Today's Bride

Choosing the Right Reception Venue


Choosing a wedding venue may seem like an intimidating decision right now. You need a place that fits your budget, accommodates your guests, and most of all, suits your wedding style. But rest assured: Whether you’re a nature lover, a modernist or a hopeless romantic, there’s a wedding site for you.

Elegant restaurants, hotels, catering halls, and country clubs are obvious places to begin. Their staff members will most likely be professional with years of wedding experience. Many of these facilities even employ a full-time wedding consultant who can explain your options and help you plan the event from start to finish.

You might, on the other hand, want an alternative to the traditional wedding venue. For those cases, check the availability of restored mansions, museums, galleries or even boats/ships. If you marry during a season of (somewhat) reliably good weather, waterfronts, beautiful gardens, and arboretums can add beauty to any reception. Many public parks and historic sites offer both indoor and outdoor facilities as well.


Knowing how many people you want to invite is crucial when picking a location. It is also helpful to have some idea of the events your reception will include; a spot that normally works for 150 might only fit 100 if you have a large dance floor and/or a band.

Then, you’ll need to determine your budget. Think about the number of guests you anticipate inviting, and then factor in how much money you reasonably want to spend on each guest. Once you have an idea of your budget and number of guests, you’ll be able to focus on venues that fit your parameters.

Choosing the Right Reception Venue | Genevieve Nisly Photography | As Seen on

Genevieve Nisly Photography at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


So what exactly should you look for in a reception site? You should be looking for the same sorts of things you looked for in your significant other – charm, personality and depth.

The best bet is to check out at least three (but usually no more than six) venues in person so you have something to compare the other sites to. Compare sites beforehand with our vendor profiles for Cleveland Reception Sites and Akron/Canton Reception Sites. Keep track of each venue and try to make your visits close together (say one whole weekend) so you can have a fresh memory of each site to help you make a final decision.

While it’s tempting to just drop by a venue, it’s not a good idea. Catering staff might not be available to show you around and answer all your questions on the spot. Make an appointment and plan to spend at least an hour at each event space. Keep in mind that it’s best to visit each venue around the actual hours of your event – it will allow you to see how the space looks naturally lit.


Privacy varies widely from place to place, as does the importance couples place on it. Check if other events are scheduled for that day and how much time is allowed between bookings. If your guests are having a good time, you don’t want them pushed out the door because another party has been scheduled right after yours.

There should be, at the very least, one hour between bookings. Find out what sort of group will be next door if there are partitions. The noise of their party could end up being an intrusion on your reception. If it’s impossible to reschedule your wedding, visit the site on a dual-party night and see how the sound carries.

A daytime event in a public spot, such as a park or botanical garden can get crowded. Be prepared for strangers to trek past your party. They may even smile, wave or come by to offer their good wishes. If this is okay with you, go for the park. If not, ask about privacy options, or opt for a lovely lawn on a private estate.

Choosing the Right Reception Venue | Millie Holloman Photography | As Seen on

Millie Holloman Photography


What will your guests look at when they’re not gazing at you or smiling for the videographer? Whether it’s the city skyline or a beautiful body of water behind you, exceptional locations are always a feast for the eyes. If there’s no view per se, look to a place’s decor or architectural details: Picasso prints on the walls, fine Persian rugs on the floors, period furniture in the corners or an amazing crystal chandelier as the room’s centerpiece will add that something extra to your reception site.

If you’re considering a certain theme and color palette for your party, take that into consideration as well. The site doesn’t have to be done in the exact colors as your planned decorations, but the walls, carpets, chairs and curtains shouldn’t clash with your party’s theme.


When touring the facility, be sure to look around thoroughly and meet the staff. You may even want to see how your waiters and waitresses will be dressed.

Make sure you know who the contact person will be for your evening (i.e. the wedding coordinator, the catering manager, etc.). Get in writing the name of the site representative who will be on hand on your wedding day and the name of an acceptable substitute.

Choosing the Right Reception Venue | Klodt Photography | As seen on

Klodt Photography at The Tudor Arms Hotel


Before you finalize your location, make sure you know exactly what is included. Some public buildings, such as synagogues, have their own banquet tables, caterers and pre-approved staff. Many venues provide chairs and linens. With other spaces, you have to rent all these amenities. Ask your site coordinator what is considered extra.

Most venues can offer you a package deal and are willing to customize a menu or trim the package to accommodate your budget – especially if you’re booking an event during an off-peak season or day of the week. In addition, if you plan on bringing in outside services, you’ll want to find out what limitations there may be as well as when you or your supplier can come in to set up.

It’s a competitive marketplace these days so go ahead and ask each site what sets them apart from the competition. You may find out one venue has won many awards; that another venue has double the staff working your event; or that a venue is willing to customize a menu at no extra cost. Remember, when there are several businesses competing for your business, you save!


Locating a spot that’s big enough for all your guests, works with your budget and possesses that special charm isn’t easy. So once you’ve made your decision, book your venue right away. You don’t want another couple to take the space you want. Usually a verbal confirmation is enough to hold the space for a day, maybe two. Then you’ll be expected to pay a deposit and sign a formal contract outlining all the details of the reception package. Deposits aren’t always refundable, so find out before you sign the contract.

As always, don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s the reason you went to visit the hall. For a list of questions you should be sure to ask, check out our free wedding planner and printables! And if the staff isn’t interested in answering all of your questions and concerns, chances are they won’t be interested in helping you have the wedding reception you want. The better informed you are, the more comfortable you’ll feel with your choice.

Make sure that you’ve taken the time to compare the sites themselves. Calling a possible reception site for a price quote does not show you what you’re getting for your money.

Since your venue is the backbone of your wedding celebration, you need to find a reception site that works overtime to please you and your groom. Once you’ve pinpointed that site that’s going to meet – and exceed – your expectations, it’s time to sit back, relax and savor every moment of your wedding day.


For more tips on creating your perfect wedding reception, take a look at our Today’s Bride Magazine or pick up your own copy for FREE!


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