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Looking for a space for your next event?

To avoid any nasty surprises and headaches, here are 8 questions to ask yourself before signing on the dotted line so that your dream venue doesn’t become a nightmare.

1. What’s the maximum capacity?

Whether your event is a gala banquet, a cocktail dînatoire, or a conference, you need to know the space’s maximum capacity. And don’t let an empty room fool you. The space might look big, but throw in a stage, dance floor, décor and audio-visuals, and your maximum capacity has shrunk considerably.

Lesson learned? Knowing your accurate maximum capacity will avoid the embarrassment of turning guests away or squeezing 12 people at a table made for 10.

2. What are the policies regarding set-up and tear-down?

The answer to this question can have the biggest impact on your event budget and your décor options. In some cases, venues will charge extra for set-up and tear-down times, not to mention the possible need of more staff (= more money, especially if it’s the wee hours of the morning) to get the work done quicker. Lesson? Talk to your venue in advance and find out everything you need to know about its set-up and tear-down policies. If they claim that the space is available the eve of your event or the morning after, be sure to get that in writing.

Lesson learned? Figuring out your set-up and tear-down policies ahead of time will prevent any unplanned extra labour costs.

3.  Are there any exclusive suppliers?

Certain venues have exclusive supplier relationships with caterers, audio-visual providers, or decorating companies. If this is the case with your venue, make sure that these suppliers’ rates fit into your budget.

If you really want to work with your own supplier(s), some venues will allow it–for a certain fee–so it’s worth finding out whether there’s any wiggle room in your venue’s exclusivity policy.

Lesson learned? Being aware of exclusive supplier contracts can save you the disappointment of getting stuck working with suppliers that aren’t your favourites.

4. What are the electricity costs?

Electricity costs are often not included in your space rental fee, so it’s a good idea to inquire about them ahead of time, especially if your event showcases large-scale audio-visuals such as a band that rely heavily on power.

Lesson learned? Best to budget your electricity costs properly.

5. Are there food and beverage royalties to pay?

It’s common practice for venues to charge a food and beverage royalty (a percentage of the amount spent on F&B). Considering a typical 10% royalty on food and 15% on alcohol, this can add up.

Lesson learned? Knowing your food and beverage royalties in advance will help you stay within your allotted catering budget.

6. What furniture is available at the venue and is there a cost for using it?

During your site inspection, it’s likely that another event is in the process of setting up, making it difficult to assess which furniture has been rented and which comes with the territory, so to speak. Better to clarify this with the venue ahead of time.

Lesson learned? Knowing your furniture situation will save you the logistical and financial headache of throwing in all types of unplanned furniture pieces, such as cruisers, banquet tables and chairs.

7. Are there any fees for suspending things from ceilings?

Want to hang your audio-visual equipment or other décor from the ceiling for that extra impact? Before you bring in your sky-lift, install anchors in the ceiling or even get an engineer’s advice, find out from the venue whether your big ideas will result in bigger costs. More often than not, keeping things “grounded” is the way to go.

Lesson learned? These extra fees can sometimes be major, so avoid any surprises.

8. How do you access the venue?

Is there a loading dock? Have you figured out a landing platform? Is there a freight elevator, or will your staff be stuck using the stairs? Needless to say, the answers will give you a very good idea of what you can expect in delivery and labour costs.

Lesson learned? Your delivery costs are greatly affected by your venue’s accessibility.

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