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Planning Your LGBT Wedding Reception

Your vision for your same-sex wedding reception might be an intimate dinner for two after a legal elopement, or a grand ballroom fete complete with formal attire, dramatic décor, and live entertainment. Perhaps you envision something in between. Gay and lesbian wedding receptions take many forms. Understanding your personal priorities is the first step to smart and effective planning.

Finding LGBT-Friendly Professionals

When evaluating reception sites, note how venue management and employees welcome you during consultations, and during negotiations. Your wedding day is sacred, and you should be free from judgment and awkward situations. By the same token, your guests deserve respect. Choose a site that supports your relationship and welcomes the LGBTQ community. During your search, you can use the resources at GayWeddings.com to find gay- and lesbian-friendly wedding professionals.

When to Plan Your Same-Sex Wedding Reception

Many early wedding decisions happen somewhat simultaneously, in particular determining your wedding date, your ceremony venue, and your reception site. There is much to consider, including anticipated guest count, budget restrictions, and the geographic location of your celebration.

When planning your budget, note that “off-season” rates for reception site rentals may be lower than peak rates. Seasons vary based on your region, so asking around as you first start to interview professionals may offer you important insight into rate patterns for your town.

Some destination weddings and major markets require couples to book early to secure the most popular venues and best rates. Bookings begin as soon as 18-24 months in advance in some regions! Ironically, there are some popular venues that will not allow you to reserve services until closer to the wedding date. Is it feasible to wait for that 6-month mark before settling your details? Early exploration of available venues and policies will give you the best chances at securing your top choices.

Smaller weddings often require less lead-time. A city hall ceremony followed by a nice dinner can be planned in short order. Intimate receptions of slightly larger size can be planned with several weeks or a few months notice. The larger or more complicated your event becomes, however, the more planning time you need to allow.

Choosing Your Reception Venue: Ambiance, Catering, Capacity and Inclement Weather Plans

The old-school reception hall has long lapsed as the first-choice in wedding venues. Now same-sex couples have a world of options. Venues include elegant hotel ballrooms, historical sites, quirky community buildings, outdoor gardens, art galleries, and even train stations. Evaluate the convenience of an on-site caterer versus the budget flexibility of an off-site caterer when comparing your top venue choices. Pay attention, as well, to local regulations regarding sound, alcohol service, beginning and end times, rental delivery logistics, and even availability of parking.

In order to secure a venue that will accommodate your particular needs, establish your tentative guest list and compare it to minimum requirements and maximum capacity. Many sites have catering minimums that could be impractical if your budget is limited and your guest list is on the smaller side. Others have clear capacity restrictions. Generally, safety and the sanctity of the site will dictate capacity, and there are few options for compromise if your guest list suddenly swells. Ensure that you are practical when choosing your reception venue, and that you understand your restrictions and requirements before signing a contract.

As important as understanding how many your venue can accommodate on a perfect day is awareness of inclement weather plans. If you have chosen a beautiful fountain garden for your spring or summer reception, where will your guests go if it rains? If you are considering a tent as a backup plan, how much notice are you required to give the rental company or venue to approve or cancel the tent without penalty? There is nothing worse than fretting over implementing an inclement weather plan. When you choose your venue, choose one where you will be happy no matter what the weather outcome. No matter how wonderful your team is no one you hire can control the weather, so you absolutely must be prepared to accept alternate plans.

Logistics and Safety

Think like a guest when you are selecting your venues. How far will your friends and family have to travel from the ceremony site to the reception venue? Are most local? Is transportation easy to secure, or do you need to budget for and provide shuttles? If you will serve alcohol, what responsibility will you take for the safety of guests who overindulge? If you are planning a raging party with an open bar and a young, enthusiastic crowd, you might want to host your reception at a site that has accommodations or easy-to-access public transportation. Know your priorities as well as the personalities of your invited guests, and make your decisions with everyone’s comfort and safety in mind.

Plan the Party

Choosing a venue for your reception is just the first step. You will interview entertainers, attend menu tastings, choose your linens, décor and lighting, find favors that reflect your unique personalities, and even select a guest book or signature item worthy of display in your home for decades to come. Take a deep breath, rely on the professionals and advice you will find at GayWeddings.com, and enjoy the process of creating the perfect celebration of your same-sex marriage!