Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Coffee: our top 5 tips for picking a wedding reception venue

So many of our clients don't know where to begin in the wedding reception venue search. On the other hand, some of our clients have pre-picked a venue (their favorite restaurant, the hotel where they were engaged) before hiring us on and we have to go back and fix or clarify contract terms.

Here are our Top 5 Tips for picking + booking a reception venue:
  • make a list of your favorite places in your wedding town. Have a favorite hotel that has an amazing view of the ocean? Love a little inn overlooking a romantic lake? Were you engaged at a swanky restaurant? Check out these places and see what they can handle in regards to your estimated guest count. Ask them how they can accommodate, say, 100 guests, and how they typically run receptions. Ask them what the timing of your wedding will be - some of the best locations might have a 9:30 pm or 10:00 pm cut-off time!
  • talk budget. There's almost always room to negotiate the minimums - ask the catering manager what they can throw in (chivari chairs/waive the cake cutting fee) and if they can knock $1,000 off of the minimum. Some will waive the ceremony fee if your reception is at the same place. You'll be surprised by what just asking gets you.
  • talking about minimums - be sure you understand what a food + beverage minimum is. Several of our clients have assumed their minimum is grand total of what they're bill will be (plus tax + gratuity). It is not. The minimum is simply the minimum price you agree to pay. Say your minimum is $15,000 but your guests/food/drink count only reaches $12,000. You are responsible to pay that $3,000 difference (plus tax/gratuity). You can do so by making your dinner a 5 or 6-course dinner, offering top shelf liquor, or having a late-night menu. Be sure you are clear how many guests and what type of menu/beverages you need to account for to reach your minimum. If your budget is tight, be sure you know how many guests will push you over your minimum.
  • location, location, location. Be sure your location is close to hotels for our of town guests (or a quick taxi ride away). Are you having a marathon of wedding activities over the weekend? You'll especially want to make sure that either A) your venue has restaurants, lodging, and activities or B) restaurants, beaches, parks, and other activities are nearby for your guests - especially if they're coming from afar.
  • check with the venue - how many weddings do they have going on at one time? You'll likely want to feel like your wedding is special and don't want to run into three other couples on your big day. This really happens - some venues have up to 10 or 12 weddings going on at one time. This should be a red flag - remember; it's all about the entire experience of your wedding!

Happy Planning! Aleah + Nick

Photo by Montestigliano, Italy

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