Choosing a Wedding Reception Location

Outdoor Wedding VenueOnce you reach the age when you’re ready to have a wedding of your own, you’ve likely attended your fair share of other couples’ weddings. This can usually give you several good ideas about how to plan and decorate your wedding ceremony, but most people don’t keep track of their ideas about the reception venue. Below, there are some key things to keep in mind when planning your wedding reception that will make sure it as great as the ceremony itself.

Distance

You want to make sure the reception is located fairly close the ceremony site. If your guests need to drive too far to get to the reception, you will likely see a noticeable drop-off in the number of people who show up. If possible, you want to have the reception site either at the same venue as your ceremony or only a block or two away; but if that’s not viable, you should try to keep it within a 10 to 15 minute drive at the very most.

Timing

Similar to the distance issue, you want to make sure the timing of your entire wedding is appropriate and that there isn’t a delay between the end of your ceremony and the start of your reception. You can open your reception hall to guests and give them something to do while they wait for your arrival. You don’t have to start dancing and serving food right when the guests arrive, but having some punch or other wedding projects to occupy them will go a long way.

Temperature

Depending on what time of year you will be having your reception, you will want to make sure you’re taking the appropriate steps to control the temperature at the party. If it is during the hottest or coldest parts of the year, you may want to avoid an outdoor reception to stay courteous to your guests. Furthermore, you’ll want to make sure that an indoor reception venue has the proper climate control functions so that either the heater or air conditioning system can keep up with the temperature outside. Providing a comfortable environment for your post-ceremony celebration is vital; especially since people will be close together and getting warm already from dancing.

Wedding Size

Depending on whether you’re having a very large wedding or a very small wedding, the number of guests you have will play one of the largest roles in your venue selection process. If you’re having a small wedding with less than 20 guests, you can easily get away with having a beach wedding or a ceremony in the gazebo of your friends’ backyard. If you’re having a lot of guests such as 200 or more, then a large hall will really be your only option. Knowing the size of your guest list as far in advance as possible will help you choose the right wedding venue without too much fussing about.

Five Bars for an Unforgettable Reception

Waffle BarWhen most people think of the word ‘bar’ in association with a wedding reception, it’s in terms of an open bar or cash bar. But what we’re talking about here isn’t (necessarily) booze; it’s more about loading up buffet tables with food fixings and letting the guests create their own masterpieces. Some are dessert, some are a main course, but they’re all a fun and delicious way to get more out of your wedding reception.

Waffle Bar

For a brunch wedding, you can’t go wrong with a waffle bar. Rent a few of the waffle irons and batter dispensers–the kind you’ll find at continental breakfasts in hotels–and you’re set for the main course. Then add plenty of topping possibilities: fresh fruit, jam and jelly, different flavors of syrup, whipped cream, peanut butter, even chocolate sauce. The kids will be delighted, and the adults will have fun eating like kids again.

Baked Potato Bar

I recently attended a wedding that was mid-day; it was a little too late for lunch at the reception, and a little too early for dinner. The bride and groom instead had a baked potato bar set up for the guests to stuff themselves, and nobody went away hungry. You can really go crazy with potato toppings: butter, sour cream, and chives are must-haves, of course. But then add bacon bits, cheese, chili, red bell peppers, even avocado. Since they’re gluten-free and can be vegetarian they make a great dish for kids and adults alike. Add a few side dishes, and it can stand in for your entire reception dinner!

Beer Bar

Most receptions have a bar that serves beer, but in this case we mean a wide selection of beer for sampling, rather than one or two kegs for general consumption. Odds are your city has a homebrewers’ club or two that might be up to the challenge of providing several craft beer selections for your reception guests. All you need in addition are plenty of 4 oz tasting glasses, and your guests can make their own beer flights.

Candy Bar

A great punny way to give your guests a memorable wedding favor is to stock a buffet table with dozens of different types of candy and let each guest create a custom mix. All the brightly-colored candy makes for a fun display, and the bags themselves will be a sweet reminder of your special day.

Ice Cream Bar

Nothing will take your guests back to childhood like a fully-stocked sundae bar. Whether you go for banana splits, cones, or simple scoops, make sure to have several flavors they can choose from and all the toppings you can think of: hot fudge, whipped cream, cherries, graham crackers, marshmallow fluff, sprinkles, and more. Let your guests indulge in a decadent dessert and they’re more likely to get up and dance when the music starts.

It’s all well and good to do a fancy table-service meal at your reception. But with any of these bars providing an option for fully personalized face-stuffing, your guests are sure to leave stuffed and satisfied.

The Journey to Your Wedding Day

Wedding CalendarFrom the moment you say “I do”, time speeds up drastically and the wedding planning process begins. Even if you aren’t having for wedding for a year or two, a newly engaged person will start to see wedding details in every object they see. If you’re like most brides, the journey to your wedding day will be very strange and new, plus you’ll want to make everything perfect for your special moment. There are a lot of things that need to get done; so much so that it can seem overwhelming, but just going through the steps one after another can prove to be the right process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the process of getting to your wedding day starting from the moment you’re engaged.

Getting Started

The first thing that you’ll need to do is make an announcement to your friends and family. Often times you can place a wedding announcement in the local paper for free, but you also need to call everyone that’s important and tell them personally. Once that’s done, you’ll need to sit down with your significant other to discuss the initial details of the wedding.

This discussion should be quite in-depth and include topics like what you want out of your wedding day experience, where you want to get married, how much money you’ll be able to spend, and when you want to set the date. These initial stages are all very important because the rest of the wedding planning process will take shape around the choices that you make together.

Guest List

Once you have some of the initial details roughed out, you’ll need to compile your wedding guest list. This can be a tough moment in the planning process because every person you add to the guest list is another chunk of expenses. The best way to go about this is to start with your friends and family, then work out from there. Don’t invite a bunch of your work friends or people you haven’t seen in several years; just try to keep it to the important people in your life right now so the list doesn’t get out of control.

Choose Your Venues

Once you know when you want to get married, the budget that you have to work with, and an estimate on the number of guests that you’ll be inviting, you can start to look at wedding venues. This is probably the biggest decision you’ll make regarding your wedding, so make sure you take your time and look at all of the options that are available. You’ll need a venue for the ceremony and a venue for the reception, but if your budget is tight you can consider a single venue that will work for both.

Hiring Vendors

Hiring the right wedding vendors can be tricky, especially if you are on either a time or budget crunch. The best way to ensure you are hiring the right person is to extensively research their reputation online and find real couples that can give you a testimonial about their work. The term wedding vendors is a blanket term for every professional you’ll hire for the wedding such as your wedding photographer, the musicians, florist, caterer, and more. This will be a very long and tedious process to choose the perfect candidates, but all of your hard work will pay off huge when your wedding ends up perfect.

Dress Shopping

Shopping for your wedding dress can be both fun and stressful all rolled into one. There are few events during the wedding planning process that are more important, and that can lead to second-guessing and stress. The best tactic to achieve success is to choose a practical dress with as little emotion involved in the choice as possible and then never look back from your decision. This can be easier said than done, but you will be very happy on your wedding day if you just go with your first instinctual choice of wedding dress.

Invitations

Your wedding invitations can be one of those things that end up eating up way too much of your time. The best choice is to choose something simple, elegant, and to the point, and remember that pouring too many resources into a piece of paper that will eventually be discarded is just a waste of time. You want to send out your wedding invitations 6 to 8 weeks before your wedding date.

Being Well-Rested

One thing that many brides forget to do in the days leading up to their wedding is to take care of themselves health wise. To look your best on your wedding day and alleviate any potential stress, make sure you get good rest for at least a few days leading up to your big day. You should also try to do relaxing activities with your bridesmaids such as a spa day or a girls’ evening out. Though it may sound obvious to some that you want to be rested, hydrated, and in a good mood entering your wedding day, you’d probably be surprised at how often this isn’t the case.

Saving on Your Wedding Catering

Wedding CateringOne of the most expensive parts of your wedding will be paying the caterer, and this is particularly true if you’re having a large wedding. Other than the cost of your reception venue, your next largest expense will be feeding all of your guests. For each wedding guest you invite, you’ll need to have appetizers, a main course, and usually an evening snack; not to mention a slice of wedding cake for each person. All of those expenses can add up really quickly, especially if you let your guests run wild with the amount that they eat. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to control the cost of your wedding catering and keep room in your budget for other items.

Cocktail Hour

Typically, most couples will offer some type of small appetizer during what is known as “cocktail hour”. This is the time between when guests arrive at the reception hall and when the main dinner is served. Usually the guests will mingle, sip on cocktails, and congratulate the happy couple. Additionally, there are appetizers going around curbing the appetite of hungry guests.

To save money during cocktail hour, it’s a good idea to have the appetizers passed around from person to person on a tray or to have a server carrying them around to each group of people. If you just leave them on a table for your guests to have free reign, you’ll notice that a small handful of your guests will devour the whole tray in record time. By avoiding this, you can save a ton of money on your wedding catering. Additionally, not having an open bar or only serving beer for free can help you save money during cocktail hour, but that really isn’t considered part of your catering expenses.

Dinner

One of the easiest ways to save money on dinner service at your wedding is to choose an inexpensive dish that is very filling for your guests. By far the best choice for this is pasta because it is usually the least expensive option, everyone will love it, and it will fill the guests up with a single serving. It’s a good idea to offer at least two pasta choices to your guests such as spaghetti and fettuccini so that everyone can have a choice that they enjoy.

Also, though it may seem cheaper to do a buffet style dinner to avoid the cost of servers, having a plated dinner is usually much less expensive in the long run. It’s cheaper to pay a server $25 to deliver plates to a table than it is to have Uncle Joe eat 12 plates of food from the buffet line, so take that into consideration when you are crunching the numbers for your catering budget.

Side Dishes

Side dishes can quickly add up at a wedding, so try to avoid them at all cost. For instance, if you’re having a pasta dish, try to limit your sides to only salad and bread. Every additional food item you offer to your wedding guests will add to your catering expenses, so just keep them to a minimum.

Evening Snack

The cheapest way to thwart the expense of an evening snack for your guests is to time your dinner out so you don’t need on at all. If you space out your dinner and your wedding cake service, you can easily get away without having an evening snack at all. Also, you can put some candy or cookies at each table as a wedding favor which will also alleviate the need for any type of late night munchies.

Wedding Cake

Wedding cakes are so labor-intensive and decorative these days that they are usually one of the more expensive parts of your catering costs. To keep your budget in check, you should opt to buy a very small decorative wedding cake for the cake cutting ceremony and for your wedding party to eat. For the rest of the guests, you can slice up some sheet cakes that are just as delicious but much less expensive because they aren’t decorated like the actual wedding cake. This is particularly budget-friendly if you’re having a large wedding with a lot of guests.

Tips for Picking Your Reception Hall

Reception HallThough the ceremony is probably the most important thing for you as a couple, the location that guests will remember the most is the reception hall. After you’ve said your vows, exchanged rings, and sealed the deal with a romantic kiss, the rest of the event will be spent eating, dancing, and mingling with your guests. Depending on the size of your wedding, there are many things you need to consider when choosing your wedding reception venue. To help get you headed in the right direction, here are some tips for picking your reception hall that will hopefully make the task a little easier.

Same or Separate Venues?

One of the first things that you’ll need to decide when choosing your reception hall is whether you want it at the same location that you host your ceremony or at a separate facility. There are advantages to both, but ultimately the choice is up to you. The benefit of having the ceremony and reception at the same location is that there isn’t anywhere to travel. This can be great if you have elderly guests in attendance or want to save money on transportation to the reception hall from the ceremony site. The downside is that you’ll need to find a location that is romantic enough for a ceremony and has all the amenities needed for a reception which can be a little tricky to do.

Distance from Ceremony

If you choose to have your wedding reception at a separate location from the ceremony, you need to keep the distance away in mind. Not only will you need to get the wedding party to the reception hall, but you’ll also need to make sure it is easy enough for your guests to find that nobody gets lost along the way. Typically, you want to try to keep the reception hall within a few blocks of the ceremony site so it is very easy to find and some people could even walk if they wanted to. You can choose a location that is farther away, but make sure you have clear direction to hand out to the guests to make it as simple as possible to find.

Size of the Room

Lastly, you’ll want to consider the number of guests on your guest list when you go out shopping for a reception hall. Not only do you need to fit everyone into the room at tables to eat, but you’ll also need to consider the capacity of the dance floor. You want the room to seem fairly crowded so that everyone feels like the party is full, but you don’t want it to be uncomfortable at the same time. Just make sure there is plenty of room for everyone on your guest list before choosing your wedding hall and that can give you some important direction as to which venue to choose.