Whether you’re planning a wedding, a corporate meeting, a retirement party, a birthday party, an anniversary party, or any excuse to celebrate together, venue is one of the first and most important elements.
The venue you choose dictates the entire feel and logistics of the event.
Most people are sure to ask about prices, but that’s just one element of your day.
Here are a few things to ask when touring event spaces to make sure you’re not wasting your time:
Do you have availability on my ideal date(s)?
If you already have a date set in stone, availability is everything—especially if you have a short planning timeframe. If you have some more flexibility, you may be able to secure a space with shorter notice.
How many people can you accommodate?
This question isn’t as simple as it may seem. Someone might tell you “We can accommodate 100” but fail to mention that that’s only if you can adhere to specific restrictions, such as a certain room or rooms, a certain layout, and/or a certain style of service.
If you’re envisioning a plated dinner for 150 with lots of breathing room and space for dancing, you don’t want to sign on to a place where the only way 100 people will fit is via passed hors d’oeuvres and a standing-room-only approach with no dancing or elbow room.
Do you provide food? Liquor? Dessert?
Location-specific licenses dictate which elements of an event must be sourced in-house and which can (or need to be) brought in from an outside vendor. And if outside vendors are involved, many event spaces have lists of approved partner vendors who have proven to be safe and reliable. Be sure to ask about fees as well.
For example, you might speak with an event space representative who promises you can bring in as much wine as you want, only to find out that there is a significant corkage fee that dramatically impacts your budget.
What services do you provide?
Food and beverage are just the beginning. Some event spaces merely provide the literal space, so you’ll need to hire caterers, servers, bartenders, decorators, a clean-up crew, planners, and more. Other spaces come with their own teams for all or part of these services, along with built-in planning every step of the way.
During what hours will we have access to a space?
If you’re hoping to party ‘til the cows come home, make sure you don’t book an event space that shuts off the lights at 9:00 p.m. And if you’re hoping to come in early and set up, be sure you understand exactly when you’ll have access to the space.
Will the space be open to the public?
Wedding Crashers was a hit Hollywood movie but it wouldn’t be much of a hit at your event. If the event is part of a public space and they won’t be restricting entrance during your event, you’ll need to be aware of the possibility of everything from curious eyes to people who come right in to help themselves to dessert and a dance with Grandma. (Security is a consideration at any event space and is worthy of its own post.)
What type of expectations or regulations are there regarding noise?
If your crew tends to turn the volume up to 10 (both literally and figuratively), you’ll want to select a location that accommodates this level of revelry. The opposite also holds true: If you want a quiet affair where everyone can hear each other, don’t rent a hotel ballroom that’s adjacent to the hotel pool or another party room.
What will the guest experience be like?
Put yourself in your guest’s shoes. It starts by imagining what they’ll be thinking when they enter the space. Will it be a WOW or a shrug? Beyond the initial impression, what will it be like to attend your event? Where will your guests park? Where will they spend the night, if they’ll be staying over? Are there enough bathrooms?
Can you bring in decorations?
Speaking of creating a WOW impact on your guests, you’ll want to ask if you can bring in any decorations—and, if so, what kinds. Blank slate spaces will require a lot more effort and expense to decorate than spaces with built-in visual appeal (and some spaces have such WOW factor that they don’t need any decorations at all to take your guests’ breath away).