David Tutera's Top Tips for Personalizing Your Wedding Venue

Celebrity wedding planner David Tutera gets real about optimizing and personalizing your reception space.
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maggie seaver the knot wedding planning expert
Maggie Seaver
maggie seaver the knot wedding planning expert
Maggie Seaver
Wedding Planning Expert
  • Maggie Seaver is an Associate Digital Editor at RealSimple.com.
  • Maggie writes about life, career, health, and more.
  • Maggie was an editor at The Knot from 2015 to 2019.

Celeb wedding planner, bridal fashion designer and TV host David Tutera—who planned his own fabulous, black-tie wedding to husband Joey Toth—stopped by The Knot to share the best ways for couples to work with their venue to create a totally personalized celebration. From unexpected tricks that won't cost you a thing to memorable splurges you won't regret, we've got the full scoop from one of the top pros in the industry.

How can couples work with a venue to personalize their day and make the space truly theirs?

"With your venue, you can [personalize] through your printable materials, bar menu or dinner menu—maybe it was your first date food, maybe it was a food you got proposed to over. You could also personalize with the layout of the room. Venues are one of the hardest things because so many of them have their usual routine or formula—this is the way it is, this is the way it's going to be. A couple should go in from the very beginning and verbalize what they want in order to personalize the wedding. You have to say, 'We'd like to do something that creates a uniqueness that tells our story. What can we do?' I always say think backward—think of the most ridiculous thing and then scale back."

What are some fun things couples won't regret splurging on?

"Valet is incredibly important—that, to me, is a splurge. I also think a more over-the-top version of dessert is a splurge. Since not everyone gets to see the cake or even have a slice, put together a mini array of buffet pieces that are smaller scale for each table. If you think about it, that's not that much money per person. If you do the big table full of desserts, people won't always want to go to a table—I don't. You would rather have [dessert] at your table so you can go dance. Another idea is passed desserts on the dance floor. Ask the staff to do bite-size passed desserts, because at that point, people are drinking and want to have fun. They don't want to sit and eat and go back and forth.

"Another way to splurge is by having specific bars. I'm thinking about a whiskey, champagne or tequila bar. Most people don't care about [a full bar]. If you have a specific series of types of spirits, it's more fun. That doesn't mean you just serve X spirit on the rocks—it means there are ingredients to make [fun cocktails] with that base drink."

Any unique venue-related trends you're loving or experimenting with right now?

"Something trend forward would be to eliminate cocktail hour altogether and serve cocktails and appetizers in the [main reception] room. So when you walk into the ballroom of the venue itself, you have a more unique environment with people mixing and moving, and not necessarily sitting and staring. Plus, you're not spending extra money."

What are some venue-related trends you think need an upgrade?

"I'd like to see this trend of constant movement—going from point A to point B to point C—go away. The after-party winds up being just for the couple's friends because not everyone wants to [go]. You need to create that environment in the same location. You create an energy—whether it be through music or a change in lighting or food—and people will stay. If you give guests a chance to walk out the door, they'll probably leave."

Ready to find the perfect reception venue? Start your search here!

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