The MANual: Reception

Your Venue: Look Before You Book

You can use the Internet to look for your reception venue. But you should physically visit the space before you put your money down.

Research used to mean spending hours in a library, pouring over old municipal records, or dusty periodicals, or fading microfilm. Now, it means sitting on your couch in your underwear, typing various questions into the address bar of your browser and trying not to fall down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos or sketchy Reddit sub-forums.

As you search for the right reception venue, you’ll see a lot of websites from event planners, wedding planning services, and the event spaces themselves. By all means, visit these websites. But by no means visit just the websites.

You are about to drop a lot of money on this space. You need to experience it before you pay for it. Keep these questions in mind as as you look for your venue.

Are The Website’s Photos Accurate?

You know how you spend hours tinkering with your photos, so that everyone on Instagram will think your life is Ryan Reynolds-level awesome? Well, the people who run event spaces are doing exactly the same thing.

Don’t trust the pictures. They are designed to make the space look amazing, showcasing the best light and best angles. You must visit the site to get a true sense of how it looks and feels. If there’s a compelling reason why you can’t, then ask for a floor plan–not only to see how big the space really is, but how other people have arranged it for their events.

Will The Lighting Be The Same?

You visited the site one early afternoon in Fall, and really dug the sunlight coming in through the huge windows. But you forgot that you reception will be at night, in the middle of December. Get a sense of the space at the time of day and year when you are actually getting married. Make sure the venue’s lighting is appropriate for the mood you want to create.

(If the lighting is not appropriate, you can always turn off all the lights and use candles. While this will make everyone look good–candle light is almost universally flattering–you may end up burning the place down, which will put a crimp in your honeymoon.)

What’s Included?

When figuring out your budget, you may think you’re saving some dough by letting the venue provide basic supplies like tables, chairs, table cloths, and silverware. But take a look at what they’re offering. If it looks like the chairs haven’t been reupholstered since the 1970s, start thinking about bringing in your own.


Negotiate With Your Vendors Like A Banker

What’s Outside The Room?

Remember that your guests have to get to and from the room where you’re having your reception. If the building is renovating the lobby, or replacing the elevators around the time of your reception, you’ll want to know. Nothing says romance less than sawdust, stacks of plasterboard and construction workers cat-calling the bridesmaids.

When you visit the venue, pretend you’re one of your guests and see how long it takes to get to the reception room. Do your guests have to walk up a couple flights of stairs? Is it a 15 minute walk from the parking lot? Will your Great Aunt Tessie have to cross a rope bridge to get to the party? If you pick a venue that’s difficult to get to, you need to arrange some round trip transport.

Are Vendors Welcome?

If your venue requires that you use their vendors for things like food, flowers, etc., you should probably look elsewhere. It may be that they use lovely people, who are models of professionalism and service. But why not leave your options open? Make sure you can bring in outside vendors if you decide that’s what you want.

Bottom Line

When planning your reception, you’re going to spend a lot of time thinking of it in abstract terms. But don’t forget that it will happen in a physical space. You need to put yourself in that space before you sign on the dotted line.

Join The Plunge (Don’t Worry: It’s Free)

Even More Reception