When it comes to choosing your venue, the choices can be very overwhelming, especially because each venue offers so many varieties of services. Having been a Catering Manager for many years, I can tell you the top 6 tips when negotiating your venue contract.
1. Know your Budget: Having this number in your head will set a cap on what you want to spend and will also help you see what each venue is offering you for the same amount of money.
2. Disclose the Competition’s Secrets: Don’t be afraid to tell each venue what their competition is offering you, sometimes, they will be able to offer you the same or something comparable. It will also make them eager to win your business over the competition.
3. Tell Them Everything You Want Up Front: If you disclose your interest in additional upgrades (linen/char rentals, lighting enhancements, ice carvings, bar enhancements, etc.), they see dollar signs, and many times, because you are looking to spend, you can negotiate these prices up front, while you still have negotiating power. You don not want to commit to these items now, you want the option, and each price detailed on the contract.
4. Cancellation: Hopefully you won’t have to deal with it, but just in case, you want to read their cancellation clause and ask for any variation of the following clause: “In the event of cancellation 90 days or greater from the wedding date, should the venue be able to re-sell the date to any type of event, the venue agrees to refund deposit monies commensurate with the total spend of the new booking” In other words, if the new booking is spending the same or less than your guaranteed minimum, the venue agrees to give you the difference of the two numbers. Within 90 days is tough for any venue to resell to any type of event, but definitely ask for less time.
5. Know What You Are Committing To: Minimum Revenue Guarantees are a promise you make to the venue that guarantees a certain amount of money that you will spend with them. NEVER commit to a head count, commit to a DOLLAR amount. The head count should be due no sooner than two weeks prior, but try to negotiate up to 72 hours prior, trust me the guest count still changes this close in. Some Venues will only include the Food and Beverage in their Minimum Revenue Guarantee, others will include anything purchased thru them (linen, lighting, etc.). Finally, ask that any additional fees also be disclosed on the contract. Such fees include; room rental, staffing fees, additional power for the band, etc. If they say “There are no additional fees”, have them put it in the contract. You want EVERYTHING in writing so that there are no misunderstandings later. This protects both parties. Should they have any issues with putting anything in writing, then you may have to question the integrity of the venue.
6. Get Both Parties Signatures. A contract is not legally binding until both parties have signed. A representative from the venue needs to sign after you to completely execute the agreement. Always ask for a copy of the executed contract – and make sure you have ALL pages, not just the signed page.
Good Luck, and remember you can always email me with any questions on this or other topics.