A - Have a basic idea of the essentials... such as how much you can afford and about how many guests you plan to invite. The approximate date is also vital.
B - Form a first impression of the venue through recommendations, viewing the web, or past experiences there. You may also wish to check with the Better Business Bureau before proceeding. Check the availability of the venue before going to see it.
C - Check out about 3 venues to find the one that best suits you. If the ceremony is in a different location from the reception, consider the convenience factor between the two sites.
Arrange a consultation to sense the ambiance. Find out what is included, such as a microphone, podium, cake table, stand for the seating chart, safe area for storing gifts, a room for changing clothes, coat racks, adequate washroom facilities, chairs, tables, or decorations. Inquire about the liquor policies, as this can add to the cost. If the wedding ceremony is at the same site, visualize where it would be and where the guests would be seated.
Discuss the caterer's and DJ/band's needs. Are there adequate electrical outlets? Find out when the final head count would be due, and who the contact person would be.
D - Sign the contract. Make sure it details the hours plus everything that is included (or not). Any legal considerations such the cancellation policy and insurance coverage should also be in writing. Make sure the amount of the deposit and when it is to be paid is clear, as well as how much is owing, and when. The cost of overtime should be stated.