1. Do you offer a tasting?
“Make sure your venue lets you schedule one. You shouldn’t have to choose your menu blindly. Though their food has a really great reputation, venues like The Lighthouse, Pier Sixty, Stage 6, and the New York Botanical Gardens generally don’t offer tastings.”
2. May I see the kitchen?
“Any reputable off-premise caterer can handle a loft with a mediocre kitchen. But it’ll cost you. For venues that are photo studios by day, such as Gary’s Loft or Ramscale, the caterer will need to bring in convection ovens and warming cabinets, among other items, which can cost an additional $5 to $10 per guest.”
3. What else do you have planned on the day of my wedding?
“Ask about any other events (including other weddings or renovations) scheduled to take place on your date. If you don’t, you could end up taking photos elsewhere to avoid scaffolding or bumping into another bride.”
4. Do you have a preferred list of vendors?
“If they do, it isn’t necessarily a red flag, unless they charge any vendors who are not on the list a ‘usage fee.’ At the end of the day, those charges are incurred by you, and they can be thousands of dollars. (Your vendors will hike up their prices to compensate for the fee.) There is, however, a reason for all this. The Pierre Hotel, for instance, keeps a list of vendors who treat the space like their home. Others rig things from the ceiling, and bang into the walls, so they charge a fee for wear and tear, for the incidental costs of doing business.”
5. What is the situation with rentals?
“Clarify exactly what they offer. Some venues advertise full event capability but don’t deliver on that promise. Caterers regularly have to charge for extra rentals at the Angel Orensanz Foundation. And, if you want to bring in your own chairs instead of using theirs, ask. Just make sure they have the space to store their own furniture.”
6. How is the sound quality?
“If your venue is a cavernous space (i.e. notorious echo chambers Cipriani 42nd Street or Capitale), warn your D.J. or band, so they can prepare, or hire one that’s worked there before. Also, check the speakers and their location: Does it bother you to have huge speakers hanging from the ceiling? The tables positioned directly beneath them will likely get pounded with sound. Ask if your D.J. can provide his or her own speakers, and be prepared to be denied; places like Capitale won’t allow it.”
7. Can my D.J. bring his own equipment?
“If your priority is music, and you want to book an in-demand D.J., make sure your venue provides a sound system that is up to his standards, or better yet, allows him to bring in his own. However, be aware that some venues with in-house systems will charge you several thousand dollars if he does.”
8. Are there any extra fees that I’m obligated to pay?
“If your wedding is in a loft, get ready to be hit with a lot of them: Mandatory costs include fire marshal and security fees (around $750), janitorial charges (around $350), loading dock fees (about $250 per hour), liability insurance (from $1,250 to $2,000), and restroom attendants (provided by your caterer; staffing rates vary). These can be negotiated depending on the time of year and which night.”
9. Is this negotiable?
“Venues that are photo studios by day are especially flexible with pricing. But overall, the rule of thumb is, everything is negotiable, just get it in writing.”