When setting out on your wedding planning quest, the choice of reception venue is one of the most important decisions to make for your wedding day.  It will eat up a good part of your budget, and it will be what your wedding guest talk about when they leave.  As long as you ask the right questions beforehand, finding the right reception hall for you and your fiancée should be as easy as a piece of wedding cake.

First, as with all of your wedding vendors, you should do a quick internet search for reception hall locations in your area.  There are many wedding specific venues, general event halls, and hotels that could all potentially be on your list.  Pick a few locations to research that are within your budget and fit in the “style” of your wedding.  If a venue is just outside of your overall budget, you should certainly look into it.  You might be able to negotiate a lower price—you never know until you try. 

Ways To Decrease The Cost Of Your Reception Venue

If you have not already set a wedding date, you should be able to cut your reception hall cost by having your wedding on Friday, Saturday morning or Sunday.   You may also want to contemplate a wedding in the spring, fall, or winter.  The prime time for wedding receptions is Saturday evenings in the summer. This high demand will fetch higher prices.

Some reception venues offer “all-inclusive” packages that they try to sell to you very hard.  These packages generally include most of your reception vendors like a caterer, florist, and cake.  You may be able to save money by picking vendors yourself, but you will certainly save you time and headaches to choose the all-in-one package. 

Inexpensive Reception Hall Options

If you are having a difficult time finding a reception venue, you may want to get a little creative and think outside the box.  Are you getting married in a church?  See if they have an event hall.  Is your wedding in a beautiful natural area?  See if you can have a brunch reception at a local open space park. 

What Questions To Ask Potential Reception Locations

What is the cost of your venue? 

This is one of the most important deciding factors when choosing your reception venue.  Unless you feel it is absolutely necessary, you should not bust your budget on the large expense of your reception hall.  Make sure you are absolutely clear with pricing.  Most locations will charge for a block of hours (usually between 4 and 7) and will then charge for each additional hour.  

What is the capacity of your location? 

Try to find a location that will comfortably accommodate all of your guests.  Some venues may be too small.  Some may be too large.  But make sure you do not pay unnecessary extra cost for a venue that is much larger than you need. 

Do you allow outside catering? 

This question applies especially to hotels, most of which do not allow outside food to be brought into your reception (excluding a wedding cake).  Oftentimes, food from a hotel will be more expensive than what you can find from a traditional caterer since a hotel has a “monopoly” on the food that is served.  A hotel, however, may give extra perks and discounts for using their facilities. 

Do you have an “approved” list of caterers? 

Many reception venues will limit which catering companies can work at their location.  Having a familiarity with a reception hall can be very important for the balancing act that is the wedding receptions.  By limiting the available caterers, the reception location is reducing the possibility of a mix-up or mess-up on your wedding day. 

On the flip side though, you should be able to get the most competitive price with the bigger pool of caterers to pick from.  You might get the best price, but you may not get the best service at your reception. 

Will there be another event before my reception?  Will there be another reception at the same time as mine? 

Some venues will oftentimes have back-to-back receptions or, if large enough, could possibly have two receptions occurring at the same time.  If your reception happens right after another event, you could have little time to decorate.  Make sure that the reception venue gives adequate time for you to prepare and decorate their facilities.  Larger reception locations may be able to accommodate more than one event at the same time.  This could possibly cause confusion with guests and could make your reception less intimate.  If this is the with a reception site, be sure to understand how your two events will be kept separate. 

Are there decorating restrictions? 

Some reception halls are very ornate and beautiful, while others can be almost barren.  Either way, you will want to dress up your reception hall with some beautiful decorations.  Many reception halls will offer their own décor packages, or you may want to decorate yourself.  Be sure to ask if there are any restrictions though.  For example, some locations do not allow actual rose petals to be used since they could potentially stain linens or carpeting. 

Can we bring our own liquor?

Alcohol can usually be purchased through your reception venue, but it is almost always cheaper to purchase liquor yourself.  If you purchase alcohol, make sure that the caterer or reception hall has an alcohol license. 

Where do guests park?

If an event center is located in a more urban area, parking right around the venue might be sparse.  Be sure to ask where the best location for parking is and ask if there is a fee to park.  Obviously, you will want your guests to park as close to your reception site as possible. 

Is your venue wheelchair accessible?  Are there many stairs?

If you invite many older guests to your wedding, you will want to keep in mind accessibility.  Granny usually does not like a lot of stairs, and if Grandpa is in a wheelchair, you will need a fully accessible reception site. 

Here is a quick list of all the other vendors you must book for your wedding day:

  • Cake Baker
  • Florist
  • DJ
  • Ceremony Venue
  • Caterer
  • Officiant
  • Videographer
  • Photographer