“Plan a wedding,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said. Like many others, I do not have a single clue what I am doing when it comes to wedding planning. I’ve relied heavily on friends who know the ins and outs, and what I thought would be the most enjoyable part of the process has turned out to be the least. I’m talking venue hunting.
Seeing venues is fun, so I don’t mean to hint otherwise. The problems lie less in what you see, and more in what you don’t. While the limit does not exist for questions you should be asking when touring venues, here are some must-ask queries with answers that may surprise you.
1. Do You Have A Designated Ceremony Area?
If you plan on hosting your ceremony at a different location than your reception, you can skip this question. If you plan on hosting onsite, do a little digging about the venue offerings for a ceremony. For starters, can they host the ceremony? If they can, is there a designated area for the ceremony? I recently toured a venue, and when asking if I could host a ceremony on site the host replied “yes”. I asked to see the ceremonial site and they then pointed to a small patch of makeshift grass between two parking lots. While it took physical restraint to not gasp and/or laugh, it was seriously eye-opening that even the most beautiful venues aren’t always what they seem. The other kicker is the ceremonial fee, which is a self-explanatory fee for hosting your ceremony on site. According to WeddingWire, the average cost in the US is $600, but for big cities like NY and LA, expect something closer to $2,000.
2. Do You Have A Bridal And Groom Suite On Site?
I’ll be the first to say the bride is the *most* important on the wedding day (bridezilla in the making here), but I want my groom to be treated like a king as well. I was shocked to see how many venues only had one wedding suite, which meant only one of us could get ready on site. My fiancé is irrationally laid-back and would get ready in the parking lot if he had to, but not all couples are comfortable with a single-suite venue. While it may seem minor right now, it’s important to think about what getting ready offsite day-of means for the person who chooses to do so (renting a hotel suite, renting a large car or limo for wedding party, etc.).
3. Can I Bring A Hair And Makeup Team To The Bridal Suite?
THIS is a question I can’t believe I had to ask at venues. To me, a bridal suite was an obvious getting ready location for myself and my bridesmaids. However, I quickly learned this is not always the case. Some venues do NOT allow you to physically get ready in the suite. They must arrive with hair and makeup done, with no outside vendors allowed in to help prepare the wedding party. Personally, I am really looking forward to getting ready with my bridesmaids all together in the bridal suite, and then waltzing out the door and into the ceremony, so this was an important ask in my book.
4. What Are The Different Rates?
I semi knew this was a “thing” going into venue touring, but I was honestly shook at how drastic the price differences were between “on” and “off-peak” months, Friday/Saturday/Sunday, and time of day. Most venues break down their pricing first by month, with May, June, August, September, and October being the most popular (and therefore, the most expensive) months. From there, choosing your day of the week also dictates the price, with Saturday being the most expensive. AND FROM THERE, the time of day further influences the pricing. A daylight wedding (typically 12pm to 5pm) is often discounted, whereas an evening wedding tends to be more expensive (typically 6 or 7pm to 12 or 1am). So, be warned that Saturday night wedding at sunset in summer WILL impact your budget more than you want it to (I’m talking double the price of a Sunday daytime wedding in April).
5. Where Do The Extra Fees Go?
Venues with in-house catering will charge a per plate fee which covers the guests’ attendance and dinner/open bar. Venues who allow you to bring outside vendors will often charge a flat venue rate. But one thing common across the board is the added 20-25% “service charge”. What is this, you may ask? No, it’s not to compensate the waitstaff, the bartenders, or the cleanup crew. It actually typically goes towards any collateral damage (broken plates, carpet stains, etc.), and the rest goes into the owners’ pockets. If, on a venue tour, you ask what the fee goes to and you hear “it goes back into venue upkeep”, be aware of what this *really* means. It may bother you, or you may be fine with it. If you ask about the service fee going toward service and you’re told that the waitstaff makes “regular minimum wage” instead of “servers minimum wage”, just note that you will be tipping another 20% on top of your 20% service fee and 8.875% tax fee (and a potential cleaning fee). Just to put this in perspective, if your wedding is $50,000, with the fees, cleaning, and gratuity, you’ll actually be spending about $75,000. I know, I was just as shocked as you are rn!!
6. Do You Require Chair Rentals?
Add this to the list of questions I didn’t know I had to ask. For reasons unknown, I assumed with a wedding venue came chairs and tables and normal seating arrangements. For many venues (especially those with in-house catering) this is true, but not for all. Some venues require chair rentals for the space, and this is what I call annoying. Add it to the category of “fees I never thought I’d have to pay.”
7. Do You Require Preferred Vendor Use?
If you have specific vendors in mind ahead of time, this question is an important one for you. Most, if not all, venues have a list of preferred vendors—vendors they work with often, trust to work in their space, and recommend to their clients. Choosing these vendors often come with perks such as no plate fee for the vendors working the wedding, no insurance cost, and the obvious (and best) perk, discounts. That being said, some venues require you choose a vendor from their lists (this is especially true for flowers and DJs) and is something to confirm before falling in love with a venue or outside vendor.
8. How Many Hours Are Included In Rental Space?
This question is semi self-explanatory, but an important ask. How many hours are “included” is a polite way of asking can I come in early? Can I stay late? Will there be more fees for those extended hours outside of my actual party? How long is my actual party? Get those answers and avoid those fees!
9. Is Parking Available And Included?
Oh hey there, another fee. Parking on premises isn’t always included, but when it is, you can guarantee it comes with a fee. There are often different “levels” to this parking fee. Typically, couples can choose to play a lot flat fee which allows their guests to park for free, but park themselves. There’s also the option to have the guests pay for parking, which feels really reasonable to some and really jarring to others. But, if you’re feeling fancy, there’s also the option to have a valet service for all guests driving in, and this is where it gets pricy. Worth it? Only you reading this can be the judge of that.
10. Do You Offer A Planner?
While some people choose to go the route of planning their own wedding in full (me), others (people smarter than me) go the route of hiring a planner. Planners have pros and cons—pros being the fact that they know what they are doing, cons being that they often work with specific vendors and venues and may be biased with their recommendations. But, the most ideal situation (in my eyes) is finding a venue you love that assigns you a planner to help handle the rest of the arrangements. This person works specifically for your venue, so they know every single issue you may run into, and therefore are perhaps the most powerful point of contact throughout the entire process. It’s good to know if your venue offers a person to help, how far out they begin helping you, and if they are included in your package.
While there are an infinite amount of obvious questions to be asked, these are the questions you don’t want to forget about. Happy planning!
Anyone who has participated in wedding planning can agree that it can be so damn stressful. Whether you’re the bride, groom, MOH, MIL, or bridesmaid, there is a to-do list longer than a CVS receipt. First, you need a budget, a date, and a venue. You also have to make these decisions fairly quickly and pray your venue isn’t booked by some un-engaged girl already planning her fairytale wedding. Next, you have to coordinate vendors, the dress, your bridesmaid dresses, invitations, honeymoon… I think you get the point.
We’ve all heard the term bridezilla, and there’s a reason for it. Weddings are a lot of work, and they can bring out the worst in people. I, myself, have been in a handful of weddings and have witnessed couples fight over the most trivial things. Really?? We’re getting pissed over linen patterns or up lighting?? I’ve seen these spats over decor turn into a scene from Fight Club.
As a former bride and also as someone who has called off her wedding, I’m familiar with tension before the big day. My ex-fiancé and I bickered about the guest list, venue, flowers, you name it. These wedding quarrels morphed into us going to war about everything from finances to family to our careers. Before I called it off, I would constantly question if everyone who plans a wedding struggles with this or if I was just in the wrong relationship. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t normal.
So, the question is: are these normal pre-wedding disagreements, or are these serious warning signs that this person isn’t your ‘til-death-do-us-part? Read on for some signs that your wedding disagreements are an indicator of unhappiness to come.
Why Did You Get Engaged In The First Place?
Social media has really changed the game for engagements and weddings (I blame Laguna Beach for starting prom-posals). There’s nothing wrong with it, but today it’s pretty much the standard for people hire photographers and plan over-the-top engagements, which they then post over and over again on Instagram. Same goes for weddings. Every part of your wedding day is documented by friends and family on social media. Let’s not forget about the teaser pics right after the big day that only warn of a few weeks later when your IG feed will be inundated by wedding shots.
Wedding Stress: It’s normal to overthink your hashtag or worry about selecting the perfect photographer. You’re paying a TON of money for these services, so you have the right to be picky. But ask yourself: if you took away the fancy dress, flowers, and glam squad, would you still want to marry this person and spend the rest of your life with them? One of my best friends was so over her family’s BS that she and her now-husband canceled their 300 person extravaganza and had a surprise wedding with 40 people instead. This didn’t stop her MIL from wearing a white gown to the event, but at the end of the day, it was about their love for each other—not the fancy ballroom.
Red Flag: If you answered no to the above question, you might want to reconsider this engagement. If all you care about is how your wedding will look to others, this is not a good sign. If you can’t imagine this day without all the bells and whistles or if it makes you cry inside thinking about someone posting an unflattering photo of your venue on, take a step back to reflect on why you actually want to go through with this. After I got engaged, I posted a picture of my proposal on Instagram within an hour of it happening. I remember being annoyed by the caption my ex used for his post (something along the lines of “she said finally”). While it’s normal to share your engagement on IG, looking back, I should have been more excited to celebrate our engagement with him and less concerned with the perfect filter or caption.
How And Why Do You Fight?
It’s expected to have disagreements about venue location or booking a band vs. a DJ. Everyone has a vision of what this day will look like. I’m sure you’re also getting forceful opinions from your family or future in-laws. You might bicker about your guest list—should you invite your creepy uncle or your future father-in-law’s clients? Does your fiancé’s #foreveralone bestie get a plus-one? There are a million and one scenarios that can have you and your SO at each other’s throats.
Wedding Stress: No matter what the argument is about, you want to feel heard by your SO. Relationships are about compromise, and you should respect each other’s opinions when there is any type of disagreement. There shouldn’t be any blaming or name-calling when things go wrong. You should move on quickly after an argument, and fights over wedding favors shouldn’t turn into screaming matches about what religion you’ll raise your future kids. Also, an important point to keep in mind: a lot of arguments stem from family drama. It’s important your SO puts your feelings before their family’s and always listens to you first. Here’s a good example of this done right: My friend’s husband’s family paid for their entire (six-figure!) wedding, but every decision was made together. He never once held the money over her head to get his way. Wedding disagreements should not come between you and your fiancé. On the flip side, my ex always told me he would choose his family over me any day. If he went to his mom to question my flower choices, what made me think he wouldn’t talk sh*t to his mom about my parenting style when we had kids?
Red Flag: It’s a MAJOR warning sign if your SO gaslights you every time you fight. You shouldn’t feel unreasonable, crazy, or unheard when you’re just trying to get your point across (this also holds for arguments outside of wedding planning). I spent a long 6 years with my ex where I was always justifying my feelings. His favorite line when we fought was, “I think your parents dropped you on your head as a baby because you’re crazy”. I know, awful right?
Another major warning sign is constantly walking on eggshells around your SO. You should never have the mentality that it would be easier to keep something to yourself in order to avoid a fight. My ex and I fought a lot—I eventually stopped bringing things up to him because I was afraid of setting him off. It got to the point where I secretly planned our honeymoon because I couldn’t mentally handle another battle. Not a good sign.
Does Your Future Spouse Make Planning Easy Or Difficult?
How did they react when you scheduled a tour of 10 venues the weekend after you got engaged? Did they freak out when you told them the florist was $10k over budget? Did they ditch a cake tasting or black out when you went to see a band showcase? I might sound like a broken record at this point, but how your partner deals with the planning process is a huge indicator of what type of relationship you’re in.
Wedding Stress: It’s OK if your groom doesn’t want to be involved in every single detail of wedding planning. You probably have better taste in European-style flower arrangements, anyway. I went to every vendor meeting with a friend for her wedding, and we had way more fun picking out color schemes and candle holders than she would have had if she’d brought her then-fiancé. The difference is, her now-husband is an awesome guy and would always praise her for having great taste—he just didn’t have a vision for envelope liners and calligraphy styles. If he’s taking the backseat, your SO should be happy to let you plan and be appreciative of the effort you put into it. If he’s willing to be your hype man over classic hand-tied bouquets, imagine how supportive he’ll be for the important stuff.
Red Flag: If your SO makes every part of the planning process a challenge, you’re in red flag city. This could look like anything from delaying you from making decisions to a complete lack of interest in the planning process, not showing up to things, or being overly critical once you make a decision. For instance, my ex would call me impulsive for moving forward with any stage of the planning process. I had to wait three months post-engagement before we were even allowed to talk about venues or setting a date. And, while being completely uninterested in planning, he still managed to be highly critical of every decision I made. His response to when I picked our invitations: “those look like funeral announcements”. Tbh, he made planning so miserable it kind of felt like I actually was planning a funeral!
At the end of the day, you know yourself and your relationship better than anyone else. If you don’t feel supported or if the arguing is spiraling out of control, talk to your SO! Communication is clutch while wedding planning and it will continue to be important throughout married life. It may feel like it, but you aren’t trapped or committed to going through with your marriage. There are plenty of people who have called off an engagement, and they are better for it!
Images: Petr Ovralov / Unsplash, Giphy