You've just gotten married and you're ready to party. If you've chosen the right spot, you'll remember your wedding day fondly for a long time. If you didn't do your research, you may find yourself crying over an undercooked piece of rump roast.
Wedding reception locations are available in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the simple (family backyard) to the extravagant (Ritz Carlton) and the laidback (beach in Hawaii) to the sophisticated (tea room in New York). Knowing what you want before you start looking will save you from future regret and heartache.
Size Does Matter
Check out your guest list and determine if you'll be having an intimate (under 25 people), small (under 75 people), medium (under 150), or large (over 150) wedding.
Intimate Weddings (under 25 people): Intimate weddings have the advantage of being versatile. Want to get married at the top of the Empire State Building? Most wedding reception locations are possible if you only have a short list of attendees. Destination weddings also work well for shorter lists.
Small Weddings (under 75 people): Small-sized weddings work well with family restaurants, boutique hotels, and beachside resorts. Destination weddings may also be possible, provided that you choose a location that is reasonably accessible for most of your guests.
Medium Weddings (under 150 people): While you can no longer get married everywhere with this many invitees, you are definitely able to meet the guest minimums required by many larger hotels, country clubs, and resorts.
Large Weddings (over 150 people): Avoid destination weddings, unless you're inviting people with the intention of them not coming. If that's the case, it might appear like you're gift grubbing. Large weddings work well in outdoor settings that provide enough space for guests to roam freely.
Style it Up
Once you've determined the size of your wedding, it's time to consider your personal wedding style.
Traditional: If you like things to feel the same way as they did for your grandparents, you should consider holding your reception in the banquet hall of a church, a country club, or at an older estate.
Fanciful: If your best times were spent at a circus or visiting the county fair, you'll probably want to choose from wedding reception locations that give off a feeling of fun and adventure. Consider the local zoo, a nearby pier, Disneyland, or even a local bowling alley or skating rink.
Exotic: If you're a fan of foreign travel, consider heading overseas for your big day. If you can't swing the bill, hold your reception in Las Vegas or on a movie lot, where a scene from Paris or Milan can be created in seconds.
Casual: If your idea of great wedding reception locations includes margaritas and Jimmy Buffet, consider throwing a casual beach wedding or a backyard party. State parks also offer campsites that can be transformed into magical forests with a few paper lanterns and a big imagination.
Modern: If you love to visit museums and talk about politics, mix up your wedding with a hip reception at a local art gallery or historic building.
Set a Budget
Once you know your size and your style, set a budget. The biggest mistake you can mistake in scouting for wedding reception locations is to visit sites that you can't and won't be able to afford. If you want to consider a location that's out of your budget, ask the location consultant about off-season pricing.
Quiz friends and family members about wedding reception locations they've either used themselves or visited for recent weddings. Ask what they liked and didn't like about the setting, the food, and the staff. Jump online and read reviews about all of the locations you are considering. If you see a consistent negative tone about any of the venues, consider trusting word of mouth and move on to the next option on your list.