Searching for the Perfect Reception Site Continued – Part 2

The Boy Scout Motto is “Be Prepared” and the same applies to every couple looking for a reception site venue.  Here is a list of questions that you will need to ask each and every potential venue.  Before going into detail determine if they are available for your particular date.  If you are still open on a specific wedding date, check out the month or season you are interested in.  Also, if you are on a tight budget, ask about Friday or Sunday, or off-season rates.

Start with the basic cost.  You will discover that most reception sites break down their costs differently and what may seem to be less expensive may wind up costing more once all of the figures are totaled.  Be sure to have a guest count beforehand.

Reception Site 2

Basic Questions:

What is the facility rental fee?

What is the cost for food?  Most venues have more than one menu package, so you will need to determine which menu package you will most likely utilize for your wedding.

Can I do a food tasting before I book?

Is there a cake cutting fee?

When is the final head count needed?

What is the ratio of servers to guests?  How do the servers dress?

Are gratuities included in the quoted fee?

Do you provide the tables, chairs, linens, etc?

Is the site handicap accessible?

Are pets allowed?  (This is especially important to ask if you are including your pet.)

How long can you use the premises?

What is the cost for the alcoholic beverages?  Again, make sure you have an idea of what type of beverage you are planning to provide – house brand, premium brand, just beer, just wine, or whatever combination of drinks you are planning to provide.  Are they licensed for alcoholic beverages?

Can you provide your own liquor?  Is there a corkage fee?

If you can have your ceremony there, is there a charge?  Is it a separate space?  If not, how long does it take to turn over the area?

If there space for the wedding party to change and/or relax?

Is there a setup or break down fee?  (Is it a lump sum or per guest charge?)

Is there a sound system with adequate speakers or will that need to be rented.  Do they provide a microphone, a cordless mike, or a lapel mike?

Is there a dance floor?

Is there a staffing fee for bartenders, waiters, etc?  Is there a security personnel fee?  Is there a parking or coat check person fee?

If this is an outdoor location, is there a backup plan for rain or inclement weather?

If this is an outdoor venue, is their adequate outdoor lighting?

If this is a private home, do they have a conditional use permit to operate the facility?  (Very important!)

Can you put up a tent?

Now, we will complicate this!  Some venues provide a “wedding package” where all the basics are included.  You will need to check just exactly what is included – cake – flowers – linens – chair covers – etc.

You must also determine what services the reception site provides and what you must hire yourself.  Is there an in-house caterer or a list of preferred caterers?  Must you used those caterers or are you free to hire your own caterer?  Be sure to include items that you must hire yourself into the final price comparison.

When bringing your own caterer is there an on-site kitchen facility?

Does the reception site provide on-site coordinators?

Does the reception site provide adequate parking space?  Is there parking costs involved?

Does the reception site have locations for photo opportunities – inside and out?

Is there a dance floor?

Is this venue easy to find and in a good location.

How far is the reception site from the ceremony site?

Do you share this reception site with other weddings?  If so, what areas can your wedding party use?  Is there an outdoor area that your guest can use?

Are there any decorating restrictions?

Are there any other restrictions?

When can you arrive to decorate?

Who does the cleanup?

Are there any hidden fees?

How many wedding receptions have you hosted at this location?  How long have you been in business?

Do you have to purchase any permits or insurance?

Do they have liability insurance?

What is the deposit required and when is the remainder due?

What is your cancellation policy?

Are there any perks, specials or giveaways?

Reception Site 1

 

GET EVERYTHING in writing!  Your date is not officially reserved until you sign a contract and give a deposit.  Read the fine print before you sign, and make sure it includes everything you and the site owner agreed upon.

Take this list with you when visiting a potential site, and take a camera to take photos as well. 

This might seem overwhelming but not having surprises on your wedding day will be invaluable!

Searching for the Perfect Reception Site?

The first question that I ask couples looking for a reception site is all about the feel and personality of their wedding.  Your reception site should fit the theme and character of your wedding.  If you have always dreamed of having a grand reception inside an elaborate ballroom, then your site selection should match that dream.  If you instead choose an outdoor garden at a winery, the entire ambiance is different.  And, are you looking for a single location for both the ceremony and reception?  These are all important questions that you need to answer before making any appointments.

 

Winery

 

Don’t try to change a site to make it what you want.  Choose your site based on your vision.  It will be less expensive.  The cost to customize a site to meet your vision can mean huge chunks of cash thrown out the window.

Secondly, know your budget before you contact any facility.  The reception cost will represent approximately 50% of your budget.  Generally 75% to 80% of the guests you invite will accept your invitation, with a 20% to 25% decline.  So if you have invited 200 guests, figure at the beginning approximately 150 guests.

 

 

Church

 

Here in our St. Louis area, we have over 300 venues available from golf course reception sites with beautiful vistas, general banquet facilities, fine restaurants with private rooms, hotel venues, wineries, old historic homes, and private family farms.  Don’t settle for the first facility you visit as there are lots of choices.  I’ve heard brides tell me they went ahead and booked because they were frightened into the fact that the site could be “booked” if they didn’t.  Don’t bend to that pressure.  Not at the beginning of your search.  Especially the last year or so, we have venues that have lots of openings even within the next three months – just look at some of the listings at Last Minute Weddings.  If your wedding will be close to a “premium” type date  – like the Saturday before a major Holiday – you will need to book early, so start early.  And keep an alternate date in mind, to maximize your options.

 

Golf

 

Take a look at TOTAL costs.  Does it include gratuity?  What type of bar service?  Is it limited, premium or brand name.   And most importantly – what is the quality of the food and the service.  Your guest will take note and rave about your wedding if you provide good hospitality and great food; they will also note bad service and less then inspiring food.   It’s not always dollars and cents making the difference.  I have found that some sites at $29.00 per guest are just as great as others at $45.00 per guest!  And at 150 guests, that a huge savings – $2400.

Check back for Part II – Questions to Ask When Evaluating a Location for Your Wedding