Welcome to searching for a reception venue! Honestly, this part was by far my favourite part of the entire wedding planning process. I truly wish I could turn back time and do it all over again just because it was so fun. I’d still pick the same venue (it was legitimately my dream venue), but I’d enjoy touring multiple other ones for fun.
Welcome back to my “You’re Engaged – Now What?” series! This is part 4 of the ongoing series. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first three parts of the guide and continue on for help, advice, and free printables!
Related Content: “You’re Engaged – Now What?” Series
1: So You’re Engaged – Now What?
2: The First Questions to Ask Your Partner When Planning a Wedding
3: What You Need to Ask Your Ceremony Venue
4: Questions to Ask Your Reception Venue
5: Top Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping
6: Finding The Perfect Bridesmaids Dress
If you haven’t already, go read Part 2 of the “You’re Engaged – Now What?” series. This part covers the first six questions you and your partner need to discuss in order to begin planning your wedding. A lot of these questions need to be answered in order to begin touring reception venues. While discussing, keep track of your answers by writing them down! Having a copy will come in handy for the rest of your wedding planning process.
Now that you have completed part 2, it is time to go around looking at different venues for your reception! Make sure you have the answers from your six questions with you while touring these venues. You specifically need to know: what is your venue budget, how many guests are you planning on having, do you want your ceremony and reception in the same place, and what time do you want your reception to begin. Keep in mind your vision for the wedding, as well the smaller details such as having a big dance floor or a hotel nearby.
10 Questions You Need To Ask Your Reception Site
1. All questions from PART 2 (ceremony venue questions) will need to be asked for your reception venue as well.
You can see part 2 here. As always, keep track of your answers. If you plan to have your ceremony and reception in the same venue, be sure to ask where each will be held.
2. Do you cover catering?
If the reception venue says yes, make sure to ask all of the following questions: How much per person? What does it include? Is there a late-night table included? Are children or vendors less per person? Is a food tasting included? Is the service buffet style, family style, or individual plates? Can you accommodate special diets? Is there any wine or champagne served during the meal?
If the reception venue does not do catering, do they have a recommended or preferred caterer? Do they provide any plates/cutlery/glasses, etc? Is there an on-site kitchen that can be used?
3. Do you provide cake cutting? Do I need to provide my own cake cutting set?
I genuinely forgot that I had to provide my own cake cutting knife set until a week before my wedding, so that was stressful. All I can say is thank goodness for Amazon Prime, and also for my brother who let me use his Amazon Prime account!
You will be responsible for cutting the very first piece of your cake (for the photos, really), but you may not want to cut a half-hour out of your night to cut the rest of it. It is important to know if the venue will cut it for you or if you need to add it into your nighttime schedule.
4. Do you have a list of preferred vendors?
This is extremely helpful! Even if you don’t use their preferred vendors, it is nice to have a starting point. Having vendors who know the venue is particularly helpful for your photographer, videographer, and decorator. However, a good vendor will be able to figure things out even if it is their first time visiting the venue so don’t stress too much if you don’t fall in love with their preferred list.
Quick Tip: Take photos of the venue while touring. This way, you can send the photos to a vendor who has never seen the place. You can use these photos to explain where you want the cake to be set up or where you want the guest book to sit.
5. Do you provide on-site servers and bartenders?
It’s super helpful if the venue you use provides on-site servers, and bartenders so you don’t need to worry about hiring any. If they don’t do catering, your caterer will usually provide the staff. If you’re planning on serving the food yourself, you may need to rely on some friends to help out or go buffet-style.
6. Do you provide tables, chairs, chair covers, napkins, table clothes? What colours?
Renting all the above can be extremely pricey – especially for a big wedding. If it is important to you, try to find a venue that provides all the above and save yourself a headache. If your dream venue does not provide these items, ask them who they recommend to rent from.
7. Coat room? Restrooms? Dance floor? Bar?
Does the venue have them? Ask if you can check them out. This especially goes for the bathroom!! While I was touring venues, one of them had bathrooms that reminded me of a dungeon. I ran out of that venue pretty quick. It may not be where the guest spends all of their time, but a bad bathroom usually means a bad venue.
8. Where will the DJ set up?
Again, ask to be shown. One venue I saw had the DJ set up behind a wall completely unable to see the guest… Yeah, no thank you. If your ceremony and reception are going to be held in the same location, ask if there is a speaker that connects between the two or if the DJ will need to move all of his equipment between the two locations. These questions are particular important to let your DJ know the answer to.
9. What is the capacity of the venue? Is there a minimum people needed?
Some venues require a minimum amount of people, and if that amount isn’t met, you are still required to pay for it. Keep this in mind when checking out your venues. If you only have 100 people you want to invite, it may not be a good idea to get a venue that has a minimum number needed as 100. There will be some people who will say no, and you don’t want to be stuck paying for them.
10. Is there an open-bar option? Cash bar? Tab bar? How many hours of bar are included?
For Tim and I, it was a priority to have an open bar. We only got five bar hours, so we put them all after dinner. Our venue tried to get us to put an hour of open-bar during cocktail hour and an hour of cash bar at the end of the night but we hated this idea. We didn’t want our guest drinking for free all night long only to have to pay for the final hour of the night (and usually the busiest hour due to everyone buzzed and dancing). If this isn’t a priority to you though, you can wiggle with your hours as you see fit.
5 Questions You Probably Wouldn’t Think of Asking But Need To
1. Is anything provided decoration wise?
Some venues provide a full decoration package. Some provide nothing. One I went to provided a decoration package with the catch that you must decorate how they decide. Another provided decorations but only in a limited amount of colours. Saving money is always a good idea, but make sure whatever venue you choose, it will suit your needs and aesthetic.
2. If catering is provided, is outside food allowed? Ie. For favours or a late-night table?
In extension, if you plan on giving customized alcohol bottles as a wedding favour, make sure you’re allowed. Often times venue forbid outside alcohol as they are not able to monitor underage drinking (and will lose on sales).
3. Is overnight accommodations provided on-site?
If so, is there a discount for booking multiple rooms? Does the venue offer a complimentary room or upgrade for the newlyweds?
If not, what are the nearest hotels to the venue? Is there a package deal with the nearest hotel?
4. Is a seating chart mandatory? Do I need to provide my own place cards? Are their booster seats or highchairs for children?
A very specific question: If a seating chart is mandatory AND the venue does catering, how do you communicate to the venue who is eating what? Do you need to provide a separate seating chart to the venue that includes who gets what? (This is important if some of your guest have special diets.)
5. Is there a smokers section?
Even if you and your partner do not smoke, someone in your guest list probably does. It’s good to know where the smoking is and how far/close it is to your party.
Bonus Question: What is the table situation?
I’m adding this one in because I forgot to ask it when I was touring venue. It is helpful to know if your venue provides tables, as well as what shape tables. You will also need to ask how many can sit at each table. This will help with designing your seating chart!
Want more insight into my wedding planning journey?