This is a sponsored article for our friends at Center Stage. If you are planning a wedding or banquet, you don’t want to do so without comparing their food, prices, and extras to everywhere else!

This is the second installment of Wedding Planning with Anne Becker, the Wedding and Banquet Manager at Center Stage. In the first article, we looked at how to budget for a wedding in Beaver County.

In the ‘old days,’ it used to be so easy to get married. There was one place in town where everyone went for their wedding reception and all you had to do was pick the date and get it done.

But now, the choices are endless. But don’t fear! Anne’s checklist for choosing the best venue for your dream wedding will hit all the critical points needed for your big day!

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1. The Guest List

This requires a lot of input from the parents too, but it is critical to decide if you need a venue for 75, 200, or 400 people. This list can be shortened to accommodate your venue of choice. But usually, the list does nothing but get bigger as you add co-workers, friends, and people you forgot on the first try. You can initially search the Internet to see if a venue can hold the amount of people you’re inviting. Most venues exaggerate the amount of people they hold so take 25 seats off of the maximum amount they say they can accommodate. Sure, they can fit 250 people but your guests will be sitting on top of each other, so don’t cut it too close because it could be a problem down the road!  

2. Consider the Season

If you are dead set on an outdoor ceremony and reception and live in Beaver County, your window for that type of wedding is May through October. The biggest factor in season is: Is there proper air-conditioning and heating for the time of year where you are having your reception? This is critical to a beautiful day. I once went to my college roommates wedding in July in Altoona, and it was 95 degrees that day. We were upstairs in a reception hall with NO air conditioning (which means it was 100 degrees up there) . Needless to say no matter how good the food was, or how much fun the DJ was, no one remembers anything except how unbelievably hot we were! 2015-04-018 Wedding Reception066  

3. Full-Service vs. Non-Full Service Venue

Full service banquet facilities provide it all for you – food, beverages, tables, chairs, linens, and staffing. They make the entire thing happen. If you want to enjoy your big day and not be bothered by any detail except what cookie to eat, a full service venue is the way to go. Full service venues do lots of weddings every year for a reason – they make it easy for the bride, groom, and family to sit back, relax, and enjoy their special day. Some venues, like Center Stage, even provide the DJ, cookie displays, and fabulous lighting, which really takes added pressure off the bride. A non-full service venue can just be a room somewhere, an outdoor site, or even a barn that you would have to hire someone to bring in everything from the food, to tables and chairs, to decorations, and even in some cases Port-a-Potties. If you are an ultimate DIY person and love the planning and organizing of a large event, then this will work for you. If you have your heart set on a location such as a barn on a farm but don’t know the first thing about throwing a large party, then hire someone who does or you will be sleepless, exhausted, and cranky on your wedding day as details and problems that you haven’t planned for continually keep coming up. Also, find out if you have to use only approved vendors for a non-full service venue. Many times the venue only wants you to use someone from their approved list of vendors.

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4. Visit the Venues and Ask Questions

Ask some (or all!) of the following questions and like I mentioned before – get them in writing!

  • Is My Date available?
  • What is in included? Are there any other charges?
  • What is the deposit? When is remaining balance due? What form of payment do you accept?
  • What are the decorating rules?
  • Can we use outside vendors for chair covers or lighting?
  • When can we decorate? What are the hours we get the venue?
  • Can we taste the food?
  • What is the cancelation Policy?
  • Is there a discount for booking in off months? Or on a Friday or Sunday?

Make your own list and add to this one. You will have questions that will be extra important to you. And if the wedding manager is too busy or put off by your inquiries, then that is a big indicator that the venue is not the place for you.

Visit the venue at the time you are planning your reception. If you’re getting married on a Saturday, see the venue on Saturday as close to the time of day you are planning your event. This will give you a real feel for how it will be on your day and you will see if everything is what you expected.

Bring your decision makers with you. Getting input from others (specifically whoever is footing the bill) will be extremely helpful.

2015-04-018 Wedding Reception060

5. Talk to Others Who Have Had Receptions or Events at the Facility You Are Considering

This is your best resource possible to see if the things that were promised to them were delivered upon. Was the food good? How was the service? Was it clean and ready when promised? Were they happy? Would they recommend it to others?

The Internet is also a good place for reviews, but take them with a grain of salt because they can be biased and are not monitored in any way. In all cases, always do your homework, ask the right questions, and get advice and recommendations when picking the perfect venue for your big day.

Stay tuned for Anne’s next topic in the Wedding Planning Series: Brunch Weddings!

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Maura is a lifelong resident of Beaver County. She graduated from Center High School in 2009, and now lives in Patterson. When she isn’t marketing new technology or writing for YBC, she enjoys spending time with her family, horseback riding, and hanging out with her super cute Cavapoo, Derby. You can follow her on Twitter @mauramendo.