bride and room seeing reception room for first time

Let's talk WEDDING VENUE TOURS – before, during and after

Booking your venue is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as you plan your South Africa destination wedding. It has a knock-on effect on so many other decisions and truly shapes the look and feel of your big day. The process starts with lots of research, both online and through talking to family, friends, and your wedding planner of course! Once you’ve narrowed your options down to a shortlist, it’s time for the next step: the wedding venue tour. This is an in-person walk-through of the property, which allows you to see and experience the space for yourselves. But the wedding venue tour isn’t just about the aesthetics. It’s also about knowing what to look for, what to bring, and which questions to ask the owner or venue coordinator. Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your venue visit – before, during, and afterwards!

Once you’ve narrowed your options down to a shortlist, it’s time for the next step: the wedding venue tour.

Before the wedding venue tour

There are three very important pieces of information you will need before making any appointments for venue visits.

  • How many guests will be attending? (A rough number, so that you can ensure the venue has the right capacity)
  • When do you want to have your wedding? (If you don’t have an exact date, a season or month is fine and gives you more flexibility. If you do have an exact date, be sure to check availability before making the venue tour appointment.)
  • What is your budget? (Be aware that some venues include elements like furniture hire or accommodation in the price they quote. Knowing your budget in these areas will help you make your decision.)

You should also have a list of questions ready. Here are some that I would recommend:

  • Does the venue provide tables and chairs as part of the hire charge? What do they look like?
  • Does the venue hire provide for set-up the day (or two days) before the wedding?
  • When can collections and deliveries take place?
  • What is the venue’s COVID postponement policy?
  • Is the party allowed to continue after midnight? (Some venues are strict about this, while others are more lax.) If so, what is the overtime rate per hour?
  • Does the venue include a generator in their hiring fee and is it big enough to power the kitchen and the venue itself, including any additional lighting and sound? (Thanks Eskom!)
  • What does the kitchen look like? Will you as the client need to hire anything in specifically for the caterers or is this included in the venue hire fee?
  • Does the venue offer catering and bar services, or do you need to secure these yourself?
  • If bar service is included in the venue hire, can you see the drinks menu and price list?
  • Does the venue allow you to bring in your own caterers, or are you limited to a list of specific suppliers? Most venues that include a fully-equipped kitchen in the venue fee will have a list of preferred caterers that they know and trust, since kitchen equipment is very costly.

As well as asking questions, it’s always a good idea to check out some of the previous weddings held at the venue and scout out some of the spaces you want to see on your tour.

Here are some additional tips to help you prepare for your wedding venue tour:

  • Be sure to make an appointment instead of just dropping in.
  • When making your appointment, ask for clear directions or GPS co-ordinates.
  • If you decide to make multiple venue viewing appointments on one day, allow at least an hour per visit.

Wondering what to wear to a wedding venue tour? Think smart-casual, with comfortable shoes.

During the wedding venue tour

The number one most important thing on your wedding venue tour is to pay attention. It’s not just about listening to your guide (although you should definitely do that!) but also about experiencing the venue the way that your guests will, from the moment you arrive. (For example, how easy is it to find? Is parking convenient? Etc.)

Here are a few other things you can do to get the most out of your wedding venue tour:

  • Take lots of photos and video. If you’re touring more than one venue it’s easy for the details to start to blend into one, so it’s helpful to have pictures to refer to later. Pictures also make a great visual reference when you start planning your wedding design and décor. Snap pics of the ceremony and receptions spaces, cocktail hour locations, getting ready rooms, accommodations – even the toilets!
  • Make notes. It’s also a good idea to write notes, whether on paper or on your phone. Have these notes available when you make your decision and also when you review your contract. It can also be useful to make a quick sketch or two of the venue’s layout.
  • Ask all the questions and check all the details! Don’t be embarrassed to ask as many questions as you need to. Find out what is and is not included and what can be done for an additional fee. Check distances and accessibility between different areas. Look for power points and rigging points. Don’t make assumptions and when in doubt, ask!
  • Look for both indoor and outdoor options. For example, look at both the garden and chapel for your ceremony. That way you will have a back-up plan if needed, and be familiar with the space.
  • Be honest. The venue coordinator will also ask you questions about your wedding. If you know the answers, don’t be shy to share them. This will allow them to get an idea of your vision and make suggestions for how they can make it work.
  • Try to make a connection. Once you choose a venue, you’ll be spending quite a bit of time working with the coordinator. So it’s a good idea to make sure that you click. Do you feel comfortable with them? Are they responsive to your questions and ideas? If not, it may be better to move on to another option.

The number one most important thing on your wedding venue tour is to pay attention. It’s not just about listening to your guide, but also about experiencing the venue the way that your guests will, from the moment you arrive.

After the wedding venue tour

Even once the venue tour is done and dusted, there are a few things you can do to make sure the next steps run smoothly.

  • File everything. Keeping track of all your wedding planning documents can be a hassle but it helps to be organised. Start a wedding binder. After the wedding venue tour, file any pamphlets, menus, preferred supplier lists, etc. that you are given.
  • Follow up any logistical issues as soon as possible. Get any information you will need to make your decision. For example, if transportation or accommodation might be an issue for your guests, research the options and costs.
  • Reserve accommodation. Speaking of accommodation, once you know you’re going to book a venue, it’s a good idea to reserve a few blocks of accommodation nearby for your guests, especially if your wedding will take place at a popular time of year.
  • Review your options. Sometimes you fall in love with a venue and the choice is easy. But if not, make some time to sit down as a couple and review the different venues you saw, comparing them against your list of requirements and budget. Then choose the one that best fits your needs.
  • Don’t wait too long to book. Wedding venues can get booked up well in advance. That’s even truer right now, with the backlog of 2020 weddings to consider. So while you shouldn’t rush a decision, once you’ve made one, don’t wait! A signed contract and a deposit will seal the deal.

Of course, one of the great things about working with a destination wedding planner like Oh Happy Day from the beginning is that we’ll be there with you, both at the wedding venue tour and throughout the rest of the planning process! You can find out more about our services here.

Top image by: Roxanne Davison