A great restaurant can feel like a second home. Did you have a stellar first date at the cozy restaurant around the corner? Do you celebrate date night regularly at your favorite dinner destination? Did you find an engagement ring in your dessert at the nicest place in town? Whatever role a particularly good restaurant plays in your love story, keep it in mind when you're choosing your reception venue. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach; it's also the way to your guests' enjoyment!
Go with What You Know
When you use a restaurant as a wedding venue, you don't have to worry about hiring a caterer. You don't have to waste time with tastings and appointments–you already know and love the chef! Choose a restaurant whose menu you know backward and forward; one where you've always had a good meal. You'll encounter enough surprises when you see what your sister thinks is an appropriate dress, or when you hear your father-in-law's speech. A wedding isn't a time to explore uncharted food territory, too.
Provide Something for Everyone
You may adore salmon sashimi to the exclusion of all else, but make sure there are other options on the menu. When choosing cuisines like sushi, Indian food, or other niche specialties, variety is essential. Choose a restaurant that can serve a wide range of offerings; for example, many types of restaurants can provide bland rice or noodle dishes, grilled chicken breasts, and garden salads in addition to their normal cuisine. That way, even your least adventurous guests can find something they like to eat.
The good news is that most mid- to large-sized restaurants already offer options for picky eaters; after all, they want to appeal to a wide audience as much as you do!
Love the Decorations
You know you love the food at your regular dinner spot, but do you also love the décor? Using a restaurant as a reception venue means loving its decorations enough to have them as the background of every single photo. Eccentric venues are no problem as long as you love them. Many couples deliberately choose the busy walls of a pizza joint over the generic look of a standard banquet room.
If you love most of the decorations, but not all, you can still work with the venue. Ask the management whether they are open to you rearranging things slightly–as long as you promise to put it all back. Maybe the room would be perfect if you could just take down the moose head that stares at the main table. Maybe the wagon wheels and other "old timey" decorations just need to be spruced up with some Christmas lights and tulle. Throw a few vases of flowers and candles around the tables, and the venue will look ready for a wedding party in no time.
Rent the Right Space
Match the size of your wedding to the size of your venue. If you want a private space, but you don't plan on inviting a large number of guests, look for smaller restaurants. That way, you can rent out the entire space without feeling like your party is being swallowed by a large, empty room.
Love the restaurant but don't want to blow your budget for a buyout? Many large restaurants have designated rooms for parties where you can get a sense of privacy without an exorbitant price tag.
Make sure the area you rent is large enough to suit your party. Not only should it fit your expected number of guests, but it should also allow for a dance floor, live band or DJ, guest book table, and other wedding stations.
Get a Good Deal
If you have a budget and a few criteria in mind, you can shop around until you find a restaurant that fits your financial needs. However, even if you have a particular restaurant in mind, you can still sometimes finesse the rental price. Ask the management if there are any days or times of day that are usually slow for business. Renting the venue during those times could end up being profitable for the restaurant even at a discount for you.
As wedding reception venues go, restaurants offer an all-in-one solution without having a mass-produced "wedding venue" feel. You're unlikely to book the venue on a night another couple is getting married, and you know you can count on stellar food. Don't forget to toast to the classic quote: "Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all."