The deposit varies, but you should be prepared to put something down—in some cases, you might have to pay as much as 50 percent of the total just to reserve your date.
evelyn sam wedding reception exterior during sunset

If you're just embarking on your wedding-planning journey, one of the first to-dos on your list is likely booking a venue. This is an ideal first step, as your venue choice will help dictate many of the decisions you'll make down the line, including theme, style, colors, and even additional vendors. Needless to say, booking a venue is nothing short of a big deal—it is also likely to be one of the most costly aspects of planning your wedding. For this reason, it's important that you understand what you might have to pay up front upon securing your venue.

Typically, whether you're holding your reception at a hotel or private dining room at a restaurant, wedding venues require you to pay a non-refundable 50 percent deposit to hold your date explains Liz Curtis, wedding planner and founder and CEO of Table + Teaspoon. "This means that you'll need to have an approximate guest count before going scouting, because venues often will require you to pay a certain amount per person," she says. "Once you pay your deposit, the venue is yours unless you either cancel and forfeit your deposit, or request a date change, which venues will usually try their best to accommodate."

Some venues will also require a security deposit that they will refund to you after your wedding assuming there are no damages of any kind. "If a security deposit is required, venues will ask for that as a separate payment from the deposit," explains Vicky Choy, owner of Event Accomplished. "Your venue contract will detail your payment schedule for when all other payments are due and every venue's payment schedules are different; however, you will commonly pay the remainder of your rental fee at least two weeks before your wedding."

Before signing, it's important that brides, grooms, and any family members who may be helping to foot the bill pay careful attention to the wording and the nitty-gritty details of any contract that's signed. It's also worth making sure that you're 100 percent happy with your venue choice after signing the dotted line. "Many venues have strict policies on how many guests you can have seated or standing, so you should be sure of these details before signing anything," says Curtis. "These limits are regulated by the fire department, so attempting to cram in more guests is ill advised—and don't forget to account for any staff you or your wedding planner might be bringing in your headcount number for standing room."

If it's an outdoor venue, Catherine Kowalski, founder and designer at Catherine Kowalski Bridal, recommends finding out their backup plan pending bad weather. "Have the venue walk you through their contingency plans to make sure you would be happy with the outcome if that's how the day panned out," she says. "You don't want to plan your outdoor dream wedding and pay for that, just to have a second rate wedding for the same price." And, if your venue doesn't provide materials for the contingency plan, like a tent, she suggests making sure you have a rental lined up ahead of time. "This way you won't have to scramble to find someone that both has a tent available on your date and can deliver and set it up for you in a timely manner," she adds.


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