Wedding food has a bad reputation for being bland and boring; so, what better way to ensure your wedding is the exception than to host it at an actual restaurant?

Conventional wedding venues have been on the decline in recent years. According to The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study, banquet halls fell from 27 percent of weddings in 2009 to 17 percent in 2017, and hotels and resorts declined from 18 percent to just 12 percent in the same period.

Instead, couples are increasingly selecting unique wedding spaces in order to provide a distinctive experience for their guests – and a great restaurant can fit the bill.

“Restaurant receptions can be so special. A favorite of ours was at a property called The Ruins, a dinner club with an incredibly creative chef, whimsical decor in each dining space, and an inventive menu that was truly a feast for the senses,” says Aleah Valley, co-founder of Valley & Company Events.

One of the biggest advantages of a restaurant reception is, of course, the food.

However, it’s often everything else that comes with a restaurant that is actually the most beneficial.

“The restaurant already has a full-service kitchen, tables, chairs, china, flatware, glassware, etc. so you do not need to rent these items from an outside source, meaning that you can spend more to have live musicians or add more statement floral arrangements,” explains Daulton Van Kuren, president and principal planner for The Refined Host.

There is a tradeoff for all that turnkey convenience, though. Since restaurants aren’t primarily for private events, there’s often less room for flexibility.

“Talk to the restaurant about your wish list guest count – unlike larger and more traditional venues, some restaurants might have a hard cap on guest count with no room for additional guests,” says Valley.

Another potentially rigid area: the menu. Ideally, you will choose a restaurant with cuisine that you adore, but if you want a custom menu, be sure to ask up front. “Reputation is on the line so custom requests may be politely declined or welcomed,” explains Katie Grosz, director of affairs at PLAZA DEL TORO, adding, “The culinary team knows their cuisine best so ask for their recommendations when it comes to menu items and wine pairings.”

Like with any potential wedding vendor, couples should properly vet restaurants before signing a contract. I recommend seeing all the terms in their agreement during your planning process, don't feel bad about asking too many questions to your planner. I always tell my hosts to keep the emails coming!” advises Grosz.

Here are some questions to consider asking restaurant venues:

• Are we allowed to bring in outside food or beverages (cake, wine, champagne, etc.)?

• What services are included in the quote? What is not included? For example, some restaurants may not stage rented linens or tear down tables at the end of the event.

• What is the timeline for set up and tear down?

• Do you have a list of required vendors, such as a DJ or florist?

• Will the restaurant be closed to the public during my event?

• Do you offer bar packages? If not, what is the average cost of beverages on consumption?

• Is gratuity included? Are there any other fees not included in the quote?

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