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!