Congratulations!! Whether by choice or necessity, you are engaged and now everyone is asking you the same question i.e. when and where is the wedding? Choosing a wedding reception venue is one of the most important decisions you will make in planning for your big day. The right venue is the ideal expression of yourself and ultimate backdrop for your entire wedding ceremony. With all the emotion and giddiness that comes with the early stages of wedding planning it is very easy for couples to see a venue, get excited and sign the booking contract. Avoid hasty decisions and instead start by making an informed list of wedding locations at least a year in advance. Seek recommendations from your wedding planner, family, friends and colleagues. If you plan a church wedding, ask your ceremony contact for suggestions. We have written below the top ten factors to consider when choosing a wedding reception venue. The points of consideration apply to any wedding anywhere on the planet but it has been written with a Lagos, Nigeria centric consideration…
- Size of the Reception Hall – Probably the most important feature of any reception venue. You need to pick a venue that’s the ‘right’ size i.e. if too small, your guests will be cramped and uncomfortable, too big and your wedding loses its intimacy and romance. The mistake many persons make when evaluating venue size is by just considering the number of guests being invited. You must also consider the number of vendors attending because it’s not just about where the your guests will sit but where the band performs, caterer sets up, drinks coolers, deserts, cake stand etc Therefore always collect a floor plan for the hall as it’s a useful tool for you to discuss seating arrangements with your family, strategize with your wedding planner and instruct all vendors where to set up. Here’s another big challenge: should a couple pick the venue before having a guest list or should they get a guest count and then pick the venue? It is not easy to have a guest count two weeks into the wedding planning process but if you don’t have an idea of what size wedding you are going to have you will not be able to pick a venue confidently. No firm count is needed to look at venues, but one of the first questions the venue will ask a couple is how many guest you’ll be hosting. Having a rough idea of your wedding size — whether it be 60, 125 or 300 or 2000 guests — will allow you to cross venues off your list without having to go look at them in person since almost every venue lists their facility size online. Also if your families are known are mega parties, always book a slightly larger space then what you actually need. Regardless at the end of the day, make sure your carve out space for the dance floor. Your wedding program should end with dance, dance, dance….not move tables, move chairs and manage!!!
- Location of the Reception Venue -When it comes to location folks usually have 2 major considerations – one is how close is the venue is to the actual wedding registry or church or folks consider how close the reception venue is to the celebrant’s residence? These points of consideration are fair but there are other things to consider such as the popularity of the venue as to how easy your guests will find the venue but more importantly you should consider such as the ease of access to your venue is it located on a small street or major road, are they good road connections? Is it easy for guest to get to the venue? Are there major road works taking place near the venue? These are things you should definitely consider.
- Range of Venue Facilities – There’s a lot more to a venue than space, tables and chairs. One should consider the number of facilities on offer. Do they have an dedicated space for video projection? Do they have a stage? How big is the stage? What about a smoking area? A personal pet peeve of mine is clean toilets…go into the toilets..are they well lit? Do they smell? Are they clean? Do all knobs and handles work? or does the venue require renting mobile toilets? Make sure there are enough toilets cubicles for the number of guests as there’s no point in booking a hall for 500 guests if there are only like 2 cubicles per sex. All serious wedding venues must also have a VIP/waiting room for the bridal party and must have changing rooms for both the bride and groom. Check the number of ACs in the venue and ensure your venue has enough modern working ACs available. Check for if they have a dedicated entrance for the bridal train dance in. In as much as you have to consider the comfort of your guests, its equally important to consider the safety of your as well. Are there fire extinguishers readily available? Always check how many exit points to the hall are available? Are there exit points clearly marked as emergency exits? Speak to your booking officer and make sure that the exits are kept clear at all times during the event.
- Secured off Road Parking – Often overlooked factor in picking wedding venue. As important as it is that there is space inside for your guests, its equally important that you have space outside for your guests vehicles. Ideally you want a place where your guest are able to park off road away from the nuisance of touts or area boys. If possible look for venues where there is covered or underground parking. Your guests will send your praises when they get into their cool secured vehicles at the end of the day.
- Decide between Dedicated Events Centre vs. Hotel Venue or Restaurant Venue – Another important factor to consider is whether to consider a purely event centre space or consider a venue based in a hotel. In some instances you would find event venues that double as a restaurant. If the venue is also a restaurant, eat dinner there to test the food and the quality of service. You’ll want to make sure that the wedding venue can do the wedding menu that you want. Your wedding meals will be an important part of the reception, so you’ll want them to be right, and suitable for all of your guests. Both choices have their advantages and disadvantages e.g. a hotel destination has the benefit of reducing the complexity of your wedding reception especially in terms of accommodation before and after the reception.”
Welcome Centre Hotels
A hotel event centre offers a convenient option not only for your wedding party but also easy accommodation for your family, friends and other guests. Hotels also offer event packages that reduce the cost of accommodation when you use their event service.
Stop Over Motels
A hotel is also convenient logistics wise for the wedding party and vendors with your own room for outfit changes and secure place to store belongings and valuables thereby also reducing logistics pressures. However holding your event in hotel or restaurant might imply paying corkage fess for using an external caterer. Always check if corkage costs apply.
- The Indoor vs Outdoor Question – An exotic outdoor garden or pool wedding is always romantic but deciding to forgo the assurance of an indoor venue should not be taken lightly. Firstly consider the season the wedding would take place in e.g. if in the tropics, never go for an outdoor reception in the rainy season whilst a winter garden wedding requires extra measures. Also if in the tropics, don’t make the classic mistake many a bride would which is forgoing the use of canopies for the garden. They want to create the look of weddings they see in Hollywood movies! Please understand that the Lagos heat is unforgiving. My personal observance with such brides to be when trying to dissuade them from forgoing canopies is they insist on holding the wedding early in the morning to avoid the heat. The best plans rarely work out in a city not known for punctuality. Holding a garden wedding in the evening can be problematic as well, just ensure If there is a good lighting so that our guests will be able to see as the evening goes on? Outdoor weddings without cover usually end in disaster with many guests hurdled together in a small area of spare shade they can find and even more guests turning back rather than stay and suffer the heat. If choosing an outdoor venue always book electric fans for your guests and as a backup ask the venue if the event can move indoor hall should the heavens decide to bless your event with rain.
- Multi Hall venues – Some venues options have just one hall available for rent whilst other venues may have multiple halls in one location. Event Centre with multiple halls usually have variety of hall sizes to cater for different sizes of weddings and often hold more than one wedding reception per day sometimes simultaneously. Always check to see how many venues are available and check to see how close these venues are to each other e.g. you don’t want the PA system or music from the hall next door disrupting your wedding reception neither do you want your guests confused if multiple weddings take place on the same day. Sometimes people seat for hours in the wrong hall before they realise that they are attending the wrong wedding reception. Hence ensure you ‘hall’ is clearly marked on your invitation cards and appropriate signs are put up on the day. In addition, ask the booking staff if any other events are taking place on the same day so you can plan accordingly and brief your most valued guests. If another event is taking place on the place day, make your the venue allocates your fair entitlements of facilities to you such as parking spaces, electric fans, changing rooms, cooking area etc. However using a venue with multiple halls has its advantages e.g. its advisable to hold both the traditional and white wedding reception at the same location as not only does it give your guests one venue location to bother about but you can also reduce your costs by receiving discounts from booking two halls from the same venue.
- Another aspect often overlooked in the quest for a reception venue are Disabled Access. You should always consider your guests who may be disabled, elderly or coming with small children. Patronize venues that have disabled access and toilets for handicapped guests. You should also look at the parking; will it be possible for persons to disembark from their cars right outside the entrance to the hall. If not, what are the grounds of the park car like? Is the parking area made of gravel or concrete? Will it get muddy if it rains? No one (disabled or otherwise) wishes to navigate series of stairs up or down especially if they are carrying children or leaving the venue after a few drinks.
- Attitude of Staff – A very important aspect in picking a venue is by gauging the attitude and responsiveness of the hall booking staff to you or your questions about the hall. The professionalism, helpfulness and flexibility of the staff you encounter during inspection will give you an inkling of what to expect from them during your wedding reception. If the staff is too busy to show you round or provide you with information on aspects such as a minimum down payment or cancellation rules then that’s the same level of dedication that will be on display on your wedding day when you most need them to avert one impending disaster or the other. Any decent booking staff should be able to show you around all halls, show you pictures of previous events at the venue and discuss logistics for your wedding. While planned visits may be courteous, unscheduled stops provide you a way to investigate how well the staff treats its guests . Before you reserve “the perfect” space, ask about any potential restrictions. Is there a specific closing time? However don’t be put off by the staff who are firm and upfront when you are making enquiries…..their firmness is a indication of someone who will not let you down last minute by making false promises or a few weeks to go to your wedding after all IVs have been sent out…calls to embarrassingly tell you that your venue has been doubled booked or springs late minute costs or conditions on you. Remember firm and upfront is encouraging, unhelpful and unresponsive spells caution required!
- Beauty – At the end of the end when all is said and done you need to remember that the wedding day is your day! It’s your one day in a lifetime to always look back on….don’t just pick the biggest or the cheapest or the closest hall you could find….it crucial to pick the most beautiful of the viable options available. You need that wonderful background for your wedding video. Your beautiful venue should be a photographers wet dream to utilise their craft in capturing timeless photos of you, your spouse, the wedding party, family, friend and other guests….even the ones you are forced to invite! A wedding venue with nice grounds will lend itself to plenty of photo opportunities. If having photographs of your wedding day are important, then you’ll want to pick somewhere with nice scenery and perhaps natural features or impressive buildings. When you have a hall that is already beautiful then decorating it becomes even easier and it lifts everyone up…including the vendors who will up their game when they see the class of venue they are working in. A good tip is to visit the venue at the time of day your wedding will be taking place. Also visit the venue with you your wedding planner or coordinator; oftentimes those wedding professionals have a different take of a venue and might offer some good advice.