Questions to Ask When Venue Scouting
What is venue scouting? In layman’s terms, it’s traveling to discover unique properties and locations in search of the perfect setting that fits the environment, theme, and guest count of an event. As event planners, location scouting is the number one step in the event planning process after deciding on approximate guest count and time of year.
For those of you who prefer to independently venue scout rather than vetting properties with an event planner, we’re sharing tips on questions to ask when venue scouting to ensure you inquire about all typical event boundaries and out-the-door costs before signing a contract.
Oftentimes, venues have peak season and off-season rates which vary by the thousands depending on weekday or weekend rates. January and February are typically the least busy as fewer events occur in these new year winter months (engagements occur mostly over the holidays and Valentines’ Day weekend and the weather is prohibitive, especially for outdoor venues). Venue rates tend to increase during March and peak season for any venue is April - October. Make sure to inquire about the annual venue rate sheet when reaching out to properties of interest in case you have flexibility with the event date.
Installation & Breakdown
When considering your event times, consider the time it will take to install and breakdown your event. If a venue does not explicitly list load-in and load-out hours included in the venue rate, please inquire. You want to ensure installation and breakdown is included and not an additional fee.
Common miscellaneous fees not included in the venue rate are security fees, trash removal fees, cleaning fees, transportation fees, day-of event site rep fees, portable restrooms, and taxes. These additional fees are often listed separately from the venue rate and sometimes in fine print, so we suggest you inquire these details in the negotiation process.
To clarify, a venue rate is the flat fee you “the client” pay to access/host your event on the venue’s property. It does not typically include elements like catering, bar service, rentals, florals, coordinator, etc. Miscellaneous fees quickly add up to thousands of additional dollars which greatly affects whether a preferred venue is within your budget.
Most if not all hotels and hospitality groups require you to hire their in-house catering, staffing, bar service, and valet/parking service. For private clubs, estates, wineries, and corporately owned properties, they sometimes require you to use their list of exclusive vendors to fulfill your event needs. It’s common for properties to have exclusive relationships with rental companies, caterers, wine/liquor brands, and transportation companies. Some venues like to create exclusive vendor lists as these vendors have experience working on their property/with the property’s team and there is often a previously agreed-upon commission rate for the exclusive partnership. While it seemingly creates ease for you “the client”, it narrows your options to consider potentially more affordable vendors, therefore limiting how you allocate dollars spent in the overall budget.
While vaccinations are rolling out faster and COVID-19 infections are dropping across the US, if you are planning an event in 2021 or 2022, please please please inquire the venue’s COVID-19 cancellation/postponement policy. In the case of government regulations or shutdowns, you want to have several options to consider for your event, may it be minimizing the guest count to abide by the law, postponing the date, or canceling altogether. Make sure to have the venue’s COVID-19 policy in writing as an addendum to the contract, if not already included in the details.
If you have more questions about the venue scouting process, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.