The third option for a ceremony and reception is renting a paid venue. Within that category, there are a multitude of choices.
Obviously, the first choice is to pick a venue geared specifically to weddings. The advantages of this is convenience and the ease of making choices because, typically, everything is included. Some may not want the stress of meeting with different florists, caterers, rental companies etc.
The disadvantages is that a wedding facility limits your choices and, typically, costs more. Sometimes, you can get a package deal with some discounts, but remember you are dealing with a preferred vendor monopoly at a wedding facility so the package is a “take it all or leave it all” option. There is very little negotiating because most owners feel if you want the place bad enough, you’ll pay it.
If you are serious about this option, make sure you like the food and the menu, make sure you like their floral choices and the wedding coordinator. Contracts with such facilities are very difficult to get out of and most require at least half down.
Some facilities will let you go off the preferred caterer, florist or other preferred professional list if you pay an additional fee. Usually that is $500. This ensures the venue owner they make their profit off such a service even though you are bringing in someone else. While most don’t see the need to spend extra money to hire someone outside the realms of the venue, there are times when it can become necessary.
An example: A few years ago, I got a call from a very upset couple. They had put down a deposit at a country club facility for their summer wedding. The facility had it set up for one particular company to do all its catering. They didn’t like this man in charge of catering. The caterer wanted them to have an expensive event (so he would make a lot of money) and they wanted something simpler that would fit into their budget and their tastes. The caterer began to treat them rudely, not returning phone calls and such.
The facility had the buyout option so the couple brought us in. For the couple, the extra money was worth not having to deal with the preferred caterer. As it turned out, we provided them with the exact menu they wanted and our prices were so much lower than the original caterer that it more than made up the additional $500 they had to spend to get out of the deal.
Another paid venue option is having your wedding at a hotel. This is very popular in northern areas like New York because their hotels are spectacular. Again, if you do this, you will be required to use the hotel catering but some will allow you to bring in other vendors like florists. This will likely also be more expensive.
I like to urge couples to look at other facilities that allow you to choose your vendors. Options include city community centers, state parks, libraries, theaters, museums, art galleries, gardens, subdivision club houses, or gated community buildings. These come in a spectrum of costs, so many are good options for those on a budget.
Community centers and state parks are going to be the most affordable. Many communities have, in recent years, built new upscale centers that offer full commercial kitchens and beautiful lobbies. State parks have shelters (I’m talking about a building not a pavilion), which can be lovely.
One of our favorite venues is Red Top Mountain near Acworth. One shelter is renovated and is on the lake. The other would hold more people but isn’t renovated. Both have good fireplaces which provide for a good atmosphere for a winter or early spring event.
Depending on your location, some of these type of buildings may need some extra decor to spruce it up. Others may be new. It varies so you will have to physically look at each building. Most cost between $250 to $1,000.
Libraries typically have private rooms they are willing to rent to small groups. Some have a historical room which is interesting as a backdrop, but they may be cautious about food and drink in there.
Theaters are typically owned by a community volunteer group, so they are always looking for ways to make money when there is not a production. Some have beautiful lobby or guest reception areas, which would be ideal for a reception. Others have only a stage, but even that could be put into use for a ceremony or a reception. This would be ideal for a couple who are into theater or the arts.
Art galleries, museums, and gardens are in the same financial boat as theaters. Most aren’t profitable on their own, so they rent out. There might be some stipulations on food and drink set up areas because of the displays, but otherwise they are easy to work with.
Rents on these type of facilities range from $200 to $2,000 depending on the space. A small community venue would be less than something like the High Museum or Fox Theater in Atlanta. Also, when you go for larger venues in places like Atlanta or New York, be aware they have their own food services and will require you to use those services.
Finally, you have community club houses, country clubs, and gated facility venues. The only disadvantage for these venues is you have to be sponsored by a member. Prices for most of these venues start at $500 and can go up to $3,000.
Community club houses and some gated facility venues, like Big Canoe in Jasper, Ga., allow outside vendors. County clubs require you use their services, but they do work with you on the menu and the price a little better than a wedding facility.
I encourage couples to think outside the box to find a venue they can afford. One of our brides was quite creative. During the extreme downfall of the housing market, she worked out a deal with a realtor to pay a small rent for a day’s use of a gorgeous million-dollar house that wasn’t selling.
Since there was no furniture in the house, we could easily bring in tables and chairs for a reception. The ceremony was held outside. It had a wonderful kitchen as well, which was awesome for us.
So keep looking until you find the perfect spot!
Melody Dareing Events Coordinator
Dareing Events Catering Inc.