Location Is Everything
Decide how close you want the reception to be to the ceremony. Visit at least two places that each of you thinks would make a good reception location. The idea is to stay flexible in your thinking, and to brainstorm.
Sometimes the planning for a wedding becomes so intense that you just want to make quick decisions, pay the money, and settle matters. Getting it settled, however, should not mean settling!
Church Reception Halls
Perhaps your fiancé likes the idea of having the reception in the hall attached to your church or synagogue. Nearly one out of four couples who marry in a church have their reception in the church hall, often because the bride or the groom, or both, are members of the church and it makes sense to stay there after the ceremony. There's a sense of rightness to the place that makes you want to continue your celebration there.
There's no question that it's very convenient to have the reception at your place of worship following the ceremony. Guests can move easily into adjoining reception space while you have your wedding pictures taken, and you don't have to worry about your octogenarian relatives navigating busy highways.
Weather is another factor. For instance, if you're having a winter wedding in a cold climate, staying inside in one location is a bonus.
Check with the church regarding its rules about using the hall, particularly about any restrictions on serving alcoholic drinks and dancing. It may also have rules about hours for hall rental and how you may decorate the place.
Because you already have an established relationship with the facility, you have a reduced risk of complications, conflicts, and potential crises. That's not to say you shouldn't be just as diligent about setting expectations and getting the details in writing, but you can find some peace of mind in knowing that you're familiar with your venue.
Convenience and price breaks are fine reasons to remain at your church or synagogue. Add to that the fact that most reception halls are well maintained and often decorated, and you have quite a plus.
It's an Important Day — Choose Carefully
Alternatively, perhaps you've always wanted to have a reception in an elegant place like a hotel. Maybe a flower-filled garden setting seems perfect for your reception, or perhaps you know of a beautiful riverside park.
Whatever it is, set aside a few hours to visit the locations together. Really look them over and talk about the vision each of you has for the reception. Think about the kind of celebration both you and your guests could have there. You'll always remember the place where you celebrate your wedding, so make it a place that is truly special to you.
Susan and Nick talked about where they'd have their reception right after they decided to hold the wedding ceremony by the reflecting pool on the campus of their college.
“We looked at a few places, like the fancy reception rooms they have for functions for special guests on campus,” Susan said. “We also checked out some other places like meeting rooms at restaurants and places like that.”
Depending on your location and the season, an outdoor reception might be an option. If you decide on one, have a backup plan in case of bad weather. Look into tent rentals to shield guests from sun and showers.
Susan and Nick gave a little more thought to their vision. “We got to talking about how nice it was going to be to be outside in the sunshine after all that time in classrooms, and we had that harpist … well, it just seemed natural to stay there and have a picnic with the two dozen or so people we invited.”
Other Money-Saving Facilities
Since Kylie's mother is a member of the Women's Club, Kylie and Sean decided the club's facility was a perfect choice. Each year, the club hosts many weddings for children of members and others from the community.
“The catering would be a bit steeper than we planned, but still much less than a hotel reception,” Kylie said. “My dad offered to give us money to elope instead of having a wedding and reception! We think he was joking.”
Actually, because her mother is a member, there was a discount for renting the facility. “We compared the prices for a luncheon reception and a sit-down dinner, and we saved by choosing the luncheon — a buffet, actually.”
Private clubs such as the Women's Club or fraternal clubs offer many benefits to their members and to the community. Such places can accommodate all kinds of events and usually have everything you need — the space, the furnishings, kitchen facilities, parking, and sometimes even security.
What resources can reception sites provide?
Often, the person in charge of renting out a private club can also recommend caterers, florists, and musicians who have done a good job for other events held there. Coordinators often keep albums of events held there, which can offer a wealth of decorating ideas, too.
All About the Party
Lynn and John plan to spend the largest portion of their wedding budget on the reception, so finding the perfect place was very important to them.
“We'll have the wedding outside on a small pavilion overlooking the water at the marina country club; then we'll move inside to a sit-down dinner and later, a dance,” Lynn explained. “My list of ‘have-to-haves’ is simple: We have to have a place that serves champagne and drinks and has a dance floor and space for the jazz group we want.”
Although they want to have a big party for their family and friends to celebrate their wedding, Lynn and John also know they don't want it to go on too long. “We've both been to receptions that went on for so long that people had too much to drink, and it wasn't pleasant,” said John. “So prearranging a time for things to be over before Lynn and I leave for the airport for Hawaii is important.”