Choosing the right venue gives you a stunning backdrop for your event. But it also determines your budget, date, and even headcount. And while you certainly want to choose a venue that’s within your budget and available for your ideal date—your venue checklist is a little longer than that. Before signing on the dotted line (the last step in your venue checklist!) there are a few other items to cross off.
By following these steps on your venue checklist, you’re avoiding any day-of surprises. Surprises that can cost you valuable time and money to correct, or negatively affect guest experience. After all, the venue isn’t just for you. Yes, you want a venue that can accommodate your needs. But your venue should also be convenient for guests—both inside and out.
Once you find 3-4 venues that fit your initial budget in your desired location, start crossing these five items off your venue checklist! And don’t worry—you don’t have to check off every item for every venue. As you decide that a venue isn’t the right fit, throw away that checklist and focus on the remaining choices!
Ask About Packages
Often, a venue can offer more than just space for your event. Before booking, ask what packages the venue offers, or what local partnerships they have. For example, a venue could offer catering services as part of a package deal. This saves you the time of hunting down a caterer, and the hassle of coordinating with multiple contacts. Instead, you have one number for your venue and food. Plus, you can often save money with venue packaging. Because you’re buying more services from them, each service is a little cheaper than purchasing separately.
Visit the Space
On your venue checklist, visiting comes before booking. Online photos can be deceiving, and it’s hard to really understand the layout from a blueprint. If you can, schedule a tour of the whole facility—including the area where you’ll be hosting. During the tour, check accessibility to bathrooms, and make sure there’s enough room for all the tables, chairs, and stages you need for your event.
Bonus Tip: Never book a venue that you haven’t seen in person.
If the exact room that you’ll be using is occupied during your tour—don’t panic! Ask to see a similar room while you’re there. And then schedule another tour once your room is available. Depending on the venue, you may be able to hold the room. Or you may have a week to cancel if the room doesn’t end up working.
Check the Parking
On your tour, also look at the parking space. Will there be enough for your event? Do you need to put up any signs? And will you need a shuttle for guests? If off-site parking is required, the venue should recommend nearby sites. (And, again, they may have a partnership with one of them!) Take extra precautions if your event is during snow or rain seasons. Street and public parking laws change during bad weather—so have back-up parking ready, just in case!
Determine the Layout
After booking, choosing a layout is next on your venue checklist. But before you can jump right in to table arrangements, you need to make a list of everything you’ll need in your venue space. This includes tables and chairs for eating. But also tables for food, presents, or registration.
Bonus Tip: Ask whether the venue sets up for you, or if you’re on your own!
And don’t forget to consider any audiovisual needs. (Think microphones, projectors, or a sound system.) Once you have a complete list, chat with your venue. Remember, they know the space best. They can suggest layout designs, and even show you past events with a similar structure. Plus, there are some handy apps you can use if you need outside approval on the layout, or if you’re a visual person.
Get it in Writing
Whatever discussions you have during your shopping, get all final decisions in writing. This keeps the venue honest, and ensures you don’t miss anything! The contract should include pricing and all services being rendered. But it should also detail when you can start setting up—and who is setting up! Often, the venue will set up all tables and chairs. But then it’s your responsibility to decorate. Again, this should all be in your contract.
Of course, you can always book a venue based on cost, availability, or size. And that could work out perfectly for you! But doing a little extra research can save you money and time—while giving your guests a better overall experience. Your venue of choice should be prepared to answer all of these questions; none of them are out of the ordinary. So call the first venue you on your list, and start asking!
Where are you in your venue shopping journey? What additional services or packages would be helpful for you?