The Right Venue For You
The secret to planning a fabulous, stress-free wedding reception is finding the right venue. By addressing several issues before you book your location, you can avoid costly mistakes and unwanted surprises, and have the reception you’ve always dreamed of.
Finding the Right Location
The first step for any wedding is to begin by setting the wedding date, size, budget and style. Once these particulars have been established your next major decision will be the reception location. If you already have a place in mind contact the facility manager and confirm availability of the date you’ve selected. This is also a good time to schedule an appointment for you and your fiancé to view the site. Don’t procrastinate! Choice locations are often booked one to two years in advance and prime dates go fast.
If you have no idea where to hold your reception, try hotels, banquet halls, restaurants, community centers and country clubs. Other less obvious options are country inns, historic homes or mansions, city parks, college or university facilities, art galleries, museums and boats. Each location offers its own unique style and ambiance.
Types of Facilities
There are two basic types of reception facilities: on-site and off-site. Most on-site locations provide the majority of services you will need for your reception: catering, beverages, tables, chairs, tableware, linens and serving staff, making this a very convenient option. The facilities normally charge on a per person basis, and have a minimum guest requirement. Such locations include hotels, private clubs and restaurants.
Off-site locations offer the use of the facility only, providing no other services. You supply nearly everything yourself, paying a flat fee for the use of the site. The nice thing about off-site locations is the freedom to do everything your own way. Increasingly popular for outdoor receptions is the use of party tents. Tents offer the ideal solution for couples who want to hold their celebration in a natural setting, but would prefer not to have their guests wilting under the hot sun or melting under a drizzle. Amenities range from beautiful archways and parquet floors to air conditioning and emergency generators.
In your search for the ideal site, keep in mind the convenience and comfort of your guests. The traveling distance from the ceremony to reception should be no more than half an hour by car. Depending on the season in which you will wed, you might want to inquire about air conditioning or heating. Also check on available parking or valet service.
While it may seem obvious to say so, the venue you choose for your wedding must have enough space to accommodate all your guests. There should be enough room in the dining area to allow for comfortably arranged seating and a reasonable view of the newlyweds for everyone. There should also be enough space between tables for you to move around the room and mingle with your guests. The facility coordinator will know the maximum number of people who can fit in the space, as well as the best table arrangements for the number in attendance.
If your venue does multiple events, find out if there are other bookings at the same time or on the same day as yours. If so, ensure that there will be adequate privacy and separation for your celebration. There should also be ample time in between events to allow your caterer or other service people to set up or break down your party.
Whether you intend to have a DJ or a band, inquire about possible restrictions regarding the type, volume or duration of music. Be sure to confirm that there is an adequate power supply for speakers, mixers and amplifiers, or good acoustics for string and wind instruments. Some sites have built-in public-address systems which can be used for introductions and toasts. If your site of choice doesn’t offer this equipment, make sure your DJ or musicians can provide it.
Your guests will get their first impression of your reception as they enter the building. But first they have to be able to find it. Clear signage indicating the way to the reception or cocktail area is a must. Whether your party starts with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres outside on the terrace before moving indoors for the meal and dancing, or the entire celebration is held in one room, make sure there is adequate space to receive everyone and to serve your guests while they await your arrival. You don’t want a backlog at the entrance because the doorway is too narrow.
As with any event, there should be a designated person to keep the event running on schedule. This key person may be a wedding coordinator, your caterer or the facility manager. They’ll be responsible for timing of the cocktail hour, prompting your guests for the meal, cueing the musicians for the first dance, and coordinating with the emcee for the champagne toast, cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss. If this person is affiliated with the facility, make sure you meet them and are comfortable with their style before you book.
Rates will vary significantly depending on the type of location, the number of guests to be accommodated and the time of year. Generally, the fee for a room rental is based on usage for a specific period of time, usually four to five hours. If you anticipate your reception running longer, confirm all additional charges. Typically, these charges will be based on half hour increments.
All of the details for your reception should be delineated in a contract signed by you and the facility’s representative. To secure your date, a 50 percent deposit is usually required with the balance due on the day of the event. You may want to check on the refund policy in the case of a cancellation.
Down to Details
As you’re find wedding locations that seem to suit your style, ask vendors about the following policies: catering, alcohol, bad weather, contingency plans, staffing availability, parking, decorating, deposits, refunds and insurance. Before signing the contract make sure you’re comfortable with the answers they give.