What to Know About Hosting a Wedding Reception at a Restaurant

A wedding reception at a restaurant decorated with lights and candles.

Hosting a wedding reception at a restaurant is a popular choice among engaged couples and for good reason. There are so many benefits to this choice, such as easing one’s wedding planning workload and saving money. Having said that, there are a few caveats that you should know about prior to going this route. If you’re thinking about having a restaurant wedding reception, take note of these pros and cons before making your booking.

Prices May Vary

While it’s a common assumption (and likely the case) that restaurant wedding receptions are generally less pricey than booking a venue and vendors separately, this may not always be true.

At the end of the day, you have to think from the restaurant owner’s point of view. The cost for you will likely be the equivalent of what the venue would have made from their regular day-to-day sales. For example, if you book a restaurant on a weekday when there’s less foot traffic, the total cost will probably be less than booking on a weekend when the venue is busier. Costs will also be dependent on other factors such as how popular the restaurant is.

This is when having a reception with a smaller number of guests will benefit you. If you’re hosting only a small group, the restaurant can dedicate a separate area to your party while leaving the rest of the space open for business as usual. But if you have a large group, you will likely have to rent out the entire place for your reception.

There may also be other additional costs—such as spending minimums or deposits. So, make sure to discuss all of the details with the proprietor upfront.

Don’t Judge a Menu By its Cover

A tray of appetizers at a wedding reception.

Food is certainly a focus point of any wedding reception and if you’re hosting a reception at a restaurant, you’ll definitely want to opt for a place that speaks to your and your guests’ tastes.

However, a restaurant’s catering or special events menu may be different from its regular menu—which can be a good thing as that could mean more options on the table. Also, you’ll want to ask about how flexible the chefs can be if you have guests with dietary restrictions and will need vegan or gluten-free meals.

Your Creativity May Be Limited

When choosing a restaurant as your wedding reception venue, you’re going to go for something that speaks to you personally—whether that means it’s a memorable spot, has great food, or simply fits your wedding theme. However, you may find that there are certain aspects in which you won’t be able to do things exactly your way.

Sometimes, that can be a benefit. If you choose a place you like by its look, it can be a major money-saver for your decor budget. But if you’re keen on sprucing up certain details, it’s best to inquire with the owners about what you can or can’t do. Overall, you’ll likely have more leeway with smaller/individual businesses versus chain brands as they’ll be more eager to cater to personal preferences.

Entertainment Is Important

Second to food, entertainment is usually a focal point of a wedding reception. So, whatever form of entertainment you opt for, make sure your venue is capable of hosting it. For example, a dance floor is usually a must-have after a meal, so ask if it’s possible to dedicate a spot for it (whether that means renting more space or just moving some furniture). As a rule of thumb, plan to have about 10×10 feet for 50 guests, 12×12 feet for 100 guests, and 15×15 feet for 150 guests.

Music is another issue to consider. Ask if there are any restrictions on how loud or how late music can be played and, again, if there is space to accommodate a live band or DJ.

If you’re going to have additional entertainment such as a photo booth or a cigar lounge, double-check with the venue on if they’ll allow that on their premises or if there may be additional costs associated with it.

Have Your Cake and Eat it, Too

A bride and groom cutting the cake at their wedding reception.

Last, but not least: don’t forget dessert! This may sound surprising, but you could have issues with bringing your own wedding cake to a restaurant-hosted reception—especially if they have their own in-house dessert chef. Others may be OK with you bringing your own dessert, but can charge you a “cake-cutting” fee. Make sure to ask ahead of time about this to avoid any disappointments.

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