An Insider’s Guide to Negotiating + Working with Your Venue

Venue hunting was by far, the most stressful, overwhelming part of my personal wedding planning journey – and I imagine I’m not alone. Contracts, confusing terms and all the back and forth left me exhausted and confused. I needed tips and tricks for navigating this uncharted territory and that’s why we have our friends at Easton Events here today to give us the scoop. From what to keep in mind when searching for your special spot to say “I do” to getting the most of your venue, here’s what you need to know!

Getting the most competitive pricing: Venues tend to not be very flexible with their pricing but there are a few factors that may influence their willingness to negotiate. The time of year for your wedding can definitely motivate them to negotiate. Pick off-season months and be flexible with your date. For example, venues on the East Coast are highly unlikely to negotiate for a Saturday in October, but selecting a Sunday in August gives you much more leverage.

Let the salesperson know that their venue is your first choice and that your budget is restricted. Your ability to connect with that salesperson is critical. Finding the right balance of being persistent, persuasive and respectful is key. If you can “engage” with them, they are more likely to make concessions and be flexible.

The time between booking your wedding and the actual wedding date is important as well. If you are trying to book 18 months out, pricing normally will be very firm. But if you are looking at dates six months out, which is shorter than the typical booking cycle (for dates that probably wouldn’t book otherwise), you have a great deal of leverage. Your headcount can also affect your ability to negotiate. If the venue is also handling the food and beverage, a large guest count will give you more influence.

The Booking Basics

Before you fall in love (with your venue) and sign the contract, read the fine print!

How many guests can the space accommodate?

What time can you start setup on property?

When can your guests arrive?

What time must your wedding conclude?

Can you have music outside?

Can the wedding party get ready on site?

What is the rain plan for ceremony and/or cocktails?

What size vehicles can be used for guest transportation?

Will the venue assist in any elements of planning or ceremony assistance?

Are there additional services offered and what are the associated fees?

Are we required to select our wedding vendors from an “Exclusive Vendor List”?

Will I need to provide, lighting, additional restrooms, AV or stage?

** Ask to be referred to a couple of brides who have married in the last year to get their feedback on their experience. The more you know and understand what your venue is able and willing to do for you the happier your planning experience will be!

Know the Difference Between “Will vs. Won’t” and “Can vs. Cannot”

Different venues provide different services, and it’s important to understand exactly what support the venue offers. Using the terms “will vs. won’t” often refers to service – your venue may offer to set out the place cards, for example, but won’t be responsible for babysitting your young guests.

Verbiage around “can vs. can’t” usually comes down to the fine print and non-negotiable terms.

For example, the capacity, noise ordinances, types of vehicles permitted on site, event end time, may be set in stone – no matter how good your relationship is with the event venue, you can’t change these.

Preferred vs. Exclusive Vendors

Find out if your venue has 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, which can drive up costs as clearly only a few vendors have a “lock” on the venue.

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