider that your DJ, extra speakers, photographer, photo booth, lighting will all need outlets with sufficient power. Historic homes or outdoor venues may not be equipped to handle that. Find out before you book so you don’t have to choose between your sound or your lighting!

wedding dress hung up in a room with blue and white wallpaper

In conclusion

Now that you’re prepared to find the perfect venue, check out our other checklists to make sure you are prepared for your other vendor interviews.

Not sure what you can afford when booking your venue?

You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.

Jennifer Woolfe

Jennifer Woolfe is a writer in Jacksonville, Florida who planned, catered, and DJ'd her own small AirBnb wedding in 2018. So she knows a thing or two about DIYing on a budget. She's also a mother of two children.

Recent Posts

Cookie Consent Banner by Real Cookie Banner