Congratulations! You’re engaged! Once brides get engaged and the wedding planning begins, the venue and date are typically the first two things they check off their list. Venues book fast so your wedding date will probably be determined by the availability of your dream venue. With so many things happening at once, you may forget to ask your potential wedding venue a few very important questions in fear that your wedding date may book before you decide if the venue is right for you. Here are 10 Things You Need To Know Before Booking Your Wedding Venue.

1. Are Sparkler Exits Allowed?

I’ve heard it several times from brides. The disappointing sound in their voice after they find out they can not have a sparkler exit. A few venues in the area do not allow sparklers because you can’t play with fire! Sparklers seem fun and innocent but quickly become a huge fire hazard when young children, drunk guests, and dry leaves are around. Several wedding venues in the area are part of NOVA Parks so when you’re in Northern Virginia Park Land, you absolutely can not risk starting a fire!

2. Photos at the Venue.

If you’re hoping to have your first look or bridal party portraits at your venue before the ceremony, when and were can you do that? Will you have access to the space before your wedding? In my experience as a wedding photographer, I need at least 3 hours of coverage time before the ceremony begins to photograph getting ready to portraits. Some venues allow you to be there at 8am while others don’t allow you on the property until an hour or two hour before the ceremony. This could potentially be a huge issue if you had your heart set on your bridal party portraits or getting ready portraits at the venue.

3. Rain/ Backup Plan.

Lets say you’ve found the perfect venue. Gorgeous views, enough room for all of your guests, lovely bridal suite but there is just one potentially major problem. The venue has no rain plan or no plan if there is extreme weather such as a hurricane, scorching hot, or blistering cold. Planning a wedding is stressful enough but having a venue with no rain/ backup plan is even more stressful especially if you’re planning an outdoor wedding! If your wedding day is calling for inclement weather having peace of mind knowing your venue can provide a back up plan is such a huge relief. Also ask if the backup plan costs anything additional since setup can set 2-3 hours.

4. Coordinator.

Some venues come with a reception coordinator. Other venues require you to hire either a month-of or day-of coordinator to help your wedding day go as smooth as possible. Whether your venue comes with a coordinator or not, it’s always a good idea to have at least a day-of coordinator!

5. Number of Guests.

Make sure to tell your venue how many guests you plan on inviting. You want to be sure that the venue can fit every guest on your list. More than 80% of your guest list will come to your wedding so it’s always best to overestimate so that you aren’t in a pickle when the final RSVP’s come in.

6. Other Weddings on your Wedding Date.

I recently started realizing that a few venues I’ve photographed at have early and late weddings. Yes, two weddings at the same venue on the same day! Ask your potential wedding venue if they are hosting any other events that day, where they are taking place, and what the timing of those events are. Once you find out those answers and you want to move forward with the venue, make sure your florist, rental vendor, wedding planner, and most importantly your photographer know that they will have a very tight time schedule to work with.

7. What Does the Venue Look Like The Month You’re Getting Married.

When you’re looking for venues, you may be looking in the summer months but not getting married until December. Does your venue still have the same lighting and aesthetic you’re going for? Ask to see photos from the time of year as well as the time of day you’re getting married to make sure you know what you’re getting.

8. Accommodations.

If your elder grandparents or disabled friend/ family member is coming to your wedding, make sure the venue is handicap accessible. How devastating would it be if they couldn’t witness you say “I Do!”

9. Find Out If The Venue Is Full Service. 

There really are two different types of wedding venues, full service and not full service. A full service wedding venue offers everything from table and chair rentals, to linens and catering supplies, while a non-full service wedding venue only offer the space. It is up to you to fill in the rest. This means you will be responsible for booking all of the vendors for the wedding day. Either way, some venues have required vendors that they want you to work with, so that is something to figure out before you the book space. Working with venue-required vendors such as caters, rental companies, and event designers does not give you the option of “shopping” around and finding a quote that meets your budget.

10. Ask, Ask, and Ask Again.

Making a list and asking all the questions you have about a venue is important but not as important as asking that same question to multiple people associated with the venue. Depending on who you ask and what their role is you might get different answers, so make sure you ask your questions to everyone — from the catering manager, to the business manager, to the day-of coordinator. Important questions that you might not think to ask are, “Who will be here helping me the actual day of the wedding? Do you have any construction or landscape changes coming up before my wedding? Do you anticipate any changes to the venue before the wedding day?” Just when you think you have asked enough questions, ask again and then of course get everything in writing!

Now that you know the 10 Things You Need To Know Before Booking Your Wedding Venue, hopefully you will have complete peace of mind and confidence when booking your wedding venue!

Sarah Botta is a Northern Virginia based wedding photographer whose work can be described as organic, natural, and timeless. Sarah specializes in capturing people’s stories and building connections with each client to help tell their story. Sarah has photographed over 55 weddings across Virginia and Maryland from rustic outdoor ceremonies to elaborate estate mansion receptions. Her natural timeless style shines brightest with outdoor locations. Sarah is available for travel and is passport ready.