Dancing The Night Away: Choosing A Reception Venue
When looking for a reception venue, you need to be aware of 2 things: your budget and the number of guests you want. You don’t want to go look at a potential venue that you can’t afford or won’t fit everyone. Keep an eye out for sites that fit the style you want (rustic, upscale, traditional, etc) and request price quotes and occupant limitations from anyone who doesn’t list it on their website. If it fits both your budget and your guest list, set up a meeting to go take a look at it in person. Pictures can only do so much. You should also ask if the date(s) you have chosen is/are still available. No point in looking if it’s already taken!
Before you go look a reception site, you should prepare a list of questions you want to ask the site manager about the space. Here is a list of questions I recommend (some of them won’t apply; I tried to make it as comprehensive as possible) that you can edit as necessary. You’ll want to look at the space in terms of logistics. How will guests be arranged in the room? Will everyone have a clear view? How large is the dance area? Is there a space for the caterer to use for prep? For serving? How close is it to hotels? Is it within a cab service area?
Pay attention to how you feel about the space. What kind of decor it already has. How much decorating it would need. How light/dark it is. Here is a list of things to make mental notes (or actual notes) about. This is just a starting place; depending on the type of venue you look at other details may apply. Take pictures. If you are looking at different spaces over the span of a couple of weeks (or months), by the time you get halfway through you’re going to forget some details about the first one.
There is no sure-fire formula for how to choose which site to pick. You need to decide which aspects of the site are most important to you, and attempt to rank each site in terms of how well it matches up with that detail. Some people assign a point system. Chances are you’ll feel more strongly about one place over another and it won’t be a big deal. Just remember to keep the budget in mind.
Keep in mind the overall feel you want for the day. If you’re going for a formal black-tie affair, a backyard BBQ will be an odd choice. Likewise, a causal evening set in a grand ballroom will leave you all feeling under-dressed. Also pay attention to your interactions with the site manager. If they are hard to get a hold of or seem to blow you off, this can be a red flag and indicate the likelihood of future issues when you’re actually planning. My last piece of advice is to look for reviews of the space. Look on wedding websites, Yelp, straight up Google it, anything you want, but look for other brides’ reviews. There are a handful of places that look great on paper, but come with a slew of troubles, and you do NOT want to blindsided by the air conditioner that doesn’t work or the coordinator who won’t return your calls for the two weeks leading up to the wedding.
Don’t panic if you can’t find something right away. From when we started emailing and calling prospective sites to when we made a decision was about 3 months. We looked at several places that looked fantastic online and on paper, but were less than impressive in person. We definitely felt down at the end of every weekend we spent looking at 5 or 6 sites and left them all-knowing they weren’t what we were looking for. After a few disappointing weekends, we decided to step back for two weeks and focus on other parts of the wedding (DJ, photographer, ceremony site, etc). At that point we started the search fresh and switched responsibilities (I had been looking in one area, he in another) and we each managed to find a couple of places the other had missed (Tim wins points on this one; he found a place I had missed in my region and that ended up being what we picked…doh!). Keep your chin up. Desperation is the mother of creativity in this particular avenue, and if you find yourselves pressed for a site you’re likely to come up with a fantastic spot you would have otherwise missed.