(Writer’s note: This list applies mostly for hotel venues. We’ll have our list on alternative venues soon.)
Apart from settling on a budget, any great wedding journey starts with deciding on your choice of venue/s.
We aren’t going to lie, the process of going for wedding showcases and meeting hotel co-ordinators can get pretty tedious. What would make the process less painful is knowing what you’d want in a wedding venue.
Here’s a general (but still rather extensive) list of things that couples take into consideration when paying sites visits.
1. Ballroom configuration
While the general atmosphere and environment of the entire hotel should also be taken into consideration, how a ballroom looks will probably figure most importantly to you.
- Shape of the ballroom
Most couples prefer a square or wide rectangular ballroom as that would lend an air of expansiveness and openness to the venue.
Guests would be able to have clear views of the stage and march-in. Your table arrangements would be more evenly distributed, preventing your guests from feeling left-out.
A ballroom that’s too long and narrow might feel claustrophobic and the walkways will probably be too cramped as well.
Odd-shaped ballrooms are actually fine if they do not affect the centrality of your stage and walkway for your march-in.
- Stage size and placement
You might be surprised how important this turns out to be.
If you’re planning for a traditional banquet program that includes cake-cutting, champagne pouring and yum seng toasts, it is better for you and your guests if your stage can be clearly seen.
There are ballrooms with pillars blocking the stage and it’s unlikely any guest would appreciate that.
Also, if you have a large family, having a stage that’s too small would not be ideal for your toasts.
- Table arrangements
Whether the tables are placed too closely together, or that there isn’t a choice of long tables, only round ones; we’d recommend seeing how the actual day arrangement would look like - instead of basing what you seeing during the wedding show.
Most of the time, the wedding show would only have enough tables to display their themes and decor so you should request to see the ballroom again when it’s being prepped for another wedding if you’re concerned about this.
- Your walkway
Not every couple minds this. The common walkway configurations are either right down the middle or L-shaped. There are some venues with walkways by the side, and for obvious reasons, aren’t preferred.
An L-shaped walkway is fine for most parts, especially if your ballroom is on the longer side. Most couples would look for a walkway that’s down the middle and leads directly to the stage.
2. Ceiling height – does a short ceiling bother you?
Some are unfazed, while for others it is right up there as number one of their list.
It comes down to whether you’re looking to have a grand ballroom banquet or a cosy and intimate lunch or dinner.
The higher the ceiling, the grander the atmosphere. But if grandiosity isn’t what you want, then a short ceiling would actually lend a cosier atmosphere to your celebration.
3. The case of pillars
This is pretty much clear-cut; pillars are a bother. Pillar-less venues are sought after and unless you have a small number of tables, trying to work around pillars is an uphill task.
However, there are couples who are unperturbed about this, and again, it comes down to what you deem as important.
In any room, lighting sets the mood and ambience. Luckily (or unluckily) for us, there are a myriad of light choices across hotel venues.
From pretty chandelier lighting to a naturally lit ballroom, to multi-coloured and flashy fluorescent light driven by the latest in LED technology – it comes down to the theme and mood of your wedding.
5. Food and service
They should be decent, of course.
Between couples, food served at your banquet can either rank highly or be somewhere in the middle.
From our experience of wedding reviews, we’d say that food plays a huge role in how much your guests would enjoy the wedding.
If you find yourself in a dilemma between choosing a venue with better location and ballroom and a venue that serves irresistibly good food, we would say go for the one with the better food. Or simply pick a venue that does well enough in both aspects.
The cuisine served is another important aspect, especially if your parents and older relatives have strong preferences.
The service received will play a big role in your happiness as well; from the wedding coordinator to the banquet manager and service staff.
A good wedding coordinator and banquet manager will go a long way in making your wedding planning journey a smooth one.
Read up online for reviews by other couples who’ve had their wedding at your short-listed venue and ask friends or relatives who’ve attended the banquets.
6. Number of tables – does the min. or max number of tables suit your needs
This is pretty much self-explanatory. Do yourself a favour and get a venue that fits most closely your number of tables. Signing a venue that’s too small or too big will be a headache either way. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Some hotels are more flexible in negotiating their minimum and maximum of tables so that’s worth a shot – especially if the venue is perfect in all other aspects.
7. Reception area – exclusive or shared
Again, it’s how important this ranks on your list.
Best case scenarios usually means an exclusive reception foyer that is spacious and set apart from the main lobby of the hotel.
Some ballrooms do not come with an exclusive area. It could be a shared space along a corridor or a large reception area that caters to more than one ballroom, which means the feeling of exclusivity isn’t as strong.
8. Wedding perks
In general, couples prefer free flow beer and wine (for 3 to 4 hours), cash rebates, wedding invites, a certain percentage of complimentary parking coupons, complimentary wedding favours, free nights stay in the bridal suite and helpers’room (if there are any) etc.
Your perks can be negotiated, and flexibility in changing your perks differs from hotel to hotel.
9. Sufficient parking lots and accessible location
For the convenience of your guests, having sufficient parking lots and accessibility of the location should be something you look out for as well.
We won’t say that hotels in town are necessarily the most accessible. If you know most of your family and relatives are coming from the West, then having your wedding in the same area would be more convenient.
Parking lots are a different thing altogether. Check with the hotel if they have the parking lot capacity to cater to at least 20 to 30% of your guests.
10. Solemnisation venue and package
Indoors, outdoors, on-stage, or private – just like the number of venues for your banquet or reception, similarly there are options to consider when it comes to your ROM/solemnisation/tea ceremony room.
Hotels either include the room as part of the package, or require a top-up. Some hotels do not have a separate room for your solemnisation, and you may have to do it on the stage of your ballroom.
11. Lastly, always, always only spend within your means. Don't pick a venue that is out of your means and hope that your guests would make up for your cost.