Book the right reception hall

When planning your event, where you hold it can solve or create the most problems, so the place you choose carries a prominent importance.

As you begin to track down the best reception venue for your soiree, your initial considerations should gravitate toward that fits your budget, the approximate date and time and convenient location. Check Angie's List to find reception halls in your area and read through the reviews and ratings for your short list.

Here's are the first questions you'll want to ask when you're looking for the just right place:

• Is the venue available? Once you know a date or approximate dates, make sure any reception hall or other location is available for the time period and date you need. Be clear about what you need to do to reserve the date and location. Find out what happens if you need to cancel, including any fees.

• What is the maximum capacity? After you have figured out the guest list and how many people you are inviting, you will need to find a location that can fit everyone. Have a general idea of the types of tables that you want. 

• When can I get into the venue? It takes time to set up a wedding, event or reception. It's important that you know when you can access the reception hall to set up. Popular venues may schedule multiple events, leaving you a short window of time to prepare. Also, ask how much time you'll have for cleaning up.

• What facilities does the hall have? Depending on what you're planning as far as food and beverage service, be sure the reception hall has the right kind of kitchen facilities. Some locations only have a large sink and refrigerator; others have full kitchens.

• What extra fees can I expect? Ask about any extra fees. Find out if you need to provide any liability insurance. Ask what charges could be added if clean up is not done according to requirements. There could also be added charges if your event extends beyond the agreed ending time.

Visit the reception venue

Squaring away these questions will help narrow your choices. When you have a few that seem good, ask to visit the facility. While there, you'll want to ask some follow-up questions:

• Are there sufficient restroom facilities for your guests? Are the bathrooms clean and presentable?
• Is there a place where the wedding party can change into reception clothing?
• What's available for a band, music system and dancing (sound system, dance floor, lights)? Are there any noise limits in the area?
• Does the venue offer tables and chairs for use?
• Is there enough parking?
• If other events will be going on at the same time, what kind of privacy can you expect?

Request to take a tour of the reception area and the kitchen. The kitchen must be clean. Ask to see the food-storage areas. If the manager is confident in the services he or she provides, you should find no hesitation. If he or she refuses, consider finding another reception site. Ask about the catering staff. Are they employed by the venue or do they use an outside firm? How many will you need for the number of guests and method of serving food. Will food be served restaurant style or buffet style?

If you're planning on serving alcohol, consider whether you want an open bar or a cash bar. Does the venue provide the beverages? Do you have to hire a licensed bartender or will the venue staff one? Most facilities require you to buy some type of liability insurance to serve alcohol on its site. This helps cover costs of any damages that may occur. If you are purchasing this service, get a detailed list of what's included in the pricing. The types of alcohol served and when you will be serving it should be clearly stated.

Wedding reception halls

Weddings involve some special considerations, so you'll want to make sure the venue manager answers these questions:

• Can the venue accommodate both your wedding and wedding reception? Having your wedding and reception at the same venue is convenient and practical. Your guests won't have to travel much. Everything is conveniently located just steps away. If you are having the ceremony at a separate place, decide how far are you willing to travel. Keep in mind that it's not advisable to make your guests travel great distances between locations.

• Do you want room for a dance floor? Ask the venue manager about any recommended layouts that have worked well in the past. Request to see these layouts.

• What's included in the price? Some wedding reception halls only provide you with the bare minimum, leaving you with the task of hiring vendors. Get a detailed list of what's included in the cost of rental. For example, does the hall provide tables, chairs and linens?

• Does it offer catering services, too? If so, then how much does it charge per person?

• What are your menu options?

• Will the meal be buffet style or will waiters serve you?

• Can you hire a third-party vendor to come and cater your event?

• Do you need to bring any special glassware or utensils?

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