Once you have shortlisted the wedding venues that fit your style, size and budget; the next thing to do is a recce site visit. Here is a list of questions you can ask to make sure you have everything covered and the best deal possible before you putting down the deposit for what would likely take up the largest chunk in your wedding budget pie.
There are some differences between a hotel and an event space venue. It is almost certainly true that planning a wedding in an event space would require a little more attention to details, spot the additional tips that will require your consideration below.
1. Reception: What is the minimum pax required to book the whole venue?
Make sure the venue can hold all your guests, but never book for the maximum pax. Under most contracts, you are allowed to add as many tables as you like within a certain time frame, but you are not allowed to reduce the number of tables. Ask your vendor when is the last possible date that you can make changes on your guest list. If you do not meet the minimum pax requirement, you’ll have to consider whether you’re willing to take the chance of loosing exclusivity on the venue.
2. Ceremony: How much will it cost?
If you’re also having a religious or traditional ceremony at the same venue, ask if there are additional cost to use a particular space. Some venues take a fee for rent; some require a minimum spend on food & beverages for your guests; and others have refreshment packages. If it’s an outdoor location, ask about a contingency plan in the event of rain.
3. Rates: What are their starting prices?
You would have already checked online or via phone call if the venue is within your budget, so just see if the menu is decent for what you are paying. Do check prices for individual vegetarian meals, just in case some of your guests require that.
4. Food & Drinks: What are your options for catering?
If your location is a hotel then food & drinks will be settled by the in-house kitchen. Ask if you have to purchase alcohol from the venue or if you can bring your own. What are the corkages fee if you’re planning to bring in your own alcohol? Most venues will give you free corkage if it’s just a bottle or two per table. Usually, that is sufficient. If you have an outdoor ceremony prior to the reception, do consider serving your guests some refreshments.
TIPS: If you are bringing in your own caterer, check if there is a working kitchen. It may come as a surprise that some venues that market themselves as wedding venues don’t have a functional kitchen to allow your caterer to cook on site. Some of the kitchens are only suitable for prep service. To be sure, check with your caterer as it is likely they would have had experience working in the particular venue in question. If the kitchen is ill-equipped, your caterer would have to bring in their own equipment which in turn, would be charged to your bill. Also ask about additional charges for 3rd party caterers as certain venues only work with a selected group of caterers.
5. Service: Staff allocations
Most hotels will allocate one waiter per table, although some may have one waiter for every two tables. If you are having a buffet, make sure there are enough buffet tables to accommodate your guests. Certain hotel or resort grounds are huge and it may be tiresome for your guests to walk the distance from one event to the other. Be sure to ask if there will be enough staff to assist your guest, especially those who are elderly. Additionally ask about the number of staff that will be allocated to help with setup on the big day. Finally, ask who is the person-in-charge on the big day, it’s good to be able to meet with them before and keep in touch on the weeks leading up.
TIPS: If you’re planning on a canapé service prior to lunch or dinner, ensure sufficient staffing. For non hotel venues, ask about their policy on sound and lighting technicians, traffic controllers, need for RELA services and cleaners.
6. Décor, Set Up and Dismantling
Think about the stage, backdrop, red carpet, napkin colours, tablecloths and chair covers, and whether they suit the theme you have in mind. Some wedding packages include flowers and a floral arch. Ask to see pictures from previous weddings to see if the florist’s work is to your likely. You can also ask the name of the florist they outsource the decorations to and check out their social media account to see their previous works. If you have another wedding florist or decorator in mind, see if you can get a discount or exchange that service for something else. The same goes for the wedding favours.
The other thing that couples may miss is the question of it there are any decoration restrictions? For example, you may not be allowed to put up an installation on the ceiling or affixed to the wall. Finally, make sure you ask when your vendors can assess the venue to start setting up and check with your vendor to see if the allocated time is adequate. This is especially crucial if you’re planning to have a lot of work done at the venue. For those planning to use a lot of flowers, your florist or decorator may require a room to store the flowers prior to the event therefore do check in with your vendor as well.
TIPS: Rental charges for event spaces includes an allocated amount of time to use an event space which commonly includes the time for set up and dismantling. Note that the air-conditioning may not be provided for the entire duration stipulated. Make sure to confirm the time with a technician by which air-conditioning should be switched on, ideally that would be 3-4 hours before the start of an event. Additional charges are usually specified in fine print by per hour basis (with or without air-conditioning).
7. Multimedia: Audio and lights
Follow spotlights, projector, screens and a video player are usually essential. You’ll need at least two CD trays and two microphones. If yours is an outdoor affair, find out what kind of support you’ll be getting. Most venues are not equipped with a sound system for live performances outdoors. Do you need a dance floor and are the existing lights sufficient? Make sure your venue has the right entertainment license for what you want to do. Be prepare to outsource better support for a live band or a DJ.
8. Suites and Rooms: What’s included? Day-use rooms?
Most hotels will offer the bridal couple a bridal suite or villa. If possible, ask for two day-use rooms for your helpers. You don’t want all of them crowding into your room while you rest or do your makeup. If you are planning an extra change of attire during the reception, ask about a changing room on the same floor as your reception hall. Also ask about free full-day parking passes for your wedding party.
9. Facilities: Consider your guests’ experience
If you’re having multiple ceremonies in a day, think about where your guests will spend their time in between events. Is there a lounge? Are there enough sofas in the cocktail area? Is there a place for an after-party? Is there handicap facilities? Are there enough parking available? Do guests have to pay for parking and is there a flat fee? Also check to see if there are allocated VIP parking spots for the bridal car and your parents.
10. Settling the bill: Deposit and payment terms
Ideally, pay just the minimum deposit, and see if you can pay the balance on the day itself, especially if you are getting cash as gifts. It’s a much safer option. make sure you factor all cost including tax before signing the contract. Also ask about payment schedules and if it is flexible.
11. Confirmation: Read the fine print
Finally, ask when is the latest date to confirm your booking. Most venues give priority to the first person to block the date unless they fail to pay the deposit on time. Once you block the date, they are also obliged to let you know if someone else enquires about the same day. If you’re sure about a venue, you can book immediately, have them add your requests to the contract and ask them to email you a copy. If it’s a very big organisation, bear in mind that the person you talk to initially may not be the person you see on your wedding day, so make sure everything you have agreed on is in black and white. The preparation of the contract will give you some time before you have to pay the deposit, so look at your budget again to make sure you’re still on track. Just to be on the safe side, ask about cancellation policies as well.
Don’t make rash decisions, as mistakes could cost you. Read the contract carefully before you sign it. Many contracts have hidden clauses that will cost you more money down the line. Finally, stay on good terms with whomever you deal with, as you’ll need their continued assistance and cooperation.
* The information provided here is based mainly on hotels, restaurants and event spaces in Malaysia and Singapore.