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Top Questions to Ask Your Venue Before Booking

When selecting a venue, it can feel like there are a million and one things that need to be considered before making a decision! Here at MDP Events, we strive to help our couples have the best planning experience possible with the least amount of stress! This is why we have compiled a list of what we think are the most important questions to ask a venue during your initial visit! There are lots of questions that you CAN ask, but these questions ensure that you cover every last detail, so that you can make the best decision for your wedding!

The Powel Crosley Estate, Sarasota FL


First things first, you will want to narrow down the venue’s availability, and determine any logistical needs! Further questions may or may not need to be asked depending on the answers to the following:

Is my preferred date available? If not, are there any surrounding dates available?

This is square one and should always be the first question that you ask the venue! Venues book quickly, so try to be flexible with your dates and keep an open mind to other potential dates! Don't shy away from shooting for your dream date, but remember your dream venue may already have that specific date booked!

How many guests can the venue accommodate?

If you are looking to host a 300 person wedding, and your dream venue can only hold 150, you will need to make some adjustments! Knowing your venue’s capacity is critical to saving you time and energy in this process.

You will also want to know What is the maximum comfortable capacity with a DJ versus a band? Bands often take up quite a bit more space than a DJ, and you want to ensure that the space can comfortably accommodate your guest count, AND your entertainment.

Believe it or not, your meal style choice also impacts capacity! A buffet will mean extra tables in your reception area that are not necessary with a plated meal. So if you’re tight on space, a plated meal is a great way to free some up! Knowing your estimated guest count, entertainment preferences, and preferred meal style ahead of time, will help you determine quickly if a venue has the space you need.

The Ringling, Sarasota FL

Can I hold my ceremony here, too? Is there an additional charge? How much time is allotted for the ceremony?

Since not every venue has indoor and/or outdoor ceremony spaces, you will definitely want to check with the venue on your options! Also, make sure to note if there is a ceremony fee as well as an included back-up space. Double check on timing for the ceremony too, because some venues allow as little as 15 minutes. Don’t be afraid to ask what would be impacted if you go over as you will want about 6 hours total for your wedding day including allotted guest arrival time!

How many weddings or events do you host on one day? On one weekend?

Most people don’t realize that venues often host more than one wedding each weekend, and some even host more than one in a day! So what does this mean for you?

Multiple weddings in a weekend may just mean that your rehearsal has to be on Thursday night instead of Friday because they have another wedding that day. If this happens, just be sure to check in with your bridal party to make sure that everyone can make the rehearsal! If you need to, tell your bridal party who they are paired with during the Rehearsal Dinner/Welcome Reception and let your wedding planner show them where they will stand, when to walk, and how to act during the Ceremony on the day of in between photos!

If the venue hosts multiple weddings in a day, ask about options for signage or extra staff to make sure your guests get to the right place! Your wedding planner can always help with these logistics too!

Is this a rental-only venue, or a full-service venue?

The answer to this question will set the stage for many of your vendor selections! A rental-only venue is usually a blank slate, with maybe some tables and chairs. A full-service venue will likely provide everything from tables and chairs, to linens and cloth napkins in your choice of color. Another huge difference between rental-only and full-service is hiring a caterer, versus working with an on-site caterer. We will dive into more on rentals and catering later, but these are some things to keep in mind when looking at these two different types of venues!

The Ritz Carlton, Sarasota FL

How many hours are included in the rental of the space/package? Is there an overtime fee? How many hours are included for set-up and breakdown for vendors to access the space?

Time is money, and most likely your venue prospects have packages that are planned down to the minute! You will want to know how much time is included in your event package, and what is included. Make sure you have enough time for the elements that you want! Short ceremony and lots of dancing?? Do it! Longer ceremony and shorter cocktail hour? Go for it! Know what's included, and then make it work for you! We typically recommend 6 hours for your full event to give a half hour for Guest Arrival, a half hour for Ceremony, an hour for Cocktail Hour, and 4 hours for your Reception!

You also need to make sure that your booking includes time for setup and breakdown. If it doesn’t, ask how much it will be for extra time. Your vendors will make it all look like magic, but they still need time to do their thing! Definitely check in with your wedding planner if you're not sure how much time to book for set-up and breakdown!

Are there dressing rooms available on-site? Do they have private restrooms in them?

If you’re planning to get ready on-site, do an outfit change, or just catch a breath, you will want to make sure there are dressing rooms on-site! Trust us! Plus getting ready on-site saves you the hassle of being transported from a hotel or Airbnb to the venue and allots for more time for photos!

The Resort at Longboat Key Club, Longboat Key FL

What are the rules and regulations of the venue?

This is a broad question that can include anything from noise restrictions, to how close your tables and chairs can be placed to statues and trees in a garden. Be sure to ask your venue what the rules are regarding flames as well, if you plan to use candles as well as restrictions on what you can have for a send-off from your Ceremony or Reception! Sometimes things like rose petals aren’t even allowed, so make sure to ask before you plan out any send-off details!

If the venue is a hotel, what is the process for securing a room block? What are the room night minimums? Are you able to add suites to the block?

We love a one-stop-shop! Ask the venue how to secure a room block for you and your guests. The block will have a set amount of rooms, at a guaranteed rate, and may require a minimum number of nights. Also if you want any suites, be sure to see if those can be added too!

Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg FL


It is always good to go into your venue visits with a budget in mind! There are lots of variables that go into the final wedding cost, so try not to get too hung up on individual costs! Remember that you have options, and keep your must-haves at the top of your list. This will help you strategize on how to fit everything into your wedding budget! All of us vendors understand this is your first time planning a wedding and may not know where to start with a budget, however have some sort of number in mind just as a starting point. As you do your research, the numbers will start to come together even though it is very common for couples to go over budget when they learn all the upgrades and details they can have!

What are the rates for different days of the week and times (Friday, Saturday, Sunday; morning, afternoon, evening)? What about different seasons?

Venue pricing can vary depending on season, day of the week, and sometimes even time of day! While a Saturday evening wedding in February might break the bank, a Sunday brunch wedding in June might be perfect! If you want a certain month, Friday and Sunday nights usually offer a discount over Saturdays, even in peak season! If your favorite venue is a bit out of your price range for your preferred date, and you are flexible, you may consider seeing if you can select something in the off season.

How much is the deposit and when is it due? Is it refundable? What is the structure of the payment schedule? If rules/regulations are broken, what are the consequences/extra charges?

Almost always, your deposit is due when you book your venue, and is non-refundable. Since the pandemic, many venues have updated their cancellation and refund policies, so it is important to confirm the details with each venue you are visiting. Definitely note when payments will be due, including the final payment! Also ask about any fees that may be charged if rules/regulations are not followed!

What is the cancellation policy?

Again, after the pandemic, venues had to re-evaluate their cancellation and refund policies. ALWAYS ask under what circumstances you are able to cancel, and how much of a refund, if any, you can expect to receive!

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota FL


Based on previous questions, you will now want to start considering how your vendor team will fit into the mix! Choosing vendors can be stressful, but understanding your venue’s expectations for your vendors is a great way to get started in the process. Working with an experienced wedding planner is a great way to simplify the vendor selection process as we provide lots of vendor recommendations that fit with your budget, style, and most important pieces of the day!

Can we choose our own vendors, or do you have a preferred or exclusive vendor list? What is required of vendors that have never been to your venue before? (I.E COI)

Some venues have exclusive vendor lists, and won’t allow other vendors into the venue. Check to see if there are any particular vendors including catering, beverages, or rentals that are exclusive to the venue before you book anything! However, many venues simply have preferred vendor lists, which list vendors that they highly recommend to their couples and are familiar with the space! Before you pick your vendors, make sure to know what your venue’s requirements are for preferred vendors, and things like insurance.

Esplanade Lakewood Ranch, Lakewood Ranch FL

Is there a coordinator on staff? Who will be my main contact? When will I get to begin working with them?

You definitely want to know who your venue contact will be! A wedding venue will probably have a coordinator that you work with from booking all the way to your wedding day. However, a hotel may have a wedding sales consultant that hands you off to a banquet/catering coordinator once you have booked. Each venue is a little bit different, so just be sure to confirm who you would be working with if you booked!

What is the back-up plan for inclement weather? Are there options for back-up plans?

If you are planning for any part of your event to be outdoors, there should always be a back-up plan and most importantly, you should love it!! You will want to ask your venue what back-up options are available, in case of bad weather. You will also want to know when the final decision will need to be made. Is it 24 hours before the event? The morning of? Everyone hopes that it will be sunny and 75 on the day of their wedding, but in the event that the weather does not cooperate with your vision, you will want to ensure that you are happy with the alternative!

Tampa River Center, Tampa FL


Everybody remembers the food, right?? Food and beverage is a critical component of your wedding, and will take up a large portion of your budget. Be sure that you are comfortable with your options, and that you know what you are getting for your money!

Do you have on-site catering, or will I need to bring in my own caterer?

This question goes hand in hand with the question regarding a rental-only venue versus a full-service venue! If the venue is full-service, they will have on-site catering, and if they are rental-only, you will need to hire a caterer. If you pick a rental-only venue, your caterer and your wedding planner can help you figure out details like tabletop rentals, tables, chairs, kitchen needs, lighting, and linens.

Are tables, chairs, linens, plates, silverware, and glassware included in my package, or will I have to rent them? Are there upgrade options? If included, what style linens and chairs are offered onsite?

At MDP, we LOVE details, so we suggest asking this question even if you are going with a full-service venue! And who doesn’t love upgrade options? Most full-service venues will offer a few color options for tablecloths and napkins. If you are looking for a color or style that the venue doesn't have, don’t be afraid to check with them to see if they can bring it in for you! The same thing goes for chairs! The venue may offer a certain chair style in your package, but may have an upgraded option available to you as well for a small upcharge! Most of the time venues are outsourcing their rentals so if you want to have a gorgeous textured linen, colored water goblet, and gold beaded charger - do it! (No seriously, do it! We LOVE the details) Just tell your planner or the caterer and they will show you who to reach out to or assist you with getting a quote from the right vendor! You can also work with one or more rental companies from the beginning, if you are looking for speciality rentals! Keep following us for future blogs on all things rentals!

Is there a fee for bringing our own cake or desserts? Is there a cake-cutting/serving fee?

Dessert details are super important! Ask the venue/caterer if cake and/or desserts are included in your package, or if you can bring your own, if you want to. Some venues don’t allow clients to bring in any outside food for safety reasons. If you can bring in your own desserts, you will want to double check if there is a fee for cutting and serving! Don’t forget to ask about what those desserts will be served on, if you need to bring a cake pedestal, and if you have a cake knife and server special to you, use those instead of the caterers! Also find out who will be responsible for setting up your items as well as if coffee service/station is included with your proposal!

Sunset Beach Resort, Siesta Key FL

Will we do a tasting before we finalize our menu? Is it included in our package, or is there an additional fee?

“If I’m paying all this money, I want to know that the food will actually be good!” We hear you and we get it! Some venues with on-site catering include tastings as part of the package or they are offered for an additional fee. You may find a venue that does not do tastings, but this is less common. Be sure to confirm if it is included, how it is scheduled, if it is private or a group tasting, and up to how many people can attend. For off-site catering, you will need to work directly with your caterer to schedule any tastings, but the same questions apply!

Do you provide discounted vendor and/or children’s meals?

Fun fact: Venues usually offer slightly discounted meals for kids and/or vendors! Definitely ask your venue prospects if this is something that they do! Also, be sure to double check your vendor contracts to ensure that you include enough vendor meals as well as any allergies those vendors may have as the caterer will need to know when you give your final count.

Is there a food and beverage minimum?

Sometimes a venue/caterer will charge a food and beverage minimum for certain days of the week or seasons. The food and beverage minimum is the guaranteed amount that the venue will accept to book your date. So for your dream Saturday night in February, the food and beverage minimum may be $25,000. But a Friday night in June? The minimum may be half of that!

Davis Island's Garden Club, Tampa FL

What are the tax and service/gratuity charges, and what do they cover?

Too many terms and too much math! On your proposal from the venue, you will see terms like taxes, service fees, gratuity charges, etc. Definitely ask your venue prospects to explain these fees. The service fee covers the administrative side of the work your venue and/or caterer are doing from the back end. Be sure to ask if gratuity is included and if it isn’t, you can add it on to the final bill or pay the staff individually with cash. This way you know whether you will still need to tip your bartenders and banquet captain at the end of the event! Stay tuned for our Tips on Tipping blog coming soon!

Remember that there are SO many questions that can be asked, and this is not a complete list of every single thing you might want to ask your venue prospects. However, this list is an amazing starting point to get you through the initial venue visits! It will help you narrow down your selections, without missing any major details. Happy venue visiting!!

Harborside Chapel, Safety Harbor FL

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