Guide to Choosing the Perfect Wedding Reception Venue in Central PA
Congratulations! You’re engaged and ready to plan your wedding. Choosing a wedding venue is one of the most important parts of the planning process, and one of the first choices you’ll make when planning your big day. The venue you choose can inform lots of other aspects for your wedding, from the décor to the attire and from the food to the other vendors. The venue also has a big effect on your overall budget. Your venue will set the tone and atmosphere of your whole event, so it’s important to find the right one. We created a wedding reception venue guide to give you lots of tips on choosing a venue. Use the guide to find the right venue for your wedding.
When Should You Start Looking for Wedding Reception Venues?
When should you start looking for wedding venues? The answer might be a lot earlier than you think. It’s important to note that many wedding and reception venues are booked 12-18 months in advance, especially the more popular and exclusive spaces, so you may want to start your search at least a year ahead of time.
Keep in mind that the process of researching, touring and booking a venue also takes time, so the earlier you can start, the better. It’s ideal to give yourself a month or two just to research and put together a shortlist of venues. Starting your venue search early means you’ll have the best chance at booking one of your favorites.
What to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Reception Venue
When you’re ready to start looking around for the perfect wedding venue, there are a number of important considerations to take into account. Here are some tips for choosing a wedding reception venue and what to look for in a wedding reception venue:
Set Your Budget
Arguably the most important aspect of wedding planning, your budget will determine what choices will work in your overall plan. Before you even start looking, make sure you have a clear idea of your total budget for the whole event. On average, you can expect up to 40% of your budget to go towards the cost of venue and catering. This percentage can be proportionally higher if the venue has packages that include other items, like food and drink. The fees to rent a venue can vary widely, so know what you can afford to spend first before you start to look around.
Be Flexible, if Possible
Do you and your partner have your hearts set on one particular date that’s special to you, or do you have some flexibility when it comes to the date? Being able to bend a bit on the date can make a big difference when you’re looking at wedding venues.
Many venues fill up far in advance. If you are tied to one date, you might find that it’s difficult to book your preferred venues. Starting your search with a more vague timeline idea, like “sometime next fall,” means you can more easily find a date that works at the venue you want.
Put together a list of dates that would work for you, as well as any dates that definitely won’t work.
It might also be worthwhile to choose a less popular day for your wedding. Saturdays are the most common for wedding days, but some venues offer discounts to weddings on other days of the week. Booking a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon wedding might mean that you get your venue of choice and save money while doing so.
Choose the Number of Venues
Consider whether you want to have your wedding and reception at the same venue, or if you will want to find two separate venues. Having both at one venue is convenient for you, your guests and your vendors — and possibly more budget-friendly too.
Some couples want a wedding at a religious venue or smaller location, with a larger, separate location for the reception. If you want the all-in-one approach, look for venues that can accommodate this. If you need a reception venue separate from the ceremony location, consider the distance between the two and how guests will travel from the wedding venue to your reception venue.
Settle on a Style
From the classic to the Bohemian and everything in between, your personal style will inform the style of your wedding, and you’ll want a venue that fits in with your vision and tastes.
Ask yourself what you want your wedding to look like and what kind of vibe you’re hoping to create. A few questions to ask include:
- Do you want the wedding to be indoors or outdoors, or a combination of the two?
- Do you like more rustic, natural surroundings like a park, garden or vineyard?
- Do you have more traditional tastes and are you hoping to hold your wedding in a ballroom or country club?
It’s a good idea to go into your search knowing what type of venue would best fit in with your personal style.
Focus on Venue Capacity
You’ll want to have a good idea of your total guest list headcount before you start searching around for venues, so that you can choose one that’s an appropriate size. You can’t squeeze 200 people into a venue with a maximum capacity of 60. If you plan on having a small wedding, and if your venue can hold hundreds, it can look bare or empty. You might end up spending more to make things look more intimate.
Have a realistic number of guests in mind, so you’re sure to find just the right space for you.
With your wedding venue checklist in hand, take notes on all of your preferences and the specifics that you need from a venue. You want to keep all the information handy so that you can compare each available venue.
You can start your research online and make a list of potential venues. Once you’ve found a few that you like, call each one to schedule a tour and get some basic facts.
Questions to Ask the Venue When You’re Looking
Visiting venues in person gives you the chance to get a good feel each one. Touring venues also gives you the opportunity to ask lots of questions. Here’s what you should ask during your tours, or when calling for more information:
- Is the venue available on the dates you want? Get the availablity question out of the way first thing. If a venue you’re interested in isn’t free on your preferred dates, it may be out of the question. You might need to consider changing your date. If the venue is available, you can move on to sorting out other details. Ask about availablity before scheduling a tour — you don’t want to waste your time visiting a space that fully booked.
- What are the costs to rent the venue? You want to know right away if the venue fits into your budget. If the prices are not clearly spelled out on the website or brochure, ask about costs during your tour. Find out when the payments are due, if payment plans are available, how much you have to put down as a deposit and what forms of payment are accepted so you can plan and budget accordingly. You should also ask about the venue’s cancellation policy so you know what to expect should you change your mind or need to cancel for any reason.
- What is the capacity for each space? Make sure you know just how many guests each space can hold. Sometimes a venue will have several different rooms, of different sizes and capacities, so make sure there’s a space that works with the size of your guest list.
- Will the venue’s layout work with your plans? The answer to this question is usually only apparent once you visit the site in person. Ask about typical layouts for ceremonies, cocktail hours, seated dinners or whatever you have planned. Ask about using different spaces if necessary. It’s also a good idea to ask if the venue conducts a “flip” between different uses of a space, such as changing the layout of a room from a ceremony setup to a dinner reception setup.
- Are there any restrictions on caterers or other vendors? You’ll want to find out if the venue provides their own food and drink services, has preferred vendors they work with or if outside vendors are allowed. If you are planning on using a separate caterer, you’ll need to find out the rules regarding outside vendors. A venue with its own on-site catering services might be more convenient for you. Find out if there are food and beverage minimums and make sure that they make sense for the size of your guest list.
- What is the rain plan? If you are planning on using outdoor spaces, you need to find out about a rain plan. In the case of rain or other inclement weather, will you be able to set up tents last minute or move the party inside? Find out how the venue handles these types of issues. You may also want to ask about climate control options for indoor spaces, to ensure your guests’ comfort.
- Is alcohol served on the premises? Every venue is different, and you’ll want to know if alcohol service is provided by the venue, if they allow outside vendors for alcohol services, and if there are any other rules regarding alcohol at your wedding. Certain venues have restrictions against alcohol, or won’t serve alcohol after a certain time. Find out if there are corkage fees for bringing your own bottles, if bar staff is available through the venue or if you’ll need an outside vendor.
- Will there be other weddings or events on the same day? Will your wedding be the only event scheduled that day, or will there be others going on at the same time?
- What are the extra accommodations like for guests? Find out the situation for parking, what the bathrooms are like, and if the site is accessible for disabled guests. You want all of your guests to be comfortable and to feel welcome at your wedding. Asking about accessibility is a must.
- Can we use the venue for other wedding events? If you love your venue, you may want to explore adding on extra events like a rehearsal dinner, bridal shower, gift opening brunch or another wedding-related event.
- Are there restrictions on decorating? Some venues don’t allow certain types of decorations, so you’ll want to know what is and isn’t allowed. Many venues have basics available to use or rent, like candles, tablecloths, lighting and centerpieces.
- Are there any additional rules or restrictions? This can vary between venues, but you’ll want to know in advance about any extra restrictions like noise level rules, neighborhood curfew times on parties or any other specific rules they may have.
Asking all of these questions during your tour of the reception venue will give you a good idea of what your wedding will look like in the space, and if the location is a good fit for you. Write down the answers to these questions, especially if you are touring more than one venue. That way you can easily compare the venue choices and make the right decision. Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut when touring a site. It’s likely that you’ll just know when you’ve found the right venue for your wedding.
Beautiful Wedding Reception Venue in Central PA
If you are searching for a good wedding venue in Harrisburg or anywhere in Central PA, check out the beautiful options at Colonial Golf & Tennis Club — we could be a perfect match! Our club has it all to make your day extra special. Our spaces are versatile enough to host any type of wedding — big or small. Choose from outdoor or indoor spaces for your special day, and don’t worry about making rain plans. Because we only book one wedding per day, your outdoor wedding can easily be moved indoors in case of rain.
At Colonial Golf & Tennis Club, you don’t have to be members to be able to reserve our event spaces. We welcome everyone to our gorgeous venue and will attend to every detail of your wedding plan. Our experienced staff will see that nothing is overlooked! We have several different and affordable wedding packages to fit any style and budget. Contact us today to learn more and set up an appointment for a visit or for a complimentary wedding tasting.