How to Choose the Right-Sized Wedding Venue

A large traditional wedding reception venue

It’s easy to fall in love with a wedding venue: those beautiful flowers, the perfect ribbon accents, or the woodsy decor are enough to draw anyone in and make them feel charmed. Once you’ve seen that wedding venue in pictures or in person, it can be easy to rationalize in spite of the guidelines they offer: “Sure, we need space for 90 guests, but they say it will go up to 80… surely we can make it work?” or “We don’t need 190 guests’ worth of space, but look at those gorgeous windows! Our 120 guests will love it!” Here are a few ways to think about your wedding venue to make sure that you choose one that is truly the right size.

Have You Estimated Your Guest Count Accurately?

This is the first and most important part of getting a right-sized venue! While many think that they can count up the names on their invite list and find venues for that number, the truth is that the number will fluctuate. Some factors that could affect your final guest count include: how far away is this venue from the guests’ homes? The farther away, the fewer of them will choose to attend. Are you offering plus-ones to single guests? If so, expect that some but not all of them will take you up on it. Have you possibly given your future mother-in-law or your own mother the option to invite some of their close friends? This can add to the list, especially if they aren’t clear with how many people are in each of the families they invite. Count children as well, since most children over three will want a meal and a seat. Obviously, the number you land on will still be an estimate, and venues know this, but it’s good to estimate as well as you can.

Outdoor rustic wedding reception

Does the Venue’s Recommendation Change Based on the Structure of Your Reception?

Receptions can include so many things: passed hors d’oeuvres in a standing space with tall stables, picnic tables for a barbecue-style dinner, or round dinner tables for a cloth-napkin banquet. These different choices also imply different spaces: the same wide-open room that can seat 140 for dinner may hold 200 when having a mingling cocktail hour. Talk to your venue about how you envision the reception and ask for their personalized recommendation for what can fit.

How Does the Venue Charge for Guests, Especially If You Go Over Your Count?

If you have a wedding venue that also provides the meal, it is more important than ever to get an accurate guest count and to hash out the contract details. After all, if a venue rarely hosts weddings of less than 150 guests and usually charges per-guest, your wedding for 120 people may end up being more expensive if they reserve the space at the 150-person rate. Make sure that, if you choose “too much” venue for your guest count, you know what kinds of extra costs might be associated. Conversely, if you choose a charming quaint little venue and try to squeeze extra guests in, make sure you are prepared for both the additional per-person rates and any extra things that must be added, like extra linens or rental table fees.

Large wedding reception venue with a few tables

Will the Space Feel Empty or Crowded with Your Anticipated Amount of Guests?

This is a much less practical concern and much more aesthetic one. Make sure that you discuss with the venue’s coordinator to find out if the space has held groups of your wedding’s size in the past. They will be able to tell you that, yes, they opened the sliding glass doors onto the patio and a few extra people didn’t feel like a problem at all, or no, having so few people in such a large space made it feel like no one came to the wedding. It’s a sad reason to turn down a wedding venue completely, so if you get an answer you don’t like, talk about ways that the space can be partitioned or added to in order to get the open-but-bustling feeling you want for a wedding venue.

Have You Truly Exhausted Options for Venues, or Are You Falling in Love with Every Venue You See?

This is an important self-reflective question, since it informs whether or not you commit to a high-demand venue quickly. If you aren’t sure, and don’t want to waste deposit dollars, it is often best to sleep on any venue decision. Not only can you take some time to make sure you aren’t overreacting to the beautiful chandeliers, but also it gives you a chance to remind yourself what the other options are, and more importantly, look for other options. Your best bet if there is something wrong-sized about your venue is to search for other options. If you realize that everything else is substantially less perfect, you will feel more peace with committing to this venue and working to resolve any issues.

After asking yourself these questions, you’ll be much better prepared to tackle any other concerns that come your way with choosing the perfect venue.

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