Let’s go back a bit…
I’m from a small isolated town where the only reception hall we had doubled as the overflow for sacrament meeting. So all of the receptions my mom drug me to were held below a couple of folded up basketball hoops and above the bright orange carpet of the Arco Idaho LDS Church Building. I was young and probably too busy eating my second slice of cake to notice, but no personal interactions were tainted by the glow of that carpet.
That orange carpet was replaced a long time ago, I try to avoid the second slice of cake, and I moved away from my beloved tiny town. Now I’m a wedding photographer and I hear a lot about people’s wedding plans and one thing is very clear. Most Mormons don’t want to have their reception in the cultural hall of a Mormon church. I’m not sure why this incredibly cost effective option is frowned upon these day. So even though you do not need my permission I’m giving it to you anyway. Go ahead. Save some money. Have your reception in cultural hall….here is some advice from a guy who has been to a bundle of them.
Some things to ponder…
Figure out Your Priorities
Having an incredible venue for your reception might be at the top of your list for your wedding day, in which case your probably reading this article to find the writing errors that my free subscription to Grammarly doesn’t cover.
The amount of money saved by cutting out a fancy venue could mean a honeymoon on some warm Mexican beach instead of next to the chilly waters of Bear Lake. Your budget might be super tight and without a venue, you can afford to hire an incredibly awesome and reasonably priced photographer who thinks your cultural hall reception was an incredibly practical decision (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Most importantly you could score some serious “favorite child points” with your parent’s which come in especially handy when they’re revising their will.
Remember why you’re having a reception
Sometimes we need to take step back from societies expectation and recognize the goal of the gathering. Do we put on reception so that people can drop by and marvel at the event planning skills of the newly married’s family. Or receptions events where we give away desserts and utilize decorations to mark an important day in the lives of two people.
Think a little long term
After the newness of that ring wrapped around your finger wears off do you think you’ll mind that your reception wasn’t as glamours as all the other people who are also currently trying to wrestle a new diaper on their first child’s freshly wiped bottom.
Most modern LDS buildings lack windows in the cultural hall. That lack of natural light is one of the reasons why people decide to pay for a venue. In the winter the sun will go down before your reception even starts so why pay for your guests to have a view of the cold, dark, Utah winter. But on the other hand not as many people get married in the winter so you might be able to score a killer deal on an awesome location.
If you do happen to have your reception in a cultural hall here is some advice…
You’re making a practical decision, be proud of that. Your the kind of person who doesn’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. You need to be the kind of person who want to write something like this on their wedding announcements: “We are having our completely awesome reception in the LDS Church on the corner of Main and 6th, if you’re too cool to come to our awesome wedding that’s ok, you can just mail us a gift card to amazon.” Ok so you shouldn’t actually use that on the invitation, but you should just think it really loud.
Watch your decoration budget
I’ve talked to decorators who specialized in decorating Mormon churches to the point that they no longer even look like a cultural hall. While It’s an incredibly impressive accomplishment, there comes a point where you are no longer saving money. So go ahead make the place special, but leave going overboard to Goldie Hawn. (ten points for you if you get that reference)
Lighting is honestly one of the biggest battles in a cultural hall. Turn them all on and it might feel like a basketball game or Sunday school lesson could break out at any moment. Turn most of them off and it looks like your trying to hide the fact that your in a church (only a few people will fall for this) plus the lower the lighting the harder your photographer’s job will be. My suggestion is to bring some alternative lighting into the equation. It might mean renting some uplighting equipment or trip to Ikea. Light coming from multiple sources and not just overhead will set your reception apart from all other events held in your churches gym.
Let your Fiancé Book the building
It might be most convenient to book the church building that’s closest to the temple. Or maybe there’s a really old building in town that just feels a little more magical than boring donut style buildings that we have become so accustomed to. The problem is you might run into issues trying to book a building that doesn’t belong to you. But, if your fiance is from out of town they might have better luck trying to score a different church building.
As a photographer…
As a photographer, I love it when receptions are in fancy venues that are beautifully decorated. I’m not just a photographer though I’m a reasonable person that understands that spending money on a venue isn’t the best choice for everyone. So I’m giving you my permission to have whatever kind of wedding day that works best for you.