For all of you who have recently gotten engaged, we're continuing with our Wedding Planning 101 series today, with the all important topic of how to choose your perfect wedding reception site. Regardless of the style of your wedding - modern and urban, classic and elegant, relaxed and rustic, or something else entirely - your wedding venue adds so much personality and atmosphere to your event, and with the most popular sites often booking far in advance, it’s important to secure your venue early in your planning process. Read on to learn what we think are the most important things to consider when looking for your wedding venue!
(wedding photo by Maloman Photographers
Choosing Your Reception Venue
When choosing your reception site, you’ll want to love the look and feel of the space itself, and you’ll want to be sure that the venue is the perfect size to accommodate your guests gracefully as your wedding day unfolds. To get started, choose several top venues you’re interested in or have your wedding planner help you create a list of your best options. Call and make appointments with their on-site coordinator or catering manager and bring this list of questions with you on your visits.
(wedding photo by Scobey Photography
- What services does the venue provide as part of your package? Many reception sites provide complete packages: catering, cake, staff, tableware and linens, 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. To find the option that works best for your wedding, ask yourself how much you would like to personalize your celebration and what that will entail, or decide on a more all-inclusive approach. You’ll also want to ask about what is not included, but may be available.
- Does the venue have a preferred vendor list? Many venues have a list of exemplary caterers and professional that they choose to work with, and they may charge an additional fee for a wedding professional who is not on that list. Some venues require that you work with their exclusive list, and still others will allow you to choose any professionals you desire. If you’re set on hiring a particular caterer or florist be sure that you’re venue will welcome your choice.
- How does the venue work as you day unfolds? To answer this, ask for a tour of the site as if it was your wedding day. In addition to your ceremony and reception site ask to see getting ready rooms, parking areas, restrooms and all areas your guests will access. If you are using any areas for more than one purpose, have your guide explain how those transitions will unfold and how much time it will take for break down and set-up.
- How many hours will the space be available? It’s typical for venues to rent out the space for a certain time block of time. You’ll want to have ample time for your ceremony and reception, so be sure you secure all the time you desire.
- What is your beverage and food minimum? If the venue itself is providing your food and drinks, they will likely have a minimum amount you are required to spend. Keep in mind this is a minimum and you should think about your guest count for a better idea of overall cost.
- Will there be a day-of coordinator on site? Many locations will have staff on hand to help turn rooms as needed and assist you or your planner with the last-minute arrangements. They are there to ensure that everything that the venue has been contracted to provide is delivered smoothly and that you have all your questions answered as they arise. Keep in mind that they work for the venue, so it is usually helpful if not critical to have your own planner and/or designer on board to take care of your priorities.
(wedding photo by Aaron Morris of Chrisman Studios
Matching Your Venue To Your Wedding Style
Whether you choose a world-class destination resort, a charming garden, private estate, or rustic barn - the possibilities are seemingly endless. Read on and get inspired to find perfect spot that reflects your personality.
(reception photo by Holland Photo Arts
Classic Wedding Style
- If your guest list is long and you want the feel of classic elegance, a grand hotel ballroom may be your ideal choice. Most have plenty of space, and some can be incredibly ornate in their style and decor, making it easy for you to create an impressive backdrop for your guests.
- For a unique wedding sites that still give off a sophisticated vibe, think mansions, historical buildings or castles. Many of these vintage-inspired venues are privately owned, and many have an intimate and personal fee.
- For an exclusive setting and picturesque backdrop, private clubs and golf courses are typically immaculately maintained and well-staffed. Choosing one can give your guests entrance to a location they wouldn’t be able to visit otherwise, while offering stunning backdrops options for your photographer.
Relaxed Wedding Style
- A beautiful garden or park can offer an abundance of natural decor for your ceremony. If you can visit the location at the time of year when you will be getting married to get an idea of the colors and flowers in bloom at that time.
- For a comfortable event with a bit of a cowboy vibe, choose a ranch or country farm. Rustic, elegant barn settings have been all the rage for years and many couple’s and designers have found super creative ways to make barns look beautiful.
- Private estates are available for rent all over the world, and no matter your style you can find one that’s ideal for your wedding. If you own, or have access to a large house with entertainment spaces getting married at your own home, or that of a close friend of family member, can help make your wedding memorable and especially sentimental.
Modern Wedding Style
- If your style is modern and you prefer an urban setting, try a local art museum or gallery, a hip restaurant, or an industrial loft space.
- If you live near the water, check out large tour boats and cruise ships available for rent. Choose a beautiful boat with plenty of cabin space in case it rains, so your guests can revel in the view regardless of the weather.
- Do you two share a love of wine and wide-open scenery? Then consider getting married at a winery. There are lots of fabulous wineries who specialize in weddings, and many are well-known for their world-class food and wine.
If you aren’t completely familiar with your far-away wedding location, hire a planner who is based in that area or who specializes in it. You’ll save on stress and confusion if you have a connection to your chosen locale.
- A private beach wedding can be utterly romantic and picturesque - when choosing the best possible spot, utilize the natural landmarks like rock formations or overlooks to frame your ceremony and be sure your decor is built to handle ocean breezes.
- Traveling to a far-away wedding is exciting but also calls for plenty of prep time. Send your guests save-the-dates at least six months in advance and provide them with detailed travel info around the same time you send out your final invitations.
(reception photo by Mike Garrard Photography
Whatever your wedding style, check out our World's Best Wedding Venues Hotlist to see amazing local and destination venues around the world. And don't miss our other Wedding Planning 101 articles about how to... hire a wedding planner, hire a wedding photographer, plan a rehearsal dinner, and take good care of yourself on your wedding day.