How to Choose a Wedding Reception Venue

An old historic building with a wedding table and lights on the grass in front of it.

Are you and your fiancé looking for the perfect reception venue for your wedding? Finding a location that meets all of your needs and wants can be difficult, but don’t give up! It may seem like a hopeless task right now, but here are several tips to help you find the perfect venue for your upcoming wedding reception!

Having Separate Ceremony and Reception Locations Is Okay

While instinct is probably telling you to jump in your car and visit as many local venues as possible right now, don’t grab your keys just yet. First, you need to make a very important decision about your wedding and reception. Take time to answer this question: do you want to have your ceremony in the same location as your reception?

If you’re getting married in a church, this may not be possible. Some churches do, however, have indoor and outdoor space available for receptions. Of course, you aren’t required to utilize it if you don’t want to. In fact, the possibilities are truly endless when it comes to choosing a reception venue. While you can host this portion of your union about anywhere, some of the most popular locations include:

  • Hotel or resort
  • Convention center banquet hall
  • Historical building
  • Country club
  • Public or private garden
  • Favorite restaurant
  • Winery or vineyard
  • Public or private beach
  • Public or private park
  • Bed and breakfast
  • College or university
  • Family or friend’s home
  • Your own backyard

The takeaway here is that you don’t have to choose a single location for both your ceremony and reception. Many couples opt to have guests relocate after the wedding and this is completely okay. In fact, it sometimes works better because it gives couples plenty of private time for photos.

Your Wedding Theme Sets the Tone

A forest wedding ceremony site with purple flowers.

Have you and your fiancé established a theme for your wedding yet? While a theme isn’t necessary, many couples feel that having one personalizes the event. Common themes include classic, rustic, vintage, bohemian, nautical, and tropical. If you do choose a wedding theme, it’s important to do so before reserving your reception venue. In many cases, your theme will greatly impact the types of reception locations that will be most appropriate. You’ll need to decide between indoor and outdoor, for example. If you prefer indoors, the age and architecture of the building will be important. Having a firm grasp on your wedding theme will also allow you to better plan for decorations. Your décor needs and preferences will also impact your reception venue selection.

Define Options by Their Potential

A room decorated for a wedding ceremony with white balloons, paper fans, and a sign that says

With that said, however, an ideal reception venue doesn’t have to embody your theme to start with. As you search for the perfect location, it’s important to keep an open mind. After all, you can do a lot with decorations. A big, open, bare space may seem uninviting now, but by the time your reception rolls around, it will be completely transformed.

Instead of focusing on and fretting over the minute details, pay attention to overarching themes. In this way, finding a reception venue is a lot like buying a new home. It may not fit your vision now, but you can do a lot with it once you’ve “moved in.” Keep the big aspects in mind. Is the space big enough for your guest list? Can you decorate it as you want to? Does the architecture or landscaping complement your theme? Sometimes all a space needs is a little imagination!

Logistics Are Important

A white wedding reception table and chairs on the beach.

There are actually a number of very important logistics you need to consider when picking a venue for your wedding reception. Keep the following factors in mind.

Catering and Alcohol

Does the reception venue you have in mind have catering options? If not, are you able to bring your own food and refreshments? Some public parks and gardens have strict codes regarding food on the premises. This is even more common with alcohol.


Is the venue private? Again, many outdoor locations may not offer you the privacy you need…if you need it. If you don’t mind strangers looking in on you and your guests, this aspect doesn’t actually matter at all. If privacy is something you covet, however, renting an indoor space or opting for a private outdoor venue will be better.


Whether you’re inside or outside, lighting needs to be a consideration. Is what’s available sufficient or will you need to incorporate more? Another important question is whether there’s electricity available at your preferred outdoor reception venue. Will you need to utilize generators for lights and/or the sound system? Where are the outlets and how many of them are there?


Parking is another very important factor that warrants careful assessment before deciding on a reception venue. If you’re renting a space, it’s likely that parking will be readily available. Some of the other options, however, may require some creative thinking.

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