Your first consideration is the size of your wedding. Obviously, two hundred guests won't be comfortable cramming into the back room of even the tastiest restaurant. Sit down with your spouse-to-be and start a wedding guest list. It may take some time to whittle your guest list down to a number you can both be happy with, so do this well in advance.
Once you have a firm list, take your head count with you and start wedding reception hall hunting! Depending upon the size of the affair, you might be able to get by with a lovely restaurant, your local Elk's club, a beautiful outdoor venue, a banquet hall or an all-out wedding reception hall location.
If your financial situation is somewhat less than you'd like, don't worry; you can still secure a reception location that will make you, your finance, and your guests happy. In fact, your reception need not take place in a "hall" at all. Your parents' spacious vacation home on the beach might make the perfect romantic backdrop; or perhaps your favorite restaurant or even dance place offers wedding packages. Thumb through the Yellow Pages and pick friends' brains for even more ideas.
Hey, Big Spender
Perhaps your parents have handed you a few credit cards and told you to go wild. Or maybe you were prudent and got engaged a couple of years in advance just to save for your special day. If you have plenty in your pocket, your options for a wedding reception hall are obviously wide-open. Still, don't get fleeced. There's no need to go wild and overspend on items that you can obtain cheaply elsewhere for equal quality. Do your homework to find great decorations and a cozy and lovely location.
If you'd like to have your wedding reception in a different town from your wedding, try to make it a location that is still fairly easy for guests to get to. If you can afford it, arrange transportation for older or differently-abled invitees who may have more trouble getting from one place to another.
You can also have the main reception in a local hall, then a much smaller, intimate party (perhaps just for your and your spouse's parents and siblings) in the more out-of-the-way location you've always dreamed of.
A Floating Party
Another fabulous idea for a wedding reception location is a boat. This will obviously be easier if your guest list is on the small side. An afternoon wedding with an evening reception on the water will fulfill your every fantasy of what a wedding reception should be.
Before you make a final decision on your wedding reception hall or other location, ask for references. If it is a location you frequent, then you should already be fairly certain of the quality of the food, service and the atmosphere. However, if you are less familiar with the terrain, ask for a few names so you can "ask for decorating ideas" (or find another, equally diplomatic way to put things). The last place you'll want to experience surprises is at your wedding reception! Do some research and you will come up with the wedding reception location that's perfect for you.