Choosing a location for your event is the first step and more often than not, the most time consuming. Researching and visiting sites can take hours. Here are 14 questions and a checklist that can help you make the right decision.
Is the site available on your preferred date?
Ideally, weddings should be booked 10-12 months in advance. Special events are a little different. Depending on the size, smaller events can be booked 4-6 months in advance and 10-12 months prior for larger ones. While you may have a date in mind, be flexible and have at least two backup options, in case your dream date/time is unavailable.
Can the manager email sample floor plans or photos of the venue during past events?
Squeezing in time for site visits is not always possible. Requesting floor plans and photos of the room set up for past events can help you visualize the space. Eliminate the places that don’t meet your expectations and whittle down your list of potential locations to visit.
How many guests can the venue comfortably accommodate?
The focus of this question is not limited to just standing room and seating layout. You should also consider if the venue has an adequate number of bathrooms. 1 bathroom per 50 people is the recommended ratio; 15-20% more should be added if alcohol is being served at your event.
What is the cost to reserve the space?
You should get a detailed breakdown in writing of what is included in the price and how many hours you will have the site. There could be extra fees for security, setup/breakdown, gratuities, rentals, parking and overtime. Will the facility provide table and linens etc.? Get the total cost and payment schedule so that you can manage your budget.
Is there a cancellation policy?
Find out early on what the terms of cancellation are. Is there a penalty fee? What is the deadline to cancel?
Does the venue have any restrictions?
Some establishments have restrictions regarding decorations (e.g. open flames/candles), dress codes and quiet hours. Knowing these constraints beforehand can save you time, money and sometimes embarrassment.
Does the location have liability insurance?
The safety of you and your guests is of paramount importance. Make sure that in the event of any accident or injury, everyone is covered. The insurance policy should cover bodily injury, property damage, host liquor liability.
Is there a preferred vendor list?
It is not uncommon for sites to have partnerships with particular vendors. These mutually beneficial relationships help to ensure quality control and reduce any liability, for the establishment, since these preferred vendors are vetted. However, this might limit your food and beverage options and affect your expenses.
Is there adequate parking and will there be attendants on site?
Insufficient parking can deter guests from attending your event. Also, it wouldn't hurt to enquire whether a shuttle service is available if the parking lot is some distance away. This is particularly important during extreme weather.
Does the site have a liquor license? Can you bring your own alcohol?
If you are planning to serve alcohol at a venue without a liquor license, you will need to obtain a Special Occasions Permit (SOP). If the establishment already holds a liquor license obtaining an SOP is unnecessary. Keep in mind, you may have to order through them and the markup will drive your cost up. Hosting your event at a BYOB (Bring Your Own Beer/Alcohol) venue is significantly cheaper and will help you stretch your budget.
Does the location have audio visual equipment?
The type of AV equipment that is available (if any) will dictate the style of entertainment that you will have, whether it be a band or DJ. If you are incorporating any videos, ask about the availability of screens, projectors and Wi-Fi.
Is it an exclusively private venue or will there be other patrons on the premises during your event?
There’s nothing worse than reciting your vows or speech and being interrupted by persons down the hall or in another event in the room adjacent.
Is the location handicap accessible?
Inclusivity is important when hosting an event. Depending on your demographic, you need to find out whether your event location is conducive to the elderly and/or those with mobility issues. Elevators, ramps and handicap bathrooms would make the event a success.
Who will be the point of contact on the day of your event?
During your site visit, meet with the manager or in-house event coordinator who will be present during your event. Work with someone who is flexible and willing to accommodate you. If there are any technical difficulties, you want to know that they are able to deal with them quickly and efficiently.
Ask for references from former clients who have held events at the site
Check that there are ample electrical outlets in prime locations
Can you stick anything on the walls? If so, what kind of adhesives can be used?
Test the AV equipment and Wi-Fi