Choosing The Right Wedding Reception Venue


I’ve talked about how to craft the perfect wedding guest list, now let’s talk about where you’re going to put all of those people. You need a venue–perhaps multiple venues–and, depending on where you host your wedding the options can be dizzying.

redneck wedding reception

You can do whatever you want at your wedding reception, but you have to find the right place to do it.

Once you have a head count there is no time to waste on booking your venues. They book fast and you need the perfect one on a good date. This is the crucial next step because you can’t book vendors without a date or location. It’s also your biggest expense and will set the tone for your whole wedding budget.

Wedding venues fall into categories based on what they provide. Which is right for you depends on your time frame and the type of wedding you and your fiancé(e) are willing to pay for. Reception venues broadly fall into these categories:

The gorgeous but no help and closes early landmark

Usually park district, state, or university owned these venues are cheap and would turn heads when decked out in your wedding day’s decor. The downside is that you get little more than the space and some tables and chairs. Everything else (catering, setup, etc) is left to you to manage and coordinate. Also, the hours of operation tend to be short leaving you having to end or move the party right after its really begun. These venues make wedding planning extra intense, but could come off looking best.

The fairly inclusive with place to stay hotel

Hosting a wedding reception at a hotel has many pluses. For one, accommodations for out of town guests and those who don’t want to drive home are readily available and convenient. For two, hotels usually have their own bar and catering staff, leaving you with at least one less major vendor to deal with.  A hotel package may even include a florist, cake maker, or day-of event coordinator all of which will make your life easier. Whatever the case you’ll likely still need to provide a DJ and photographer at least.

The all-inclusive destination wedding

The destination wedding is an attractive option not only because of the vacation locale but because travel time and expenses automatically limit the number of guests that can and will attend the wedding. To top it off most resorts specializing in destination weddings provide everything needed for the big day. That means you only have one vendor to deal with, which is great, but you better like what they do and be flexible with you expectations.

The outside but risky wedding

If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that is sunny 300+ days a year then you could secure a permit for a lovely park and have your wedding reception outdoors for cheap. If you’re like me and live in a place with unpredictable weather then you don’t have that luxury. You could find a venue that accommodates outdoor receptions if the weather is good but has an indoor area for if the weather is bad. Typically, however, the indoor backup isn’t as nice as the outdoor setup, or as a place that does everything indoors.

The inclusive wedding factory

These are the one-stop-shop wedding joints. You can have your ceremony here, your reception, and they’ll cater everything for you. Photographer, DJ, and/or florist  very well may be included. This is the type of place you want if you’re in a rush, though you will sacrifice quality. It’s also a good option for the budget conscious since the price is usually quite reasonable.

So what did Tina and I choose? We went with the semi-inclusive hotel option. Specifically the Intercontinental O’Hare. Guest accommodation was easy and the hotel took care of the catering. The hotel rep we worked with even doubled as a day-of coordinator for us. We handled the ceremony, DJ, photographer, and florist on our own.

Stay tuned! I’ll talk wedding ceremony venues and officiants in a future post.

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