With engagement season in full swing, brides-to-be across the country are making decisions on every detail of their big day, from ceremony dates to napkin colors. With limited planning time and hundreds of details to consider, choosing a wedding reception venue can seem like an overwhelming task. Thankfully, for brides armed with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.

With so many things to think about, some couples rush into choosing a reception site without considering all of the details. Determine what your needs are first, and find a venue that will work with you to create your vision.

Before signing a contract, consider the following:

The Guest List: Some couples mistakenly pick a venue without considering how many people they plan to invite. Nail down a guest list tally, and then choose a venue with appropriate accommodations – not the other way around.

The Budget: A wedding reception often consumes more than half of the bride’s total budget (including catering and decorations). Consider potential fees for the room rental, catering, bar service, setup and teardown, and chair or linen rental.

Also be sure to ask about hidden fees, such as corking or cake-cutting. These are details many couples don’t think to ask about, and are consequently surprised by on their wedding day.

The Convenience: To cut expenses, consider a location that offers full-service wedding reception facilities, where basics like tables, chairs and linens are provided in the rental fee. A hotel with banquet facilities and room accommodations also reduces transportation headaches for out-of-town guests.

The Catering: Determine the type of food you plan to serve. Whether you envision a full meal, or just hors d’oeuvres or a dessert bar, consider whether the venue has in-house catering to accommodate your requests. If not, be sure to ask if the venue allows guests to use an outside caterer for a meal or dessert

The Décor: It might be difficult to picture how an empty reception site can be transformed for your wedding day. Ask to see photos from other wedding receptions held there, and find out what types of decorations are allowed.

Most importantly, choose a Des Moines reception venue where you and your guests will receive excellent service. No bride-to-be wants to be stuck coordinating details at the last minute, and picking the right vendor ensures you’ll be able to kick back and celebrate with friends and family on the big day.