You found a venue you LOVE on HereComesTheGuide.com, so you decide to schedule a tour. Great! Here are some tips on getting the most out of your site visit:
Our top tip? Know what questions to ask. Be sure to print out our handy-dandy PDF of Questions to Ask your Wedding Venue before you go on your site tours.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it bears mentioning: Rather than just driving by or dropping in, we recommend you make an actual appointment to tour the wedding venues you're interested in. Sometimes an unremarkable-looking building will surprise you with a secluded garden or hidden courtyard. And sometimes the opposite is true—you'll love the stunning façade, but the interior isn't your style. Plus, getting escorted around a property for a private tour is a great perk of wedding planning!
If you're interested in a mansion or private estate, many of the owners withhold the addresses of their privately-owned properties. Should you happen to know where any of these facilities is located, we urge you to respect the owner's or manager's privacy and make an appointment instead of stopping by.
When you do call for an appointment, don't forget to ask for specific directions, including cross streets. You can also look up the location online and print out a detailed street map, or use a trusted GPS. If you're touring multiple venues in a day, try to cluster your visits so that you can easily drive from one place to another without backtracking. Schedule at least an hour per venue visit and leave ample driving time. You want to be efficient, but don't over-schedule yourself. It's best to view places when you're fresh and your judgment isn't clouded by fatigue.
Bring a notebook—paper or digital!
When you're talking with a venue representative, have a small notebook or digital device handy. Keep track of the date, time and name of the person providing the information, and then read back the info to the site representative to confirm that what you heard is correct. Remember to have your notes with you when you review your contract, and go over in detail what you were told versus what's in the contract before you sign anything.
Video is particularly useful for narrating your likes, dislikes and any other observations while you're shooting a venue. However, if you're just taking still photos, make sure you have a system for matching shots to their respective venues. You'd be surprised how easy it is to confuse photos—especially after several site visits when everything starts to look the same! Make sure your phone or other digital device is charged and bring whatever else you need to make it all work properly.
Many venues will hand you pamphlets, menus, rate charts, preferred vendor guides and other materials. Develop a system for sorting and storing the information that keeps your notes, photos and handouts together, clearly labeled and easily accessible. A wedding binder with tabs for each venue you're interested in is a great way to keep yourself organized.
Bring a checkbook or credit card.
Some of the more attractive venues book a year to 18 months in advance. If you actually fall in love with a location and your date is available, plunk down a deposit to hold the date. Love at first sight is totally possible when it comes to wedding venues.
Confirm all the details.
Once you've determined that the physical elements of the venue suit you, it's time to discuss details. Ask about services and amenities or fees that may not be obvious and make a note of them. Outline your plans to the venue representative and make sure that the facility can accommodate your particular needs. If you don't want to handle all the details yourself, find out what the facility is willing and able to do, and if there will be an additional cost for their assistance. Venues often provide planning services for little or no extra charge. If other in-house services are offered, such as flowers or wedding cakes, inquire about the quality of each service provider and whether or not substitutions can be made. If you want to use your own vendors, find out if the facility will charge you an extra fee. For more help with working with a location, see our Questions to ask a Wedding Venue.
Feel the warm fuzzies.
Another factor to consider is your rapport with the person(s) you're working with. Are you comfortable with them? Do they listen well and respond to your questions directly? Do they inspire trust and confidence? Are they warm and enthusiastic or cold and aloof? If you have doubts, you need to resolve them before embarking on a working relationship with these folks—no matter how wonderful the facility itself is. Discuss your feelings with them, and if you're still not completely satisfied, get references and call them. If at the end of this process you still have lingering concerns, you may want to eliminate the venue from your list even though it seems perfect in every other way.
On the other hand, don't let your rapport with a banquet coordinator or site rep sway you to book a venue you aren't in love with—there's a lot of turnover in the hospitality industry, and you may call Brittany one day only to—surprise!—be referred to Brian. So if Brittany was your main reason for choosing this place, you could be in for a big disappointment if you and Brian don't hit it off and suddenly the venue's shortcomings really stand out.
Make it official.
It's easy to get emotionally attached to a wedding venue, but remember that it's not a done deal until you sign a contract. Now's the time to be businesslike and put your emotions aside. If you can't do that, get a non-emotional partner, friend or relative to help you review the small print and negotiate changes before you sign. Remember all those notes you took when you first visited the site? Compare them with what's actually written in the contract. No matter what someone told you about the availability of a dance floor, the price of pastel linens, or the ceremony arch, you can't hold the facility to it until the contract is signed. Places revise their prices and policies all the time, so assume that things may have changed since you originally saw the site or talked to a site representative.
If you're not happy with the contract, prepare to negotiate. Before your appointment with whoever has the power to alter the contract, make an itemized list, in order of importance, of the changes you want. Decide what you're willing to give up, and what you can't live without. If in the end the most important things on your list cannot be addressed to your satisfaction, this is probably not the right place for you. It's better to find another location than to stay with a facility that isn't willing to work with you.
For a list of questions to ask potential wedding venues, click here.
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Some clients may have paid to be placed in our editorial and some of these links may be affiliate; however, we never include a venue, vendor, or product unless they have a proper place here. This is part of our Core Values. We create our website first and foremost to be good for the couples using it to plan their Big Day. We won't stray from that for a few advertising dollars. #scoutshonor