Admittedly this may be self-serving, but I will try to be as dispassionate and fair as I can… This is an article I was asked to write a few years ago but it may be even more relevant today.
The main job of a reception center is to assure that you and your guests have an extraordinarily, fun and safe event. As much as you are concerned about the right venue to fit your personality, you should also seriously weigh the choice of a particular venue from your guests’ point of view! Here are some points to ponder –
Evaluation Criteria – From your point of view
Romance: The venue has to have some feeling of warmth, comfort and romance. (Otherwise you might as well be holding another school dance in a large hall!) Ask yourself, does it feel right?
Experience: This may be the most important factor. It is crucial to the overall success of your event. Look for experience. You never know what minor or even major emergencies may happen during your event. Find a venue with proprietors that have been around the block a few times.
Amenities at the venue: This is really the bulk of what you pay for. Observe the venue’s overall appeal, quality and cleanliness. These are clues to how the venue will treat you and your guests. ALWAYS look at the kitchen! Check air conditioning! Is there a host or hostess? Is there a wedding consultant? Look for integrated audio and video; indoor/outdoor sound system; fireplace; staircase; adjustable lighting; water features, and other amenities you may desire. How will the venue accommodate family and guests, (is there more than a single hall such as a family area, sitting rooms, dressing rooms, greeting areas, etc.). If in the summer, can the outdoor facilities accommodate dancing, reception line, food service and photo spots? AND what is the back up to the outdoors if it happens to rain?
Price: Don’t choose a venue on price alone. Weigh the quality of a venue and what it can provide to your overall event – typically, the more amenities, the greater the price. Check to see if separate pricing is offered for peak vs. non-peak dates. This is an industry where you get what you pay for. Be cautious of inexpensive venues. Typically there is a reason that they have had to lower their price. Perhaps you don’t get the whole venue to yourself, perhaps past brides have been disappointed and word has spread around. And remember to check portion sizes when comparing food prices … cheap equals cheap!
Evaluation Criteria – From your guests’ point of view
Accessibility: Don’t choose a venue that may be inconvenient for your guests. They will travel a considerable distance but, look for ease of access. Is it close to freeways and major access routes? Overall is it easy for guests to find. Are there hotels nearby for out-of-town guests?
Parking: Verify the ease of parking for your guests. Is it free or paid; is the lot size adequate? Will others be using it at the same time? Is it adjacent? Can it be maintained easily in wintertime? What is the condition of the parking lot and pathways?
User-friendliness: How about the noise? A venue may not be appropriate if everything happens on top of each other or in the same room. Think about the simple challenge of having to shout over the crowd noise to visit with your guests! Additionally, is the venue accessible to the elderly and the disabled?
It really boils down to choosing a venue where you can feel comfortable and take pride in hosting your guests – one that will create enjoyment and memories for this most important day of your life. As I said before, particularly in this industry you get what you pay for!
Don’t check references. Every venue can offer a good reference list. Ask those who are in the industry such as florists and bakers or ask if you can call the last group that held an event at the venue.