Site Savvy

How to Choose a Reception Site for Your Wedding

What’s the biggest expense of a wedding? If you answered the dress or the photography, guess again. It’s the reception, accounting for as much as 40-50 percent of your wedding budget. With this in mind, selecting your reception site becomes one of the most important decisions you will make.

Here are some tips to ensure the venue you choose is the place that feels just right for you.

• Consider your style and personality, the type of wedding you envision, the number of guests, your budget and the event’s date and time.

• Shop around for a reception site – the earlier the better as many sites book up months in advance.

• Don’t ever select a location without visiting in person.

• Make appointments to meet with the catering manager or onsite coordinator at the reception site, and bring a list of questions with you. If possible, return again to that site during a time when a wedding or other event is taking place to see the site in its full glory.

• Explore the reception site’s:

Atmosphere. Is it appropriate for the type of reception you’re planning?

Size. Is it large enough to accommodate all your guests?

Restrictions. Is a band or loud music allowed? Are certain areas of the property off-limits to your guests?

Location. Is it easy to find and close to the ceremony site?

Price. Can you afford it?

Amenities. Ample parking? Adequate facilities? Wheel-chair accessible?

• Find out what services the venue provides for the price quoted. Some reception sites provide complete packages: catering, cake, staff, tables and chairs, tableware and linens, dance floor and more, which can be helpful if you love what they offer. Other sites charge a simple rental fee for their space, and leave the rest of the details up to you.

• Keep a realistic budget in mind when interviewing appropriate venues. We know it hurts, so be firm on how much you want to spend. Keep an eye on hidden costs and understand minimum fees. For example, ask if the champagne toast service requires an extra charge, if there are overtime charges for using the rooms, if the gratuity is included in the price, and if setting up and cleaning up are included in the final price.

• If the site provides its own caterer, but you prefer to hire your own caterer, is there an extra fee if you use an outside service? Some venues require that you work with their exclusive list of professionals, and others will allow you to choose any professionals you desire.

• Be sure to determine what kind of equipment you’ll need to rent.

• Ask if there is an additional cost to have the ceremony at the wedding reception venue.

• Find out if there is a bridal suite for the bridal party.

• Talk to other couples who have had their reception there. Ask about the capabilities and reputation of the site. Would they have their reception there again? Would they change anything about the service or policies? If needed, request the names of couples from the site coordinator.

• Find out how many hours the space will be available. Typically, venues rent out the space for a certain block of time. You’ll want to secure ample time for your event. Ask if there will be any other events on-site the day of your wedding. Will you be hurried out after your allotted time is over?

• Find out when (not if) you will receive a written estimate and contract.

• Ask about cancellation and postponement policies.

• Finally, don’t let another lucky bride snap up your spot. Once you’ve done the legwork, reserve your date and send in your deposit as much as a year in advance.