Booking the Reception Venue Checklist

Must-read tips for booking your reception venue.

1. Visit your favorite sites during an event to investigate acoustics, true capacity, decorated look (if at all possible).

2. Ask your favorite sites to provide you with a list of two or three recent wedding-couple references.

3. Call references and read reviews.

5. Request the preferred vendor list.

6. Finalize your decision and reserve the site. Make sure you have confirmation of your reservation in writing (email or hard copy contract).

7. Request a contract and review for critical points:

  • Name and contact information for you and the vendor
  • Date and time frame of your reception (the average dinner-and-dance reception is about four hours—longer if it includes the ceremony)
  • Exact names of specific room(s) to be used
  • What time other vendors (florist, DJ, etc.) will be able to set up
  • Approximate number of guests and number of tables to be set up (include a floor plan if possible)
  • The name of the manager on duty during your reception
  • An itemized list of what the site will provide (from waitstaff to linens, plus services such as coatroom and valet parking)
  • Proof of insurance and liquor license
  • Setup, cleanup, overtime and any other fees
  • Total cost (itemized)
  • Deposit amount due
  • Balance and date due
  • Cancellation and refund policy
  • Site manager's signature
  • Sign final contract.

8. If your reception will be outdoors in a public place, file for a permit.

9. Make a list of anything you'll need to rent (tent, tables, chairs and so on) and look into rental companies; visit your site with your rental agent so she sees firsthand what you need (do all this about six to eight months before).

10. Take pictures of the site to show to other wedding vendors.

11. Ask for directions coming from various routes (you'll need this to include in invitations or to post on your wedding website). Drive them yourself.

12. Meet with or call the site manager to discuss decorations and final menu decisions if you're working with in-house people, or to coordinate plans with outside caterers, florists and other vendors (do this at least four months before).

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