Photo from Four Seasons
Hotels are one of the more popular spots to host a wedding reception and with good reason – they make it pretty easy for everyone involved. Guests can stay right there (especially important for out of town guests or if you’re having a destination wedding). Hotels are equipped to handle events and the larger ones do so on an almost daily basis so they (should) have it down to an exacting science. Chairs, tables, basic linens, glassware, waiters – they are usually part and parcel.
Do be prepared for some additional charges, such as chair cover rentals, upgrades on linens and dinnerware. If you’re planning a long reception, be prepared to pay overtime charges for waiters and bar staff. And some hotels may charge a site fee as well.
Some hotels may allow you to bring in your own alcohol and charge you a corkage fee for doing so (remember that the bar is where hotels and restaurants make the bulk of their money). This can be a great way to save money (Liquor Warehouse, here we come!) but the drawback is you may run out of booze (and then will have to pay the hotel to provide drinks) or you may end up with a lot of bottles left over (be sure you can return unopened bottles to the store or else you’re going to be holding a lot of parties in the upcoming year).
And I cannot think of any hotel that will allow you to bring in another caterer or chef (there may be some out there but generally, no). So that means you’re going to have to work with the hotel’s menu and food. Larger hotels will likely offer you a tasting beforehand and do take advantage of it so you don’t have any surprises.
Where you may run into paying more than in another location may be on the food and drink as well as on decoration. Most hotel ballrooms look the same – ugly carpets (why can’t they put in something neutral?), chandeliers, hideous banquet chairs (you know the ones – all pleather and chrome) and basic lighting. Oh and usually an incredibly high ceiling. Which all adds up to creative decor in order to turn ‘the box’ into a wedding-worthy site. Which means you could end up spending more money on decor than at another location.
Photo from Omni Hotels
A good lighting designer can transform a large space and make it look like you spent a lot more on decoration than you did. Plus they can alter the atmosphere and mood over the course of the event by subtly changing the color of lights. Their price may look high at first glance but if you start comparing how much you can save on other aspects of decorating, I think you’ll find it’s a bargain.
Other frugal ways to get more bang from you buck with a big room…
swag fabric from the chandeliers – gives the room a more romantic look plus it makes the space feel more intimate as you’re breaking up the vast space from floor to ceiling
large tree branches with twinkle lights – place them around the perimeter of the room to create a pretty, romantic look that brings the outdoors in
alternating heights of centrepieces – in a big space, a low centrepiece in the middle of a round top will get a bit lost. But having all tall flower arrangements can break the bank. My suggestion is to alternate low and tall. You’ll still get the effect of having lush, tall arrangements (which help minimize the space) but interspersing them with low arrangements, with a lower price tag, will keep your budget on track
Photo from Regal Hotel
Another advantage of a hotel wedding is having the ceremony and reception at the same location. If the hotel has a nice pool or gardens, you can keep everything contained and can save money on transportation. Or you may want to hold the ceremony in one ballroom and the reception in the other. Another idea is to ‘flip’ the room, from ceremony to reception, while guests are enjoying the cocktail hour in another part of the hotel. This is a labor intensive task, however, and requires a great deal of planning and attention to detail so you’ll need a top-notch team to pull it off – and likely not the best choice for a frugal bride.