Your wedding ceremony is arguably the most important part of your wedding. After all, that’s when you’re actually married. But the wedding reception has its own special purpose—that’s when you get to celebrate with your family and friends! The two parts of the celebration have different purposes. And they have different needs and planning requirements, too. There’s a whole list of wedding reception FAQs that you may have for your venue before you can book or start vendor shopping.
Choosing a venue is one of the first steps in planning your wedding. (Setting a budget should come first!) The venue sets the tone for the decorations and even your dress. But it also determines whether you need to book a caterer or make your own centerpieces. So, in order to create your wedding checklist, you have to ask these wedding reception FAQs.
How long can we book the venue for? Is there a minimum or maximum?
Most wedding receptions last about four hours, and most wedding venues can accommodate that length of time. But you should always check with your venue ahead of time to see what they offer. Certain factors—like start time—may affect how long your reception can be. For example, if your reception starts at 10 p.m., you may struggle to find a venue that will remain open until 2 a.m. for the typical four-hour reception.
Does that time frame include clean up? What else needs to be done during that the time frame?
Don’t forget to ask what else you need to do before leaving. Do you have to be out by 11 p.m.? Or is that when the last song is played, and you’ll have time to clear out after? Check what else may need to be done during the hours you book. For example, you may have to have all final payments, including tip, made before 11 p.m. If there are items on your to-do list during the reception, check them off early or give the task to your wedding party.
Who is responsible for cleaning up?
In most cases, you will not be responsible for cleaning up trash, tableware, or food—typically, the venue handles event clean up. Oftentimes, they do so as the event carries on. For example, they will usually clear the tables of all food before dessert, and staff will circle the room for dirty tableware and trash throughout the event.
However, you are required to clean up all your personal belongings—including presents and guests’ items. Again, confirm what time you and your guests need to clear out of the venue, and budget accordingly. Your DJ should announce the last few songs, but how much time you leave depends on the size of your guest list. If there are only a few people left, you only need 5-10 minutes for guests to clear out. But larger receptions may take 20 or more.
How will the room(s) be arranged?
Although this may be your first wedding, it certainly isn’t your venue’s first! They can recommend table arrangements based on your headcount and your specific needs, like if you’re doing a sweetheart table or a table for the whole wedding party.
Do I need to provide napkins, tablecloths, tableware, etc.?
Typically, the venue provides napkins, tablecloths, tableware, cups, silverware, etc. But you should always confirm that!
Do you offer centerpieces and chair covers? When can I decorate?
Some venues also offer centerpieces, but that is less common. Chair covers are common, but you may need to choose the color or material beforehand.
Once again, venues differ on their decorations policy. Some venues decorate for you, others let you bring in your own items. In most cases, it’s up to you. But you should clarify when you’re able to set up—it’s usually the day before at or before the rehearsal. And remember—if your bring centerpieces and decorations, you’ll have to clean those up, too! That is, unless you ask the venue to toss all decorations after you leave. In some cases, you may be able to pick the decorations up the next day. But again, always ask!
What other services do you offer?
You can save a lot of time, money, and energy by booking a wedding package instead of just venue space. Some venues also offer catering, wedding planning services, shuttles, entertainment, and more. And when you book multiple services through one vendor, you have fewer names to keep track of, and it will likely cost less, too! Of course, you may want to shop around a little bit before signing that contract—and that’s okay. Just be sure to get a comprehensive quote from the venue, including an expiration date on the quote.
What are your meal options? What about your bar?
If the venue does offer catering services, inquire about the types of meals they offer. Can you choose between plated and buffet style? How many main course options are there? Can they cater to food allergies and lifestyle preferences? Even if a venue offers catering, you may still choose to go through an outside caterer to get the food options you want.
The same goes for the bar. Is an open bar available? What are the different beverage packages? Most bar services have a variety of options, including just beer and wine, just signature cocktails, a dry bar, and a cash bar. There are pros and cons to each, so you may want to do some research ahead of time.
Will the venue be double–booked?
You’ll never have to share the same room(s) with another event, but if the venue is big enough, you may be sharing the property with another event. Usually, each event has its own entrances, bathrooms, and accommodations—so there isn’t any overlap. But it may make parking difficult if it’s a downtown or metro venue. A double-booked venue isn’t bad. On the contrary, it’s fairly common. But it might not be something you want. Always ask!
As you can see from this list, there are a lot of wedding reception FAQs. But it takes a lot of work to plan a wedding, and all the questions and details will be worth it. When you bring your list of FAQs, don’t forget to ask the most important question: Can I picture my wedding here? If the answer is No, then it’s not the right venue for you!
What else is important when choosing a reception venue? What other wedding reception FAQs would you add to this list?