It’s an understatement to say you’ll have a thousand things you need to do when organizing your wedding. First, you’ll need to choose the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, which is no small feat. Once you’re lucky enough to have found a better half, you then have to buy the engagement ring, work on the proposal and pick a date that suits you both… not to mention selecting your wedding parties. But I promise you this all makes a fantastic project for the lucky couple.
Today I’d like to offer you a series of tips to get you through one of the most important choices you’ll have to make throughout this big adventure. One that could influence every other decision: choosing a venue for your reception.
First you should ask yourself three essential questions (after setting a budget, of course!):
Do you want your wedding ceremony to take place in a house of worship, or in the same place as the reception?
What kind of numbers are you expecting? An intimate gathering of 30 people or a grand celebration with over 300?
What kind of environment suits you, or makes you feel most comfortable? A museum adorned with beautiful art? A boutique hotel downtown? A rustic country setting? If your answer is a Tuscan villa, we completely understand!
Armed with your responses, you can now begin researching the perfect place. In addition to your trusted assistant Google, tips from friends and family can be very useful. Photographers’ blogs and the websites of wedding planners can also be helpful: there you’ll see numerous wedding venues that will pull at your heartstrings, but they’ll also introduce you to unique locations you never knew existed.
To avoid an existential crisis (and maintain harmony with your partner), we suggest you narrow your focus to two places for comparison, or possibly three if you have nerves of steel. And to help finalize the decision, here are my top 10 things to check before choosing your reception room.
Room Dimensions: Generally, we allot about 10 ft2 per person for a seated meal, with 60 inch round tables surrounded by 8 chairs. So a 3000 ft2 room can accommodate 300 people. But don’t forget! You’ll also need space for a dance floor, lounge area, a photobooth or a stage for your band. Keep in mind all the things you’ll need in the room, and don’t just rely on the numbers.
Cocktail Area: Is there a foyer, terrace or garden for use as a cocktail area? Is the area covered or heated? If not, is there a plan B, in the event the weather isn’t cooperating on your wedding day? And most importantly, are there extra fees for using these other areas?
Parking: Will you have a private parking area, or is it shared? How many spaces are there? Is parking an extra fee or is it included? If there is no parking area, should you organize a shuttle or car service?
Room Access Hours: This is important not only for setting up the room, but also for taking it down. Some places allow you to return the next day, while others require you to clean out the space before you leave. This is a key piece of information to relay to your suppliers, as some charge extra for dismantling a room at night.
Inclusions: Does the venue offer certain extras for free? Tables, chairs, tablecloths, napkins, garden furniture? Ask to see all the equipment, learn about colours and be sure to get the correct quantities. Do they have lighting, an audio system, projector and screen? And if you need to rent it all, can the venue store your equipment?
Exclusivities: Certain places work exclusively with specific caterers, bar services or audiovisual providers. If you choose to work with your own supplier, it’s possible they will charge you a fee or penalty. It’s important to find out in the early stages.
Accessibility: Is a single staircase the sole way to access a room found on the 4th floor? Is there an elevator for disabled or elderly guests? If you’ve rented furniture, is there a loading dock?
Candles: This may seem like a small detail, but if you envision a room filled with hundreds of candles, it’s important to find out if the venue allows it. In many cases, open flames are not permitted. Certain locations will allow LED candles, but admit it, it’s just not the same!
Additional Fees: On top of the room rental fees, find out about any extra costs like cleaning fees, electricity (a band uses a lot more volts than a DJ!) setup and storage. Is coat check included? Will you need security guards?
Contracts: Request a sample contract and take the time to study each clause. What happens if the wedding is cancelled (which we hope never happens!)? Does the location require minimum food and beverage fees? If the size of the guest list shrinks, is there an option to switch rooms? Be sure that any changes you agree on are added to the final contract.
OK, I do have an 11th tip to offer you: get out there and visit these places! Meet each venue’s coordinator or manager to see if there’s chemistry. Test how long it takes them to reply to your email requests or calls. If things don’t go smoothly at the start, think about what will happen as the wedding day gets closer and things get more complex… and your stress levels rise.
I sincerely hope these tips will help you see more clearly!
Best of luck!