Your reception could cost from one-third to almost half of your entire budget, depending on your choice of format, theme, date, time, activities, and guest list. With so much at stake for its success, you most certainly want to plan it carefully. Let us guide you through the major considerations when starting your search for the perfect venue.
Where to Start
Whether you use a wedding consultant or elect to plan your own wedding, you and your fiancé need to discuss a few things before you start your search for a site. Wedding planners recommend that a couple first decide on the format (private property, winery, ballroom, garden, etc.) and time of year they prefer. Some wedding formats lend themselves to warmer weather when activities can be held outside, but would not work in cold or inclement weather. Decide if you want a large or a small wedding, an indoor or outdoor ceremony, the same location for the ceremony and reception or two separate sites, an afternoon or evening wedding, formal or more casual arrangements. Do you prefer a church or nondenominational setting for the ceremony? Have you always dreamed of saying “I do” under an arch of fragrant flowers in a colorful garden or descending an elegant staircase with your long train flowing behind you? Each format has its own rewards and challenges.
After you have determined the format and time of year, the two of you should discuss the activities you want included, the kind of food you want served, and the number of guests you plan to invite. Armed with your list of preferences, you are ready to begin your search for the right reception site. If you are hiring a wedding consultant, she will offer excellent suggestions on locations to fit your ideas and personal preferences. You will want to check out facilities yourself. Visit a venues website for information on room sizes, capacities, amenities, and services. When you call the site, first ask the banquet or catering manager about availability on your chosen date or time of year. Make an appointment to tour the site if available.
Plenty of Options
The Sacramento region has a wonderful assortment of reception sites. Depending on your idea of the perfect party, you can choose from beautiful baroque or modern ballrooms, elegantly appointed private country clubs, magnificent historic mansions, posh restaurants and resorts, sophisticated art galleries, convenient hotels, wine producing vineyards, artfully designed courtyards, blooming gardens, or manicured parks. The Sacramento area wedding venues will amaze you!
What to Look For
Before you fall in love with a wedding venue, make sure that it is available. Availability and seating capacity are the first two considerations. When you ask about capacity — how many guests can be served comfortably — be sure to tell the banquet manager what you need to carry out your plan. That could include a head table, dance floor, cake table, gift table, stage for a disc jockey or band, bar or beverage service, and a reception line. Ask about parking, security, and emergency plans at the facility. Find out if the facility complies with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements for entrances, exits, rest rooms, and parking spaces as some of your guests may be in wheel chairs. Ask if the facility has restrictions on alcohol (which includes bringing in your own wine, beer or champagne), music or decorations (for example, candles on the tables). Make sure that the room’s décor is complementary or adaptable to your chosen color scheme. Ask about hanging decorations from the ceiling or attaching things to walls or columns. Find out which florists have used the facility so you can investigate what they have done there.
Some ceremony and reception sites schedule more than one wedding or event per day in four- to six-hour blocks, typically 11:00 am to 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm to 10:00 pm. Make sure that the reception hall can be completely reset and decorated in time for your party if your reception is the second one on the day’s schedule. Most facilities can “turn a room,” that is, tear down and reset tables, chairs, and staging, in a very short time because they plan for it with sufficient staff. However, if your family members are decorating the reception hall, make sure they work in cooperation with the venue’s staff by knowing when to start and what time they must be finished.
Understand Charges & Services
When you get cost estimates, be sure you understand what is included and not included in the estimate. Some full service facilities can provide everything you need for a memorable wedding: ceremony and reception rooms, food and beverages, tables, linens, china, flatware, staff, music, dance floor, table decorations, and even the cake. They usually have onsite catering managers who act as wedding coordinators to help you locate other quality vendors to carry out your plan. Some facilities offer limited coordination services and welcome professional wedding consultants to coordinate the efforts of other vendors and work with the facility’s staff.
Facilities that are not full service may charge separately for the amenities. Make sure that each facility gives you a written, itemized list of costs for the items you require. After you have selected a facility, be sure you get a revised estimate of costs if you make any changes to your original plan since additions may add significant costs. You don’t want to be surprised by the final bill on your wedding day.
Most facilities require a sizable down payment to reserve the site. Requirements for paying the remaining balance differ from venue to venue. Be sure to ask each about its payment schedule.
One more thing: cost estimates from catering managers and venue coordinators do not include taxes and gratuity, which could add 25% or more to your costs.
Booking Your Reception
Wedding consultants and facility managers recommend that you reserve your reception site as soon as you get engaged to ensure that you get the facility you really want. The most popular months for weddings in the Sacramento area are May, June, September and October. If you are considering those months for your nuptials, you may need to book your site at least a year in advance and some locations in the region are so popular that they book two years out. Most facilities, however, recommend six months to a year. For weddings in unpredictable months (like November and April), be sure and have a back up plan for inclement weather. Saturdays, the most popular day for weddings, fill up first and are the most expensive. Friday and Sunday nights can help stretch your budget since they generally are less expensive than a Saturday.
Consider your own needs, the convenience of family and friends who will travel to attend your wedding, and the season when you select the day of the week for your wedding.