For many couples, picking out their Reception Venue is the keystone to getting a real jumpstart on their wedding plans. After all, you must make sure of the place and time in order to begin filling in all those other vital details, such as how many guests can be invited... what type of theme, colors or decor fit in just right... whether or not you'll have in-house catering or hire elsewhere... And something about making that final selection about your Venue helps many of the other planning decisions just start to domino in to place.
Read on for helpful insights and tips about what considerations are best to keep in mind as you make this all-important decision: How to Choose Your Ideal Reception Venue!
Prioritize what you really want in a Venue.
This is a conversation to have with your partner, as well as your wedding planner and perhaps anyone else who is integral to helping put together the details of Your Special Day. Take time to review and update this list several times throughout the early planning stages!
*Indoor / Outdoor Facilities
*Does their Fee include All Amenities, or will you have to rent tables, linens, decor etc...
*In-House Caterer? Does their food suit your tastes and preferences?
*Robust List of Preferred Vendors? Are they screened to be LGBTQ+ friendly?
*Worked with LGBTQ+ Couples Before?
*What is their Deposit amount? Is it refundable (partially or in full) in case of date changes? What is the payment schedule, and when is the full amount due?
*What specifics do they outline with regard to Decor Options; are there limitations?
*What insurance do they require from you / from participating vendors?
In the beginning... Keep things casual!
Try not to get your hearts set on one particular Venue, especially in the early days of planning. Instead, have some less formal conversations with each other and with friends and family about the celebration you envision... Let the FUN be the focus as you begin preliminary research into Venue options. Browse online not just for specifics, but look at imagery and think about what qualities are important to you with regard to the backdrop for your reception. Is your celebration rustic, or high-tech? Where will the two of you sit during the celebration, and what does that look like? -Will you be at a Head Table, at one of many large rounds, or alongside your guests at a long communal dinner table? Will your party include dancing and how large a dance floor will that be? Will there be separate areas for interactive food stations or interactive party activities (such as a more private kids' area, or an artsy table dedicated to creating keepsakes?...)
Create a few brainstorming pages in your planning notebook, simply about the QUALITIES you are most drawn to in a venue... The details about location, rates, etc will be something to consider a little later on!
Preliminary Research & NETWORKING
Ask other vendors and wedding professionals what venues they LOVE working with... Even if you haven't booked a vendor yet, as you interview with them or meet them out in passing, go ahead and inquire about their input and referrals! They are usually happy to share their experience and insights. Be sure to also ask other couples, family and friends, especially those recently married, or those who have attended or helped organize either corporate or large social events.
Pay attention to the details they offer: which venue's staff is super-welcoming and accommodating... Which are the best communicators... Any hiccups with scheduling? Be bold and ask which venues they would NOT recommend as well. That's important information!
Browse Online Resources: It's great (and really helpful!) to check out LGBTQ+ friendly listings of wedding professionals (such as ours, online at www.RainbowWeddingNetwork.com) However... as you begin researching options, consider expanding how you find the Venues in the first place. Search for community events, and check out which facility hosted. For instance, where was the recent Pride After-Party? What venue has ongoing tea dances for the community? Do you see that one brand name keeps coming up in your searches as particularly supportive of the community? Which venues have LGBTQ+ welcoming badges, language and graphics on their websites and promo materials?
Quick Tips from the Pros...
*Choose the venue that speaks to YOU. Don't select a venue because someone else wants you to. And if selecting an outdoor venue, be sure they have a "plan B" that you like as much as the outdoor venue. Also, remember that price isn't everything....you have to connect with your venue contact, otherwise the process will not be a fun one!"
Sandi Franklin, Director of Catering
Hilton Atlanta Northeast / 5993 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. / Ptree Corners, GA 30092-3416
Remember, there are several online resources nowadays that offer listings of vendors that are actively supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. Why not use these, instead of more generic websites? That way you and your fiancee can rest assured that the vendors you're considering are known to uphold a policy of non-discrimination... and that they are eager to welcome you and your event with joyfulness, respect and professionalism.
Yep, lean on those REVIEWS...
-Learning from others' experiences is so very convenient & informative! Scour for reviews... don't just rely on the ones that are easy to find. Dig deep, and read many so that you can make discerning inferences. Take time to read into the less obvious details for insghtful clues about what it will really be like to work with a particular venue's staff.
Are there any notes about ways this particular venue's team made an event seamless? Look for the good stuff, not just the criticisms... and if those successes match up with priorities you also have, that goes a long way to telling you this venue might just be a perfect fit!
Important QUESTIONS to ASK...
When you meet face-to-face with the staff at a Venue, be prepared with several questions. You want to treat this like an interview and make sure it is, in fact, a good fit for your celebration!
How many people can the venue accommodate? How many hours does your rental package include? How far out should I book if I want a particular date? What is your fee schedule and what is your refund policy? How many weddings take place at your venue on any given day? Are there any restrictions, including decor restrictions? Do you have liability insurance, or do we purchase our own? Can we hire any outside wedding vendors, or are there limitations? Can you tell me what vendor set-up, load-in and load-out is like at your venue? Are certain features and furniture items that we can rearrange for our celebration?
*In-house wedding planning team, coordinator or other key players?
Be sure you meet with them also, and that you're assured the ones you actually meet are the point-people who will stay with you through the entire process leading up to your wedding date. You want to minimize staff changes, simply so you feel comfortable that your needs and requests are not being overlooked... and so that you can remain at ease knowing that whomever you are working with is LGBTQ+ friendly.
*Difference between PLANNING for and EXECUTION of your event.
Succesfully seing your wedding celebration through from the preliminary stages of planning, all the way to the wonderful Special Day, involves a lot of elements. And it's true that some wedding pros are really great at planning, and some are really great at pulling together all those details and making everything happen the day-of. Quiz your Venue staff in ways that help you gather information about the particulars they provide both during the early stages of planning, mid-stages, just prior to your event, and the day-of. Try to get specific about how much time they are willing to be available for you, especially the two weeks prior to your ceremony date: you want to be sure they are going to make you and your celebration a priority!
*Do you offer an all-inclusive Fee Package?
When working with a Venue, depending on the various amenities, you might find yourself responsible for gratuities, bartenders' fees, additional charges for access to the couples' suite, plus there will be service fees and taxes. Ask about all this, and request to see an itemized sample bill so you are as informed as possible. You want to be sure your choice in Venues fits in your budget - this will alleviate undue stress and ensure that the rest of your planning details can be handled without cutting corners.
Quick Tips from the Pros...
One thing I tell my clients when they visit our venue is "prepare to go out to a meal afterward (breakfast, lunch, dinner doesn't matter)." This gives time to immediately talk over what you did and did not like about the venue as well as if the banquet manager drove you crazy, you may need a glass of wine, beer or even a shot lol. -Taking time to sit down and talk things through, make notes, etc will ensure that you recall all the important pros and cons of the particular location as you consider and move forward with your plans.
LisaLynn Mauriello, general manager
Renaissance Event Hall
27-34 21st Street / Long Island City, NY 11102
When meeting with the staff at the Venues you're considering, listen to what they're sharing with you... Are they keeping details sparse, or boring...? Are they asking the two of you questions, so they can really get a sense of your plans? Are they inviting and eliciting ideas from you, to help expand and build on your vision; helping to build the excitement? All of these point to how your relationship with this Venue will unfold... Keep these important communication styles in mind as you consider booking: you definitely want to feel at ease dialoguing with your on-site Venue team!
Keep in mind that many of the traditional bridal fairs won't be as welcoming to LGBTQ+ couples, but keep an eye out for events in your area that seem promising. Attend a few: you never know what great connections you might make! And when you do find a wedding professional you resonate with, be sure to ask them a few questions about referrals to Venues as well as other types of wedding providers. Their experience can really help point you in helpful directions!
Remember, RainbowWeddingNetwork.com has been producing an ongoing National Tour of LGBTQ+ Wedding Expos since 2003! Our team has visited 37 states and produced well over 300 events since that time. Each and every vendor who participates is actively supportive of Equal Rights and is eager to support you in planning the wedding of your dreams. We pride ourselves on creating an atmosphere that is uplifting, productive, relaxed and fun: Our events provide a wonderful backdrop for meeting vendors, touring amazing venues, and meeting other couples in the area who are also planning their own celebrations. Events like ours are convenient ways to network, find and share inspiration, and forward your wedding plans by leaps and bounds!
Also, if you cannot attend one of our signature events, certainly check out our trusted Online Directory... but always feel free to email us with further questions. We are happy to share our experience in the wedding industry this past 24 years, and to share further referrals to wedding vendors from our unpublished database.
Quick Tips from the Pros...
I always use the analogy about choosing your wedding apparel (there are so many styles, types and colors) ...When you finally put on that very special suit, gown or tux and tears flow -when that reflection in the mirror is exactly the person you want to be- then you know without a doubt that you are done. The feeling needs to be the same with a venue. -When you get the fuzzy feeling about the venue and the wedding staff at that venue, who are excited to assist in the planning process with you, then you know that is your venue of choice.
Catherine Geer / Celebrations Distinctive Wedding Venue
Wedding and Marketing Specialist for over 32 years of planning and executing Weddings!
As you move ahead with your ceremony plans, and consider which Venue will be chosen as the ultimate backdrop for your celebration, we wish you ease, giddy anticipation, and a sense of adventure. Have fun with your planning process: it's a special chapter that will culminate in one of the most amazing and important days of your lives. Make the most of the entire journey!