STOP! Don't sign that contract!
So you found the venue of your dreams, eh? Now you're ready to sit down, sign the contract, and start planning right? WRONG. You do not want to purchase based on emotion and I know most women do this. Heck, I do this. It's the same thing as having 8 million pairs of shoes in your closet you never wear or a bag you've never touched. It is 'just perfect' when your eyes see it but it goes unused because in the end, it just wasn't practical. This can apply to wedding vendors as well. I know you've all read this from me before but the wedding industry eats this up! They want to sell to you based on emotion!
Now, don't get me wrong. I am not saying you can't have that big, beautiful venue you saw last week. I'm saying there are questions you should ask before you sign the check.
Question #1: What do their prices include?
You'll find yourself really saving money on venues that include linens, tables, chairs, etc. A lot of unexpected costs start to surface after your 'love at first sight' reaction is gone and will only end up stressing you out. A lot of the time your caterer will provide dishes but some don't. Make sure you attack these costs before signing your name on the dotted line for a $5,000+ venue. Once you figured out your budget for the venue along with tables, chairs, dishes, etc. you can actually look at how great of a deal you're getting.
Question #2: Who will be taking care of everything the day of?
I got lucky. My venue is providing a wedding day coordinator. You want to make sure you have this sort of thing figured out before. The last thing you want to do is miscommunicate and end up signing your own vendors in while you have rollers in your hair. If they don't offer these services, either consider looking somewhere that does or budget in the cost of a wedding coordinator.
Question #3: Do they have a plan B?
What if it rains? What if it snows? What if you planned on a 50 degree day and it's 102? Having a plan B or a backup weather plan is crucial. You obviously can't predict what the weather will be like 4 months before your actual wedding day. If something goes wrong, make sure the venue has a plan B and make sure you like it!
Question #4: What is their maximum capacity?
If you have fallen in love with this venue, you want to make sure they will allow all of your guests. If you have 300 people attending and the maximum capacity is 125, obviously you've run into a problem and will either have to reconsider your guest list or your choice in this venue.
Question #5: Are you given time the day before for bridal portraits and the rehearsal dinner?
You're going to want to have a run through of the wedding sometime during the week of. Having your rehearsal take place at the venue will help you know how things should go the day of the wedding. I would definitely recommend it.
Question #6: What happens when the clock strikes 12?
Figure out if your venue has a curfew. A lot of venues, especially in the city, respect courtesy hours. Ask them when your time is up so you can plan your ceremony and reception accordingly instead of running into any surprises.
Question #7: Do they have mandatory/recommended vendors?
It is always good to ask if they have recommended vendors, but what happens if they don't give you a choice? Well that stinks, you had your heart set on that caterer downtown! This pushes you to make a decision. Do you want that caterer downtown or this venue?
Question #8: Do they have restrictions on glass?
You don't want to purchase cases and cases of bottled beer only to get to the door and realize you misread a line in the contract. A lot of outdoor venues have a restriction on glass. Make sure you ask questions about their restrictions before making major purchases.
This should get you started! Don't be afraid to ask questions and make sure what you wanted wasn't just a knee-jerk reaction. What questions did you run into when consulting with your venue?