Everything You Need to Know When Planning A Restaurant Wedding
By Kelly Collins /London Venue Expert
Fri 5th May 2023 Wedding Venues
Wagtail Rooftop Bar and Restaurant in London, Photo by Sean Elliott
You’re engaged! Here’s a huge congratulations! So, what now? Well, what better time to start planning your wedding, than when you’re still overjoyed from the proposal?
A popular option with a lot of couples is restaurant weddings. Not only can it be a unique and intimate experience, but it’s a great way to save money on venue rental fees and a lot of the decor is already built in to be stylish and modern.
But before you go ahead and book your favourite dining location, let’s look at some of the essentials you should know when planning your restaurant wedding.
Are restaurant weddings cheaper?
Well, that depends on what you’re comparing them to. If you were initially looking at a dry-hire wedding venue versus a restaurant wedding, a restaurant is usually a cheaper alternative. This is because restaurants already have most of the things you’d usually have to hire. Think basics like tables, chairs, serving ware, and that sort of thing. Beyond the basics, more costly things like lighting, portable restrooms, rain-proof marquees, and sound systems can add thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to your wedding budget at a dry-hire venue. While a restaurant venue hire may not include a microphone for your speeches, the setup is likely to be event-ready with just a few small customisations.
On the other hand, restaurant weddings can be more expensive when you start looking into higher-end, five-star restaurants, which can be more costly when you factor in additional customisation. Say, for example, you’re comparing a five-star restaurant reception with a local event space (like a hotel or ballroom) that includes everything you need for your wedding in one package. The pricing can be competitive or even more expensive at the restaurant. Of course, your menu will largely drive the cost in this case, so opting for caviar and champagne at a restaurant will be more expensive than arancini bites and sparkling wine.
How much does it cost to rent a restaurant for a wedding?
In most cases, you’ll cover the exclusive use of the restaurant by agreeing to a minimum food and beverage spend. This helps the venue cover costs they usually get from customers during a normal, busy service. Restaurants often have several packages to choose from, which help you add up to the minimum. There may also be a minimum number of guests to have exclusive use.
Most restaurant wedding packages are priced per guest and differ depending on the venue and service style. When you look around potential venues, you’ll find that some offer standing receptions complete with hors d’oeuvres and dining stations. Others prefer to offer only seated multi-course meals.
Most restaurants offer food and drink minimums customised to the wedding date, with weekends being the highest pricing due to demand.
Where will you host the ceremony?
If you’re set on a restaurant wedding, it’s important to check in with them about space and capacity. Larger locations may have ample space for your ceremony, whereas smaller ones may be a squeeze. If this is the case, look at local parks or churches within walking distance of the venue to avoid having to cover the cost of shuttles between venues.
Another option may be to split the restaurant function space into sections and include a “flip” within the venue. This may allow you to use an interior space for the ceremony, head out to an outdoor space like a balcony for cocktails, then return to the flipped ceremony space that’s now set for dinner. Like magic, your event staff can transform the space while guests are in another location, unaware of the changeover.
What are some of the restrictions of a restaurant wedding?
There can be many restrictions for restaurant weddings beyond this list, but here are some common things to look out for when choosing your venue:
- Access to the space: Depending on the decor you have planned for your wedding, you may need to add extra staffing for tight installation windows. Before signing on board with your venue, have a conversation with the manager to make sure you’ll be able to have access to the space well before your event begins, especially if you think you’ll be bringing in extra lighting, a special sound system, a dancefloor, or any large-scale installations or entertainment.
- Décor: Depending on the style and size of the restaurant you choose, there may be limitations on the additional décor you can bring in. Are there any rules around which suppliers you can work with? Any restrictions on delivery windows? Will you need to hire an event planner from outside the restaurant to ensure every design detail you’ve planned is effectively managed on the day?
- Catering: During planning, check in with your venue about their exclusivity regulations. Some restaurants may charge a corkage fee for bringing your own wine, a cake-cutting fee, or may not allow outside caterers if you want to bring in something like a food truck for your late-night snack.
- Toilets: Restaurant toilets can be busy at the best of times, so with the added numbers of a wedding party, it may be worth speaking to your venue. They may be able to overstaff on the day and provide a restroom attendant.
- Parking: Depending on the location of the restaurant, parking can be a big annoyance for your wedding guests. The venue should be able to guide you to the best parking options, but they may recommend shuttles or private transportation instead of on-site parking for guests.
- Supplier partners: Most restaurants are fairly open to outside vendors like A/V specialists or hire companies being brought in for wedding receptions so long as they’re insured for events. However, some restaurants will only work with a limited number of pre-approved vendors, which they’ll likely share with you before you book your wedding.
How do you find a restaurant that allows weddings?
Simply give us a shout — we can recommend the best local restaurant wedding venues based on your plans. The restaurants we work with have experience in hosting weddings and they understand the intricacies of staffing, so the bar doesn’t always have a long line, food comes out hot, and tables are cleared of dirty dishes quickly. Our venue-finding service is entirely free.
Here are a few of our favourites:
- Restaurant wedding venues in London
- Restaurant wedding venues in Sydney
- Restaurant wedding venues in Melbourne
And remember, if you need any additional help, services like ours can help you to create a wedding that’s both cost-effective and a day to remember. Happy planning!