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I’m Louise. Blogger. Wife. Designer of TruLu Couture Veils + Accessories.  If you’d like to know more, check out my bio.

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Reception Venues - How Do You Choose?

Do you want this:


or this?


When The Candyman and I got engaged, we did not set a date right away. In fact, it wasn't until a month or so later that we did set a date. How did we chose our 10.11.09 date? It was very carefully thought out, the numbers were extremely significant to us and we planned everything around that date........NOT.

The venue we liked was available and half price on Sundays. SOLD.

OK, there were a few more factors involved, but not many. Basically, Mere Bulles chose our wedding date. That was totally OK with us. I encourage you to be flexible regarding your date. How important is it to be married on 10.10.10? Yes, very cool visually - but is there anything wrong with 10.11.10? What if the rates are cheaper? Think about it.

When choosing a venue there are some basics you need to keep in mind:

  • Budget (um, duh)
  • Food
  • Decor

The budget is the big one and the cost of a reception venue varies incredibly from location to location. READ THE CONTRACT. As boring as it is, the details here are so important. I've heard some horror stories that just make me shudder. Contract details that go unnoticed until the last minute can create conflict that is both emotionally and financially draining.

  • A venue in Chicago requires you to use their in-house cake service. As in, you MUST buy THEIR wedding cake. Yeah - lame.
  • Same venue would NOT remove the tip jars from the bar, even though the bar was open and the cost of the venue included 20% tip. Also lame.
  • What kind of deposit is required? Can you afford that deposit right now? If not, it might be better to wait to choose. You don't want to end up in a financial hole from the get-go. A local Nashville venue wanted us to sign the contract and leave a non-refundable deposit that was thousands of dollars, yet could not tell us which caterers they would allow us to use, nor what kinds of flowers would be included in the "all-inclusive" floral arrangements. Yeah - I don't think so.

Food is something you need to consider as well. Do you like the food served there? Have you eaten there before? Did you like it? Did you like the service? I highly suggest you attempt to visit your venue location prior to your appointment. A lot of places put their best foot forward for a tasting/meeting, but what about during their everyday services? The Candyman and I had dinner at Mere Bulles incognito prior to securing our date. We loved the food as well as the service. It was a thumbs up for us. A few things to consider regarding the food:

  • Do they have a liquor license? Sounds silly, but make sure.
  • Do you want to bring in your own booze? Will they allow that? Is there a cork/bottle fee if you do (generally, these fees still make it cheaper to BYOB, but you need to include these costs in your budget)?
  • Do they have a cake-cutting fee? Personally, I believe any establishment who charges for this should be nixed immediately. It's probably one of the lamest charges I've ever heard of. I'd LOVE for someone in the venue biz to try to explain this one away.
  • What's the cost difference between a sit-down versus buffet meal? You might immediately think that a buffet is cheaper, however - hidden costs lurk there as well - the costs for staff to carve, serve, replenish, etc. can increase the per person price more than you think. You've got to add all that junk in. Yes, it's a total pain in the ass.The Candyman and I never thought we could afford a sit-down dinner. We did the math though and guess what? The pricing came out almost exactly even to do the sit-down versus buffet. You need to play with the numbers to see what is the most economical. Do NOT be forced into a meal plan you aren't comfortable with.

Decor is REALLY important. Are you looking at a bare-bones space that will require you to rent everything - tables, chairs, linens, lighting? If you want to create an atmosphere unique to you and you alone, then that might be the way to go. If not, then consider this:

  • How much effort do you want to put into creating a unique atmosphere? If you're flying solo (no planner) then this is going to be a pretty big undertaking, regardless of the size/location of your wedding.
  • If you choose a location that already has decor - is it to your liking? What are you allowed to change? What are you allowed to add?
  • Decor includes flowers and lighting. Will you need to add more of these things to create an atmosphere? Are candles/open flames allowed?
  • What, if anything, is included with the decor?

The reasons The Candyman and I choose Mere Bulles?

  • We loved the food.
  • We loved the service.
  • The decor, without any additional fluff, was already stunningly classic, upscale (without being too snooty) and Southern.  
  • Basic linens were a part of the contract, as were votive candles - if desired.
  • The location was perfect for our guests and for us.
  • There were no hidden fees - our event coordinator was completely thorough. 
  • We could bring in our own wine.
  • I knew I wouldn't have additional worry by having additional rental vendors.
  • NO DEPOSIT REQUIRED. Only a credit card number was needed to hold the date. You could cancel up to 2 weeks prior to the event with no financial repercussions. Please keep this in mind when you are thinking about venues - wedding specific venues will not be as lenient. 
  • They were handicap accessible.

A few other things to consider:

  • Music/Sound/Noise - are they set up for music? Are there any potential noise/music restrictions?
  • Parking - is there enough? A local venue here in Nashville requires a valet as street parking is not allowed. That cost alone adds $450 to the total venue cost. That seemed like a lot to me for a 5 hour event for one dude to park cars. Maybe I'm off on that, but I knew I didn't like it.
  • Is the venue big enough to fit all your guests?
  • Make sure that the venue AND the surrounding areas are free from construction. No one wants orange cones or barriers in their wedding pics.
  • Is it air conditioned/heated?

The venue is one of the first things a bride decides upon. I think it really defines the rest of your planning, personally. The Candyman and I got married in small, Southern chapel. Having a chapel length train and veil really didn't seem to make sense. Neither did a whole lot of bling. Or orchids. Or limos. Or anything really over-the-top. It wasn't our style and our venues reflected who we were and how we wanted to celebrate our wedding. Yours should too. Be realistic. Don't try to put a round peg in a square hole. Unless you've got the cash, don't try to convert a barn into The W Hotel. And if you've got the cash, just go to The W Hotel. Not on the date you want, reconsider your date . It seriously won't kill you and no one really cares other than you, right now. In  a few years, you will think yourself a dolt for believing you had to get married on 10.10.10. Or 11.11.11, or on the anniversary of your first date/smooch/"I love you" particularly if you could have saved yourself some serious dough in doing so.

What have I missed here? Planners - chime in, please. What's important to consider that I haven't covered? Was there something that a venue required or didn't offer that made it a deal breaker for you? Share, please. I want to know! Brides want to know too!


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Reader Comments (5)

So glad you posted this! We're having our rehearsal dinner at Mere Bulles and I can't wait... we reserved the downstairs back room and patio and I think it'll be perfect for a June wedding next year. Plus, their food is incredible and we can make it as formal or informal as we want!

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha

We picked the date 5/22/10 because it is a combination of our birthdays mine- 5/12 and his 10/22. We both wanted to get married during our birth months so we compromised, he agreed to a May wedding if we could get married on the 22nd which happened to be a Saturday this year!! May seem lame but I wanted a date that had some kind of significance rather than just one we randomly picked off the calendar. Plus it makes it easier to remember our anniversary :)

As for my venue I picked it mainly because they let us choose whatever caterer we wanted (from a preferred list) and had a lot of options for where to hold the actual ceremony and reception.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

All great points and ideas. 10.11.10 is on a Monday.(Ask me how I know - teehee.) I doubt many people would consider it for that reason alone unless they're just heading to the court house ;)

I do take exception to the idea that I will think myself a dolt for choosing to get married on 10.10.10. The date was really important to us and things worked out in our favor because we chose to plan early. People who are trying to plan for that date 5 months out and think they'll get their dream venues are, in fact, dolts. I won't argue with you there.

Deal breakers? There were a few venues we looked at that the only rain plan would have been a tent. Not happening. NOT. I read about so many brides who MUST have an outdoor wedding and they get their hearts set, don't plan for rain and then - guess what - it rains. Another thing to think about is whether or not you can deal with strict or unreasonable time limits on the venue rental. We lucked up and found a venue that would let us decorate the day before. They won't book another wedding the weekend of ours and both things were really important.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatosha

@Natosha - Perhaps I need to restate my dolt-accusations! I'm looking at it from the same perspective as your outside wedding deal-breaker. If all the stars are aligning, except for the date, then I'm wondering why one would hold onto the date. I know a date can be special, but is it really THAT special? I'm just sayin' that all aspects should be given some thought before it's dismissed. I surprised myself a few times during my wedding planning! Totally changed camps on things I thought I was dead set on. Oh, and that day-before set up? You are one LUCKY lady!

May 10, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise

LOL .. thanks Louise! Stephen and I talk about this sort of thing all the time:people and their expectations, etc. There was a time when I considered letting the date go and moving the wedding. Luckily, we didn't have to. It was the only date I could get him to agree to whole-heartedly! :)

But you are 100% right ... the more open-minded you are during your planning process, the happier you will be with the results.

I am STOKED about setting up the day before. I.E. I get way more control! YEESSSS!

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatosha

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