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Wedding Reception Venue's Hidden Costs

Updated: May 27, 2021

You are all excited!  Finally, you and your fiancée got an appointment to tour your “dream” reception site this evening!  You have always envisioned your wedding reception at this prime location since you were little.  You did your homework and called ahead and asked about pricing.  You found out that it is twenty-five dollars a plate and fits your budget! However, did you ask about the extra costs? Yes, extra costs!  Sometimes these extra costs will make your budget go into the red! Here are some questions to assist you, when booking your reception site and/or caterer!

· First things first! 

You have to complete your homework, before proceeding to your meeting with the Banquet Manager or Catering Sales Manager. First, what is the date of your wedding?  The venue might not have this day available!  If you have your heart set on this location, come ready with several dates.  Remember - - - remain flexible!  Next, how many people are you inviting? Your group might be too big or small for their facility.  Also, you will need this number, so your coordinator can write up a quote for you!  Yes, get a quote!  This will give you a realistic idea on how much your catering and site will cost you! If you are unable to answer these two questions, stop!  You will be wasting everyone’s time! 

· Is there a room charge? 

Some facilities will charge you a room charge as well as a per plate charge.  If you have seen advertisements mentioning that the site doesn’t have a “room charge” and you are having a small wedding reception, still ask!  Some locations will add a room charge on small wedding receptions to make up the difference on their losses. Have your heart set on the ballroom?  When you put down your deposit, ask if you will have that particular room.  Some venues will move you into a different room, if your guest final count is less or greater than the amount for “that” room.  Ask up front!  I don’t want you to be disappointed because you found out that you will be in the “garden room” instead of the “ballroom,” a day before your wedding!

· What’s a service fee? 

Simply, the service fee is either administration fees and/or staff tips.  Typically, event locations will charge you an additional 18% to 22% service fee of your total bill.  It will make a difference on the bottom line!

· Include state tax

If you live in the United States, most states require a state tax to be charged on top of the total bill. Go to to find out your state tax.  Ask your coordinator if specialty items are taxed, for example, the dance floor set up fee.  In most cases, it’s not!  However, it doesn’t hurt to ask! 

· Additional Costs

Is there a dance floor or stage set up fee?  Most venues will charge you an additional fee to set up a dance floor, stage, or a specialty item.  Some might charge for a PA system, electronic equipment, projection screens, etc.  These fees are to cover labor costs, maintenance, or rental fees. Are you serving cake to your guests? Some venues charge you a cake cutting fee. Typically, $3.00-$7.00 per person. This fee allows you to bring in your own cake. However, the additional fee covers for liability if anyone were to get sick.

· Want to upgrade your linen, entrees, cake, and alcohol? 

There will be additional costs!  Don’t get talked into upgrading, if it doesn’t fit your budget.  Always ask up front what is included in their basic package and then ask for an upgraded price list.  That way “you” can pick and choose to fit your wedding budget!

· Are you having food stations or a meat cutting station? 

There is a carving fee or culinary staff fee!  The carving fee is an additional fee to pay for a chef to stand at the carving station, carve meat, and/or serve your guests.  Ask for all additional costs on carving stations, buffets, and food stations. 

· Want to have a private bar? 

There are bar minimums, bar set up fees, and service fees.  Ask about pricing on the type of alcohol served, for example, premium alcohol is more expensive then well drinks.  Also, ask about the costs on a “no hosted bar” versus a “hosted bar!”  Finally, if you are using a caterer, ask if they have a permit to serve alcohol.  When it comes to purchasing the alcohol permit, you might be picking up on the tab!

. Are there fees for guest parking? 

Is there enough parking for your guests?  Do you need valet parking?  Who is paying for parking?  These questions need to be addressed with your coordinator.  Otherwise, your reception will be a nightmare from the very start!

I know you are excited about planning your wedding reception. Who wouldn’t be? However, with a little homework and armed with the right questions, you won’t be highly disappointed or unpleasantly surprised! Good luck!

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