LOCATIONS AND VENUES
HOW TO SELECT THE PERFECT WEDDING LOCATION
WHEN TO START
Planning well in advance will minimize a lot of the pressure when selecting a
your wedding ceremony and/or reception. Depending upon where you live there may be a
shortage of ceremony and reception facilities which means that you should start looking early and try
to book your
selected wedding ceremony and reception locations not less than 1 year in advance to make sure you have a location for your
wedding ceremony and wedding reception.
In major metropolitan areas, Saturday
availability at some popular wedding venues is booked over a year in advance and some dates
are reserved even up to 2 years in advance. If you are planning for a
wedding date less than a year away, it may be easier to find a
ceremony or reception facility available for Friday evening or Sunday afternoon rather than Saturday
evening. Some wedding reception venues also offer discounts for Friday's and Sunday's to fill the
space. You may also be able to find discounts available from wedding suppliers since those
days are in lower demand.
WHERE TO START
There are numerous resources to be found in the local yellow pages, on the Internet and in
local publications as well as during discussions with potential suppliers. Start
making a list of wedding reception facilities that are in the vicinity of where you would like your wedding
reception to be held.
HOW TO START
Assuming you have selected an approximate wedding date, call the reception facilities to determine the
availability for your selected date(s). Inquire about seating capacities, parking,
catering policies, entertainment policies and facility rental pricing as well as other factors that may
ultimately affect your decision. Also, ask that a brochure or information packet
along with a floor plan be sent to you. You can also make an appointment to tour the
wedding reception facility if that location interests you.
TOURING A WEDDING
RECEPTION FACILITY - GENERAL
Try to schedule your tour of the wedding reception venue at approximately the same time of day and on the same day of the
week as your planned wedding. Even better, try to tour the facility when
it is decorated for a wedding as well so you can see how it is set up and
decorated. Bring a notepad, a pen, a tape measure, and a list of
questions. Although you may not be able to take photos if another wedding
reception is being held at the time, bring a camera along as well. Be prepared to make notes so you can refer to the information later.
When you arrive at the
reception facility the
first thing to notice is the parking situation and the entrance to the facility.
Is the building/entrance to the
parking area readily distinguishable or will guest pass it by?
Will parking be adequate for the
number of wedding guests you intend to invite? If not, is there overflow parking close by?
Is parking free or is there a parking
If you are having an evening
does it appear to be well lit in the evening for the safety of you and your guests?
Are there local businesses that use
the parking lot for overflow parking? Will this be a problem on the
date/time of your wedding?
Does the entrance appear to be well
Once you have answered these questions
it is time to take a general tour of the inside of the wedding reception venue. Once inside, look at the
general condition of the facility.
Is it clean and well
lit? Check the floor in the entrance and main room and also inspect the bathrooms to get a feel for how
detailed the facility is about cleaning. While you are at it, note the color of the
floor or carpeting and the general color scheme of the facility.
Is there sufficient space for tables
and chairs for your guests as well as a wedding cake table, buffet table (if needed), bar area,
dance floor plus the band or d.j. without being crowded?
Can the lights in the dining
area/dance area/bar area be controlled or is it simply an on/off option throughout the
Is there air
conditioning and/or heat available? More importantly, can it be
controlled during the wedding reception? (Older
heating systems are not always that easy to adjust.)
Are there a number of steps either up
or down to any area that elderly guests may have difficulty with? If so, are there
ramps or elevators?
Where is the band or
dj usually located?
Can the lights in the dining
area/dance area/bar area be controlled or is it simply an on/off option throughout the
Your meeting with the wedding reception facility coordinator can create a wealth of information
for you when it comes to finding the better suppliers and caterers. Simply ask
the coordinator which companies have serviced weddings at that location and jot down their names for later
reference. The coordinator may also have planning tools like floor plans, seating charts,
etc. to make the job of coordinating your wedding reception much easier.
Assuming the literature you have read
about the wedding reception venue has not answered the following questions, here are a few other
questions that should probably be asked...
What is your catering policy? Some wedding
reception venues will allow any caterer to
service events at the facility while others have a "preferred" or
"approved" catering list. If the reception facility has a catering resource list, ask for a
copy. If the facility has an "approved" list and you have a specific caterer in
mind that you would like to service your wedding reception who is not on the
"list" make sure that your caterer is
able to provide service at that facility. Tip: Some venues would rather
allow a caterer who is not on the list to serve the event than to lose a booking.
See our section on
What is your alcoholic beverage
policy? (If you plan to have alcoholic beverages available.)
Some wedding reception facilities are licensed to provide alcoholic beverage service while others who are
not licensed will allow you to arrange for the service through your caterer, beverage
service company or other source. Be sure to read our section on
Wedding Beverages and Beverage Service.
What is your smoking
policy? Some facilities have a no smoking policy while others have specific
areas designated for smoking.
How have you seen the
set up for a group of this size? This will give you some insight
and probably a few new ideas about how to set up the area to make it work well
for your size of group. The coordinator can assist you with the proper
placement of the food service, bar, and dance areas as well as determine the
best table arrangement to accommodate your size of wedding reception.
What is the rental cost and exactly
what is provided in the rental cost? This is an area where
you don't want to be taking anything for granted.
venues require that you rent
everything, either from them or someone else, including the basic items like tables and chairs.
Some require that you
"hire" security while others provide it as part of the rental charge.
Some charge for the set-up of tables
as well as teardown of tables and clean up of the facility at the end of the event while
others include it as part of the rental charge.
Some provide a dance floor while
others require that you rent one.
Some require additional
insurance coverage to be paid by the client while others do not.
Some (believe it or not) wedding
reception facilities who offer in house catering charge
gratuity based on the food and beverage PLUS the facility and equipment rental
while (fortunately) others do not.
Hey, it is not stupid to ask
questions. Since just about every wedding reception venue does things
differently it is VERY stupid not to ask questions. You wouldn't buy a car or a house
without asking a lot of questions, so why should this major investment be any
different. You simply want to learn everything there is to know about that facility
so you can make an informed decision. If they don't want to answer your questions,
look for the door you came in.
What are the hours of
rental? The price you are quoted is usually for a specific period of
time. Some wedding reception facilities will allow early set up the evening prior to the day of a
wedding reception while others may allow as little as an hour prior for set up
(which is not a good thing). You will need to know when you can have access to the
facility so you can advise your suppliers and you will also need to know when everything
has to be out of the facility so you don't get charged for extra rental time.
Do you charge the caterers a
"catering fee" to service this reception venue? This can be a
question to ask if you are trying to get the best value since some wedding
reception locations charge
caterers a "catering fee" which can end up being passed along to the client in
the form of higher catering costs.
TIP: In just one instance (and this is not an
uncommon instance) we found that catering costs from caterers on the "Approved
Caterer List" at several facilities were 15% to 25% higher than at other facilities because
those facilities with "Approved Lists" charged the caterers a 15% - 25% of sale
"Catering Fee" to be on the "Approved Caterer List". And you thought you were only paying for the
once? Think again!
Is there a noise curfew?
Some wedding reception locations require that the music volume be reduced
or totally eliminated at a specific time due to local
Will a facility
contact person be on site at all times from the beginning of set up to the end
You would be surprised how many little unexpected "things" can pop up
during the set up and during the wedding reception. Bands and caterers can blow fuses
or trip electrical circuit breakers and black out the entire room, doors can
become accidentally locked, a sink in a restroom may become clogged and
overflow, the dining room may be too hot or too cold or too bright or too dark,
etc. all of which will require someone who is familiar with the wedding reception facility to
remedy the problem.
Who handles the breakdown and clean up at
the end of the event?
Thought you could just leave at the end of the wedding
reception and begin enjoying married life? Be sure that you are not
responsible for putting the tables and chairs away at the end of the reception.
Is there refrigerated storage
on site for leftovers?
This comes in really handy especially after a buffet style dinner
service. Check to make sure the temperature is at 40 degrees F or below
for safe food storage conditions. Food left out at room temperature and
nibbled on later can leave you and your guests with not so pleasant memories of
Ask the facility coordinator for a floor plan of the facility so you can take it with you
to diagram the layout. If they don't have a floor plan, use your notepad and tape
measure to diagram the area so you can make sure everything will fit.
If tables and chairs are provided as
part of the rental, look at them. Some venues provide only rectangular banquet tables while
others provide round tables. The sizes and shapes of the tables are a major consideration
when diagramming the area, determining seating requirements, ordering linens, etc.
If china, silverware and other table items are supplied , look at those as well.
Also, ask for a copy of the rental agreement so you can take it with you and so you have
time to fully read it before you make any decisions.
Once you have decided that you want to book a specific wedding reception facility, it is time to reserve the
date with a contract (and most likely a deposit as well). Try to read the entire
agreement very carefully before you go into the venue to sign on the
dotted line. Be sure that all of the important details you previously
discussed with the facility coordinator are memorialized in the agreement,
especially a date guarantee (since some facilities have been known to drop
smaller weddings for larger corporate events).
Everything from access times - to an itemization of what the facility is providing
deposit refunds should be covered even if a 2nd page needs to be attached to the
agreement. If owners or personnel at the venue should change prior to your
wedding date a detailed document will help to make sure there is no confusion about the
details of your wedding reception.
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