Aside from looking for a beautiful-on-the-outside venue, what are the most important things to look for when searching for the right wedding reception venue? That’s what this post will reveal to you. Guess what? Half of your total wedding budget will be consumed by the venue cost (including rentals and decoration) and catering costs (food and drinks). Therefore, it makes sense to find the best possible venue that will be worth the money and enhance your decoration and also make your guests feel comfortable.
Decent wedding reception venues exist at different price points, but you have to know what to look for in order to know one when you see it. Finding and choosing a perfect event venue is crucial very important because the right place will set the tone and mood of your event. A not-so-okay venue will make all your efforts and months of planning worthless. Read on to find out the non-negotiable things you should look for when you go venue hunting.
What Makes a ‘Perfect’ Wedding Reception Venue?
I say that the perfect venue is one that checks all your boxes. But then, what boxes? Some will say that a perfect wedding reception or event venue is one that meets all your expectations. But then when I ask for their list of expectations, they have little or none. This post will reveal to you a list of things to look for or expect when you go searching for a wedding ceremony and/ or reception venue. This is your venue list of things to tick/ check off.
The process of finding the right event venue is time-consuming and stressful, as it involves researching for event spaces near you,/ your desired event location, doing physical site visits to observe and inspect the venue, asking some important questions to get an idea if the venue meets your expectations or checks/ ticks your boxes, and finally comparing the different venues to pick the most suitable one. You also want to spot the hidden costs that could make a ‘cheap wedding venue’ end up costlier than a seemingly costly one. I explained the process in this post => how to find and choose a wedding venue on any budget. Definitely check that out.
With that said, let’s dive into finding out everything you should look for or expect in a wedding venue.
1. The Perfect FIT: Price, Availability and Seating Capacity (Right Size, Right Budget, and Availability)
When looking at venues for your wedding reception, you expect to find one that fits in your budget. Therefore, one of the first questions to ask is how much it costs to rent the wedding reception space. The reason to ask is early is because you don’t want to look around and then fall in love with the venue only to later find out that you cannot have it. Maybe you are looking for a low-budget wedding venue and the one you’re looking for is out of your budget, move on to the next venue. Ensure to have a wedding budget breakdown before going venue hunting, to avoid renting an expensive venue and later discover there’s no money to decorate it. In summary, if the budget/ venue rate is not a fit, check the next venue. Why bother if you’re unable to pay for/ afford it.
Next, you expect the seating capacity of the venue to match the number of guests you are inviting. If the venue cannot accommodate/ seat all your guests, there’s no need to continue looking at the venue. While at this, ensure that there’s enough extra space for DJ/ band setup, dancing, and buffet (food) setup, and additional space for walkways so that your guests can easily move around. I explained more about this below. While it’s important to find a roomy/ spacious reception venue, note that a venue space that is too big or one that is too small will not look good. Aim for the perfect fit with regards to venue size.
Another thing to look for is the availability of the wedding venue on your desired wedding date. If that date has already been booked by someone else (i.e. not available), unless you’re willing to pick a different date, there is no need to continue with this place. You can follow our 4-step process for picking a wedding date.
SUMMARY: Price-fit, size-fit, availability are non-negotiable when looking for a venue. HINT: If you absolutely like a venue but find that it is small and won’t contain all your guests, consider cutting down your guest count. For ideas on who and who to remove, follow the steps in how to narrow down a wedding guest list.
2. Adequate Partying Space and Buffer Setup Corner Within the Venue)
A cramped venue space makes the celebrants look like they did not see inside the venue before booking it. When looking at event venues, size matters and seating space is not the only thing that matters with regards to the size of the space. Most people overlook these other things, only to later discover that there’s not enough space for the DJ and live music band to set up their equipment, and there’s no extra section on the side for the caterer to set up (if it’s a buffet-style meal) and display the food and drinks. You also need to be sure that aside from the seating space, the DJ/ band and caterers area, there is enough room to use as a dancing floor. Don’t forget that the wedding cake also needs a nice special corner/ a central location to be displayed. It’s hard to estimate how well an event venue will fit all those things if it’s empty. If possible, ask them the earliest next date the venue is due for use, and find a way to come peep. If not, use your judgment.
HINT: If the room has a funny irregular shape, it could be difficult to create sections for your dance floor, and your music and food vendors to set up. So, look out for that.
3. Good Lighting
Most Nigerian couples overlook lighting when they look for venues – once the venue size can seat their guests, they are done and make a booking. Don’t do that. Lighting is a big part of wedding venue decoration. For an outdoor and indoor wedding, good lighting will enhance the look of the venue decoration as well as the entire room, creating a delightful ambiance and tone. Another reason to look out for good lighting when searching for a wedding venue is that your photographer requires it to give you good quality pictures. Nothing ruins wedding pictures like poor lighting. Bad lighting results in bad pictures and that equals money wasted. Besides, dim light makes guests uncomfortable. Therefore, make it a priority must-have for a venue you’re considering.
If you planned to have some special types of lighting, such as mood lighting to match your wedding colour scheme and create an interesting ambiance, ask if is available in the venue. There are people that provide wedding mood lighting services and can also program, project and time the lightings from a laptop. Ask your photographer and other vendors to recommend anyone they know that offers this service. Wedding mood lighting is a great way to transform and elevate the look and feel of even the most ordinary-looking venues, and it’s a favourite at Nigerian weddings. Bear in mind that too much mood lighting can make a venue appear dim and guests don’t like that.
4. Enough Parking Space in or Near the Venue
The availability of parking space is an important thing to look for as some of your guests will be driving in. Ask to know the number of parking spots to know if it is enough to accommodate the likely number of your guests that drive. If the parking space is far from the venue, your guests would not be happy to walk a long way. Find a venue that has a free parking lot in or nearby. Your guests will not be smiling if they are asked to pay a parking fee when they arrive at your wedding venue; that could make some people leave. Some hotel venues and other types of venues in Lagos and Abuja do charge a fee for people to park, so be sure to find out the situation with your prospective venue.
5. Extra Space for Photoshoot and Picturesque Elements
Most of your wedding pictures would be taken inside and outside the reception venue, and your most memorable snapshots would depend on the views in the venue. So, observe that a potential venue has extra space in front of group photos and also has nice décor elements that will make your pictures look special.
The existing background of an event venue and the view of its outdoors will make or break your wedding pictures – it will appear in every photo. Most of your wedding photos will be taken in your reception venue – inside and outside. Your photographer may want to take some shots right before the reception, during and after the official reception time. A good photographer will use the things around the space to ‘frame’ each picture. So, it’s important to look out for potential photo spots, such as
One of the attributes of a perfect venue is the presence of cool décor elements and the view/ scenery within and outside the venue that could make a cool backdrop and frame for wedding pictures. It’s the scenery, décor and backdrops in and outside a reception venue that makes wedding pictures interesting and memorable. When looking at a potential reception venue space, observe the views in and outside. Will the things around the venue make good and interesting backdrops for wedding pictures? Also, the venue should have some extra space outside where you can take group and portrait pictures before and after the wedding.
I once attended a wedding where the only spot/ space available for photo-taking was right in front of the indoor reception hall. That caused a commotion – the couple and their family and bridal train/ party were there snapping pictures and all the guests stopped outside too, confused whether to enter or stand. There was no one even directing guests to enter the hall and keep them entertained while waiting. The after parts of that wedding was nice, but that early part ruined it for most guests.
- 10 Tips to Avoid Wedding Day Photo Mistakes
- How My Wedding Photographer Ruined My Wedding Pictures (True Life Story)
- Order of Wedding Day Photo-Snaps (Checklist)
- Top Reasons to Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer
6. What is Provided and What’s the True Cost of the Venue
Before you get excited about the cost of any venue, ask yourself ‘what are they providing inside the venue and what would need to be rented to bring the venue to your expectation?’. There are many event venues that are beautiful but would not have everything you are looking for. Know that whatever a venue does not have will require you to spend extra money to rent those missing things from outside. The true cost of any venue is the venue cost PLUS rentals cost, and when you compare all venues, sometimes the one that requires rentals may turn out more expensive than the one that has everything inside. For example, if you’ll have to rent mobile toilets, tarpaulin tents, speakers, tables and chairs to do up a venue, add the cost of all the rentals to the cost of hiring that venue to get the true cost, and compare to other venues.
Most couples make the mistake of not thinking of that but realize it after they have paid for a venue. So, keep that in mind, find each venue’s true cost and compare all the venues before you select one. In another post where I talked about questions you should ask at every event venue, you’ll find a list of things a venue should have. Definitely check it out.
7. Any Restrictions and Limitations to How to Use Venue and What to Do Inside?
Find out what is allowed and not allowed when using their venue? Ask specific questions. Some wedding and event venues have one or more conditions for renting/ using their spaces and may not tell you unless you ask.
For example, some event venues, especially those owned by churches and mosques, do not allow for some types of music to be played in their space; some do not allow for some type of drinks to be brought in. You need to know in advance what is allowed and what is restricted – to avoid disappointments. Some hotel and restaurant event venues will not allow you to bring in your own drinks – they want you to buy from them if you rent their venue. Some would not allow you to bring in your own food/ caterer – they want you to use their in-house caterers. The problem is that, usually, their food and drinks cost a lot more than outside retail and wholesale prices.
Some venues would charge a fee if you decide not to use their own caterers/ vendors. So, ask and don’t assume, no matter how low-key the venue is. I have already made you a list of specific questions to ask every potential venue, including what and what is/ not allowed. Read that post.
8. Ease of Decoration to Your Wedding Theme
Will the venue be easy to decorate? Before picking a venue, most couples have an idea of the vibe or theme they are aiming for, and the way they want to decorate the place to help create the perfect setting. Some venues will make it difficult to achieve your dream décor, and so it is important to picture how any venue you visit will tie into your dream décor, tone, and setting.
The existing decoration elements in an event venue will definitely be part of your wedding décor, such as the colour of the wall, curtains, floor (tile/ rug), chairs and sometimes the ceilings. While it is possible to cover some parts of the venue during a venue decoration, some parts of the venue are not coverable, and those are what to look out for – ask yourself if their colours will clash with your desired venue colour combination or palette.
If you’re looking for a low budget venue, look out for one that does not require a lot of decoration to make it look pleasing. Even if you can afford the cost of extensive venue décor, it’s advisable to choose a venue that has neutral colours instead of one that has strong colours that may clash with your wedding venue decoration colour combo. Neutral colours work/ blend with any wedding colours scheme.
Sometimes, a venue has everything a couple wants but the colours of its non-removable decoration (wall, floor, curtains, chairs) make it not easy to decorate into the desired setting. If you any venue that will not work for your dream décor and setting, consider choosing another venue, else you’ll hate how the venue appears in your wedding pictures.
9. Backup Plans in Case the Unexpected Happens
Ensure to look for a venue that has a plan B if NEPA (electricity outage) strikes. Knowing how electricity is the biggest daily uncertainty in Nigeria, having a backup power plan is one of the most important things to look for when choosing a wedding venue. This should be on your top list of must-have or non-negotiables. Music, lighting and fans/ air-conditioners that cool well is top of the things that will impress your guests. You can only guarantee that by making sure that the venue you book has a working backup generator that carries all the electronics in the reception space.
Rains are another uncertainty that could happen during a wedding. The rainy season is not the best time to have a wedding in Nigeria, but some couples do fix their weddings during the early, light-rain months; some get lucky and the rains don’t pour. An indoor venue is what I advise for a rainy season wedding, but if you want to try your luck with an outdoor venue during the rainy season, look for a venue that has a backup plan to move you, guests, indoors in the case that there’s a downpour. Just to warn you, I can’t guarantee any Nigerian event venue promising that, but maybe a destination venue abroad may deliver on such a promise.
- How to Plan a Wedding Reception in 15 Steps
- Wedding Reception Coordination Checklist
- Emergency Kit Checklist for a Wedding (to quench any likely emergency during the wedding)
- How to Guarantee Your Wedding Day Will Be Perfect
- 8 Top Wedding Reception Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
The Perfect Reception Venue Will Tick the Box On All the Non-Negotiable Must-Haves
Unless you’re getting your wedding reception venue for free, there’s no reason to compromise on the most important must-haves highlighted above. Some things can be worked around and that’s okay, but be sure that the venue you pay for has everything it should have. Don’t just decide on a venue by the pictures you see on the internet, go there and walk around to see if it has everything you’re looking for. Use this post as a checklist during your venue check. Be sure to see our other tips for choosing the perfect wedding venue.
The wedding reception venue is one of the most important parts of any wedding and if you follow the above tips, you’ll be alright. Thanks for reading and if you found this post helpful, consider helping me to share it on social media. Also, join our NaijaGlamWedding community and follow us on social media.
There you have it on the top things to consider and look for before paying for a wedding reception venue or any type of venue at all – the 9 non-negotiable must-haves. If you have already booked your reception space, what are the things that made you choose it, what type of venue and what area/ location? If you have not yet paid for a venue, this post should help you filter through the not-good-enough venues to find the right one. Comment down below to let me know your thoughts.