Since the reception will eat up 40 to 50 percent of your wedding budget, you'll want to really evaluate every facility or event space you visit. Here's what to ask.
1. Is My Preferred Date Available?
Rather than have only one date in mind, be flexible and have a few.
2. Can I have both my ceremony and reception here? Would they be in the same room?
Make sure you take a thorough look at all rooms that would be available to you on your wedding day.
3. Will your facility be able to comfortably accommodate my entire guest list?
Everyone should have enough room to mingle, eat, and dance. Ask how many bathrooms are available and if any are handicap-accessible.
4. What are your catering options and prices? What's included in the packages?
The choices may be a cocktail reception, brunch, lunch, and dinner, either buffet-style or seated.
5. How many hours do I have the space/room for?
Eight hours is typical—five hours for the reception and three hours for setting up/breaking down.
6. Will any construction projects be happening on my wedding day?
If the answer is yes, get more details on how extensive the banging and building will be.
7. Are gratuities included in the price?
Some caterers tack on an 18 percent gratuity, which should be clearly stated in your contract.
8. What's the overtime rate? What's the deposit and payment schedule?
These should be spelled out in your contract.
9. What's the cancellation policy? Is the deposit refundable?
Even if you know you won't need this information, get it in writing anyway.
10. Do you have insurance? Do we need permits?
A caterer or reception site should have adequate insurance but if not, you'll want to take out a policy for the duration of time you'll be using the space. Permits are often required for using public spaces like a park.
11. Do you have a contract?
If a site doesn't offer you a contract or if it doesn't list specifics, be wary. For your peace of mind, you'd be better off taking your business to a more professional establishment.
12. Are there any restrictions?
Ask about policies regarding minimum and maximum guest capacities, handicap accessibility, noise, flash photography, child limitations, and use of alcohol or red wine.
13. Can I hire an outside caterer or do you have an approved list?
Event spaces like museums and theaters don't provide the food and drink so they'll either let you pick a caterer on your own or from their vetted list.
14. Can I bring in my own liquor?
It could save you a ton of money since there will be no markup by the caterer; however, you'll likely be charged a corkage fee, which is the price you'll pay for the waiters to open and pour your wine and liquor. Plan on $10 and up per bottle.
15. How much square footage is there for a band or DJ and dancing?
Having a party in an elegant but small mansion with entertainment provided by a 10-piece band won't work logistically. So prioritize: What's more important to you, the site or the band? Adjust your planning accordingly.
16. What are your electrical power specs? Where are the outlets?
If it's not enough to power the band or dj's equipment, you'll have to supplement. Outlet location is important because it'll determine how you set up the room (dj, photo booth).
17. Can we bring in our own décor?
Some historical facilities may forbid any decorations but flowers. Others ban candles and confetti.
18. Which staff member will be our point person?
After you sign a contract, you should have the contact info for someone on staff to call with any questions. Since the person will have gotten to know you, he or she should also be running the show at your wedding.
19. How many other events might be happening at the same time as mine?
You want to be sure your guests know where to go and don't crash someone else's wedding!
20. Which of the following are included in the price?
- Site rental
- Coat check
- Dressing room
- Ceremony seating
- Kitchen equipment
- Sound system
- Tables and chairs
- Cutting the cake