Recently engaged? Congratulations! One of the first steps in the wedding planning process is to select a venue for your ceremony and reception. Once you nail this down, you can start choosing your team of vendors and all of the fun details that follow. But how are you supposed to choose a reception venue? There are literally hundreds of places to hold your reception in the Philadelphia area. Are you supposed to go tour every place? Gosh no! Thanks to the internet, and some wedding planning websites, selecting a venue has gotten a lot easier over the last few years. Here are some tips for choosing a venue that is right for you!
OK, so before you even start thinking about where you and 120 of your friends are going to party, you need to nail down a few things. First and foremost, you need to establish a budget for your wedding. This isn't as simple as throwing a random number out there. You need to talk to anyone who you think might be contributing to your wedding (parents? future in-laws?) and see how much they are contributing. Once you establish an overall budget for your wedding, allot 40% of that number for your venue and food/catering.
Once you are done budgeting, you should figure out where you are having your ceremony. Are you getting married in your parents church? Your fiance's synagogue? Or did you want to have your ceremony and reception in the same place? The reason for figuring this out first is simple. If you are getting married in your church, you should not hold your reception an hour away from your church, especially on a Friday or Sunday. Most of your guests will not attend your ceremony if the reception is far away from the ceremony location. Also, places of worship can only accommodate one wedding at a time, so you need to book them first.
After you have established your ceremony location, you should think about what type of wedding reception you want. Do you want a formal wedding? If words like "classic", "glam", or "modern" describe the type of wedding you want, you are leaning towards a more formal wedding. Ballrooms, country clubs, hotels, museums, and estates are perfect settings for a formal wedding. Most of these type of venues come staffed with catering, bartenders, and servers.
If words like "vintage", "rustic", or "boho" describe your dream wedding, you probably want a more informal wedding. Informal wedding venues include barns, wineries, art galleries, and historic landmarks, just to name a few. A lot of informal wedding venues do not include catering at their venue, so be prepared to look for a caterer.
Next, come up with a rough number of guests. There is a huge difference between a 70 person wedding and a 270 person wedding. The higher the number of guests you need to invite, the harder it is to find a venue. If you need a space for 300 guests, your options on venues will be limited.
I recommend to look at a few different types of venues if you are unsure of what you want. Go look at an estate, a barn, and a country club, just to have some comparison. The internet is a great place to look for venues. I recommend using TheKnot.com, WeddingWire.com, and Partyspace.com. Wedding planners and photographers are also a great resource for finding venues. Select a few that are appealing to you, and email the venue for information on pricing. Also, ask if your date is available, and how many people the venue can hold. If you have specific requests, like you need a wheelchair ramp, ask before you go see the venue. Finding important items out before you go look will save you time in the long run. To keep your sanity, limit the number of venues you look at to no more than five.
Your reception venue and food will cost the most money from your wedding budget, so it is important to take your time making this important decision.
Schedule a tour with the Venue Coordinator. These are usually done on weekdays or early in the morning on weekends (venues are busy holding events on the weekends!). Bring a list of questions with you, take pictures, and take notes! If you're going to see a few venues, you might start getting confused about the different venues. If you plan on getting married at your reception venue, look at the exact location of where you would be getting married. If it's outside, ask what the back up plan is for rain. Can you imagine yourself getting married there if it rains? If you are undecided between two venues, ask to do a food tasting. Sometimes this will help determine your venue! And always look for online reviews or ask the venue to provide you with references. If you know someone who recently had their wedding at the venue, reach out to them and ask them about their experience.
If the venue has a "preferred vendors" list, ask if you have to use these vendors. Most venues will let you bring in your own insured vendors, but some venues do not allow this. Always ask before you sign!
Once you have selected your venue, you will have to sign a contract, and be prepared to put down a deposit. This secures your date. Make sure to read the contract! Your contract will state everything you need to know- payment deadlines, rules of what you can and can not bring in, and what is included. At this point you will most likely be working with the owner, Catering Sales Manager, or Venue Coordinator. Now the fun can begin!
Ever been to a wedding that...well....just sucked? What was the reason? Maybe the food was terrible, or the DJ played music you weren't into. But a lot of times, guests don't enjoy themselves at weddings because of minor issues that could have been avoided. In this blog we cover some items that brides and grooms can do to ensure their guests have a great time.
How and where you seat your guests is huge. There are some very simple steps to take when planning your seating chart. Elderly people should not sit near the music. If possible, sit them near the bathroom. You can put your college friends near the bar, just make sure not to put any friends in recovery near the bar. Make sure your tables and chairs on not on top of each other. Everyone needs some personal space.
You should have actual seat assignments at your wedding, even if you are having a very casual wedding. Having seat assignments help guests sit down quicker. Also you don't want guests feeling awkward by not having anyone to sit with.
If you are having an outside ceremony or reception, you will need to take extra steps to ensure your guest are comfortable. If you are getting married in the middle of August and it's 95 degrees out, get air conditioning units in the tents. Or bring in some type of portable units. If it's December, bring in portable heating. If your guests are too hot or too cold, chances are that is the only thing they will remember about your wedding day.
Again, outside venues require a lot more work. You should have bug spray, sunscreen, fans, umbrellas, blankets, or flip flops available. These can be displayed in a basket or cute bin near the bathrooms. If you are getting married in a 'woodsy' area, consider getting the area professionally sprayed for bugs prior to the wedding.
Bathrooms. Yes, this is something you need to think about. Make sure you have enough bathrooms for your guests. You should have two bathrooms per 100 guests. Also, you will need to think about how the bathrooms will remain stocked and clean throughout the night. This is particularly important if you have to rent bathrooms for your event.
Food. If you forget everything else in this blog post, remember this. You need enough food to feed all of your guests! You should never run out of food at a wedding. Same goes with drinks. Although I have been to several weddings were they run out of beer, or wine, or the specialty drink. Just make sure you don't run out of alcohol all together. Also, when selecting food for your cocktail hour and reception, have a wide variety of options. You shouldn't only offer sushi and seafood at your cocktail hour, and only have crab cakes at your reception. Chances are some of your guests won't like seafood. You should mix up the food that is offered to your guests.
Communication. Communication is very important to your wedding guests. Make sure your invitations clearly spell out the important details of your wedding. Times, food options, transportation, and lodging information should be on your invitation and on your wedding website. You should also communicate if your venue will take place outside. Guests will need to know how to dress and what type of shoes to wear (some ladies prefer not to wear heels to an outdoor ceremony). If you are incorporating religious traditions into your ceremony, you should communicate this to your guests in your ceremony programs. Example: If you are Jewish and will be breaking the glass, explain what this tradition means in your ceremony program. It will help your guests enjoy the ceremony rather than be confused.
Last but not least- the married couple needs to say hello to everyone. Sometime during your reception you should get up and walk around to each table and thank your guests for coming. If you follow these simple rules I have no doubt your guests will leave happy!