Once you have shortlisted the wedding venues that fit your style, size and budget, visit the relevant vendors and start asking them questions. You lose your bargaining power the minute you pay the deposit and sign that piece of paper.

Here is a list of questions you can ask to make sure you get the best deal possible. Of course, this is only if you do not have your wedding planner yet. If you do, let him/her do the job. If you’re bringing in your own caterer, make sure you discuss that too.

#01 Reception: What is the minimum pax required to book the whole venue?

Make sure the venue can hold all your guests, but never book for the maximum pax. Under most contracts, you are allowed to add as many tables as you like within a certain time frame, but you are not allowed to reduce the number of tables. If you do not meet the minimum pax requirement, you’ll have to consider whether you’re willing to take the chance of not getting the venue exclusively.

#02 Ceremony: How much will it cost?

If you’re also having a religious or traditional ceremony at the same venue, some vendors throw that in for free or a minimal cost. If it’s an outdoor location, ask about a contingency plan.

#03 Rates: What are their starting prices?

You should have already checked over the phone that the venue is within your budget, so just see if the menu is decent for what you are paying. Do check prices for individual vegetarian meals, just in case some of your guests require that. If necessary, find out whether outside caterers are allowed.

#04 Corkage and mocktails: How much would you need to pay?

Most venues will give you free corkage if it’s just a bottle or two per table. Usually, that is sufficient. Mocktails and soft drinks are often optional at an additional cost. If you have an outdoor ceremony prior to the reception, do consider serving your guests something to drink.

#05 Service: Staff arrangements

Most hotels will allocate one waiter per table, although some may have one waiter for every two tables. If you are having a buffet, make sure there are enough buffet tables to accommodate your guests. Is your venue accessible by public transportation? If not, consider asking about a shuttle service.

#06 Décor: What is setup?

Think about the stage, backdrop, red carpet, napkin colours, tablecloths and chair covers, and whether they suit the theme you have in mind. Some packages also include flowers and a floral arch. Most provide simple favours, but if you already have something else planned, see if you can get a discount or exchange the favours for something else.

#07 Multimedia: Audio and lights

Follow spotlights, projector, screens and a video player are usually essential. You’ll need at least two CD trays and two microphones. If yours is an outdoor affair, find out what kind of support you’ll be getting. Most venues are not equipped with a sound system for live performances outdoors. Do you need a dance floor and are the existing lights sufficient? Make sure your venue has the right entertainment license for what you want to do.

#08 Suites and rooms: What’s included? Day-use rooms?

Most hotels will offer the bridal couple a bridal suite or villa. If possible, ask for two day-use rooms for your helpers. You don’t want all of them crowding into your room while you rest or do your makeup. If you are planning an extra change of attire during the reception, ask about a changing room on the same floor as your reception hall. Also ask how many free full-day parking passes you’ll be getting.

#09 Settling the bill: Deposit and payment terms

Pay just the minimum deposit, and see if you can pay the balance on the day itself, especially if you are getting cash as gifts. It’s a much safer option.

#10 Confirmation: Ask if you can block the date

Finally, ask when is the latest you’ll need to confirm by. Most venues give priority to the first person to block the date unless they fail to pay the deposit on time. Once you block the date, they are also obliged to let you know if someone else enquires about the same day. If you’re sure about a venue, you can book immediately, have them add your requests to the contract and ask them to email you a copy. If it’s a very big organisation, bear in mind that the person you talk to initially may not be the person you see on your wedding day, so make sure everything you have agreed on is in black and white. The preparation of the contract will give you some time before you have to pay the deposit, so look at your budget again to make sure you’re still on track.

Don’t make rash decisions, as mistakes could cost you. Read the contract carefully before you sign it. Many contracts have hidden clauses that will cost you more money down the line. Stay on good terms with whomever you deal with, as you’ll need their continued assistance and cooperation.

* The information provided here is based mainly on hotels and restaurants in Malaysia and Singapore.