The venue for your reception is the largest and most daunting purchase during your wedding planning adventure. It will most likely cost the most money and all venues are very different in what they offer. A few of my past clients have been disappointed after they booked the venue and found out later that they weren’t allowed to have some of the decor they hoped for or their pictures turned out dark because of the lack of natural light. These 5 questions are to ask reception venues when going on visits to avoid disappointment later on when you start thinking about catering, photos, and decor.
photo by Inbal Sivan Photography
Choose a venue based on what aspects of your reception are most important to you. Do you have 300 guests and want a black tie affair? Then a beautiful ballroom would work better than a barn in a field. Do you want your local BBQ restaurant to cater and crave bright, light filled photographs? Then look for all white loft spaces with tons of windows that allow outside catering. Make a list of 3-5 non-negotiable qualities you want in your reception and start your venue search from there. Once you’ve found a few reception spaces to take a look at, ask these 5 questions:
When Does Quiet Time Start?
You may have free reign of the venue all night long, but some spots have strict noise ordinances from the city that say the tunes need to stop as early at 10pm. Ask you venue about their rules to know how long your DJ or band can crank the tunes.
Photo by Clark + Walker Studio
What Can I Decorate?
I’ve had clients in the past who had their hearts set on pretty, hanging lights and garland, only to be crushed when the venue didn’t allow anything to be hung from the ceiling. If your Pinterest board is full of cafe lights, hanging garlands and large floral installations, don’t be disappointed — get the facts before you book.
Photo by Sara Wight Photography
What About Glitter, Candles and Confetti?
Many venues, because of fire hazards, are doing away with real flame candles — they only allow LED candles. If your dream is to have a reception filled with a lot of natural candlelight, choose a space that still allows this. Same question pertains to glitter and confetti — because of the mess of cleaning that stuff up, is quickly going on many venues’ Do Not Bring list.
Photo by Amber Gress Photography
Can I Use an Outside Caterer?
This is a big one: Find out if the reception venue allows only in-house catering. This means that they have a specific caterer who makes all of the food for all of their events. You’ll be held to that chef’s style of cooking, which is normally delicious, although might not be exactly what you were hoping for. I love to use in-house caterers when the venue is affiliated with a restaurant or when you don’t want the hassle of hiring another vendor. The all-inclusive nature of having a caterer and venue under one contract has its perks, but if you have a specific restaurant, style of food or dietary restrictions (think vegan or kosher offerings,) you’re better off choosing a spot that allows you to make your own pick.
Photo by Judy Pak Photography
How Many Guests Will It Accommodate?
Since you already have a rough guest count, use that number to find a reception space. A large space that can sit 300 people is going to feel like a ghost town with only 150. On the other end, you don’t want to pack so many guests in that your loved ones feel uncomfortably crowded. Ask how many guests the venue can hold for a comfortable standing-only cocktail party, a sit-down dinner at round tables, and a sit-down dinner at long tables. Using round tables can typically seat more people in a space than long tables.
Armed with this knowledge I’m confident that you will choose the right venue for your amazing reception. How’s your venue search going? Have you discovered any deal breakers when going on visits?