Event Planning For Beginners, Part 3: The Venue

Previously, our Event Planning for Beginners series has covered creating your event budget and the steps to planning your event. In this week’s post, we are diving deeper into one of the most important aspects of your event – the venue. Your chosen venue can make or break your event. Depending on your desired location, your venue options could be overwhelming. So, here are a list of a few questions you should ask each venue to help you make your decision.

Is the venue available on your date?

This seems like a no-brainer, right? But seriously, there is no need to even tour a venue or go any further with the questions if the venue isn’t available for your chosen date. Unless, of course you are will to change your date for the perfect venue. Keep in mind that desirable location can book months, if not years, in advance, so booking a venue should be high on your list of priorities.

Are there any décor restrictions?

Most venues will have some restrictions on the décor you are allowed to use. For instance, some may allow candles so long as they are contained in glass holders. But other venues may not allow any open flames at all. You may also want to ask about restrictions on wall hangings. Obviously, venues won’t allow you to put nail holes in their walls, but ask about more temporary solutions like command strips or tape.

What is included with the venue’s fee?

Answers to this question will vary widely. Therefor, you will likely need to ask for clarification in many instances. For example, if “wait staff” is included, what does that mean exactly? The answer could mean a big difference in your budget if you have to hire additional wait staff out of pocket. You will also need to find out if tables and chairs are included, or available for an additional fee. If not, you will have to make arrangements with an outside rental company.

Are outside food and drink allowed?

Many venues require that you use their kitchen and bar to serve your guests. While this is convenient, it may be expensive and leaves you at the mercy of their menu. If they don’t allow outside food and drink, ask for more information about their menu and prices for food and drink. If they do allow outside caterers, ask about amenities (kitchen, refrigerators, etc.) available for them during your event. In addition, if you do plan on serving alcohol, make sure the venue is properly insured for liability. Some venues may require you to purchase liability insurance for the event.

Is there a hotel nearby?

This is especially important if you are hosting an evening event and/or plan to serve alcohol at your event. Of course, you want all of your guests to make it back to their hotel safely after your event and a nearby hotel helps ensure that. Also, find out if nearby hotels offer a complimentary shuttle to and from your event. Not only will a shuttle help ensure your guests’ safe arrival to their hotel, but it will also free up parking space for guests who are commuting.

What are the parking accommodations?

Most venues will have more than enough parking, but the real question is how far will your guests have to walk? If the distance from the parking lot to your event is significant or the trek includes hills, grass, gravel or any combination of these things, you should probably offer valet parking. Again, this will depend on the formality of your event, but in general it is a good gesture that enhances guests’ impression of your event.

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list of everything you should ask a venue before writing that deposit check, but hopefully this will get your conversation with each venue off to a good start. Remember, no amount of conversation over the phone or via email should replace doing a tour before committing to a venue. Tune in next week as we continue our Event Planning for Beginners series with more information on staffing your event. Until then, happy planning!