The biggest battle with Chinese family members is always the venue for the reception. Relatives may not care what kind of ceremony the couple has, what their invitations look like, and what the attendants are wearing, but they will have strong opinions about the food that is served and how much it costs. If the couple chooses to host their reception at a Chinese restaurant, they will have an abundance of food, save money, and make the Chinese relatives very happy. But the ambiance and service at most Chinese restaurants leaves much to be desired. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each option:
Pros and Cons of Chinese restaurant
Cost: At a Chinese restaurant, the couple can expect to pay $50-100 per person for a ten course meal, beer and wine, and gratuities. This is a bargain compared to many wedding venues who charge a separate fee for the space, bartender, cake-cutting etc. At a Chinese restaurant, they may also be able to get a discount (such as waving the tax) if paying with cash.
Food and Drink: Banquet menus will offer 3-4 options for 10 course meals. It’s not a good idea select the cheapest menu for a wedding because it will not contain enough special foods. The more expensive options come with high-end items, such as abalone, duck, and lobster. Most packages will include two bottles of soda, which will be set in the middle of the table. Couples can often bring in your own wine. It’s unusual to have a full bar at a Chinese restaurant, but couples can also place a bottle of liquor (Hennessy is popular) on the table as well. The service at a Chinese restaurant tends to be mediocre and can be downright rude at times (and we say this with love because our families are in the restaurant business).
Ambiance: Some couples are fortunate enough to have several attractive Chinese restaurants to choose from in their hometown. But although they may be nicely decorated, most Chinese restaurants have a certain look–a couple would have to be okay with crystal light fixtures, giant double happiness symbols, and chair covers. It is very challenging to change the atmosphere unless they invest in draping and lighting. If the couple has their heart set on a certain theme, such as rustic or vintage, that will look odd in a Chinese restaurant.
There are also privacy issues to consider. Some restaurants have private rooms and others have screens that block off a section of the dining area. Some restaurants don’t have screens at all, so they may have random restaurant patrons who peek in at the reception. They also may not be able to have a DJ and a dance floor depending on the venue.
Pros and Cons of Western Venue
Cost: At a Western venue, such as hotel ballroom or event space, a couple will end up paying $100-$200 per person for a decent space and meal. The total adds up quickly because in addition to the cost of the venue, you have to pay for the food, bartender, alcohol, gratuities, furniture and linen rentals, etc. It’s not secret that weddings are expensive and the reception is by far the largest expense.
Food and Drink: There are lots of choices to make, such as buffet vs. plated meal, appetizers on trays vs. appetizer stations, cash bar vs. full bar and everything in between. The Chinese relatives will likely think the meat is overcooked, the sides are too rich, and the price was too expensive.
Ambiance: There are some Western venues which lend themselves to obvious themes (e.g. if you get married in a barn, you’re probably going to have a rustic wedding). But many venues tend to be blank slates, which means you can customize them to any look. In love with Chiavari chairs? Awesome. Do you want a 1930’s feel? Bring it on. Envisioning something very modern and trendy? You can do that.
The question that many couples ask themselves is: “Do I try to make my family happy and save money at the risk of having an ‘ugly’ reception?” But there are several options.
Options 1: Reserve a Western venue and find a restaurant that caters Chinese banquet food. This way, you’ll be able to have the reception style and the food that you want. The problem with this option is that you have to pay for the venue and Chinese banquet food never tastes as good when it’s served off site. The beauty of Chinese food is that it is cooked quickly at high heat (which requires open flame and huge woks) and served immediately. The Chinese relatives will likely grumble about the food and your attempts to make them happy will be for naught.
Option 2: Opt for a Chinese rehearsal dinner, have a Western reception, and a dim sum post-wedding brunch. This is the option that we recommend if you feel strongly about the reception venue. In a way, you are getting the best of both worlds–hopefully you can please the Chinese family and you can have the reception wherever you like.
Option 3: Find a Chinese restaurant and invest in draping and lighting to transform the space. One of the more affordable vendors out there is Rent My Wedding . We recommend focusing on a nice backdrop behind the bride and groom’s table for the photos and uplighting to create a festive ambiance. Although it will cost a few hundred dollars, you’ll likely still save money on the food. They have great customer service and can help you transform your space.
The bottom line is that choosing a reception venue can be stressful because this is often the one thing that Chinese families care about. But remember that for your guests, your wedding will be one of many weddings that they will attend that year. For you, it will be a day that you will remember for the rest of your life.