So you are searching for a venue, maybe for a wedding, celebration, or other event, and you want to make sure it's a fit.
Perhaps you are asking yourself: what questions should I ask on my venue tour? Or... what questions should I ask before my venue tour? What questions should I ask before I sign a contract?
I've got you! Hi, I'm Sarah, and I'm the owner of Olio, a flexible indoor loft venue in a historic theater building in downtown Peabody, 25 minutes north of Boston, Massachusetts. We built our space as a blank slate New England venue specifically so that clients could have ultimate flexibility to create the wedding or event of their dreams. Our Olio team is small (but mighty!) and I give most of the tours of the venue. In fact, since we launched 5 years ago, I have given over 1,000 tours of the venue to prospective clients, family members, planners, caterers, and neighbors. Hopefully I've got the tour down pat now. 😅
I truly love providing prospective clients the time and space to view our venue, and I am writing up some tips today so that you can make the most of your venue tours.
We are going to get into some very specific and helpful questions to ask before AND on the tour, and if you read down to the bottom you might just find some of the craziest questions I've ever been asked on a tour 🙈
First, just a few tips for the tour itself:
Please be on time! Most venues schedule tours back-to-back and being late will likely mean that your tour is cut short.
Just like when you go dress shopping or to a caterer tasting, less is more. Bring with you just the key stakeholders for the event that need to have a say in the venue choice. Leave behind anyone who will be a distraction or a detractor from the experience.
Stay together! It is challenging to give a tour when folks are spread out or jumping ahead to the next stop. Stay together so that everyone hears the information and (in some cases) for safety.
Ask lots of questions throughout the tour (see below) but just know that the tour likely has a logical flow and conclusion, so your question may be addressed by the staff as you go.
Take lots of photos and video. We love when you capture the space for your memory and can truly picture yourself here.
Write everything down. It can be confusing to tour multiple venues and ask similar questions and get different answers. Keep notes on the answers so that you can refer back when it's time to make a choice.
And here are a few questions to ask in advance of the tour:
How long should we budget for the tour? At Olio, our tours are budgeted for ~45 minutes and typically take about 30 minutes with time for buffer, tardiness, extra questions, etc. Properties with large grounds or onsite catering might set aside 1-2 hours for a tour, so make sure you have your scheduled budgeted.
Do you have my date available? As you are taking your first steps in planning, identify the critical "must haves" for your event. If it is a specific date or venue capacity, make sure that this venue meets those needs before touring. Some venues, including Olio, only host one single event per day, so if you have your heart set on a date, make sure it's an option.
And here we are! You've found the perfect wedding venue, you're onsite touring, and you may be ready to book! But before you sign on the dotted line, there are a few important questions you need to ask the wedding venue on your venue tour:
What is the venue's capacity? This is an important question to ask early on, as you'll need to make sure that the venue can accommodate your guest list. Related questions: what are the various setup or layout options? Do we have the option to have an onsite ceremony?
What is the rental fee and what's included in that price? Be sure to ask about all of the fees involved, including the rental fee, damage deposit, admin fees, taxes, and any additional fees for add-on services. At Olio, we share our prices and inclusions upfront on our website so it's very easy to compare and research.
What is your weather contingency plan? If you're planning on having an outdoor wedding, be sure to ask about the venue's weather contingency plan. Read our ode to indoor weddings.
How many hours does the rental fee include, and is there an overtime fee if I stay longer? You'll want to make sure that you have enough time for your wedding, so be sure to ask about the venue's overtime policy. If you aren't sure upfront how much time you'll need, be sure to ask about the venue's policy of adding time on later in the process. You wouldn't want to modify the timing of your ceremony and then find out that your vendors cannot access the venue earlier in the day for setup.
Who are your preferred or required vendors? Some venues have a list of preferred vendors that they recommend. This can be helpful, but it's important to do your own research and make sure that you're comfortable with the vendors you choose. Also be aware that vendors may have paid to be on the preferred vendor list, which may influence your choices.
Can I hold a date? If you love the venue but need to take your time to read over the contract or compare to other venues you are touring, be sure to ask whether there is a date hold option and whether there is a fee or time limit associated with holding a date.
What's the retainer amount, when is it due, and what is the payment plan? Be sure to get all of the details about all payments in writing, including when each is due and whether or not they are refundable.
What is your cancellation/refund policy? In case of unforeseen circumstances, it's important to know your options. Be sure to ask about the venue's cancellation/refund policy as well as their recommendations for cancellation insurance.
What insurance is recommended or required? Most venues require all vendors to be fully licensed and insured as this is industry standard. Some venues additionally require clients to obtain a general liability policy (one-day policies generally run around $100-$150). The venue may also require or recommend cancellation insurance.
Is smoking allowed? Many venues are moving to a "no smoking" policy on the property, so if smoking or vaping is important to your event, be sure to ask on your tour so you know what the options are.
What are your noise restrictions? If you're planning on having a loud party, be sure to ask about the venue's noise restrictions, including a specific decibel limit and town or property noise ordinances or permits.
What permits are required for me to have my event? Some communities and properties require special event permits, live music permits, alcohol licenses, and more. Make sure you know what you will have to obtain as you need to budget time and funds for these permits.
Where do guests and vendors park? Make sure to ask about the venue's parking availability and options for valet, buses, and drop-off space.
Can you show me a photo of X? If you have a certain vision of colors, style, layout, or anything else on your wedding day, ask the venue for sample images of past events that may fit that description. Most likely, when you are touring the venue it will not be set up exactly to your specifications, so seeing images during a tour can be extremely helpful.
Are we allowed to do Y? If there is a specific element of your event that you are set on (see: sword swallowing below) make sure to ask on the tour. Even elements as simple as a sparkler exit, bringing your dog to the wedding, allowing real candles, hanging a disco ball for lighting should be addressed before signing a contract if they are key to your decision.
Phew! That's a lot of questions but honestly, many of these may be addressed by the venue in materials in advance of the tour like their brochure or website.
And now, the moment you've been waiting for... some of the wackiest questions I've been asked on tours! No judgment here at all... I actually love a "stump the venue owner" moment after answering thousands and thousands of questions over the years.
Can we climb that ladder and swing into the space? No, no you cannot.
Is a sword-swallowing performance allowed? Yes? Maybe?
Have you ever had Elvis onsite? Yup! Can say that for sure.
How about a balloon drop? YES! Love it!
Can we bring a bounce house for adults? Yes :)
Can I cut my hair in the middle of the wedding? Yes, but not indoors.
Can we make the whole room purple and red for a Beetlejuice theme? Absolutely!!
Does it fit to set one long table to seat 100 guests? It does!
Those are just the venue tour questions that are appropriate to share 😳 This job is exciting every day!
Pro tip: print this article and bring it to your venue tour and be ready to take notes!
Ready to tour Olio? Time to inquire! I would absolutely LOVE the chance to answer your questions.