Friday, May 1, 2015

How to Make the Most of Your Site Visit

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The calls have been made, the packages have been read and the top finalists have been selected. Once you’ve narrowed down your top 5 – 15 venues for your wedding, the search really starts to heat up, as you begin the site visits. I’ve conducted more site visits in the last 11 years than I can honestly count -- ball parking it would be well over 1,000. In my experience, the majority of the questions tend to be fairly similar. I’ve collected the top 16 questions to ask when visiting a hotel as a prospective venue for your wedding.

Space Questions:

1. What dates do you have available? Are there any dates that you are looking to sell or that would be a better fit for you?
If you have flexibility with your date, try to use it to your advantage. Some venues will run promotions for weddings that are booking in a 9 month or less window. Ask your Catering Manager or Event Coordinator for further details.

2. Can I hold my ceremony here, too? Is there an ad­ditional charge?
Hyatt Regency Chicago does not charge anything additional for hosting your ceremony on-site, as long as we are able to keep the ceremony in the same event space as the dinner. Many venues do have a fee for your ceremony. Make sure you're aware of the venue's policy and everything is laid out in your contract.

3. What type of set-up time is available for my vendors?
Don’t assume that if you are booking your wedding at a venue, that you have all day to set-up. This information is extremely important when it comes to selecting your vendors, as it may have an impact on your budget and/or type of d├ęcor.

4. Is there a separate foyer space for the cocktail hour and/or outdoor availability?
At Hyatt Regency Chicago, all of our ballrooms have adjacent foyer space just outside of each area. Every venue is different and may have a flow that is a bit non-traditional.

Contract Questions:

5. What is the ballroom minimum?
Most venues are going to require a minimum that needs to be spent to utilize their space for an event. Minimums will vary based on the amount of ballroom space and time of year. Ask your Catering Manager for specific minimums.

6. What’s the cancellation policy?
While no one wants to discuss this very touchy subject, it sometimes is a reality. When you are getting ready to spend large amounts of money in any arena, it is always important to find out all of the “what-ifs” up front so you know what you are getting into.

7. What additional items are included as part of the package?
Most hotels are not just providing food and beverage, there are several other “accoutrements” that may be included. This can include, but is not limited to hotel owned items, such as staging, dance floor, chairs, tables, china, glassware, silver and linen to name a few.

8. Does the venue have liability insurance? Do I need any liability insurance?
Hyatt Regency Chicago does have our own liability insurance. Check with your Catering Manager to see if any auxiliary insurance is necessary.

Hotel Rooms:

9. Am I able to contract a block of rooms?
Flexibility with your date is also a plus when looking at hotel rooms rates. Even if the ballroom is available, hotel rooms may not be. Rates will fluctuate based on availability.

10. Do you provide a complimentary room or upgrade for the newlyweds?
Most hotels will provide some sort of upgrade for the bride and groom on their wedding night. Hyatt Regency Chicago offers a complimentary suite.

11. What is your overnight parking rate?
This is key information to pass along to your guests. This rate will typically vary from the special event rate that may be offered to your guests that are attending your wedding, but not staying overnight.

12. Is there attrition associated with your contract?
Attrition is a fancy word for guarantee. It’s always hard to make an educated guess on how many hotel rooms will be used in a year from now. Most hotels will make you guarantee a minimum number of guest rooms if you require more than 25 per night.

Food and Beverage/General Event:

13. Is your package flexible at all?
Every wedding is different because every couple is different. Most of my clients want to put their own unique stamp on their wedding. Many venues offer the opportunity to customize your food and beverage experience.

14. What is the service charge?
Service charge, which may also be listed as gratuity or administrative fee, can vary a few percentages from hotel to hotel.

15. Can we do a food tasting prior to finalizing our menu selection?
Most hotels will include a tasting as part of their package experience. It is always good to find out how many guests can be included in the tasting.

16. What type of parking is available at your hotel?
Even though the wedding really is all about you… You do have a responsibility to keep things simple for your guests. On-site valet parking or self-parking options that are within close walking distance are always nice to have. Some hotels, like ours, will offer a special discounted parking rate for your guests during the wedding reception.

Engagement Fun Fact:
Pope Innocent III (1160/1-1216) declared that a waiting period should be observed between betrothal and marriage, which led to separate engagement and wedding rings. The first recorded account of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477 when King Maximilian I of Germany (1459-1519) proposed to Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) and offered her a diamond to seal his vow.

Thank you so much to Rebecca and our friends over at the Hyatt Regency Chicago for all their sage advice!

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