Your venue is the foundation of your wedding day, so take advantage of everything it has to offer. The easiest way to do just that? Simply ask. Your venue's directors are there to help—they're also there to customize their space in a way that suits you (and your guests'!) needs. Speaking of your guests—one of the reasons to preemptively ask venues your most pressing questions is so that you can communicate the info back to your wedding's attendees, via your wedding website. Is your venue also preparing your menu? Ask about allergy options, so you can warn any friends with sensitivities. Is there are a garden on the property? Share photos of the sprawling blooms, so your guests will be just as psyched as you are when the big day arrives.
To get you started, we tapped Jess Levin, founder and CEO of Carats and Cake, to ask a few of the industry's insiders to share their tips on what to inquire about and why. Here, everything you need to ask your ceremony and reception venue before you sign so that you and your loved ones are more than ready on the day of your celebration.
How many events do you do in one day?
"Ask any venue you're considering if they book several weddings and events in one day. You want to know not only that you will be well taken care of on your special day but also that you and your even team will have plenty of time to set up and customize your event." —Kristin Doggett, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Bellafare
Do you have a preferred or exclusive vendor list?
"A preferred vendor list will consist of selected vendors who have been vetted by the venue, but you will still be permitted to consider vendors not on their list. An exclusive vendor list means you can only use these vendors. If a venue has an exclusive vendor list, this can drive up costs as clearly only a few vendors have a 'lock' on the venue." —Lynn Easton, Co-Owner, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Specifically, what's included in the price?
Think food, beverage minimums, and rentals. "You want to know what's included for all of your menu and beverage requirements, and what the venue comes with (like tables, chairs, or linens). Make sure you understand what the minimum of the venue is (if they provide catering) and how that relates to your actual desires for food and beverage. Oftentimes the minimum won't come close to what you'll actually be paying out the door, so ask for a detailed estimate in writing including desired appetizers, dinner, late-night snacks, desserts, bar, and staffing and tax, as well as any rental fees, extra hours, or clean-up fees." —Aleah & Nick Valley, Owners, Valley & Company Events
Should I pay attention to the contract? Is there any fine print I need to know about?
"Read your contract—the last thing you want is to plan on having all your guests send you off with sparklers only to find out the venue doesn't allow it. We hate to have to disappoint when it's something you have had your heart set on for months, but all could have been avoided as all restrictions are outlined in the rental agreement." —Julie Miller, Production Manager, The Foundry
What makes your property unique, or is there anything special happening during the time of year?
"To get the most of our your wedding venue, embrace the special elements of the property, like the history of the venue or the unique features of the space or the gardens that might be in bloom. Choose a color palette and design that complements all the natural beauty of your surrounds." —Lyndsey Hamilton, Creative Director, Lyndsey Hamilton Events
What floor plan do you recommend for my guest count?
"It's a smart idea to take suggestions on your floor plan from your venue coordinator. Listen to what they have to say first, and then ask questions. No question is a silly question so ask as many as you can—just be prepared to hear a possible no. And if you get a no, listen to their reasoning—it might inspire a new idea." —Jaclyn Journey, Owner/Designer, Jaclyn Journey Event & Floral Design
Can you help us customize our wedding menu?
"Work closely with the chef to set a menu that reflects your tastes and will wow your guests. The hotel will always have great suggestions of what works well, but a bride should push the venue to customize the menu." —Gary Merjian, Director of Catering & Event Management, The St. Regis New York
Do you have any recommendations or suggestions from past events, as well as things to avoid?
"Learn from others' successes and mistakes. The property is a wealth of knowledge on what works and what doesn't, so use their expertise to your advantage." —Alexandra Metz, Director of Catering, New York Botanical Garden
Is there anything we can do to make the process run more smoothly?
"Most venue contacts will go out of their way to go above and beyond for clients that have been nice to work with throughout the process. I have seen many venue contacts add things to the order at no charge just because they loved the client. When you fight a contract too much, sometimes it could hurt you in the end." —Sara Fay Egan, Partner, Jackson Durham Events
This story originally appeared on MarthaStewartWeddings.com.