Tips to consider when booking a party venue

There’s a kind of caveat emptor to booking an event. It’s not that you’re going to be scammed (though that can happen), but it’s the unasked or unanswered question that can land you in a briarpatch of unexpected shortcomings, responsibilities, fees, gratuities — or worse.

Here are some key points to remember when you’re making your selection.

Do as much advance footwork as possible: These days, only a fool overlooks the easiest and most immediate first step: an internet search. Visit websites and gather as much info as possible.

Know with whom you’ll be working: Establish an on-site contact and one who’ll be available for the day of event. Is he or she quickly available by cellphone, text or email?

Check out the venue: A website’s photo gallery will show rental spaces to their best advantage but may not reveal limitations. Will the space be enclosed and private, or open to other guests walking through?

Really think about the space: Is there a minimum number of guaranteed guests required to use the venue? Ask not only how many guests the space can accommodate, but in what configuration. A room that can handle 100 guests for a cocktail situation may only seat 65 for a plated dinner. Where would a buffet be set up? How about the bar?

Check into disabled accessibility: Is the space handicapped-accessible? Many old or historic venues may require guests to negotiate stairs, often narrow or treacherous. Are there elevators? How far will elderly or impaired individuals have to hike?

Check how food and beverages are handled: Some places employ an in-house catering department, while others provide a list of “preferred vendors.” And some permit you to bring in your own food. Will guests be able choose from a pre-selected menu of options for each course? How is alcohol handled: open bar, cash bar, tickets only, per drink or per bottle? Are soft drinks, glassware, etc. provided?

Find out what, if anything, you can bring in: Can you bring in your own special wine? Is there a corkage fee, and what does it entail? Most places will allow you to provide your own celebratory cake or pastries, for example, but will an added cake-cutting fee be required?

Check on amenities: Are tables and chairs provided? Linens, dishes, flatware and glasses? Do you need a dance floor? Is there a sound system in place, and how is its quality? Will a microphone (and podium) be provided?

Get it in writing: Is an advance menu sampling available? How is the bill broken down: per person, for the entire…

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