I don't think you choose to have a restaurant wedding as much as a restaurant wedding chooses you. You have to be a laid-back couple who are after a relaxed affair. The type of wedding planners where "great food" is the most important item on the list of what you want for your big day, and second is "not really having to decorate." If that sounds like you, there are some big pros to hosting your wedding reception at one of your city's finest eateries.
Chief among the list of advantages: The decor. Restaurants are, for the most part, already beautifully decorated. They come stocked with tables and chairs and a whole host of things you don't have to pay to rent. (Should you be really lucky, there might also be a gorgeous patio, like in the Brooklyn wedding at Aurora Ristorante above from Style Me Pretty and Kamila Harris Photography.)
If you think that the ready-to-wear nature of a restaurant wedding means they're impersonal or boring, you'd be dead wrong. Just take a look at these fifteen wonderful events:
The complete guide to modern weddings.
How to Plan a Restaurant Wedding
Sold on the idea? Planning a wedding where the venue is a living, breathing restaurant does pose its own unique set of challenges. Luckily, there are brides who've been there before, like Rachel Wilkerson Miller.
Rachel, a wedding writer and Senior Lifestyle Editor at BuzzFeed, married her husband in 2014 in a sweet courthouse ceremony followed by a brunch reception at Austin BBQ eatery Lamberts. That's her wedding above. (And you can check out more photos of the day on A Practical Wedding.)
As you can imagine, she has lots of great advice for anyone who's considering a restaurant wedding like hers. Here's what she shared with Apartment Therapy:
- If great photos are important to you, make sure you find a restaurant that fits your aesthetic and has good lighting. A lot of the spaces we looked at were really dated, or they had their party rooms in the basement, so the ceilings were low and the lighting wasn't great. We were having a morning wedding, so I didn't want to waste all that beautiful natural light by choosing a venue without any windows. It took a little more effort to find but the place we ended up choosing had really high ceilings and tons of windows, which looked great in real life and in our photos.
- The more charming the restaurant is to begin with, the less you have to spend on flowers, decor, etc. The restaurant we chose had little flower vases on each table already, so we didn't bother with flowers. It was just already so cute that we didn't feel like we needed to spend much to make it feel festive and wedding-y. So keep an eye out for places that already have things like twinkle lights, flowers, cute chalkboard signs where they put their menu, etc.
- If you've narrowed it down to a few places, do a Google search for them and add the words "wedding blog" to see professional photos of weddings in the space. So many restaurants have terribly outdated websites and it's hard to envision how your wedding will actually look in the space. So search "[restaurant name] [city] wedding blog." It might not turn anything up, but it's worth a shot. If you haven't narrowed down your list yet, try the same trick but do something like "dinner restaurant reception [city name] wedding blog" to get a list of ideas. That's how I found the restaurant we ended up using.
- When pricing out places, don't forget about mandatory tips, fees, and taxes! This is generally good wedding advice, but is something we forgot to do with regard to the venue. If a place has an $8,000 food and beverage minimum but also adds 15% gratuity automatically, it really has a $9,200 minimum.
- Consider buying out the entire place for your event. It's more expensive, but if you do the math, you might find that it's not that much more expensive (especially when you break it down on a per-person level), and the privacy could well be worth it. We debated it and ended up doing a full buyout and I'm really glad we did. I wouldn't have felt as comfortable with other people there, and having the entire place to ourselves added to the specialness of the day.
- If you have a strong sense of what you want, it's probably best to work with a restaurant that has done a fair amount of events and has a dedicated coordinator with an understanding of modern wedding etiquette. Our on-site coordinator was fantastic and her team was so good; we just knew we were in great hands. (At the end of our day, we came in $50 under our minimum so the staff added a nice bottle of wine to our tab and sent it home with a bridesmaid for us. We drank it on our first anniversary!)
- If you're going with a restaurant that hasn't done a lot of weddings, or perhaps hasn't done a lot of weddings in the age of Pinterest and Instagram, you just may need to plan to spend more time communicating with them about exactly what you want.
- If you're getting married in a BBQ joint, know that buttercream frosting can absorb that smoke and it can affect the flavor. I recognize that this is deeply specific advice, but it was something our baker caught and recommended we do fondant for our main cake. (Which was fine, it was delicious.) But a friend was making us single-tier buttercream cakes as a gift, and so we had to track down domed cake stands a few weeks before the wedding. The point is, sometimes restaurants can have unintended consequences that you would never expect so make sure your other vendors know where your reception is going to be in the early planning stages.
Were you married at a restaurant? Have any advice to share?
(Image credits: Kamila Harris; Jessica Schmitt; Redfield Photography; A Brit & A Blonde; Chrissy Cassano-Meyer; Dove + Sparrow; Miss Gen; Kristin Sweeting; Cassidy Parker Smith; Pat Furey; Artistrie Co.; Jana Williams for Wedding Paper Divas; Kym Ventola; Two Bird Studio; Haley Sheffield; Katherine O'Brien; Katherine O'Brien)