Wedding receptions often account for half of the wedding budget and a large share of the memories from that special day.

The party after the vows can come in a church fellowship hall, but many brides and grooms choose to make it easier by renting a reception hall that takes care of all the decorating and the catering.

“We try to take as much stress off the wedding as possible,” says Cheryl Sutton, marketing director for Palazzo Bernardo, a reception venue in Donaldsonville that can accommodate up to 850 guests.

At the LSU Faculty Club, the staff aims to take care of all the basics but leaves room for a bride to add a few personal touches, says Ashley Mick, associate director of dining services for the site on the LSU campus.

“If a bride chooses to bring in any rentals, she’s bringing in lighting or decorative linens or china just to make it special,” Mick adds.

Then there is the decor. Trends in wedding receptions change as quickly as ring and dress styles.

In recent years the chocolate fountain was all the rage, Sutton says, but fewer wedding parties request it now.

Ice molds or sculptures of the couple’s initials or a fleur-de-lis are popular, Sutton says. Bernardo’s offers an ice sculpture created by co-owner chef Bernard Paul Mistretta.

“He starts with a 4-foot block of ice and uses a small chain saw,” she says.

The design of the reception venue depends on the couple’s tastes and budget.

Most choose white-linen tablecloths and chair covers, then accentuate with their own wedding colors.

Many couples choose to mix up the layout of the reception venue, Sutton says. They will combine high-top bistro tables with traditional tables and chairs to give guests the option of standing and chatting.

Built in 1939, the LSU Faculty Club offers a classic feel, Mick says.

“The ambience of the building lends itself to the kind of timeless celebrations that focus on great food, drinks and lots of dancing — the fundamentals of a good party,” she says.

Even with that “timeless” feeling, Mick says couples bring their own personal flair to the event.

Many do this by asking guests to sign their best wishes on a picture frame or on Bible verses written in calligraphy. One couple asked guests to sign their names on Jenga blocks so the bride and groom could play with them later.

“I think it’s so sweet to have something you can see everyday that reminds you of the people who spent the day with you,” Mick says.