15 things to look for when hiring a venue
Your creative juices are in full flow and you are well on your way to creating the ultimate soiree; you are the Charles Foster Kane of the events world and this is your Xanadu… but wait, you don’t have a location, or any previous knowledge of how to book one. Fortunately for you, you happen to be reading a blog post entitled ’15 things to look for when hiring a venue’, so it looks like that is about to become a problem that ‘other people’ have.
This is one of the most important elements when considering a venue. If the venue is next door to your house and is perfect in almost every way but you can’t afford it then it’s not for you and the aforementioned location might as well be on the moon.
Before you enquire, make sure that your budget can accommodate for the hire fees. Remember, venues are businesses, and they still need to make money. However, if you think negotiating is a strong point, there is nothing wrong with trying to wriggle out a discounted rate.
This sounds silly but it’s not always something people check until after they have their hearts set on a venue. So to avoid any heartbreaks, check immediately and check clearly. There is no middle ground here, if you need a day to set up the event, and another day to clear up, make this clear from the beginning.
Also, depending on the time of the year and location, chances are not many venues will have the exact times and dates available for your event, so save some time and send your enquiry to three, or four, or five venues all at once. This will increase your chances of finding a venue, and avoid you having to go through the whole process all over again.
3. Exclusivity of the venue
Will you be sharing the location with another event? A vast majority of venues have various different spaces that are available for hire, and as mentioned before, they have a business to run and will try and utilise as many spaces as they can every time.
So whether it’s your wedding that you are planning, or your best friend’s birthday party, make sure that you either have the venue exclusively for yourself and your guests, or that you don’t mind sharing it with other people. Venues are used to this, so they manage to run two events or more at once quite smoothly. Just make sure that the logistics work on the day and your guests don’t mistakenly walk into the wrong party.
Location is key! Is your venue easily accessible or will your guests have to make special arrangements to get there? Is it a safe area? Does it sound appealing when you send out your invitation message?
When hiring a venue it’s also worth considering where most of your guests will be travelling from, so perhaps somewhere in the middle might be perfect.
If your event is next to the M25 at rush hour then nobody is getting there from outside of London. Take into consideration train cancellations, journey times and possible delays for important guests.
Another thing that people often forget to consider is the comfort of travel. For example, if it’s a fairly casual event, then chances are nobody minds hopping on a bus to get to your event. Walking may even be a great option. However, if it’s a smarter event, where a lot of dresses may be flowing on top of high-heel-supported-ankles, you might want to provide or suggest different travel options.
Do your guests require parking? If so, are there facilities within the venue, or around? Consider the costs as well. If the venue does not provide parking facilities, is there nearby parking and does it have a limited time on its free parking.
If your event is a late one then you could consider having your guests stay at hotels nearby. Especially if guests have travelled from long distance, or they have been drinking and cannot drive back home.
Make sure you consider this carefully, because if guests have no other option, then they might have to cut the party early, or not drink as they normally would.
8. Does the venue allow external suppliers
Some venues like to supply everything, from caterers to AV technicians and entertainment. Others are pretty easy going and let people have their venue on a dry-hire basis.
If you are planning on bringing in your own caterers or music then this must be a consideration. On the other hand, having suppliers on hand, suggested and trusted by the venues may come as a blessing and take away a lot of trouble.
9. Unique features
Your event plans can go completely out of the window (in a good way) once you start looking around for venues to hire. Venues can have so much character and unique features, that all of a sudden you find that your Venetian inspired masked ball does not need as much dressing as you initially planned out.
On the other hand, watch out for any imposing unique features that might break your event’s flow, or make it difficult for your guests to mingle and network. These come in many forms such as large pillars, walls, unmovable furniture and door ways.
Does the location have disabled access? You would think that in today’s world all locations would have easy access for disabled but the more ‘unique’ you go it may not be an option or may require alternative methods.
Some locations don’t have toilet facilities and some don’t even have electricity. Don’t ever presume and just ask away. Think about what you need, and if you are bringing in suppliers, check what they need to set up. Do they need a kitchen? A stage? AV equipment? What about changing rooms and coat check?
Go as detailed as possible to avoid any disappointments. But don’t forget that there is solution to almost every problem, so think creatively and be flexible.
12. Cancellation policy
Every location has their own cancellation policy and it is good to be prepared should the worst happen. Make sure you have this available to you at the beginning and know your rights when hiring a venue. You don’t want to lose out on the venue and the money due to lack of knowledge, so always ask what the policy is.
13. Weather contingency
If you are planning an outdoor event, ask your venue what their back-up plans are if a storm suddenly hits. Can you move the event indoors? How feasible is this and how quickly can you do it? Does the venue provide outdoor heating panels? Perhaps you might want to provide your guests with comfortable blankets.
The opposite may also happen. It may be the peak of Summer and the hottest day of the year… Does the venue have outdoor areas here your guests can get some fresh air? Is there air conditioning running in the building?
This is a fairly easy and straightforward question to ask your venue, as they will have their answer straight away. However, it is also one that many clients forget to ask. If the event happens to be a wedding, does the venue have a civil marriage or civil partnership licence? If it doesn’t, then you can only host the reception at the site.
Another type of license is alcohol license. If you are bringing in your own drinks and selling them, you need to check that the venue is licensed for that, and also what time of the day/evening that license is valid until.
15. Is the venue too good?
Sometimes a venue is so breathtaking that it blows you away, but it actually does not fit within any of the requirements for your event. The key is for you to be happy and to enjoy putting on the event. And if the location is perfect for you then chances are, it is perfect for the event (although not always). Trust your gut feeling above all, and if you think you can change the requirements for your event without compromising on its objective, effect and quality, then go for it.
To summarise, it seems that the key is to be prepared for all eventualities. The more prepared you are then the better your event will go. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and you shouldn’t be afraid to enjoy yourself as you put on your event. In the events industry we all want to enjoy ourselves and bring fun to the people around us. We are all together and by being prepared you can help everybody to have a great experience.