What you need to know about choosing a wedding reception venue

Let’s talk about reception halls, and whether they are just that—a reception hall and catering business—or if they are a one-stop-shop that provides all the other vendors needed for a wedding as well.

It wasn’t that long ago that a typical wedding service meant wedding receptions and weddings were held in halls that provided catering and a beautiful setting. In my 40 years as a professional mobile Disc Jockey, I’ve performed more often at reception halls that provided the location, meals and sometimes even the wedding cake.

In the past 10 or 15 years, some reception halls have moved away from catering the wedding altogether, and simply serve as the location for the ceremony and/or reception. Many of the halls in my area in northeast Ohio have taken this approach and no longer provide what was once a venue staple: great meals for the big day. Instead of including catering on-site, these venues are brokering (all-in-one) packages.

These packages include offsite caterers, photographers, DJs, florists, officiants, videographers—and just about anything else you could want for your special day.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have the time to research and shop for each individual vendor for your wedding day, then this may be a viable option for you! After all, there is a lot of planning that goes into a wedding and reception, and wedding packages like these can help eliminate some of that stress.

But is it always as simple as that? Let’s look at a couple of things:

The cost of a wedding package deal

How about price? Is it going to be less expensive to opt for a venue’s wedding package deal? I would say from my experience… probably not. Don’t forget that first and foremost you are paying for convenience.

I recently spoke with two different clients who were having their receptions at the same location here in Ohio. Both couples took the “package price,” opting to have the wedding coordinator or venue take care of all of the other vendors for their event.

If you look at one element of that package deal, say, the price of a DJ since that’s my area of expertise, there are a few things to look out for.

What if you decided you wanted to book your own DJ instead of the one provided through the package deal? How much could you save if you removed this from the package? In our example, the answer the couple got was a little surprising. The venue wedding coordinator was willing to deduct $900 off the package price! Wow! Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Not so fast!

In this case, if the couple chose to use an outside DJ (AKA not one of the venue’s preferred DJs), the coordinator said there would be a surcharge of $3 per guest!

So, the bottom line is even if I charged $900 for my services for this couple, the venue was going to add an up-charge per person, which wipes out the savings entirely and actually makes it more expensive to choose your own DJ outside of the package offer.

Essentially, if you book one of these venues who sub-contract the vendors, forget about bringing in your own professional. Even though you may find or use someone better qualified than the preferred vendor, by the time you pay the surcharge the venue imposes you’ve obviously spent more money.

Personally, I really don’t understand why the coordinator/wedding venue feels the need to charge or penalize the client if they decide to pick an alternate vendor. It really doesn’t make sense from my point of view, but I can see how it can become very lucrative very quickly doing things this way. And it’s a shame because these surcharges imposed by the venue then make my affordable DJ services unaffordable.

Liability: if something goes wrong, who is responsible in a package wedding deal?

What about liability? We never want to think about something going wrong on our big day, but unfortunately sometimes things happen. And it’s very possible that a number of things could go wrong if you trust the venue with their preferred vendors instead of vetting and choosing your own.

Let’s say you chose a package deal offered by your venue, and the preferred caterer supplied by the venue messes up the meal.

Your first thought is probably, “it was the caterer’s fault, so I will talk to the caterer.” Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to work, as the caterer is very likely to pass the buck and say, “talk to your wedding coordinator at the venue.” After all, it was the coordinator who booked and managed the caterer not you, and in a package deal, it all stems back to the coordinator (or the venue that provided the package).

Now what? Well, it’ll be a little complicated. If you wanted to pursue a solution (AKA monetary compensation), there are multiple individuals to contend with: the caterer, the venue and coordinator.

Of course one can say the same could happen if you found your own vendors. The difference is it’s only you and the individual professional at this point if you had a problem, rather than having to deal with multiple parties.

This isn’t to say that a package deal can’t be exactly what you’re after. But you should certainly consider all of the angles, from price point to liability, and make sure you ask questions before signing onto a package wedding deal to ensure you understand what it means and how it will shape your wedding.

Personally, I’m not a fan of these all-for-one venues, but I have a vested interest in my field not to be shut out. And if this kind of offer works for you, then great!

Or, if you’re like me and want to choose your own vendors for your once-in-a-lifetime wedding, be sure to find a venue that not only welcomes this, but doesn’t charge you extra to do so!

And if you’re looking for a best in class DJ, please consider me for your special event!

Doctor D
Disc Jockey

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