Updated: Jan 22
Booking your venue(s) for your wedding can be a daunting task, and one that takes lead when starting the planning process. So where do you even start?! Well you’re in luck, because that’s what we’re talking about today! By the end of this, you'll know all the right questions to ask to ensure you’re taking the right steps in your planning process!
There are a number of variables in the venue booking process. Are you planning to have your wedding festivities at a hotel or a non-hotel venue? When booking at a hotel venue, there are a few important things to look into:
Food and Beverage Minimum
One phrase you'll hear a lot when working with a hotel venue is "food and beverage minimum". Basically this translates to the minimum amount of money you'll have to spend to host your event(s) at the venue. That can be either per event or for the full wedding weekend of events. Venues break it down differently, so it's good to ask what events their minimum covers. Usually, this amount breaks down into food and beverage separately.
Food - This is what you spend on the food itself -- easy enough. However, if you're bringing in food from an outside vendor (e.g. Indian restaurant), there's usually an "outside catering fee” that covers hotel staff service, kitchen use, and use of any hotel equipment. Make sure you ask the hotel what the outside catering fee is and if it’s a flat rate or a per person rate. Also, ask to see what exactly is covered in that rate (e.g. tables, chairs, linen, kitchen equipment, staging, etc). Luckily, the amount you spend on the outside catering fee will go toward your food and beverage minimum. If you're working with the in-house chef to cater your food, the per person cost for food would go toward the food and beverage minimum.
After having calculated the rate for food based on your guest count and their rates given, you can now look into the rates for beverage. This will get you to a wholesome number of what your food and beverage total will be.
Beverage- What you will spend on beverage will be the bar (alcoholic or non alcoholic). There are two ways to do this:
1) Hosted: You are picking up the tab of the drinks for the guests.
a) Consumption- Paying per drink your guests consume (example: $11 per drink)
b) Package- Paying per person per hour for unlimited drinks- based on how many people you have and how many hours you want to serve (example: $45 per person for 3 hours of open bar)
2) Cash: Guests pay for the beverages themselves based on what they consume.
In either of these methods, the total amount spent on the beverage is what ends up being counted towards your food and beverage minimum.
The nice thing about the hosted package bar rate is that you know right off the bat what you'll most likely be spending for that event on beverage because it’s a per person fee. If you're going the consumption route, we recommend estimating about 3 drinks per person (realistically, your college friends will most likely drink more than 3 which will offset the aunties who might not drink at all).
Now that you’ve calculated what your food and beverage total cost will be, you can compare it to the hotel’s minimum fee required and see if the numbers add up for your events to be hosted there! If the minimum is much higher than what your estimated spending of food and beverage will be, you know that you will need to adjust some rates with the hotel to get to a number that makes the most for your event and guest count.
Tax and Service (Also known as a ++)
This is another very important portion of the hotel costs that you shouldn’t forget about! A Food and Beverage Minimum includes your minimum spend BEFORE taxes and service charges. Each hotel and each state has a different tax and service amount, so be sure to ask the hotel what that would be for their property. Sometimes these combined charges can go upwards of 32%, which would be added to your food and beverage total spend, so it’s better knowing early and budgeting accordingly for this!
Now that you have the food and beverage piece in place. You can work with the hotel to create a room block for your event!
The room block includes a number of rooms in the categories you’d like, reserved for a number of nights requested for your guests. We recommend calculating the number of guests that would need a place to stay for the wedding based on your estimated guest count, and reserving rooms accordingly.
One important thing to consider on the rooms contract is the attrition clause. The clause stipulates what action to take if the contracted number of rooms is not able to be fulfilled (e.g. you contracted 50 rooms, and only end up having 20 booked out for the weekend by your guests). The attrition clause indicates what percentage of rooms the client will be held liable for in this instance. Typically this percentage is about 75%-90% of the rooms, however it varies per hotel and per your negotiated rate, and should be discussed and noted on the contract.
Once you have both sides of the hotel contracts in place (food and beverage AND hotel rooms), you are ready to move forward in signing your venue! Keep your contracts saved in a safe place so you can refer to them throughout the process as needed. Now you’re ready to move on to being able to BOOK YOUR VENDOR DREAM TEAM!!