The initial thought prior to planning any event is usually "where" - you may have a few places in mind but how are you going to narrow it down? From personal experience and with the help of The Knot magazine, there are a few questions to keep in mind when researching and touring venues.
Before I get to the questions, my first suggestion before booking venue tours is to figure out a rough guest count. If you start tours and don't know how many guests you'll have, you aren't sure the accommodation space you'll need. Usually the first question a venue event coordinator will ask is, "how many guests do you expect to have?" This is due partly because some venues often have different ballrooms or conference rooms available to accommodate for the size of the event. Of course you aren't going to know an exact count as you haven't sent or received the RSVPs yet but knowing a rough estimate of how people you need to accommodate for is a big help.
The second suggestion to give you is to figure out an estimated total budget you plan to work with. This can be altered as the event planning goes on but often this is the second question an event coordinator will ask you. Venues usually have either a minimum amount that must be met or a one time deposit. If the minimum or deposit is way above your total budget, you'll either have to find a way to adjust your budget based on how much you loved the space or cross that venue off the list and move on to the next venue. A minimum is often found at venues where food and beverage are included, we'll get to that shortly.
You have your estimated guest count and budget in mind, now the fun begins. You've researched a few venues, intrigued by the pictures and reviews so you email the venue to set up a tour. Side note - if your venues are in proximity to each other I would suggest taking a full day (or a weekend) and touring as many as you can. This will help speed up the planning process and narrow down the venues faster to be sure you book the event date you want. Plan the venue tours out and give yourself at least 45 minutes to an hour in between tours to accommodate for traffic and a bite to eat. Each tour should last an hour to an hour and a half, the coordinator will usually tell you. If not, ask!
The questions below are ones to keep in mind while touring a venue. If the coordinator doesn't answer them along the tour, be sure to ask them during the Q&A session at the end of the tour.
1. Aside from the minimum/deposit (if applicable), what is the total cost for the entire venue?
2. Is your event date available? If you're flexible on a date, what are available dates around the expected month of your event?
3. Does the venue match the style you're envisioning for your event? 4. What is the minimum and maximum number of guests the space can accommodate?
5. Is the venue near guest hotels? Recommendations?
6. If the venue is at a hotel, do they have discounted rates for your guests? 7. Is public transportation available if needed?
8. What services do you offer? All-inclusive packages available?
9. Does the venue provide food? Is catering allowed?
10. In regards to having an open bar, is the alcohol provided by the venue or are you able to provide your own alcohol? Is a liquor license required? *ask the coordinator for an estimated price per person if not included in the welcome packet* 11. How many hours does your rental cover?
12. Is there a required end time? Any noise restraints, in regards to music/DJ?
13. If planning on having an exit, are there restrictions to items used? (i.e sparklers, confetti, etc.) 14. Any decor restrictions? 15. If it's an outside event, does the venue have a back up location in case of bad weather?
16. Is a day of coordinator included in your rental to help the day of the event?
Something I personally did during our wedding venue tours was type (or copy and paste) the list of questions into a word document and print a page for each venue. This allows you to look back on each venue and compare the pros and cons, helping to narrow down the final venue. Don't be afraid to take a binder or a notepad and pen to each tour. You'll more than likely be given a welcome packet with venue information (keep in the binder to prevent it being lost) and the notepad, along with your list of questions, helps to keep track of notes. If you're an organized person like me this was already on your mind but if not, it is a wise suggestion and you'll thank me later.
At the end of the tour be sure to obtain the event coordinators contact information (phone and email) in case you have questions that come into mind days after the tour - it happens.
The questions I have listed in this blog are the basics to ask but if you have any questions pertaining to your specific event type (wedding versus baby shower questions may differ) be sure to include those in your printout and ask!
Once your venue is booked, it'll be such a relief as this is the biggest vendor to cross off the list. Having the venue set and the event date booked, the other vendors will be easier to book as they usually need to know where and when.
I hope this blog provided a guideline for you to start booking your tours. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding venue tours please email me at email@example.com and I would be happy to address them! Also, be sure to read an article from The Knot regarding venue site tours. (see link below)