Your reception venue is the place that houses the biggest segment of your wedding. It is the place where you can showcase your style, wow your guests, and host a party that your guests will remember for a very, very long time. Therefore, it is safe to say that choosing a venue for your reception is one of the most important decisions in planning your wedding.
When it comes to picking your reception venue, there are two main phases that you will have to go through. First is the research phase, where you search for suitable sites and send in inquiries. After you have done adequate research and narrowed down your choices to a select few, you can then schedule site visits, which is the second phase of finding a venue. Site visits are not mandatory, but it is strongly recommended so you can really get a good idea of what you are booking. Seeing pictures online and communicating through email are very convenient, but unless you are physically present in the space, it is very hard to know how the true experience of hosting an event in it will be like.
There are five things to consider when doing research for a suitable venue:
Before you start asking for price lists from all the venues you find on Google, first consider if they are a good fit for the size of your wedding. If you are inviting four hundred guests for the night, there are probably a few venues that are too small to accommodate that number comfortably. On the other hand, having a party for eighty people in a hall that fits two hundred may result in an empty looking room, which gives off a lonely and less vibrant vibe for the celebration.
Many venues have information on how many people they can accommodate on their website, so you can cross the unsuitable ones off your list. For those that don’t, a quick phone call or email will give you the answer.
The next thing to think about is logistics. It is best to pick a location that doesn’t require too much traveling for both you and your guests. Wedding day schedules can get pretty tight, and if you book a location that is situated far from your home or ceremony site, you will be wasting a lot of time in the car, not to mention having to stress about time and traffic on the way. If possible, book a venue that is within a reasonable distance from your ceremony location, or if you are having your ceremony at the same place, from your homes. This will be more convenient for your guests as well.
If you end up deciding on a location that does require a significant amount of traveling, remember to factor in the traveling and some buffer time when planning your itinerary. Also, for the convenience of your guests, include directions or a map in your invitations, and let them know about options for accommodation if they plan to stay the night as well.
When it comes to budget, it is not only the cost of renting the space that you will have to consider. Expenses for your reception include: rent of venue, rentals (tables, linen, flatware etc.), catering and service, decor, cake, and bar. Some places only offer their space, and you’ll have to rent every other item yourselves. While the initial pricing for these sites can seem attractive, rental and delivery fees for everything else will quickly drive the cost up. There are locations that offer full-service packages, where they include tables, chairs, linens etc. in their pricing. In these cases, ask to look at their selections of rentals before committing to anything. The reason for this is because while these things are included, they may not fit the look that you want for your wedding, or the quality may not be as nice. You may end up having to rent items that go better with your vision, which will cost more at the end.
Pricing for reception venues can get a little tricky if you are not careful, as different places have their own perks and regulations. Once you find a few locations that you are interested in, ask for a proposal or quote, and remember to go through every item in it to know what you will be paying for, and what else would you need to order to supplement the current package. This way, you will be able to calculate the rough expenses required for booking with each venue.
If you have a theme or specific wedding style in mind, it’s best to select a reception venue that fits your vision. Picking a location that goes well with your ideal theme will help you feel more connected to the space. However, if your desired venue falls out of your budget, or couldn’t accommodate your wedding size, keep in mind that a talented event designer can help you transform the space to achieve the look that you want.
There are venues that work with exclusive or preferred vendors to provide services and rentals to their clients. For these venues, you will have to inquire if you are allowed to bring in your own vendors, and if so, if there is a fee involved. Also ask about any catering restrictions if you are planning to hire your own caterer. Some venues don’t allow outside caterers, while some may charge a fee for the caterers to use their facilities.
Site visits can get pretty time-consuming, so we suggest scheduling them only for the few venues that you are really interested in, and that fit your criteria. When performing site visits, there are a few points that you should look out for, as listed below.
Accessibility and parking:
When going for the site visit, take note of how easy or difficult it is to locate the place. If the location you pick is not easily found through GPS or other navigational tools, remember to include clear directions in your invitations. Next, see if there are adequate parking spaces for the number of guests that you will be expecting. Keep in mind that you may not be the only event that the venue is hosting for the day, so ask them for an estimate on the available spaces that they have, and if a fee or pass is required. For places that have limited parking, ask for information regarding shuttle service, valet parking and nearby parking lots, and pass the information on to your guests.
Layout of the space:
Depending on what you are hosting at the venue, you may want to see if the layout of the rooms can accommodate your events. For those of you who are having both your ceremony and reception at the same site, will each event be hosted in different rooms, or will the staff flip the room during cocktails? If the room is being flipped, where will the reception rentals and decor be stored during the ceremony, and will any additional fees be required for it? Check to see if the event flow makes sense for your wedding. Besides, take a look at the power outlets available in the hall and their locations, as it will help in designing the layout of your reception later.
This is not usually a make or break factor when choosing a venue, but if you prefer a private, intimate reception, maybe select a more discreet location that only hosts one event at a time. Many venues can hold multiple events on the same day, if this applies for your venue, you may want to see how well the sound-proofing is in your chosen hall. The best way to do this is to visit the location on a night where an event is going on, so you can check how far the sound carries. Some couples do not mind the noise, but if you don’t want the voices of someone singing karaoke carrying over to your hall while you are giving your speech, take a note of this before signing with the place.
If you will be having an outdoor event, don’t forget to ask the venue about backups in case the weather does not cooperate during the big day. Also ask if they have backup plans if emergencies happen, like if the power goes out etc.
Do you like it?
Lastly, ask yourself when you are touring the site: Do you like the place? Can you imagine yourself hosting a party in there? Some venues may tick all the right boxes, but you don’t feel at ease in the space. In that case, try looking around for other options instead. At the end of the day, this will be the place where you’re hosting one of the biggest parties of your lives, so pick one that you feel comfortable in.