Wouldn't it be great if you could just show up to your own wedding and have everything ready and waiting for you? While reality is rarely as simple as our fantasies would like it to be, in this instance it comes pretty close. Booking a hotel as a wedding venue frees you for other activities in the months before your wedding. Instead of playing diplomat between the photographer and the videographer, or wondering how you'll ever find matching silverware for 250 guests, you can sit back and contemplate the real important questions–like whether you prefer French vanilla or white chocolate cake icing.

Hotels offer complete convenience. You can hold your ceremony in a picturesque spot (just ask where previous weddings have taken place), then gather for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres on a poolside patio. By the time your ballroom reception is slated to begin, your guests will be relaxed and ready for celebration–not frazzled from fighting traffic across town. Plus, you can serve your guests drinks without worry. No one will be driving home when the rooms are just upstairs. Go ahead and dance, toast, and enjoy the experience of being newly married. When it's time to leave you can just pick up and go; someone else will do the cleaning.

Once you've reserved your date with the hotel, you can relax and enjoy being a pampered guest at your own wedding. Before booking a hotel venue, however, there are some extremely important questions to ask. The more homework you do on the front end, the better suited your venue will be to the requirements of your wedding. Always be sure to ask if there are other weddings planned for the same day as yours, or whether the hotel plans to accept other couples after your date is booked. Even if you are booking two completely different parts of the hotel, the guests from both weddings will still enter through the same front doors. This can cause confusion during receiving lines and a general sense of not having enough privacy. Plus, you could get your photo albums back only to find that your photographer was busy snapping shots of other people's relatives.

Once you've established that your wedding will be the hotel's main event, it's time to ask more detailed questions. Since you'll be using the hotel as a one-stop shop, it's a given that you'll be housing the majority of your out-of-town guests there as well. If you're expecting a large number of guests, ask whether the hotel can offer you a discounted room rate. Many hotels are happy to offer incentives for large parties, and a discounted rate is a nice present to be able to give your guests. Some hotels also offer free shuttle service to and from nearby airports. Go ahead and ask about discount options for reserving the honeymoon suite, as well.

Ask about in-house staff options. Hotels that are used to hosting special events often have in-house event planners, florists, caterers, lighting crew, and even wedding officiants. You are assured of having well-trained, professional wedding vendors for your big day. Vendors who have experience working with your specific venue are able to do things quickly and easily without unwelcome surprises. Vendors who are used to working with each other can avoid planning conflicting schedules, too(this sentence almost confuses me, and I’m wondering if ‘planning’ shouldn’t be removed). One thing to note, however, is that you may not have options besides the in-house event staff. Some hotels require you to sign a contract promising to use their vendors exclusively.

Like any location option, hotel venues do come with some drawbacks. Their all-inclusive convenience comes at a higher price tag than a DIY-style "shabby chic" wedding, for example. The package deals that large hotels offer are often extremely rigid. You won't be able to mix and match your favorite parts of multiple packages and you may end up paying for parts you don't need. However, you don't have to settle for a bad fit. If one hotel can't offer you a package that suits your needs, shop around to a few more hotels and you'll find one that does.

Before signing a contract, make sure you understand exactly what you will be purchasing. Some hotels charge extra "cutting fees" for weddings that want to bring in outside wedding cakes, for example. Ask whether you will be charged if your reception runs late. Ask if there are extra charges for valet service, cleaning staff, serving staff, or party rentals like chair covers and serving dishes. Ask if you'll need to reserve each section of the location separately, or if your guests are allowed to gather in any public area without incurring extra rental fees.

Once you're satisfied with the terms of the contract, sit back and congratulate yourself. You've just taken care of your wedding venue and wedding planner in one! Now you can show up like an honored guest at your own wedding and experience the special treatment you deserve on your big day.

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