This week we bring you a blog written by Barbara Martin, Director of Catering Sales at Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza. Barbara’s experience helped her to write this wonderful outline about all the decisions any couple should consider while planning their wedding reception and selecting their wedding venue. With so many excellent wedding venues to choose from in Chicago this article gives some great advice on how to start narrowing down your choices.

Planning the wedding reception usually takes several months to over a year for some couples.  Starting the process can be overwhelming as there are so many options in Chicago to choose from.  Do we have our reception in a banquet hall, a hotel, a historic landmark?  Do we hire a catering company or does the wedding reception venue include everything? The options are almost endless.  However, every couple should have a budget and there are many creative ways to stay within your budget and still have the most beautiful wedding day!

Let’s take this step by step

First and foremost is to sit down and make a list of the most important family and friends that you can absolutely not have a grand celebration without them. This will give you a number of estimated guests to select a reception space.  Are you paying for the reception yourselves or are you lucky enough to have some financial support from your parents?  If your parents are helping you, then some of your decisions may need to run by them since they are footing the bill.  Everyone involved in the wedding planning needs to be clear of the ground rules.  This eliminates any misunderstandings or hurt feelings along the way which can be disastrous to the wedding planning and certainly take the fun out of it!

Now that you have an estimated list of guests and you know your budget, what type of a wedding reception do you visualize?  Do you want a formal sit down dinner; are you looking for a more casual event with food stations and bar package, a buffet option, or a late night heavy hors de oeuvre package?  Do you live in the suburbs and want to stay close to home or are you looking for a downtown Chicago event with the city atmosphere and if you are lucky enough to have a city view as well – how impressive!

Keep in mind that whatever wedding reception venue you select, you are basically planning a party with your closest family and friends. The process of planning a party with great food and music can be exciting if you keep it in perspective.

If you select a hotel for your wedding reception venue, then your guests can spend the night at the hotel and your reception actually may be a 3 day party — Rehearsal and dinner the night before, the wedding day and then meeting for breakfast in the morning.  This is a great way to celebrate if you have some out of town guests since you get to spend more time with them.

When visiting the wedding venues, have your questions ready before you get there. How many guests can be accommodated in the reception room? What are their policies regarding bringing in DJs, Bands, centerpieces and other decorations? Let the catering person who is showing you the venue explain the options they have to offer and ask if the options can be customized. Do they offer discounts for any certain months (January – March) or for Friday or Sunday receptions?  Are you willing to be flexible on your selected date and choose an off-season or discounted Friday reception to save some money?  Selecting these alternate dates can save quite a bit, not only on the reception site but photographers, bands and DJs as well.

For our Chicago weddings here at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza, our couples can customize the packages by deleting and interchanging items and this affects the pricing for additional savings.  We also include other items such as the wedding cake, champagne toast for all, complimentary hotel room for the bride/groom and their parents the night of the reception, and breakfast for the bride/groom and parents in the morning.

Since most brides and grooms are researching Chicago wedding venues on-line, check out wedding websites that offer feedback on venues you are interested in.  Is the reception site willing to give you access to some of their past clients so that you can directly communicate with them regarding their experience with the venue or the particular catering person who handles the wedding receptions?  You need to feel comfortable with the catering person that will be handling your event.  Are they easily accessible if you have questions along the way?  Do they respond quickly when you try to reach them?  Will they be there the day of your reception?  Do you feel that they really enjoy what they do?

Finally, before signing a contract with a wedding reception venue, make sure you understand clearly any stipulations regarding cancellation fees, payment schedules and what date details need to be finalized prior to the reception date.  Ask questions until you feel confident that you understand the process that you will go through to plan the reception.

Once the reception site is reserved, then all the other details fall into place!  Remember to have fun and select a site that makes you feel welcome and has a good vibe!

Happy Planning!!

Barbara Martin

Director of Catering Sales

Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza

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