When should you book your wedding reception venue?

“Wedding venue, wedding reception venue, and photographer ..” – these are usually the first three things that a marrying couple look for (and usually in this particular order).

In this article, I am going to demonstrate why this is not a good idea.

Most Australian couples want to lock in their wedding reception venue first – it makes sense after all – you wouldn’t want to lose all your hard work in finding the right wedding reception venue only to lose out to another couple who got in with their security deposit first.

As any married couple will tell you, finding the right wedding reception venue takes a bit of hard work patience. It’s not as simple as buying groceries from Coles or Woolies because guest size, capacity, aesthetics, food and drink packages, and seasonality are determining factors on whether a venue is the right one (or not).

And before you even go wedding reception venue shopping, you need to send out RSVPs and have a rough idea on what size your final guest list will be. The last thing you want as part of your wedding experience is to pay a security bond to lock in a wedding venue to realise later on that the venue cannot accommodate the extra 50 RSVPs you received last minute.

Now that would be a disaster!

Most couples in Australia have separate venues for their wedding ceremony and their reception. We’re a bit different (and spoilt) compared to different parts of the world. The wedding reception venue is also the biggest wedding expenditure item with most wedding venues starting from $100 per head (inclusive of food and beverage package).

The wedding reception is when the booze flows freely. It is where your guests get to unwind and have some fun (e.g., photo booth shenanigans), get fed and hopefully have a boogie on the dance floor. Choosing the right wedding reception venue matters so it is understandable that it is one of the first things any engaged couple want to lock in.

Convention wisdom dictates that you first lock in your wedding reception venue, then settle the date (based on the availability of said wedding venue), then book in the other big ticket items such as a wedding photographer. I’m going to tell you not to do this.

Instead, I think the first thing you should do after discussing your finances with your future spouse is to engage the professional services of a wedding planner and a wedding stylist.

“What does a wedding planner do?” – I hear you asking.

As the title suggest, a wedding planner helps plan your wedding. Most wedding planners offer end-to-end full service planning. This often includes finding wedding vendors such as a photographer, caterer, florist, calligrapher, and live entertainment that fit your budget and vision, to handling all the communication between said wedding vendors so that you don’t have to.

Essentially, a wedding planner is your personal project manager – he/she will oversee the planning of your wedding from start to finish and take on all the anxiety and stress that comes with it.

I can hear you asking the next question, “So hang on, what does a wedding stylist do then if a wedding planner takes care of everything?”

It boils down to three core things. a wedding stylist helps design the visual and decor elements, he./she oversees the set up of all your custom design elements (e.g., backdrop, suspended florals, lighting of all 125 candles), and ultimately the pack-down of of the event styling when everyone has already gone home. Often, your wedding stylist will take on the role of the floristry or at the very least, hire their own florist(s) to execute your vision.

Therefore, a wedding stylist helps you transform your wedding dream into reality.

A wedding stylist can take one look at a space (outdoor or indoor) and tell you what is possible and perhaps even more important, what is not.

You may want a certain theme and feel but in reality, your chosen wedding reception venue may have low ceilings or have significant restrictions on rigging points – without consulting a wedding stylist beforehand, you’re in a world of disappointment and regret.

This is why I strongly recommend that you first consult a wedding planner and a wedding stylist before you put down a non-refundable security deposit for a wedding reception that may seem ideal at first but end up being a nightmare.

For example, perhaps you want long rectangular tables but your wedding reception will only use their existing circular tables.

Perhaps you want hundreds of Edison light bulbs hanging from the ceiling to create the ultimate moody feel for your guests but your wedding reception will not allow this.

Having your wedding stylist come with you on site visits and ask the questions you won’t know to ask will save you time, money and headache.

Just as you would be crazy to not hire a professional to inspect a building prior to committing to buy it, you would be silly to not have a professional stylist consult with you on your wedding reception venue decision.

Recommended reading: How to have a eco-friendly wedding without having to go full vegan