There is no universal way that venues give you information so sometimes you need to ask some specific questions to get to the bottom of what's on offer and what's allowed to help you make an informed decision so you don't come unstuck during the planning process.
1. What is included in the price of the venue?
All venues are different, some quote on a dry hire basis meaning you just get the space, others throw furniture in as well. Some venues create a package including food and drink. Find out exactly what is included? And what you can negotiate on if you don't want it all.
2. Is VAT included?
More often than not a venue will quote for their hire charge and conveniently leave the VAT off. The first you know about it is when the invoice turns up. It's always worth checking so you can factor the whole cost into your budget.
3. Do you have to pay to use a supplier who isn't on their list?
Often venues will have preferred/accredited and recommended supplier lists. Recommended is just that, and you can take it or leave it, but preferred/accredited generally means you have to use someone off that list. If you've got your heart set on a particular caterer or cuisine its worth finding out if you can use them instead and if so will the venue charge you?
4. What are the venue's restrictions e.g. can you have naked flame or do candles have to be battery operated? Can you have red wine and potentially staining food? Can you have confetti etc...
Ask if they have any restrictions that you should be aware of. Chances are none of these will be deal breakers, but if you have got a romantic looking candle filled room in your head it saves a lot of heart ache and stress to know from the outset if that's possible or not.
5. Can you store things overnight or does everything have to be removed that evening?
If you've gone for a dry hire venue and you're bringing in your own furniture, bars, etc... definitely find out when they need to be collected. Some companies charge more to collect at 1am than if they were to come back during normal offices hours. Also try and find out about storing wedding gifts and cards or anything you're bringing in. if everything has to be off site you may need to nominate a friend or family member to take these with them at the end of the night.
6. What's the wet weather option?
If being outside is a selling point for the venue be sure to find out what happens if it rains (we are in the UK after all). Make sure you're happy with the wet weather option because the one thing you can't control is the weather.
7. Can you extend the curfew?
Most wedding venues finish at midnight, sometimes earlier, but you can often extend this via the venue with a small payment to the council. So if you want to go on until 1am or possibly later, find out if the venue can accommodate this and what the additional charge is.
8. Are there any changes to the venue planned before your wedding day e.g. maintenance works, changes to general public access etc...?
Make sure you ask as it won't always be revealed. If there are plans, find out when any works are likely to finish and how soon that is to your wedding day. These things have a habit of running over and if its going to disrupt or be an inconvenience to you there may be some negotiation to be done.