It’s not as easy as putting down a deposit. There’s also vendor lists, food and beverage minimums, and even Mother Nature to consider when booking a venue. Here, two experts who’ve dealt with it all—Jaime Purinton, event sales manager at Wiens Cellars, and Dajon Esquivel, catering coordinator at The Catamaran Resort and Spa—spill the questions most couples forget to ask when booking their spot to tie the knot.
Luce Loft | Photo: Kate Edwards
Can I hire my own vendors, or do you have a preferred vendor list?
It’s a pretty common practice, but most couples saddling up for their first wedding-planning rodeo are sadly surprised to find that their picture-perfect venue won’t work with their long-lusted-after florist, caterer, or other vendor—because the venue works only with a set pre-vetted list. Purinton adds, “Some venues allow you to bring in outside vendors but may require a copy of their business license and liability insurance.”
What is the food and beverage minimum for the space?
It’s no secret: “Budget is a huge determining factor when it comes to booking a venue,” Esquivel says. Know that most sites do require a minimum amount spent on food and beverages to secure the space—ask about the pricing breakdown right out of the gate.
Carmel Mountain Ranch Estate | Photo: Dear Lovers
Are two on-site, day-of suites available for getting ready?
A-line, mermaid, and ballroom gowns all come in and out of style, but a fashion foe common to them all is wrinkly fabric from the car ride to the aisle. Thankfully, some venues take that transportation out of the equation with areas for the wedding party to get ready. Purinton suggests to ask “when they are available, how late, and if your stuff can be stored safely.”
What does the “++” mean after the per-person pricing for dinner?
Those are no cute symbols like an A++ on your spelling test—they mean tax and service charges. Catamaran, for instance, charges a 7.75 percent tax and a 25 percent service charge on top of all prices listed in its wedding package. Always calculate these into your budget before ponying up for your dishes.
Hyatt Regency Mission Bay
What if we don’t meet the contracted food and beverage minimum?
Food and beverage costs are usually based on an expected guest count, Esquivel says. And even if your actual attendance is lower than your estimated head count, venues often still expect you to meet the agreed-upon price. Always ask if this is the case. His advice for stretching instead of wasting your bills: “Add on late-night snacks, increase the amount allotted to the bar, or add a starter.”
What is plan B if it rains?
Contrary to tourist belief, “70 degrees and sunny” is more of a SoCal mentality than an eternal forecast. For this reason, couples always need to inquire about a backup location. Purinton says to ask: “Does the venue have an indoor space that will be available? If not, what would the costs be to tent the space, and will there even be a tent available?”