How to Plan a Hotel Wedding Reception

Keep these expert-approved tips in mind to throw a successful celebration.

A hotel wedding reception layout.

Photo by 515 Photo Co.

There’s no question that choosing your venue is one of the most important wedding planning tasks on your list. Since your locale sets the tone for the day’s events, finding a spot that suits your vision, creates the right ambiance, and accommodates your guest list is essential. After you’ve exchanged vows, you’ll want to celebrate your newlywed status in a setting that allows you to gather your friends and family and bring your dream aesthetic to life—and a hotel can be the perfect place to do that.

Hotel wedding receptions are some of the most popular and convenient choices for a post-ceremony party. Whether you’re hosting a modern wedding in Los Angeles or you're planning a traditional affair hosted in Miami, hotels across the U.S. (and around the world!) are worthwhile venue options for any kind of couple. If you’re thinking about arranging your reception at a hotel, we turned to our Rolodex of industry experts to ask for their top tips to help you plan an unforgettable soirée in this location. Here’s everything you need to know to plan the perfect hotel wedding reception. 

Meet the Expert

  • Jung Lee is the co-founder of FÊTE, a full-service event planning and design production firm in New York City.
  • Danielle Ondarza Cipriani is the owner and lead event planner for A Love for Detail based in Miami. She’s been working in the wedding industry for 10 years.

The Benefits of Hosting a Hotel Wedding Reception

From accommodating any season to providing versatile settings, hotel wedding receptions are loaded with benefits. Here are all of the advantages of planning your reception at a hotel. 

You Don’t Have to Worry About the Weather

Whether you’re getting married on a balmy summer day or a frigid winter night, hotel wedding receptions befit any season or climate. Since you’ll have the option to celebrate indoors (or it might be the only option), you and your guests will be comfortable no matter what the temperature feels like outside. Choosing a sheltered location also means you won’t have to spend a lot of time and energy arranging a backup plan in case of inclement weather. “You won’t be worried about if it’s going to rain or if it’s going to be too windy,” planner Jung Lee says. “You can eliminate all of that wedding stress because you’re going to be in the same structure.”

If you do want access to the outdoors, ask the hotels you're interested in booking if they have a deck, patio, courtyard, or outdoor areaa so that you can enjoy cocktails al fresco before coming indoors for dinner.

It’s Convenient for Out-of-Town Guests

If many of your guests are traveling from out of town, a hotel venue is the way to go. By hosting your reception in a hotel, your friends and family will be able to book lodging on-site without needing to travel to and from the venue. Not to mention, your loved ones will even have the luxury of being able to head back to their room for touch-ups throughout the evening.

Hotels Offer Versatile Settings

Although most people envision a ballroom when they think of a hotel wedding reception, these locales provide multiple spaces to choose from. If a ballroom doesn’t serve your aesthetic, dining preferences, or dress code, hotels usually have rooftops, outdoor courtyards, gardens, pool decks, or private rooms in their in-house restaurants for other alternatives.

You’ll Have In-House Accommodations

Hotels come with an entire team to help you execute your dream day. You have the option of using an on-site planner—who is a wealth of knowledge about the setting—to guide you through the planning process. You can also use the hotel’s in-house catering, which will make choosing your reception meal even more seamless.

Tips for Planning a Hotel Wedding Reception

Once you’ve decided that a hotel venue is the perfect spot to host your reception, follow these expert-approved tips and tricks to help you pull off your celebration.

Transform the Space

If you’re holding your reception in a ballroom, the space usually comes with its own wallpaper and carpeting, but many couples find that the existing décor clashes with their vision. To transform the room, planner Danielle Ondarza Cipriani recommends using piping and drapery in a shade that fits your color palette to cover the walls. Lee also advises selecting new fabric that suits your aesthetic and placing it over the hotel’s carpet. If the ballroom has light fixtures that are inconsistent with your vision, consider adorning them with greenery or florals.

Add Personalization Through Décor

Chances are, you don’t want your reception to look like any other hotel wedding. To make sure your soirée stands out from the rest, personalize the setting with unique decorations. “You’ll get the hotel baseline, but you’ll add in special layers to make it feel more energized and feel like the couple,” Lee notes. For instance, choose colorful centerpieces using your favorite blooms, design place cards engraved with your joint initials, or make a statement with a custom dance floor.

Get Creative With Food and Drinks

While the menu that you choose will largely depend on your preferences and the season, you can enhance the experience by concentrating on the presentation. For garden nuptials, accentuate your signature cocktails with edible flower petals. Hosting a boisterous bash? Serve a wedding cake with colorful tiers. Or, maybe you don’t have a sweet tooth and decide to swap the traditional wedding dessert with tiers of cheese, Lee suggests. These finishing touches will make your hotel reception feel more “you” and less cookie-cutter.

Pay Attention to Lighting

One of the biggest details that couples often overlook when planning their hotel wedding reception is the lighting. Since your reception may take place in a dimly lit room, thinking strategically about your lighting is key. “It is so dramatic—when it’s done right—lighting is going to be far more impactful than the centerpieces,” Lee admits. “That will transform the space, highlight what it needs to, and not enhance anything that you don’t want to enhance.” To counterbalance the hotel’s LED lights, Cipriani recommends using uplighting, which is a lighting effect that you can achieve by placing light fixtures on the floor to emphasize certain details, whether it's the bar or cake table. This will create a dramatic effect and add points of interest.

Take Care of the Logistics

To make sure you’ve covered all of your bases, Lee suggests walking through the event from start to finish, imagining how it’s going to look and feel. “Every step of the way, visualize it as if you are a guest at this wedding,” Lee says. “What will excite and delight you?” That way, you’ll be able to spot details you might have missed and look for ways to optimize the flow of the evening. According to Lee, some common elements to consider are: who will greet guests when they enter the hotel, who will check their coats if the weather is cold, and how to signify where the bathrooms are located.

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