Finding a wedding venue is one of the first things that you need to do when planning your wedding. The wedding ceremony site and reception venue is the foundation for your wedding celebrations, so it’s important to pick a site that fits you, your budget and the day you have dreamed of.
Finding the perfect wedding venue
You might already have a short list dreamed up in your head, or there may be a few hours of research to find a venue that's not traditionally a wedding venue - but whatever you decide, you should ask the venue (and yourself) some questions, to get an idea of what costs, effort and restrictions may come with the venue you pick.
Below we've compiled a comprehensive list of the questions you should be asking your wedding venue (and yourself) before making any decisions about where to hold your wedding. For a really comprehensive list, get yourself the Wedding Vendor Worksheets. It's got detailed worksheets for picking all your key wedding vendors, especially your wedding venues.
Questions for the wedding venue – Applicable for ceremony & reception venues
- Location in relation to bulk of guests – i.e. consider the further away you hold your wedding the less guests will be able to attend. Decide if you want a local wedding with everyone there vs a destination wedding with very few guests
- Is there a range of accommodation options nearby (If far away from many guests)
- How will your guests get to and from the venue(s)
- Have family or close friends been married there? You may want to avoid
- Proximity to concert venues, A & P Showgrounds etc – check wedding date with events going on in nearby venues, as they could affect accommodation, travel, noise and availability of hire items
- What sort of traffic can you expect to get at this venue (Cars or on Foot. I went to a ceremony in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens where members of the public walked past talking loudly, unaware a wedding ceremony was being held literally meters away)
- Is it available on the day(s) we want to get married
- If it's outside - is there a wet weather alternative? (Check out additional considerations you'll need to make for an outdoor wedding with no wet weather alternative here)
- How much does it cost to hire the venue
- How many people can the venue accommodate (check if this includes staff as sometimes the limit the building can hold includes bar staff etc)
- What hours is that for?
- What are payment terms, i.e. what sort of deposit is required and when is final account settled?
- What is the cancellation policy?
- Does this cost include or exclude GST
- Are there reduced rates for winter or weekdays
- What is the parking like for my guests
- Is it wheelchair accessible
- Is it aesthetically pleasing, or will we need to decorate to jazz it up
- If decorating – what will this cost us if you do it, or if we do it, when can we access the venue to decorate (sometimes only get access the day of the wedding - you'll want to be getting ready then)
- What staffing/support is on hand for set up? During the wedding? Post-wedding?
- What items am I likely to have to hire in? Tables, utensils, chairs, or just décor?
- Who packs up/cleans up afterwards? If you can do it, is this included in the hire price or an additional cost
Questions specific to the ceremony venues
- Where will the sun be positioned during the ceremony
- Are we close to nice photo locations
- Are there suitable spots for family/group photos
- Does the venue supply a sound system or can they give us any advice on acoustics
- Is there seating available for family/elderly guests
Questions specific to reception venues
- Is there space for a band or DJ
- Are there noise constraints
- What are guests looking at spending on a taxi from venue to center of town
- Do they have the brand of beer my fiancé drinks (One venue we looked at didn’t stock Speights! Needless to say, we went elsewhere!)
Questions to ask the reception venue about Food
- Do they have an on-site caterer/chef or do we need to arrange our own caterer?
- Do they have a kitchen? (If not, you will be limited to the types of food service available, i.e. plated or alternate drop requires a kitchen)
- Is there a range of menus?
- Will the menu be able to cater to different dietary needs (vegetarian, celiac)
- Will we need to inform the caterers in advance of dietary requirements, or can they cope with these requests on the night?
Questions to ask the reception venue about Alcohol
- Do they allow BYO
- Are you fully licenced
- What’s the corkage fee – is it per person, per bottle or a set charge
- What happens to half drunk bottles of wine, or left overs?
- Do I need to hire glasses or will venue arrange
- Do I need to arrange bar staff
- Do I need to arrange a duty manager (I know of at least one venue who doesn’t supply this)
- Do they allow BYO toasting wine (some venues will say no to general BYO but will allow toasting wine as it’s usually a more specialised/expensive drop to what they offer)
- Do you do alcohol packages
This list probably looks overwhelming, but there are lots of things to consider, so take your time. We highly recommend working your way through the exercises and worksheets in the Wedding Vendor Worksheets to ensure you make the right decision.
The worksheets also include questionnaires for selecting other key wedding vendors like celebrants, caterers and your wedding photographer.
Are there any other questions you’d like to add to this list? Comment below with any questions we've missed or handy questions you asked.