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Bridal Club Magazine


FROM INCEPTION TO RECEPTION

Whether It's A Garden Barbecue or A Grand Gala For 300, The Key To A Great Party Comes Down To Three Words: Location, Location, Location. So you have the ring, you've decided on the general area where you want the wedding to be held and you're ready to start planning. What now? One of the first and most important wedding tasks that a couple must do is choose their wedding reception hall.

Linczak PhotographyChoosing a wedding venue may seem like an intimidating decision right now. You need a place that fits your budget, accommodates your guests and most of all, suits your wedding style. But rest assured: Whether you're a nature lover, a modernist or a hopeless romantic, there's a wedding site for you. See our favorite Cleveland sites or Akron/Canton sites.

FINDING YOUR STYLE
There's always a lot to think about when planning your wedding. One of the best ways to begin is by asking yourself what kind of mood you want to create for your big day. Question whether you envision a casual or elegant reception, your preferred entertainment, and if you want buffet style dining, plated dining or even food stations.

Couples can determine their style by paying attention to their daily life. How are their homes or favorite restaurants decorated? What does the couple do in their spare time? There is no reason to give up what you love on your big day; let your personal style shine on this most important day.

The small touches that make the wedding all about the couple will also make the wedding memorable for their guests. Take some time to discuss your vision with your fiancé, and write out your wants and needs for your wedding. Once you have an idea of what style works for you both, you'll be able to find a venue to match that style.

Whether you're planning a gala event for 300 people or an afternoon gathering for 25, the list of options is endless. Fine restaurants, hotels, catering halls and country clubs are obvious places to begin. Their staff members will most likely be professionals with years of wedding experience. Many of these facilities even employ a full-time wedding consultant who can explain your options and help you plan the event, start to finish.

To create a reception that is uniquely yours, use your imagination: Check the availability of restored mansions, museums or galleries. If you marry during a season of (somewhat) reliably good weather, lake sites, beautiful gardens and arboretums can add beauty to any reception. Many public parks and historic sites offer both indoor and outdoor facilities.

GUEST-TI-MATE
To begin planning your reception, first determine approximately how many guests will be attending. Knowing how many people you want to invite is crucial when picking a location. It's also helpful to have some idea of the events your reception will include; a spot that normally works for 150 might only fit 100 if you have a large dance floor and/or a band.

Then, you'll need to determine your budget. Think about the number of guests you anticipate inviting, and then factor in how much money you reasonably want to spend on each guest. Remember that you'll spend in the area of 50 percent of your wedding budget on your reception. Once you have an idea of your budget and number of guests, you'll be able to focus on venues that fit your parameters.

Another key point to think about is whether a reception venue can accommodate your event on the date and time you want. Saturdays are still the top day to tie the knot, and prime wedding season runs from April through October. So if you want to get married on a Saturday during peak season, you better plan ahead and make a venue decision quickly before your preferred site gets booked by another event.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
So what exactly should you look for in a reception site? You should be looking for the same sorts of things you looked for in your mate -- charm, personality and depth. The best bet is to check out at least three (but usually no more than six) venues in person so you have something to compare the other sites to. Keep track of each venue and try to make your visits close together (say one whole weekend) so you can have a fresh memory of each site to help you make a final decision.

While it's tempting to just drop by a venue, that's not a good idea. Catering staff might not be available to show you around and answer all your questions on the spot. Make an appointment and plan to spend at least an hour at each event space. It's best to visit each venue around the actual hours of your event - it will allow you to see how the space looks naturally lit.

When you begin checking out potential sites, note how each location makes you feel the instant you walk in; whether it's relaxed, formal and/or sophisticated. Take along a list of what to look for -- in your head or on paper -- when you're ready to go scouting. If you're having trouble narrowing your choices down based simply off your notes, don't be afraid to revisit the locations. A second visit could make all the difference!

Ahern's Catering & Banquet CenterLOOK FOR VERSATILITY
As a bride, don't automatically assume the word "convenience" is impossible when it comes to planning a wedding. You want everything to be just right, but you also want everything to be as uncomplicated as possible; for you and your guests. One way to keep stress levels down is to pick a reception facility that can cater to many or all of your needs.

A ROOMY FIT
You and your guy love privacy and want a venue that is cozy and inviting. Your wedding is suited to be a small affair that's big on personality. But depending on the size of your party, make sure the site is large enough to accommodate the number of people on your list. The space may look large enough when it's empty, but wedding essentials -- tables, chairs, a buffet, a bar, the band or DJ setup, the dance floor -- can take up a lot of space. Not to mention your guests, who will need some elbow room.

Even if you choose an outdoor site, you'll need ample room on the lawn, in the arboretum or poolside. The best way to assess the size of a site? Ask to check out the place when another wedding is being set up. Of course, if you decide you must have your wedding at your sentimental, yet smaller, favorite spot, you can always work backward and tailor your guest list to match.

PRIVACY, PLEASE
Privacy varies widely from place to place, as does the importance couples place on it. Look at what other events are scheduled for that day and how much time is allowed between bookings. If your guests are having a good time, you don't want them pushed out the door because another party has been scheduled right after yours.

There should be, at the very least, one hour between bookings. If the venue is partitioned, find out what sort of group will be next door. The noise of their party may be an intrusion on your reception. If this bothers you, try to schedule your wedding when there won't be another one next door. If this is impossible, visit the site on a dual-party night and see how the sound carries and whether there really are any major problems.

If you're having a daytime event in a public spot, such as a park or botanical garden, be prepared for strangers to trek past your party. They may even smile, wave or come by to offer their good wishes. If this is okay with you (the more the merrier!), go for the park. If not, ask about privacy options, or opt for a lovely lawn on a private estate.

A VENUE WITH A VIEW
What will your guests look at when they're not gazing at you or smiling for the videographer? Whether it's the city skyline, a stunning vista of rolling hills beyond the windows or a beautiful body of water behind you, exceptional locations are always a feast for the eyes. If there's no view per se, look to a place's decor or architectural details: Picasso prints on the walls, fine Persian rugs on the floors, period furniture in the corners or an amazing crystal chandelier as the room's centerpiece all add that something extra to your reception site.

If you're considering a certain theme and color palette for your party, take that into consideration as well. The site doesn't have to be done in the exact colors as your planned decorations, but the walls, carpets, chairs and curtains shouldn't clash with your party's theme.

MEET THE STAFFERS
"Weddings mean more than just a single event. A unique venue with impeccable personal service allows for an unforgettable wedding experience," Monica Dvorak, Catering Sales Manager at The Bertram Inn & Conference Center, told us. "From the moment planning begins, a professionally trained staff should work closely with the bride to ensure that every detail receives personal attention."

When touring the facility, be sure to look around thoroughly and meet the staff. You may even want to see how your waiters and waitresses will be dressed.

Make sure you know who the contact person will be for your evening. Get in writing the name of the site representative who will be on hand on your wedding day and the name of an acceptable substitute.

"The first goal of a reception site's staff should be to provide the guests with the most spectacular reception they have ever attended," Jim Rosenberger of Chagrin Valley Athletic Club exclaims. "The staff should also be available from the early planning stages to the final toast."

THE WHOLE PACKAGE
Before finalizing your reception location, make sure you know what is included and what exactly you will get for your money. Some public buildings, such as synagogues, have their own banquet tables, caterers and pre-approved staff. Many venues provide chairs, linens and lighting. With other spaces, you have to rent all these amenities. Ask your site coordinator what is considered extra.

Most sites can also offer you a package deal. Knowing what's included in each package is vital when planning your location budget. Many venues are willing to customize a menu or trim the package to accommodate your budget, especially if you're booking an event during an off-peak season or day of the week.

"When setting your reception time, always ask the hall if guests happen to show up early, will the hall be accommodating or will your guests have to wait outside the room?" advise the professionals at La-Vera Party Center. "The same goes for the end of the reception; if the reception ends at a specific time, does that mean your guests, band/DJ have to be out at that time or will they have a little extra time to pack up?"

In addition, if you plan on bringing in outside services, find out what limitations there may be, and when you or your supplier can come in to set up. Before you begin comparing reception facilities - and prices - make sure that you've taken the time to compare the sites themselves. Calling a possible reception site for a price quote does not show you what you're getting for your money.

"Ask about referrals, because the people at the hall can suggest recommendations for other services," suggests Sarah Zokar of Rustic Hills Country Club. "If you can use the vendors that the hall works with most often, it can be easier on everybody because then they don't have to get messages to each other through the bride."

It's a competitive marketplace these days so go ahead and ask each site coordinator what sets them apart from the competition. You may find out one venue has won many awards; that another venue has double the staff working your event; or that a venue is willing to customize a menu at no extra cost. Remember, when there are several businesses competing for your business, you save!

SELECTING THE SPOT
Locating a spot that's big enough for all your guests, works with your budget and possesses that special charm isn't easy. So once you've made your decision, book your venue right away. You don't want another couple to take the space you want. Usually a verbal confirmation is enough to hold the space for a day, maybe two. Then you'll be expected to pay a deposit and sign a formal contract outlining all the details of the reception package. Deposits aren't always refundable, so find out before you sign the contract.

As always, don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions. That's the reason you went to visit the hall. And if the staff isn't interested in answering all of your questions and concerns, chances are they won't be interested in helping you have the wedding reception you want. The better informed you are, the more comfortable you'll feel with your choice.

Since your venue is the backbone of your wedding celebration, you need to find a reception site that works overtime to please you and your groom. Once you've pinpointed that site that's going to meet - and exceed - your expectations, it's time to sit back, relax and savor every moment of your wedding day.

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