1. What is my overall budget?
You want to have a good idea of what you'd like to spend for your overall wedding budget and what percentage of your budget will be going to your venue. Consider what's involved in the venue fee and make sure you have enough left over in your budget to hire remaining vendors and any other extras like tables and chairs that may not be included with your venue.
2. How many guests am I expecting?
It would be tragic to have family and friends come from far away only to run out of space because of a growing guest list and book a venue that doesn't comfortably accommodate your guests! Ask your venue what the maximum capacity is for their space while also factoring in a dance floor and arranging tables and chairs so guests aren't eating on top of each other! Also think about what's Plan B if you plan to have any part of your wedding outside, and make sure that if you have to move from outdoors to hold part of your wedding inside, that the indoor space has the capacity to hold all of your guests in the event of inclement weather. Otherwise, some of your guests may wind up standing throughout your ceremony!
3. Does the venue have a Plan B option for ceremony / reception?
As mentioned before, you definitely want to have a backup plan if the weather doesn't quite cooperate as you hoped for your outdoor wedding. That could be anything from rain, wind, sleet, snow, cold temperatures or extreme heat! Does your venue have an alternative indoor ceremony or reception space? What is the protocol when it comes to making the call to move inside? Is it something the venue decides for you or do they try to give you the option to make that call yourself (i.e. continuing with your outdoor ceremony if there are just a few sprinkles of rain)? Most importantly, would you be fine with moving inside if you had to? If the indoor aesthetics aren't anything that you love, keep that in mind when you make your final decision to pick a venue. You don't want to be disappointed on your wedding day!
4. What is the venue's decor policy?
Many venues do not allow open flame candles. They must be covered or allow smaller votive candles. If you're dreaming of a romatic candle-lit dinner with tons of taper candles, you'll want to be clear on the venue's policy. Same goes for sparkler exits and confetti! Know what type of decorating is and is not allowed, and weigh the pros and cons of using that venue if they don't allow any must-have decor pieces you have your heart set on.
5. Am I allowed to bring in an outside caterer or do I have to use the in-house caterer or a preferred vendor?
If you had high hopes for using a specific caterer, you'll want to make sure the venue allows them to work at the venue. Each venue has different rules about this, and if they do have an in-house caterer, you may find yourself paying extra to use someone else. The venue might also require all outside caterers to have a certain dollar value in liability insurance, something you'll need to know ahead of time and make sure the caterer you choose can provide proof of prior to your wedding day.
6. How many hours do I get at the venue?
If you're thinking about getting ready at your venue, do they include that as part of the venue rental hours or do they allow you to get ready on-site as early as you need? Do they even have a bridal suite on-site or will you need to have a getting-ready location prior to the ceremony, like a hotel or local bed and breakfast? How much setup and breakdown time do you get, and are those hours included as part of your total rental hours or are the rental hours just factoring in the amount of time for your event (ceremony, cocktail hour and reception)? Knowing these details ahead of time will help keep you from paying any fees for going over your time limit at the venue!
Photo Credit: Brett Denfeld Photography