Preparing for the reception – Success

Once the venue has been chosen, your role may include negotiating the contract, as well as supervising all arrangements for the reception. In the Lesson 15 we will talk more about working with vendors and contracts. This section is specific to venues.

If your clients decide to hold their reception in a hotel function room or venue such as a private room in a restaurant, country club or other wedding site (like a pavilion), most of the room set-up and catering will be professionally handled by an on-staff event coordinator. You will assist in choosing the menu and program for the evening, but you will act as liaison between the venue coordinator and your client.

In addition to conferring with the site’s event coordinator, you might also be introduced to the venue’s bar manager and catering manager to assist in planning any food service requirements. These people are the experts in their domain, so it’s a good idea to trust their judgement on items pertaining to the space, and allow them to assist in food and wine pairings.

Download our sample venue survey checklist so that you don’t miss any of the crucial details.

Unusual wedding venues

The old saying ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ should become every wedding planner’s motto.


If you are hiring a private mansion, hall or function room where there is no onsite catering provided, you will need to hire a professional caterer. Catering companies can provide wait staff, bartenders and chefs, as well as all the necessary equipment to prepare and serve a meal.

It’s important to ask the caterer what items are included in their quote, and if labour is included as well. A lot of catering companies will give you a price per head for the food, but it doesn’t include any cutlery or napkins, or salt and pepper, or wait staff – which are all important factors. You will also have to check the start and finish times of the wait staff, and perhaps have staff stay on for an extended period of time, to serve the wedding cake. Some caterers will charge extra for cutting of the wedding cake, and some will charge a ‘cakeage’ fee to serve the cake on a plate with cream and raspberry coulis. It’s always important to check.

Reviewing the contract

Every time you hire a venue, you will have to sign a contract or terms and conditions for each venue. It’s important that your client knows the terms and conditions of the venue as well as yourself, so everybody is on the same page. You will need to check over the individual details on the contract, and make sure your client signs the terms and conditions.

Things to consider and double check in the terms and conditions include:

  • What is the closing time of the venue? Is it before midnight?
  • What is the access like to the venue prior to the event? Can you set up the wedding the day before?
  • How many hours does the rental/hire period include? 
  • Will there be anyone on site from the venue on the wedding day if you need to ask any questions or seek instructions?
  • Are there any noise restrictions?  Can you have a live band?
  • Are there any smoking restrictions?
  • What is the process/ time for cleaning up/ packing up? Does it have to be done on the night after the wedding- or can it be done the next day?
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • Is there any bond amount required?
  • What is the deposit amount required to secure the venue?

Room layout

Quite often the venue will have several room layout designs that they can show you- that they have tried and tested before. The venue will know the best layout for the tables and guests to make sure everybody has enough space, and the event floor plan flows nicely.

If there is no floor plan templates provided by the venue, and you have to do the floor plan yourself, you should consider the below points:

  • Make sure the room is large enough to accommodate a dance floor and seating for all your guests
  • Make sure there is at least 1.5m between each guest table, to allow enough space for guests to sit in their chairs, and wait staff to walk between the tables
  • Makes sure there is always a clear path to the exits, bathrooms and bar
  • Place a table close to the entry of the room for a guest sign-in book
  • Place the cake table in a prominent position, but not in a walkway where it could be bumped. Also consider the backdrop of the cake table – as the cake will be a focus for photos – so don’t place the cake table in front of any ugly wall
  • Try to make sure that all guest tables will have an unobstructed view of the bridal table/ sweetheart table
  • Make sure you have a gift table or wishing well table

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