Your Complete Guide to Successful Wedding Venue Site Tours
There’s no doubt about it - searching for a wedding venue is great fun, but picking the option that works best for you can be an intimidating process. Site tours are one of the most important steps you can take toward booking a venue, and it’s important to come to a tour with a goal in mind and a wedding venue checklist in hand.
Explore our ultimate wedding venue checklist:
This breakdown takes you step by step through the process of choosing which wedding venues to visit, scheduling and preparing for a tour, and gathering all the information you’ll need to make the best possible decision.
Wedding venue checklist part 1: most frequently asked questions
Let’s clear up some of your most burning questions about wedding venues, wedding venue checklists, and other key factors.
1. What should a wedding venue include?
No matter what size wedding or wedding budget you’re working with, you can expect your wedding venue to include: an area for the ceremony, an audience space, and two separate lounge spaces for both sides of the wedding party to get ready in. Ideally your venue would also include convenient valet service, catering, and even reception options.
2. How long does it take to tour a wedding venue?
Most wedding venue tours last about 45 minutes to an hour for a standard visit and consultation with the guide. If your venue is being held on an extensive property (think estates, farms, and university campuses), you should budget an additional hour or two.
3. How far in advance can you book a wedding venue?
A good rule of thumb for a wedding venue in high demand, during wedding season (late spring to early fall), and/or in a highly populated area is that it will likely book out approximately 9 to 12 months ahead of time. Which means you’ll want to tour venues about 15 months ahead of time. If more than one of these factors affect your wedding, you should start booking tours as much as 18 to 24 months out.
4. How much do wedding planners cost?
Some wedding venues might offer planning services as well, which is something to consider before you start your research. This helpful guide to wedding planner costs goes over the most common types of wedding planner packages and their relative prices.
Wedding venue checklist part 2: when and how to schedule a tour
Another great tip for your wedding venue checklist is to visit your prospective venues around the same season and time that you’d like to host your wedding. Dreaming of a fresh spring wedding with a morning ceremony? Schedule your site visit on an early spring morning to get an accurate look at the place. Venues take on new character depending on the time of year, and even the time of day, that you’re getting married.
To schedule the site visit tour, all you have to do is follow the instructions on the venue website. The process will vary location to location, but for the most part their page should list the best way to contact them and what materials they’ll ask you to bring. Some experts even recommend booking the tour visit before you officially decide on a wedding date. That way your options will still be open and you can pick the wedding venue that you love, then schedule the rest of your plans around it.
Wedding venue checklist part 3: preparation
The last big step before we actually get to the site itself is to answer these important questions for yourself to focus your search and eliminate some of your current options.
1. Get an accurate quote
Rather than going off the venue’s minimum cost, get an accurate quote that factors in the venue’s full breakdown of costs. These quotes consider a multitude of factors, including things like your target guest count, the time of the year you’re hosting the event, and more. A detailed quote helps you better understand how a venue fits into your budget (and how much bang you’d be getting for your buck). Spot Estimates can be a great way to ballpark the cost of a venue before you even set foot on site!
2. Determine the venue’s true capacity
If the venue has only given you a general capacity number, find out whether that number is based on sitting or standing room. Most venues provide a seemingly straightforward headcount, but sometimes the number of guests a venue can accommodate varies depending on if you hope to host a standing cocktail-style affair or a seated soiree.
Also, they might have a minimum and maximum headcount needed to officially book a date after you’ve put down the deposit. If they do, ask them when they need to know and what documentation they’ll accept as proof.
3. Explore your ceremony options
Hope to have your ceremony and reception on the same site? Find out if the venue can accommodate this. If they have a ceremony site available, determine if you’d need to pay an additional fee for the site, how close the site is to the reception space, the site’s capacity, and other important details that will give you an idea of how the two spaces could work together and fit into your greater vision of the big day.
4. Talk details around alcohol and catering
Identify any restrictions prospective venues have around alcohol and catering. Does the venue have a liquor license or do they only offer beer and wine? Is the venue BYOB or do they offer robust bar packages? You’ll want to pinpoint any constraints around catering as well. Does the venue require you to work with a specific vendor? If the venue provides their own catering services, what menu options do you have? Understanding these rules and restrictions can help you create a menu that works best for you and your guests.
5. Ask about coordination services
Find out if coordination services are included in the venue cost. Having a wedding planner or coordinator built into the cost of your venue can be a huge plus for couples who want to kick back and enjoy their big day without worrying about the little details. On the other hand, if you like playing host and want to keep costs to a minimum, searching for a simple venue that doesn’t include coordination services can be a great way to save money.
Wedding venue checklist part 4: 7 things you must do during your tour
It’s finally time! Here’s what you’ll need to do during the visit. You can even print this wedding venue checklist and bring it with you!
1. Get a peek behind the scenes
While it’s easy to be dazzled by a venue’s beautiful locations, site visits present the perfect opportunity to see what the back-of-house facilities are like. Is there extra storage for anything that needs to be put away during the event? Are the bathrooms clean? Is the parking convenient? Can the venue’s kitchen accommodate your catering needs? These questions are important because, after all, the back-of-house facilities and the people in them are what make your wedding day run smoothly.
2. Talk about lighting options
The venue manager should go over this category with you along with what options they have available that are either included in the rental or can be added on. In addition to those considerations, make sure to ask about things like: are flame candles allowed or are you limited to battery-powered ones? How many outlets will you have access to inside and outside, and where are they located? How many extension cords can they offer you, if any? Is there a venue electrician you can collaborate with or is there anyone you’re supposed to run your lighting plans by ahead of the big day?
3. Bring up permits and licenses
This includes alcohol, noise, and anything else you think might affect the property or neighbors (like confetti cannons, hot air balloon rentals, sparklers, etc.). Who is responsible for acquiring those? If the facility is in the process of obtaining one, when do they expect to receive it? If it’s within 3 months of your wedding, make sure the contract states how the issue will be taken care of if the permit or license is late.
4. Discuss guest transportation options in detail
Convenience, ease of access, and travel time between venues and parking lots will all play a large role in your wedding day schedule. You might have other questions related to transportation on your mind, depending on how you envision your ceremony, but these questions should give you a head start and spark some other ideas as well. So make sure you ask about the following, in whatever way it applies to your specific situation:
Does the wedding venue offer valet services?
Is there convenient public transportation available?
If the parking lot is separate from the facility, does the venue offer shuttle service?
What transportation options are available between the wedding venue and any main hotels your out-of-town guests will be staying at?
Is traffic an important consideration for those driving? What about weather for this particular time of year?
Are there any major events (such as football games, local music festivals, major business conferences, etc.) happening at the same time as your wedding that may affect the availability of taxis, ride shares, or rental cars?
What is the max capacity for venue parking lots?
If it will be dark when the guests arrive or leave, will there be enough lighting for them to safely get from the venue to the parking lot and vice versa?
5. Talk about financial logistics
Now is the time to discuss deposits, payment plans, and refund policies. Are there late fees? What forms of payment do they accept? What kinds of post event issues do they routinely inspect for and what responsibilities will your party have for cleaning fees, damages, etc.? What about other contract details that didn’t quite make sense on paper?
Then there’s the package. What kind of equipment or services is included? Do they bundle vendors in too? If not, can you choose your own caterers, bar tenders, staff, etc.? What about local hotels, travel agencies, and entertainment - do they have strategic partnerships in place that could benefit your budget?
6. Get details about space access and day of scheduling
There might be mezzanine, gazebo, and even kitchen spaces that you’re interested in. Or you may want to get in the space early for a rehearsal or just to spend extra time getting ready. Plus, there are vendors, caterers, and coordinators to consider.
Does the venue have any flexibility around these types of issues if there is a conflict? Also, make sure you ask about how early you can load in decorations (the week or day before or the morning of?) and how late you can finish cleaning up (does it have to be within an hour of the ceremony ending or can it wait until the next day?). What about competing events - if another one is scheduled on the same day, will there be a representative on site to coordinate the switch?
7. Figure out all the bad weather options
For example, you might hold the ceremony inside but host the reception outside. If it rains, does the venue have any tents, waterproof outdoor lighting fixtures, and last minute Plan B indoor space to accommodate your entire party? Or, if your wedding takes place during the colder months, do they have an area set up for coat check?
Also, be sure to check in about handicap accessibility inside and outside the building. Are they set up to help your guests during bad weather conditions with things like awnings, non-slip ramps, and extra rugs?
UP NEXT: Here’s how to stick to your wedding budget.