As you plan for your wedding, you may come to realize that a huge chunk of your budget will go to your reception. Planning your reception usually starts with booking your venue, and to ensure that your money will be well spent, we've listed some questions you can ask before you finalize your booking.

1. How long can they honor your penciled-in dates?

As you canvass for venues, you might feel the impulse to book a venue on the spot if you like it very much, but you also want to keep your options open. If this happens, request their representative to pencil in a reservation for your wedding date--this means that they'll keep you on their list of possible clients, but you won't have a binding agreement yet. Most establishments can honor penciled-in dates for a limited time only, so ask how long they can keep you on the list, and if they'll call you before your tentative reservation expires.


2. How much are the fees for...

a. Reservation?
Most establishments will ask for a 50% downpayment to confirm your booking. At this stage, you have a binding contract with the establishment, so think things through before placing a downpayment--for most establishments, downpayments are non-refundable.

b. Cancellation?
The supplier won't really charge you extra for cancellation--the concern is that you might not get a full refund on your downpayment in the event that you decide to cancel your booking. With some suppliers, as your wedding date draws nearer, the refundable amount in your downpayment decreases (and in some cases, it is non-refundable).

c. Corkage?
Most venues have their own accredited caterers, and some won't allow you to book suppliers that aren't on their list. In other venues, you'll be charged with a corkage fee for bringing food and drinks from outside. Remember to ask about these fees, especially if you plan to bring alcoholic drinks or set up a mobile bar at the venue (and while you're at it, ask if they have a liquor permit, too!). Corkage for alcoholic drinks may either be computed by bottle or by crate.

d. Program overtime?
If you and your guests plan on partying until the wee hours, ask your venue supplier about the charges for program overtime. Even if you don't intend to party hard, anticipate that there might be events that might compel you to extend the program, and in case that happens, you have to be prepared to pay extra.

3. Are there restrictions for decorations or favors? How will you set up?

While most venues include décor in the package, some brides (or their events stylist) would want to spruce up the place in their own style. If you plan on incorporating major changes to their existing décor, ask beforehand if you may do so. Also inquire if they have restrictions on certain décor or favors (Can you light fireworks at the venue? Can you hang décor from the ceiling?) so that you can work with their rules. Inform your supplier about all your plans for set up to ensure that you have ample time to prepare everything (they might have a booking preceding your event).

4. When can you test the audiovisual equipment?

To play music and/or videos at your reception, you'll need to consider the equipment requirements. Whether the venue has its own audio and video equipment or you need to bring in equipment from outside, schedule to test all electronics before the event. Don't forget to coordinate with your DJ or host so that s/he can check the setup too.


5. Are there enough parking spaces?

Check if the venue has its own parking lot, or at least ample space nearby where someone can check on the cars. This is especially critical if you're inviting many guests. You want them to spend hours at your reception--not driving around to find a secure parking spot.

6. (For outdoor receptions) Can they offer an alternative venue if it rains?

A garden can be a lovely setting for your reception, but you want to have a contingency plan in case it rains on your wedding day. Ask if the supplier can provide you with an alternative venue or possible add-ons (like tents) so you can still push through with the reception even in bad weather.

For listings of reception venues, click here.

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