How to: Choose Your Wedding Reception Venue
Choosing your reception venue is one of the first things on the wedding planning checklist and can create a lot of stress, especially if it isn’t the same location as your ceremony. But setting a firm budget, knowing your guest list, and your preferred style makes the decision a whole lot easier, and prevents you from hulking out on or before your wedding day—which we want to avoid at all costs! Here are 8 tips to help you choose your venue:
- Set up a spreadsheet to help you keep track of all the venues you like, and to compare them side by side. List their prices, what they offer, what you love about the location, what you don’t love etc. Here’s where Type A people like your bossy older sister excel—get it? Moving on…
- Contact your venues as soon as possible. Ideally, you want to book 8 – 10 months before your date, and for popular venues you may want to contact them even earlier (12 – 18 months). This is especially true for couples who getting married during peak wedding season (spring and summer), so get those feet moving, people!
- When reaching out, ask the venues for their availability and maximum occupancy. Keep in mind that filling the venue to its maximum might mean your guests are shoulder to shoulder at their tables. It might sound fun, but it could get really uncomfortable – and hot.
- Ask if they have any special deals for off-season weddings, or if it costs less to have your event on a Friday or Sunday—it usually does! Don’t worry too much about having your wedding on a weekday. Come on. It’s your wedding—your friends and family would love to find an excuse to get out of work early for a long 3-day weekend.
- Ask if there are any restrictions, like if they don’t allow flash photography, hard alcohol (yes, this happens), ban sparkler exits or maybe they have a specific time that the party and/or music must end. Because it does have to end at some point, no matter how drunk the maid of honor and best man get, or how lit the DJ’s music is.
- Visit the venue in person! If you absolutely can’t, ask to set up a video tour, ask your wedding planner or designate someone you trust to visit on your behalf—again, the type A gal in your family or wedding party is the one to nominate here. When visiting the venue, note the layout of the space, and whether the room has good lighting. LIGHTING IS EVERYTHING. Take it from your friendly neighborhood photographer, me.
- If it’s important to you, make sure the venue doesn’t host more than one wedding a day. If your wedding style is elegant and classy, you might not want to hear Shania Twain’s voice warbling in the halls or in the bathrooms… Speaking of Shania—ask about the acoustics! And A/V equipment!
- Read the contract thoroughly. Make sure you understand the cancellation policy. Know when you need to make your deposits and final payments. And never forget to factor in tax and gratuities into your budget.