By Rob Alberti
It’s time to look for a banquet facility. Most clients end up deciding on a particular banquet facility for two specific reasons — they like how they were treated by the banquet sales staff and they fall in love with the facility when they walk through the doors. Those are both great reasons for going with specific venues, but here are some other things to consider when shopping for a banquet facility that may have drastic impact on the success or failure of your wedding.
The bar should be in the same room as dancing. Having a separate bar area will only lead to splitting your guests into separate areas and that is never good. If the banquet facility has more than one event running at the same time — how is the sound proofing between rooms? What type of event is in the next room to your wedding? A 50th anniversary or another wedding is ok, but if it’s a high school prom, you may want to rethink your choice. If you are having a DJ and the next room has a band, that also should be taken into consideration.
Your wedding cake should be located in an appropriate area in the room — it should not be set in front of mirrors (photographers have a hard time with that) and it should be accessible, but not in a place that can easily be bumped by one of the children as they run around your reception. Of course, when it comes time for cake cutting if the banquet facility can roll the cake to the center of the dance floor — that’s even better. Everyone can see, and the cake can be quickly removed afterwards.
A well trained banquet staff will take care of certain details for you — they will be there to guide your wedding party during introductions. Someone will be assigned to take your flowers from you and the wedding party after you are introduced. For introductions, there should be a clear (and straight) path wide enough for two people to walk arm in arm to the dance floor and to the head table. If you visit a banquet facility — you should look at the layout and see if you and your partner can walk together through the tables and onto the dance floor. You should imagine the room filled with guests and people standing around each table and chairs pulled back from the tables as they will be during your entrance.
Typically, a well run facility will assign server(s) to the head table and possibly the family tables and they will be your contact person throughout your reception. Ask if that head server will be in the room the entire night or if they will be leaving after dinner.
Another thing to look at is where your entertainment will be setting up. Is it near the dance floor? Where will their speakers go? Many banquet facilities do not leave enough room for a typical DJ to setup in. Many even expect the DJ to setup their speakers so that they have to project music across a couple tables worth of guests (your grandparents won’t like that as that is typically the grandparents table). If you have a large number of people in your wedding party, you might want to tier the head table to allow for more access to the dance floor for your DJ and their sound gear. Stand where the DJ will be setup. Can they see the cake? Can they see where you will be introduced from and the head table for introductions? It is best if your entertainment is setup along one edge or at the corner of the dance floor (not 20 feet back from the dance floor).
How fast is the meal service? There are too many facilities that are slow at serving the meal. Your 7-12 wedding will get less than 2 hours worth of dancing. Ask your DJ about the speed of service. Yes, you do not want to rush your guests eating, but you also do not want to make them wait 30 minutes between each course either. If your guests are just getting desert at 10:30 pm, the chances of having a great time dancing becomes very difficult. With only an hour and a half of dancing, you might get 30 songs to dance to.