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For most, venue and ambiance are the first things to attract you to a space for your event and many locations meet these basic requirements and are similar in cost. However, you have to dig deeper to find what those expenses cover and whether a venue is right for your needs.
To ensure you stay on budget, ask what the base price includes. Some venues give you only the space. Everything else is extra. Others include amenities such as tables and chairs, basic lighting and multimedia equipment, drapes, and parking. If your event is outdoors, it is necessary to know you can be charged for the basics like electricity and water. Or you might be required to provide your own. Some offer a staff for free while others require one or more site staff for which you will pay extra.
Another item to consider is time management. For locations that charge by the day, how many hours are included and when does the times start and end? An event lasting three or four hours may need two hours of setup and at least an hour or more for breakdown. Full rates may only apply to the hours the event is held if the venue offers hourly rental. Charges for setup and breakdown can range from a far reduced rate to full price.
A day-of-the-event coördinator can take care of all the little details to make certain your event runs smoothly as well as manage setup and tear-down. Even if you're having the venue handle everything, you still want to follow-up and have several on location meetings and walk through(s). Even with a coördinator, you need to be on top of things. Most venues include at least one coördinator with your space. Find out how many are coming, their schedules, and responsibilities. Venues may also require security guards depending on the size of the crowd and whether you serve alcohol.
What about food and drink? Hotels and restaurants usually need to only use their Food & Beverage departments. This may not only be a matter of profit because any food on their premises reflects on their standards. Also ask, if the venue supplies the meals, is there an added cost for plates, silverware, and serving utensils? Linens come at a price. How many servers, and bussers will be working? And remember servers are tipped separately from all charges should they be allowed to accept tips.
It is also a good idea to carry liability insurance and to ask if coverage is included, or is it an extra cost? It can take care of material damage should a guest break or steal decorations belonging to the venue, cover injuries like a person tripping down a flight of stairs, slipping on a spilled drink, or falling on the dance floor. Some venues may carry a basic amount or only need it if you're serving alcohol. Keep in mind, even though many caterers and event planners have their own coverage, which can cut the need for you to spend on insurance, it is best to be covered.