Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Venue Site Visits

We're sharing questions to ask and which vendors should attend.

Outdoor Wedding Ceremony in Garden with Floral-Lined Aisle and Floral Arch

Photo by KT Merry

Your wedding venue site visit can be one of the most exciting—and important—tasks you'll complete during the last few months before your big day, as this is likely one of the first opportunities you'll have to see your vision for the celebration come to life. This time spent at your venue allows you to make final decisions about layout and details, choose your favorite backgrounds for photos, and ask critical questions that can influence your budget and remaining to-do list.

Making the most of a site visit means understanding who should attend, what you should see, and the must-ask questions that can make the rest of your planning go more smoothly. Florida-based event planner Kelly McWilliams breaks down this important pre-wedding appointment. 

What is a wedding venue site visit and how does it differ from a tour?

A wedding site visit is a planning appointment that takes place after you've booked booked the venue, and it's an opportunity for you and any key vendors (like your wedding planner and/or designer and florist) to begin fine-tuning the details of the day. This is different from a venue tour, which happens early on in the planning process. “A venue tour is what you do before you are under contract,” says McWilliams. “When you’re touring, this time is meant to show you the potential sites for your wedding events."

There's some overlap between these two appointments, as you'll likely view the spaces you’ll use during your ceremony and reception during both, but the site visit is when you'll really get down to brass tacks and make decisions about your décor, setup, and start mapping out the order of your day.

Why should you book a wedding venue site visit?

Once you’ve committed to a venue and started designing the aesthetic of your event, you should plan at least one more site visit to confirm the details of your ceremony and reception— from the places where you’ll pose for photos to whether your dream escort card display will fit. “It’s an opportunity to ‘walk through the day’ to see how the flow works and work out any timing,” says McWilliams. “You’ll see all of the event spaces—hopefully at the same time of day that your wedding will take place—so that you can decide on things like which way your ceremony will face, where your aisle will be, and where the wedding party will walk in from.”

A site visit also lets you confirm lighting setups, sound needs, and transportation time between locations (should that be a factor at play).

Which wedding vendors should attend a site visit?

It’s critical that the venue’s manager or event coordinator attends the site visit—they’re the on-site experts who can answer questions and confirm the feasibility of your design ideas and layout suggestions—along with your wedding planner. “Having a planner by your side means that you have an expert pointing out not just potential problems, but also opportunities,” says McWilliams. “An expert knows what you don’t know and can give you perspective. Having your planner or coordinator with you also means that you can know for sure that you are on the same page.”

Other important invitees will vary depending on your wedding setup. “If you are having your wedding where you will be having a tent, request that a representative from your rental company attend,” says McWilliams. If you have a specific vision for your portraits, you can invite your photographer; if you’re debating round tables versus farmhouse style, invite a contact from your rental company (though an experienced planner should be able to communicate your vision for these elements to vendors who can’t attend the site visit). “Essentially, the people in charge of making sure that your entire day runs smoothly, from getting ready to the guest departure, need to be in attendance to make sure that every segment of your day is properly executed,” says McWilliams.

Should you have a venue site visit for a destination wedding?

If you’re planning a destination wedding, McWilliams recommends two site visits, which gives you time to meet with vendors and seek out the best travel tips for your guests (plus experience the hotel where you booked your room block). “You can eat at a few restaurants and see how great the pool is, or what fun activities and excursions might be good for your guests, like hiking, watersports, or sightseeing tours,” she says. “On one of your visits you can also plan to do tastings or preview your floral and décor with an in-person mock up. Additionally you can plan a hair and makeup trial, and maybe your engagement session with your photographer.”

What questions should you ask during your wedding site visit?

Prepare for your site visit by coming up with a comprehensive list of questions for your wedding planner, venue manager, and other vendors. McWillliams recommends breaking your big-day agenda into segments and then considering what the wedding party, family, guests, and vendors need during each segment. “You’ll need to define, at this time what is included, not included, and what you need to provide as it pertains to the venue,” she says. Ask if lunch is provided in the bridal suite, if you need to rent chairs for the ceremony, if the bar service includes speciality glassware, if there’s a plan for bad weather.

“The most important questions to ask your venue’s event manager are, ‘What do I need to know about using this site? What am I responsible for and what are you responsible for? Is there anything I haven’t asked about that often comes up later?’” says McWilliams. “Ask about what is included and available, or if not included, what additional costs there are.”

3 Essential Details to Pay Attention to During a Wedding Site Visit

Even the most detail-oriented couple can forget to ask about factors that might have a big impact on your big day. McWilliams recommends paying attention to these key elements during your visit.

The Landscape

“Try to visit at the same time of year as your wedding and at the time of your wedding so that you can see what lighting and temperatures may be like,” she says. The same goes for seeing whether your ceremony garden will be blooming in June and whether that majestic oak tree will be dropping its leaves yet in September.

Backup Spaces

“If you are having an outdoor wedding, ask about what inclement weather rules are in place and what typically happens in case of inclement weather on the grounds—like rain causing large puddles or standing water,” says McWilliams. Even if it’s not raining during your ceremony, you may need to switch locations at the last minute if walkways are washed out or your aisle is flooding. It's important to tour all possible backup spaces and make a decision about which you'll use should the weather necessitate a change.

Local Attractions and Events

Especially if you’re opting for a destination wedding in a popular area, you should ask about seasonal events and annual tourist draws. “It’s important to ask about what the traffic is like or if there are any big events in town, like a huge golf tournament or festival during that time of year,” says McWilliams. This also goes for graduations in college towns, home football games in major NFL cities, and big-name concerts. And while you’re at it, make sure you’re clear on guest and vendor parking rules for venues in crowded urban areas.

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