Choosing a reception venue

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When we began considering potential reception venues, I already had a few things in mind. First and foremost was the convenience for guests. Much of our extended families live more than three hours away, and we wanted to be sure the reception site either offered overnight accommodations or was within a few blocks' distance to a reasonably priced hotel.

Next, of course, was size. Those out-of-town extended families – plus our many friends – created an expansive guest list, and we needed to find a site that could accommodate parties with more than 150 guests. This was sometimes more difficult that one would imagine. (We're getting married in January, so an outdoor facility was not an option.)

I also had done considerable research on the type of venue – some hotels offered full service, all inclusive packages, while more unique venues were often tied to a specific vendor or two. We had initially hoped to find a large venue where we could use some of my "Out with Sara" connections to offer a unique variety of cuisine.

After wading through countless venues who didn't match our size, price or location necessities, we narrowed down our pool to two locations.

However, what turned out to be the best bang for our collective buck (and money IS an object for us) was a local hotel, nearby major highways with an affordable room rate (and pet friendly!) and a variety of package options that included the one thing even more important than price — outstanding customer service.

Table

Venue "B" ended up being our choice, but it went beyond the tale this table tells.

Venue "A" is a primarily a catering facility and not much else. Our sales representative was interested (but not very much) in booking our wedding, but more so in booking as much as she could on that date. For instance – the first row (see table above): "Private room for bridal party" is sort of a given at most locations. The bridal party hides while guests enjoy cocktails until you're ready to be announced. At Venue B, this is a defined location, which I've heard from prior guests, is well tended to (they feed the party, which oh so many forget to do). At the first venue, we were told we could use a room downstairs, "unless it was booked for a holiday party," which they reasoned could happen in early January.

I wanted a venue who was interested in MY business, and MY party – not just in booking the most parties.

At Venue B, on the other hand, its wedding associates deal only in weddings. No corporate conferences or trade shows or even company parties.

Catering to our guests was a top priority, and with a heftier open bar selection as well as the weightier hors d'oeuvres — plus the convenience of on-site overnight accommodations — Venue B began to tip the scales.

However, we did want to make sure we had the things we wanted, too. At Venue B, we scored a free overnight room as bride and groom. I'm a sucker for the bubbly, so the champagne toast excited me. In fact there were a lot of little things that probably wouldn't matter on their own that gave venue B the edge. Probably the biggest, however, was this: the sales people or "wedding specialists" working with us at Venue B would stay with us the entire process long.

At Venue A – and many other places like it – you're handed off to a "day of coordinator" around three days before your big day. Think about it – that's not cool. The people with whom you negotiate price and talk about your ideas and dreams and demands, frankly, are who you want orchestrating the set-up of your wedding.

And finally, with the all-inclusive package offered at Venue B, I find myself browsing wedding site "to do" lists and crossing things off with ease that will be handled by their wedding specialists.

Venue B? Holiday Inn Harrisburg West (Mechanicsburg).

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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