Wedding Receptions: Getting the most bang for your buck
It is important to keep in mind that a venue is not merely an inanimate place, it is a vendor. In other words, you will have to deal with people who manage and represent the facility.
It is to be hoped that the person in charge of your dream site is easy to work with, but sometimes you run into uncooperative people, or rules that come as a rude awakening. Once again, you may have to be flexible. If personalities become a problem, maybe get someone else to negotiate for you.
Your bargaining power is usually a function of supply and demand, but it always pays to be well-informed about similar venues in the area. Few things can help bring a price down as effectively as, “Venue X only charges $Y. Are you sure you can’t do any better?”
Naturally, price is not the only consideration. Following are a number of questions that it pays to ask:
• Do you charge a flat fee, or by the hour?
• Is there a minimum number of hours we must pay for?
• Do you have a payment plan?
• Is there a reception package? What does it include?
• What is the minimum deposit? (Anything from 10-50% may reasonably be charged.)
• Are there any special permits required?
• How many people can the site accommodate?
• What is your cancellation (i.e., refund) policy?
• What rooms or facilities are available aside from the main hall?
• Is it cheaper on another day of the week or time of the day?
• Do you have your own caterer? Do you allow outside caterers to come in?
• Can alcohol be served on the premises? What is your policy on open bars?
• Is there a corkage fee?
• Is there a cutting fee for bringing in an outside cake?
• Do you provide the tables and chairs, dinnerware, linen?
• What decorations can be provided?
• Are there any restrictions on photography, music or decorations?
• How much electrical equipment can you accommodate?
• How many hours do we get? Is there an overtime charge if we run late?
• Do you have any other events scheduled right before or after us?
• Do you have liability insurance? (This is not a deal-breaker; you can obtain wedding insurance.)
• Are there kitchen or cooking facilities? (This can affect catering prices.)
• Do you provide the wait staff, bartenders, parking attendants, checkroom attendants, etc.?
• Who will be present and in charge on the date of the reception? Is there a designated substitute?
• Is there a charge for parking? Do you offer (or insist on) valet parking?
• Is there a changing room for the bride and groom?
• How many restrooms are there? Will there be a janitor on site?
• What arrangements do you have for security? Medical assistance?
If you are booking a bare-bones site, you may have to hire personnel, as well as rent all sorts of items. Find out if your caterer can handle either of these tasks. If you have to rent items that require delivery (and/or assembly) and pick-up, make sure everything (times, rates, etc.) is spelled out clearly in the contract, and that the company will travel to your venue and supply enough people to do the job. Inspect the items to be supplied and check on penalties for late returns. You might feel more comfortable with a rental firm that belongs to the American Rental Association (800-334-2177) or other trade group.
IMPORTANT: Whether it is the venue or the vendors, if they charge money, check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints against them. You can also run business credit checks and/or legal searches to find out whether there are any lawsuits pending against them.