Wedding venue tips: how to NOT get ripped off

As an ex-event manager, I should have felt assured that we weren’t being ripped off or duped in any way when signing our wedding venue contract. However, I still felt overwhelmed by the whole decision and contract signage. There are some awful tales of wedding venues having invisible ‘add-ons’ and it’s pretty scary. So I’m here to give you some tips so that you can sign on that big dotted line with healthy butterflies of excitement…rather than flutterings of IBS. Enjoy!

Signing away a HUGE chunk of money on a wedding venue can potentially equal the joint levels of fear and excitement when signing a mortgage. Whilst feeling mega lucky and overjoyed, in the back of your head you are always thinking surely this responsibility is for adults, you know proper adults. Surely you’d be better suited to jack it all in, grab your loved one’s hand and run off to a remote island with your backpacks to live on piña coladas forever more. HOWEVER – it’s really not that scary, I promise. Once Mr DTE and I booked our wedding venue I felt a gazillion times clearer about our wedding, and felt so much more relaxed about the whole thing. It was much easier to imagine the whole day once the venue was all signed and agreed.


Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 15.26.43
Let’s not do a Leo; save that moola

So I’m going to assume by the time you get to asking the questions below with your chosen venue, you’ll have worked out they’re available on your chosen date and that they can accommodate your numbers. Wonderbar…let’s continue:

My top 10 wedding venue tips:

  1. Ask about corkage: Let’s get our priorities right – most of us (and our beloved guests) will want to have some booze on our wedding day. It’s a long day and it might be good to see if you can make your budget stretch to as many beverages much as possible. Venues with zero, or low, corkage charges are truly wonderful and will have such a huge effect to your overall spending levels. Even if your venue charges for corkage, it’s best to know all the costs up front so that you can budget accordingly.

    FREE CORKAGE: The ultimate dream
  2. Service charge: Ask if there is a service charge added to your catering and venue costs, and if so how much. This is often a nasty invisible one. It’s important that the staff get recognised for their lovely work and all, but you just want to know what those costs are up front, because 12% or more of your final bill is a lot of moola if you were expecting it to be covered as part of your bill already.

    Piggy bank
    FYI: This collection won’t get you far, sarry
  3. Access and delivery times: For many venues this isn’t an issue as you can get in from the day/night before and set up. However, for others (e.g. public spaces – galleries, museums etc) the turnaround times can be really tight, and make it impossible for you to set up if you have big ideas for decoration. Catering companies are very used to dealing with tight turnarounds, but it can be a bit stressful for you/ your ‘crew’ setting up. It’s just worth knowing what you’re letting yourself in for here. Similarly it’s worth asking what time you have to be properly out by. This may also sway your decision on what time to invite evening guests from, if you’re doing that as a ting.
  4. Menu tasting options: Most venues/caterers offer this as standard along with your wedding costs, but it’s still worth checking. Some whack on additional service charges too, which shouldn’t be too much in the grand scheme of things, but still. SHOW ME THE MONEY.

  5. Ask for their approved suppliers: You could find the most ideal venue, with reasonable costs and everyone loves each other bla bla bla. However, if they only work with the very top of the top caterers, they may not be able to stretch to your budget. Most venues will give a range of choices to suit all styles and budgets, but again just worth an ask before you sign away…
  6. Decorations: Some venues can have very strict policies on how you are ‘allowed’ to decorate the venue. This can include no tape, clips, no light instalments etc. Even balloons are proving tricky for us as, once inflated, they take up so much space so we might need to get them delivered on the day of the wedding which is a bit of a pain in the ass and also more expensive.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 15.01.30
    Balloon crush: Courtesy of Kate Spade
  7. Space/extra room for you to leave things: This may be unnecessary but if you have any little ones or people breastfeeding who might need some private quiet space, it can be a good idea to ask. Most venues have these but some will charge as extra if you don’t agree this as an upfront cost.
  8. Furniture: Some venues are cheeky here and they only throw in their basic chairs for free. I’ll try to hold back here with my hatred for those white chairs with the big pink bow on…don’t go there. Also think about equipment: dance floors, microphones, plasma screens?? It’s very rare for these things to come for free.

    Plan B
  9. Minimum numbers: My tip is to always ensure you list your minimum numbers below what you envisage your target numbers to be as you don’t want to pay for ’empty seats’. If you’re having a quickie wedding then I’d be even more conscious of this as people may not be able to attend, and you don’t want to end up having to pay for empty seats. Literally the worst thing. Demand a doggie bag…or 20. Of course, we’re all wonderfully popular and people are literally bashing down doors to get to our weddings so sure it won’t be a problem.
  10. Licenses: With venues where you can also get married there (e.g. not a church or registry office) then don’t forget to double check they’ve got the appropriate licensing to marry you, and which rooms/location at the site are licensed to do this.

Last but not least…Google, Google and Google: It’s a bit clichéd but ye olde internet is great for reviews. Just google away to see if you can get some testimonials from people. Don’t get obsessed though, come on now. Also your mates are always on the same wavelength as you too (we hope) so it’s worth asking if they’ve been a wedding at your top choice before, and if so if it was any good.

Wedding site reviews: It’s really really worth looking at the venue searches I recommend here too, as they really will list the venues they believe are worthy of a mention. If a venue is not good, trust me that review saying so will be on the internet and you need to suss out if you still want to proceed.

TOP TIP: It’s also worth asking if you get any freebies! I still think this is an urban myth, but apparently some venues may throw in the champagne toast for free. Who knew??

As usual, this isn’t THE definitive list, but I hope this helps to give a bit of guidance. If you’ve worked through these things then good work team. Hope it can calm any woes and hopefully reassure you all. If not then have some vino…it’s Friday and you deserve it.

Peace out bridelings!
Jojo x

We’ve all had that bridezilla friend, let’s not become her

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I'm a 32 year-old newlywed bride, living in London. I recently got married (July 2016) and am here to spread wedding joy and worldly wedding advice to fellow bridelings who don't want their weddings to take over their lives. Let's laugh (nervously) in the face of bonkers wedding planning!

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