During your search for the perfect wedding venue, you've likely come across a variety of different rental agreements and fee types. As some of these fee structures can be downright confusing, we're here to explain one of the most common costs brides and grooms will run into: The venue site fee (otherwise known as a booking cost, day-use fee, rental cost, or exclusive use fee) is a line item that will appear on nearly every big-day contract, but very few couples understand much about it. Why? Because they vary both in meaning and value at every property, so you'll want to be sure you have a clear idea of what to expect.
What's a venue site fee exactly?
Site fees are meant to cover the rental cost of your venue, and almost any space you're considering for your big day will charge one. Expect to see higher site fees from venues that simply provide a space with minimal additional services. For instance, a private estate where you have to bring everything in to make a temporary event space for your wedding day is likely to charge a site fee that can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Similarly, venues that operate as businesses other than a wedding venue—like a winery, concert hall, or art gallery—will likely charge the couple a site fee that makes up for the income they would have generated had they been open to the public. That doesn't mean every venue has major ones, though; hotels and restaurants may have lower site fees, as they're also making money by providing you with other services like catering and staffing.
What does a site fee cover?
Site fees vary from venue to venue, so it's important to discuss what's included in yours before signing on the dotted line. In most cases, a site fee is meant to cover general maintenance and upkeep of the grounds, which could include things like landscaping, electricity and water bills, and wear and tear on the property. The fee likely also implies that there will be a venue manager handling visits to the property and general admin, liaising with both you and your wedding vendors. Depending on the property, this fee may include use of some tables, chairs, furniture, and tabletop décor, and day-of setup fees. Small amenities like restroom supplies or larger must-haves like a pop-up tent for rain may be included, too.
What does a site fee not cover?
Most venue site fees don't cover things like damage, which is typically assessed on a per-issue basis. Garbage removal is a service that venues usually require the catering team to deal with, but there's a chance it's included. A site fee may cover parking, but it's unlikely that shuttles and transportation or valet services will be included. In fact, some venues may require your guests to arrive via shuttles and buses in compliance with their insurance coverage.
Why are site fees often non-negotiable?
Venue owners and managers operate a business, which means it's important they make a profit. While there may be a little wiggle room on pricing, or you may be able to discuss an extra day to get rentals removed from the property, it's unlikely you'll find a lot of negotiation power when it comes to site fees.