How to Choose the Best Wedding Reception Location in San Diego

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when planning your wedding is the location of the wedding reception. There are many things to consider when choosing the locale. Those who want a wedding during a peak time of year and on a weekend or have a very specific date in mind may find that they need to reserve their location more than a year in advance. San Diego is an amazing place to have a wedding because the weather is usually quite lovely year round and it offers beaches, parks, mansions, ships and even a zoo that hosts weddings. I will share some of my favorite wedding venues in San Diego and tips for choosing a wedding venue.

Finding the Perfect Location

There are countless options when it comes to locations to hold your wedding reception in San Diego because it’s one of the most scenic and beautiful locations on earth! Do you want to have a wedding close to the ocean or on top of a mountain?
Another aspect that is important to take into consideration is where you want to have the ceremony. Many hotels and resorts offer beautiful reception options as well as ceremony sites. If you want to have the ceremony at particular church or place of worship it would be convenient if the reception location was not too far away.

Some of the popular choices include:

  • Your home / backyard
  • Private estate
  • Hotel
  • Winery
  • Beach
  • Park or preserve gazebo
  • Restaurant
  • Sailboat
  • Theme park
  • Club house
  • Museum
  • Zoo

You can make almost any setting work for your reception if you put enough effort and planning into it. If you have to work on a small budget, your own home (or your parent’s home) can be a nice setting, especially if there is a large yard. You’ll be able to create the atmosphere you want and hold the venue costs down. Some locations are best suited to small groups while others are better for large parties. If possible, visit the location while another wedding is taking place. This will give you a good idea of how the venue can be set up and what it will look like when the event is taking place.

Here are some of my favorites wedding locations in San Diego:

1. The Prado at Balboa Park in the heart of Balboa Park and merges “the grace and splendor of yesterday with the traditions of today”.
2. Hotel Coronado provides a magical charm and colonial backdrop for your special day.
3. Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa has the perfect location on the shores of beautiful Mission Bay.
4. Rancho La Jolla a dreamy estate with stunning architecture and ocean views.
5. L’Auberge Del Mar offers beautiful architecture with a stylish interior and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

More Things to Consider

To get started make a list to determine how many people will be attending the event. The venue will need to accommodate the number of attendees. Add about 10% to your final count so you will be sure to cover a larger number of people. Of all the considerations, your budget is certainly one of the most important. Keep in mind that the entire reception, including the location, is typically about half of the entire wedding budget. If you want to save money on your wedding, the location is one place where you may be able to cut corners. A backyard wedding would be more cost effective than renting an expensive reception hall. Decide on the length of the reception before starting to shop for a venue. If you’re flexible on the day of the week and time of day, you may be able to get a better price on the location you prefer. Bear in mind that if you invite people from out of town, 20% to 30% may drop out because of obligations that won’t allow them to make the trip.

Wedding Reception Requirements

Next thing to think about is the vendors and services that are needed and how they are coordinated at the wedding reception. Either you’ll choose to coordinate these services yourself or have a wedding planner take charge. Some venues like hotels provide a more comprehensive package with cake and linens included, for example. Here is a list of a typical vendor list that will be at the reception site:

  • Catering
  • Bar
  • DJ and/or band
  • Wedding cake
  • Flowers
  • Centerpieces
  • Favors
  • Tables, linens
  • Tents
  • Lighting specialists
  • Perhaps a photo booth

Each one of these services requires plenty of thought and a proportionate amount of budget for each of them. Your budget will dictate how much you can spend on each category. If you’re trying to save money you may want to think about an afternoon or mid week reception, or serve appetizers rather than a full meal.

Matching the Location to Your Style and Personality

If you want to match the location of your reception to your own style as a couple as well as your own personalities, then talk with your partner about what you enjoy together. If you like the outdoors you may want to hold an outdoor wedding. Others may prefer a more traditional setting. Those who enjoy the beach will appreciate a beach wedding reception. Keep in mind the style of the wedding as you choose your location. A beach wedding, for example, is automatically an informal event while a reception held at a fancy hotel will be more formal. Your guest will see your wedding as a reflection of you as a couple. Most of all, the choice should be made based on what you like and not what is expected of you or what others may prefer.

Special Considerations for Outdoor Weddings

Outdoor weddings can be very special and beautiful but they also require some additional planning. No matter where the outdoor setting is, you’ll need to supply tables and chairs. These can be rented through a local company that will also set them up. You’ll also need to provide some tents. These are particularly important for handling unexpected weather changes. You’ll also need a backup plan, should the weather make it impossible to hold the event outdoors. Lighting is of special concern for outdoor weddings. Twinkle lights are always a nice option and create a pretty backdrop. Candles with votives are also a good addition to the tables for an outside reception. Other things to think about when holding an outdoor wedding include potential bug problems, convenient wash rooms, easy access, parking and temperature extremes.

Tips for Choosing a Reception Venue

  • If you’re having the reception outdoors, always make a backup plan in case of inclement weather. Too many brides have suffered because it rained on their backyard wedding. It’s best to set up a “plan b” should the need arise.
  • Make sure that the location is the right size for your reception. While you may want to hold your reception at a specific venue, it just may not be practical for your wedding. Some locations are too small and your guests won’t have enough room to mingle and dance. Other locations are too large and your guests will feel lost in an area that’s way too big.
  • Be sure to consider the clean-up of the reception location. Some locations will allow people to come back in the morning to clean up while others require that you clean everything up when you leave. Don’t plan on doing the clean-up yourself. Instead, delegate this function to a group of friends or relatives who can be trusted to ensure that the place is completely cleaned up.
  • Find out how much extra it will cost to extend the length of the party. Extending the time on the venue may be very costly. It’s better to negotiate for a longer length of time before you sign the contract.
  • If your venue will not have management on site it is a good idea to get a list of emergency phone numbers. Your reception is likely to be held on a weekend evening, when you may be unable to get in touch with people when you need them. At the very least, be sure to have the home and cell phone numbers of the manager, should the need arise.
  • Find out the particulars before making a commitment. Some venues allow only certain vendors, such as caterers, on their sites. Most locations will require a deposit – you might want to negotiate that you get at least a portion of the deposit back if the location turns out to be inadequate in some way.
  • Visit the location at the exact time of day that you’ll be using it. This will give you an idea of what it looks like and what the lighting will be like when your reception takes place. You’ll also be able to visualize where everything will be placed.
  • Make a map of the location so you can determine the setup ahead of time. This will allow you to make sure you have enough tables, chairs, and other items needed to create the perfect reception.
  • If parents or other relatives are paying for the wedding you’ll want to include them in the initial planning stages. Provide them with a list of your location choices and ask for their input.
  • If the location is providing dinner services you’ll want to taste the meal options before signing the contract. It is ideal to have several choices so that guests can have the meal they prefer.
  • Get permission before choosing a public location. Many parks and beaches require a special permit for the wedding day and you may need to get the permit 6 months to a year in advance.

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