Wedding Planning - Your Reception: The Perfect Celebration
In this particular article we're going to go over the reception location itself. Whether you have your sights set on a yacht or your parent’s backyard, advanced preparation is the key in turning your reception into the celebration event you've always envisioned.
Your wedding reception is probably one of the grandest celebrations you'll ever have to plan; it can be an exciting yet very involved task. With that in mind, before entering into the scheme of planning it all, go over the following important key questions :
- Do you have a ceremony location reserved?
- Approximately how many guests do you intend to invite?
- What formality do you have in mind for your event?
You should be able to answer yes to question #1 before going any further. We highly recommend that you hold out on booking any kind of reception location until after you’ve secured a ceremony site. The only time this wouldn't be an issue is if you are looking for a reception location that is intended to pull double duty as your ceremony location as well.
Can you answer question #2 with an approximate number? With an estimate figure in mind you'll have an easier task figuring out what size reception facility you will need. It wouldn’t be sensible to hold your reception in a ballroom for 300 if you are only inviting 50 guests, just as a small banquet room in the back of your favorite restaurant would probably be inappropriate for a wedding of 150 guests.
The formality of your wedding event is another important factor. Are you looking for a formal, semi formal or informal atmosphere? At least have a general idea envisioned for your wedding day and then you can go from there.
These questions cover minimal yet important details. A lot of time and effort can be wasted if you begin your searches without any information in hand. After getting these details squared away you'll be able to ease into the deeper stages of planning. As we always suggest, ask around. Get recommendations from family, friends, recent brides and other wedding vendors. Look through your phone book and call your local tourist bureau or chamber of commerce for facility/site ideas. You may even find a bridal show helpful.
If your imagination can conjure it up, more than likely it can be done (budget permitting, of course). We’ve seen brides and grooms celebrate their reception events at an extraordinary variety of both traditional and non-traditional locations. From sandy beaches to country clubs and backyards-- it has all been seen and done. Here are just a few location ideas-- some traditional and some quite unordinary :
- Country club
- Banquet Hall
- Church hall
- Club facilities of the Lion’s, Elk’s, Kiwanis, etc.
- Relative’s backyard or home
- Public recreation facility (park facilities, etc)
- Historical site
- Park/community centers
- Outdoor gardens
- Beach/lake setting
- Military officer/NCO club (for those with military ties)
- Aquarium, zoo, public library
- Theme park
- University campus grounds/building
Side note: many country clubs and private organizations require a membership or sponsorship from one of the club’s/organization’s members. You can inquire about their specific rules and regulations when you make your first call.
Bypass this section if your budget is bottomless. For the many brides and grooms out there that might enjoy a few money saving tips, we’ve decided to add the following suggestions:
- Book the reception facility up to 12 months (or earlier depending on your location) in advance if possible. Usually you can get the best rate this way, as prices will probably climb as the date nears. Also keep in mind that many of the better reception sites book quickly.
- Rent your church hall and you’ll pay a fraction of the cost that you’d probably pay to rent a banquet facility at a hotel or country club. The room may be a bit drab with little visual appeal, but with the proper decorations and other touches it can be transformed into a beautiful reception room.
- Find a facility that will let you bring in your own caterer. Typically this is a cheaper alternative to choosing a facility with an in-house caterer. Compare prices if you need to and choose accordingly.
- Opt for a smaller reception at a family member’s home or backyard if possible. Consider all the rentals you may need, such as tables, chairs, etc, and figure out if this will save you money or end up being a more costly alternative. You may be surprised at the savings.
- Hold your wedding on a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon. Since a majority of weddings take place on Saturdays, you may get a better rate for holding your event during one of these less popular days.
- Choose a month considered off-season for your area. June, August, September and October are usually the most popular months to wed. By choosing an alternative month you could quite possibly be offered a deep discount.
The Hunt Begins
By now you should have enough information to help streamline your searches. After sifting through your options begin calling the facilities to get more information. This will be the moment when you possibly set up an interview with the site’s coordinator and arrange to visit the facility. There are a few preliminary questions you should get out of the way during your first call. Mainly, you need to ask if your wedding date is open for booking. An unnecessary trip down to the reception site only to find out your wedding date isn’t available would be both a waste of your time and frustrating. Secondly, ask them what they charge and if they provide their own in-house catering. They will likely send you pricing sheets and catering information through the mail if you request. Not all sites offer in-house catering. Typically, facilities such as country clubs, hotels and banquet halls offer this service. Decide which kind of facility will best fit your needs and budget. Use of the site itself may either cost an hourly rate (usually 3-5 hours) or a flat rate depending on each particular facility.
If the site is open for booking on your date, you can set up an interview with the site coordinator and visit the facility. Visit at least 3 reception facilities in order to comparison shop and get an overall idea of what’s available to you out there. When you meet with the site coordinator be sure to discuss the following important questions as well as any questions or concerns you may have.
- What is the exact capacity limit of the site?
- What is included with the facility? (tables, chairs, etc.)
- Does the site have a dance floor?
- Will other reception events occur at the same time or same day as mine? (Ideally, your reception event should be the only one booked for that day.)
- Is ample parking available? Where is guest parking located?
- Reconfirm the cost of reserving the facility. Is it what you were quoted?
- When is the balance due?
- Is a hired security guard required? (Some facilities require this if alcohol will be served.)
- Are there any decorating restrictions?
- Alcohol restrictions?
- Ample restroom facilities? Where are they located?
- Does the facility provide handicap access? (if necessary)
- What is the facility's cancellation policy?
- Is clean-up of the facility included?
- How early may we set up on the wedding day?
- When must we be out of the facility? Are overtime charges applied?
- Where does the band/DJ set up? When can they set up?
- Will the site coordinator (or catering coordinator) be present at the reception?
Using Your Best Judgment
You will be asking the site coordinator many questions and getting a lot of information from them, of course, but ask yourself a few questions and follow your own instincts. While checking over the area ask yourself the following questions :
- Will my guests feel comfortable in this room?
- Is the lighting sufficient? Is the atmosphere what I had hoped for, or is it too dreary?
- If the site appears on the drab side, can it be spruced up with the proper decorating touches?
- Is there room for the cake table, gift table, dance floor and receiving line (if necessary)?
- Is there ample space for my guests to walk around freely or will it be cramped?
- What was my honest, first impression of the place as I walked through the doors?
- Is this site worth the price they are charging?
- Have I considered what my fiancé thinks of the site?
- Is the site coordinator professional and helpful? Is he/she accommodating to my wants and needs?
The hardest part arrives when you have to make a final decision and choose on one site. Consider all the questions we’ve presented in this article. Speak with the site coordinator as many times as you need to in order to help you make a decision you can be comfortable with. Ask questions and bring up any concerns you may have about the site. Call the Better Business Bureau and inquire about the reception facility you are interested in. They will be able to tell you if there have been any bad reports filed against the site. Finally, ask the site coordinator for references (this is mainly for those who hire reception sites with in-house catering). There aren’t any reasons why he/she wouldn’t be able to provide you with a few references. Call the references before definitely booking your date and making any deposits with the facility.
You’ve finally chosen a reception site that you are happy with. Now it is time to meet with the reception coordinator to book your wedding date and get all the details down in black and white. Don’t let any detail go ignored. If there was anything specific you and the site coordinator agreed upon, make sure it is spelled out on paper. Never be accepting to any kind of verbal agreement. You may think that you are being overly cautious when in fact you are simply securing something that you are investing in.
Make sure that at least the following details are stated somewhere in the contract :
- Date, time of event
- Time of set-up
- Time reception ends
- If in-house catering is provided get all details included in contract (Complete Guide To Hiring A Caterer)
- Any and all items/services included with payment (dance floor, tables, chairs, bar, etc. Make sure everything that was agreed upon is included in the contract.)
- Extra charges (make sure they are clearly listed)
- The amount and date of initial deposit that was made
- Balance amount and due date
- Cancellation policy
- Name and contact information for site coordinator/person who will be present at your reception.