08 Jul Understanding Wedding Vendors IV


The place you choose to be married is so very important. It will set the tone for the entire wedding and will be responsible in so many ways for a lot of the decisions you’ll make. I cannot stress enough the fact that you have to do your homework so you can be absolutely sure you choose the best venue for you. Not all facilities are created equal and it’s important to know some things before you sign that contract or move forward with planning a wedding at a private residence. Make sure you gather all your facts on the front end to compare your choices “apples to apples” so to speak.

Vestavia Country Club ~ Jessica Wright Photography

Vestavia Country Club ~ Jessica Wright Photography

Date Availability ~ I advise couples to never set their wedding date until they have shopped and decided on their venue. Inquire about the dates a venue has available in a particular month and maybe the one prior or following. Popular venues will book far in advance and it’s good to check into your options. This is helpful when booking other vendors such as that got-to-have wedding planner or photographer. 😉

Fees ~ What are the basic rental fees (ceremony too if you plan to do one location for both) and what is included with those fees? Some venues include several amenities while for others, you are just getting the space. Do not assume anything is included.

You’ve also probably heard to ask about off-season pricing, but that doesn’t really seem to exist much in the South. Other than a few weekends around holidays and a couple of weeks of pretty cool temps, weddings are year round in Alabama and there’s a season for every bride. That being said though weddings on days other than the coveted Saturday will likely garner some discounts.

Is there a minimum food and beverage amount you must reach? What is the tax and service charge? Do you have options on the type of alcohol service provided? Consumption vs. flat rate? Can you provide your own alcohol and if so, is there a corkage fee for doing so?

Be sure you inquire and fully understand the venue’s policy on how they handle cancellations (and any penalties), refunds or possible postponements.

Inquire about any additional fees you should be aware of? Some of these may include cake serving, fees for outside vendors, noise permits for the band or DJ, permits for candles, sparklers, and fireworks, required security officer and valet services.

Southern Museum of Flight ~ Gretchen B Photography

Southern Museum of Flight ~ Gretchen B Photography

Times ~ What are the hours you and your vendors will have access to the venue? When can setup begin (ask about the day before) and when should all cleanup be complete and vendors and guests be gone by? Are there any charges if your event runs over? A five hour wedding is pretty standard these days… half hour for the ceremony, a cocktail hour, and hour for dinner and two and a half hours for dancing. It’s the setup and breakdown time that you have to account for and be able to accomplish. Is it possible to pay for additional rental time? And don’t forget to ask about the time allotted for your rehearsal. Often times, it counts towards your overall rental time. If a venue you are considering does not provide “all-day” accessibility, take the time to understand why they offer the hours they do. They are not trying to cause any obstacles for clients by restricting access but they do have hard costs they have to cover for clients to have extensive access… personnel to oversee facility, power, a/c & heating are just a few. They truly want to meet your needs but those needs should be reasonable.

Accommodations ~ Know what “can accommodate” means. Is the number of guests given the number the fire marshall will allow to be on premise or is it the actual number that can be seated for a plated dinner vs. a general reception. What items come with your rental fees?… numbers and types of tables, numbers and choices of chairs, any linens available and what will they look like (do they go all the way to the floor)? Does the venue have the proper basic facilities for your caterer to operate efficiently within? Is there a designated storage area for your vendors to maintain and store their equipment?

For outdoor weddings, what is the bad weather contingency plan? Crossing your fingers and hoping for good weather or burying the bottle of bourbon a month prior as a peace offering to the “weather gods” should not be what you rely on. ALWAYS have a Plan B in place!

Is there enough power for the band? Will you need to bring in a generator? Will there be a designated dressing and rest area available to the band members? Depending upon the venue’s neighborhood… what time does the band have to stop playing at night?

What audio/visual equipment is available to you and is there someone to handle operating that for you? You may need a simple sound system for your ceremony or be planning to show a fantastic slideshow at the rehearsal dinner.

What are your on-site accommodations for getting ready? Is there room for just you, or can you bring all your girls? Will the guys have their own space or should they come dressed and ready later?

Is there plenty of parking available with easy access to the venue or are there nearby accommodations? Is valet provided?

Are there plenty of restrooms? Tip: at least 4 restrooms per 100 people is the norm. If you are considering a private residence, you may need to bring in a restroom trailer or two to keep from over

taxing a septic system. That’s a huge problem you do not want to have to correct at the worst time possible.

The Club - Jerrod Brown Studios

The Club – Jerrod Brown Studios

Other Events or Weddings ~ Larger venues can have multiple events going on at any given time. Know what you are competing with for accommodations. It may be too early to find out at the time of your inquiry, but ask about the policy for other events or weddings going on the same day of your wedding. This could affect your rehearsal plans too so find out all of your options.

Restrictions & Requirements ~ It’s important to know what is allowed and not allowed at a particular venue. Venues have policies in place as safe guards. These policies usually stem from situations or problems they have experienced in the past. They have not been put in place to cause any hardship or frustration for the client. Instead they have been instituted to make sure the venue is kept in tip top shape as well as provide a clean, safe and fun environment for all involved.

Some of these restrictions can include…accessibility times, decorating guidelines, types of candles that may be used and proper use of them, use of or non-use of sparklers or confetti, vendor requirements, outside vendors allowed or no longer allowed to operate at that facility.

Bridge street Gallery & Loft ~ David Bley Storytellers

Bridge street Gallery & Loft ~ David Bley Storytellers

The Experience ~ Ask if there may be any upcoming opportunities for you to see a venue dressed and ready prior to an event. It will give you a glimpse at what you can expect for your wedding day. And finally, I cannot express enough the enormous benefit of asking others about their experience with a facility and their management. As with any vendor, there will be reviews on venues and past clients or friends you may know that held their wedding at a particular venue you are considering.

Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa ~ Elle Danielle Photography

Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa ~ Elle Danielle Photography

Eileen Dominguez, Catering Sales Manager from Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa provided the following commentary and important points I wanted to share in the arena of client experience…

There are 3 important attributes a hotel should provide as a venue for your Special Day. Keep an eye out for these when you are visiting a hotel to host your special day: service, commitment, and transparency.

  1. Service – When you step into a hotel there is more than meets the eye. Pay attention to the service you receive, from the valet to the front desk associate to the Catering Sales Manager who works with you. You should take note because as the saying goes, “First impressions, are everything,” a hotel should live by it. Ask yourself do you feel as if you were a nuisance or are you welcomed with open arms as if you were home? Be sure that everyone you encounter is attentive and genuinely listening to your needs. Do you notice the teamwork in the hotel? Teamwork is vital to execute a wedding.
  2. Commitment – As with your future marriage, this is a two-way street: you are committing to the hotel and the hotel is committing their service to you. You should feel as the hotel and the staff you are working with are committed to help you along the way in planning your Wedding. Whether the hotel is offering solutions, being available, or providing reasonable pricing, your confidence in the hotel should be nothing short of rock solid. This can be determined in the initial meeting. Is the catering sales manager interactive? Does the catering sales manager make you feel confident in working with him or her? 
  3. Transparency – This is the most vital of the three. Transparency helps build trust and confidence. Transparency is apparent when a Catering Sales Manager is candid about costs and the service associated with costs. Does a Catering Sales Manager answer your questions before you ask? That is evidence that he or she is familiar with their property and you as a customer and future guest. Are all terms of a contract clear to you? If they are transparent you feel at ease with contracting a hotel. Transparency is a result of quality service and depth of commitment. 

Finding a venue is the foundation to your Special Day. Would you build a house on a rocky foundation? Yeah, I wouldn’t either. Keep in mind the service, commitment, and transparency levels when you are building towards a solid foundation in having your Wedding at a hotel. 

Hopefully you found all this beneficial, informative and a lot of food for thought. On that note, next up in the series, I’ll be covering catering. And in case you missed the first three parts of the series, no worries, here they are again… Understanding Wedding Vendors – Intro, Part II – Planners, and Part III – Photographers.

Caitlyn & Marc | Engagement Photos
Erin & Josh | Engagement Photos