Being a wedding photographer, I get the opportunity to evaluate many reception facilities while having little or no bias to “sell” one location over another. Most Brides and Grooms know where they will be holding the ceremony before they decide where to have the reception, so we have compiled five observations that can help you when selecting your venue.
Distance – If people have to drive a long way to get from the ceremony to the reception, some will get distracted or decide to do something else. Try to keep the reception within a 15 to 30 minute drive of your ceremony. If it is not possible to get a reception hall close to your ceremony, make a caravan. Have the Bride and Groom lead the parade, and people will follow you to your reception.
Time – Time is just like the distance issue. If your reception is several hours after the ceremony, people will get busy doing other things and not show up for the reception. Try to start the reception within an hour or two of the ceremony. If you don’t want to start your wedding dance at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, have a Meet and Greet mixer before your reception. Serve some punch and get people to mingle. This will be one of the few times that both families will be together. Encourage family members to share stories about your childhoods.
Size – People like their personal space, and they have most likely spent an hour packed into a church for your ceremony. If you let them spread out, they will enjoy themselves more. Make sure your reception hall has plenty of room for your guests. The people renting the location might tell you it holds 200 people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will hold 200 people comfortably! Make sure to visit the venue before booking.
Climate Control – Having a summer wedding? Is your reception hall air conditioned? If people sweat while just sitting, they won’t dance. On the flip side, if they are cold they won’t dance either (who wants to dance in a parka?). Also make sure you know who has control of the thermostat so the temperature can be adjusted if needed. Chances are your reception will be warm and stuffy while all the guest are there, but as they trickle out during the night the room will begin to cool down.
Smoking – This is a hot button issue, but if your reception hall is non-smoking, you can fully expect smoker’s to leave your reception for 15-30 minutes every hour. If enough of them leave the reception area, you may find a large percentage of your guest just hanging out in the smoking area. This can be a big problem if you have many smokers in your wedding party. You don’t have to allow smoking, but it is something you should consider, especially if anyone has any health problems like asthma or allergies that could be triggered by smoke. If you decide not to allow smoking in the reception area, how close is the nearest place for a smoker to go? Is it close enough that you will be able to get needed wedding party members during events like the bouquet toss or garter auction?
Facility coordinators will no doubt bring up several other factors for you to consider when you interview them for your booking, but these are often missed items, especially if they don’t favor the potential venue. If you keep the overall picture in mind and work with your wedding planner or event coordinator on the decorating ideas, you will no doubt have an enjoyable and memorable wedding reception.