Picking a paid venue

This event was at the Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta. The building has an artsy warehouse feel, which some may see at unfinished, but was lovely with decor.

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.

This was a wedding at one of the shelters at Red Top Mountain State Park. The shelter holds up to 250 people and was $250 for this wedding.

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.

This wedding was at the Roselawn Museum in Cartersville. It is a beautiful 19th century estate home, but filled with expensive antiques that guests and wedding workers must be careful around.

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.

This was a rehearsal dinner at the Big Canoe clubhouse. Gorgeous facility that allows outside vendors, but expensive.

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.

See the home she rented

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.

Having a home wedding

A home wedding is lovely, but weather becomes an important issue.

This wedding was a brunch wedding at a home in Kingston Ga.

A second option people choose for a wedding venue is a convenient one…their own home or the home of a parent or relative. While this certainly relieves the stress of competition with other couples for a venue, it can produce its own unique challenges.

Most people want to have a home wedding for one of three reasons 1) sentimentality and 2) cost reduction and 3) space.

Sentimental reasons are perfectly understandable. The thing to realize, though, is that feeling doesn’t mean the space will be conducive for events. Some homes are beautiful until you get 200 people in them. Then it becomes a challenge to move, serve food etc. Some questions to ask are: Is it the time of year where you can spread the party outside? What happens if it rains? Are there several bathrooms? Is the kitchen a workable area for caterers or others to set up food trays? Can it be blocked off from guests? Can some furniture be moved out of rooms to allow for more space?

Once you can answer these questions, you can sensibly start planning your wedding at home.

The second reason, cost, really isn’t a valid reason for a home wedding. Typically, home weddings end up costing more than one at a venue. Surprising, but true. The reason is because there are many details associated with a home wedding most brides don’t think of when they make that decision.

I think of the movie “Father of the Bride” when I think about home weddings. When the idea is first mentioned, Steve Martin envisions a picnic barbecue…easy..affordable. It ends up with walls being busted out, swans in the tub and people practically bursting out of the house.

Most home weddings require a tent for added party space or for weather. Tents for a typical wedding of 100 generally run around $6,000 with a lighting package. Adding sides can cost up to $1,000 more.

A home wedding also requires a lot of upkeep maintenance prior to the event. That means updating the electrical to allow for extra lighting, a band, ceremony microphones. You may need more outside lighting, particularly around walkways so people can see to come and go. You will have to smooth out paths, perhaps put in stones or bricks so ladies don’t sink in dirt or grass to get to the ceremony or reception area. Most of those having a home wedding paint their house to freshen it up for guests. You may have to clear out a garage, repaint it, fix any problems to put a reception, or part of a reception in there. Grass upkeep is essential, which may require about six months of a lawn crew maintaining it. The homeowner probably would also want to update garden areas so any flowers blooming at the time of the wedding provide for a beautiful backdrop for pictures.

Many of these things require professionals. Some, as in the case of electricity upgrades, would also require city permits as well as a licensed electrician. Any significant build-ons, like a garage or a poolhouse, would also require city permitting.

Space could be a great reason to have a wedding at home, depending on the space required.

I had a co-worker who had their reception at his father’s farm. The tent was put out in a field. It was lovely. The reason for this move: they figured they would have plenty of parking for their 200-plus guests.

Again, this can present other challenges. In the case of a field, electrical is a huge challenge. Plumbing and bathrooms is another challenge. This couple resolved both, but since I was a guest and it was before we started our business, I didn’t ask how.

One difficulty with any home wedding is parking. Most neighborhoods are not created to accommodate large parties. Sadly, that is one dilemma most people planning a home wedding forget about. However, it can be remedied.

First, you need to talk to neighbors about their feelings of parking in front of their homes. You need to do this in the initial planning stages so you have time to look into other options if some are not open to it.

Second, look for vacant lots or cul-de-sacs without any homes. Could they be used? Perhaps, if you contact the property owner.

Third, you probably would have to get a city permit. Most cities have special event permits for these type of things. Most have a limit on how many times a year a property can be used for these type of events, but for most, that wouldn’t be a problem. Also, cluing the city in will offset any problems in case someone in a nearby area calls in a complaint the day of your wedding. Believe me, that does happen.

Be sure to include parking instructions with your invitations.

One of the best things you can do, in my opinion, depending on the property, is to hire a valet service. This ensures that cars are parked only in designated areas. Even if it’s in a field, hire some professional parking attendants to guide people. Otherwise, some will be blocked in when they want to leave.

Hiring licensed and insured professionals for parking will allow alleviate any insurance problems should a car be dinged or somehow damaged while parking for an event. You don’t want your cousins to be responsible for such things.

Melody Dareing

Event Coordinator, Dareing Events Catering

 

 

 

 

 

The cost of a wedding coordinator

 

Ok. You’re on a budget. You look at the idea of a wedding coordinator thinking it’s something you can do without.

It’s not.

However, most brides are concerned only with the cost of a coordinator and how it will affect their budget. So they skip the idea to save money.

What they don’t realize is that a good wedding coordinator will not only pay for themselves but save you money. And time.

The cost of a wedding coordinator/planner can be up to 25 percent of your budget, although some offer flat rates for specific services. Many negotiate depending on the services you need.

A full-service coordinator helps from the very beginning with finding a venue, wedding dress, caterer, floral etc. They go with you to every vendor and discuss options with you for you to make the final decisions. They meet with you weekly as the wedding gets closer, go over your budget, and see where you can cut costs.

They are there at the facility days before the wedding, the day of the wedding, and sometimes the day after to make sure everything gets returned, picked up and secured.

The make sure everyone is in his or her places at the rehearsal and at the wedding. They act as producer to make sure everyone does their part at exactly the right time.

They take care of every detail

They are worth every dime.

An event planner does much of the same thing, but on a smaller scale and with less personal service. After all you are paying them a flat fee, so there is a limited amount of time they will spend with you before their time outweighs their profit.

They send you ideas for venues, help you with rentals, floral, catering, music. They answer questions, go over your budget and are there to make sure everything goes smoothly immediately prior to and at the event.

They are also money well spent.

Here’s how these professionals can save you time and money. Unlike family, who sometimes offer to help plan or coordinate, these professionals already know vendors – probably your vendors. They’ve done the research. They know the trends and the prices.

Time saved.

Most of all, they know how to negotiate prices and get you the best deal.

For instance, you may want beef for the reception dinner. The caterer will try to get you to use the best cut because, hey, that makes the meal better and is more profit for them. However, there may be a cut that is suitable for half the price. Chances are your guests won’t know the difference.

A wedding coordinator knows these things while you might not.

Same goes for wedding dresses, floral and even music. A good wedding coordinator should be able to save you 50% on costs compared to what you would have paid retail.

So consider this part of your planning not as another budgetary burden, but as an investment not only into your savings, but into your sanity.

 

The importance of a wedding coordinator

Now, we are getting to some choices. Once you have planned your budget, you have to start making some serious decisions about venues and wedding vendors. This is where a wedding coordinator can be quite useful.

However, it is tricky to pick a coordinator is this modern market because of how venues are currently operating. Many venues have their own wedding coordinator included in a package, so to hire one before choosing a venue could lead to hiring someone you don’t need.

Nonetheless, I have found over the past year that many brides don’t know about all the venues available, which ones offer the best services or which ones have deals. That is where hiring a wedding coordinator up front can save time, energy and money.

Personally, I am of the opinion that hiring a wedding coordinator should be done before picking a venue unless you already know specifically which venue you want. In that case, book the venue and then look for a coordinator if the facility doesn’t have one.

Typically, a coordinator for a facility isn’t what I envision as a professional wedding planner. If they work for one facility, that facility has certain wedding vendors it uses all the time so there is no choice. More on that later, but the planner simply calls these vendors and puts in orders of what the bride says she wants. Sometimes it’s the right choice. Other times it’s not.

A facility wedding planner’s truest duty is taking care of small details the day of a wedding. In that respect, most are pretty good at their jobs. If going this route, make sure you can trust the coordinator with details. Make sure they are organized. Otherwise, you will worry on your big day.

A true wedding planner/coordinator helps a bride with her budget, her choices and offers alternatives when necessary. They steer her to good vendors, guide her in her choices and help the bride make a decision. A true wedding planner is also versed in all aspects of a wedding, such as etiquette, and how to skip around certain delicate situations that crop up at today’s weddings.

For instance, how do you handle divorced parents who hate each other? How does that read on the wedding invitation? Do you give a stepmother a corsage? These are things true wedding professionals know how to handle. They are part event planner, part adviser and part psychologist. In this respect, a good wedding coordinator can become a wise friend who keeps you on this side of sanity.

I had a bride call me once about 10 p.m. one night nearly in tears. She has procrastinated in finding ceremony musicians and now she was hearing it from her mother. To be honest, I had reminded her of the same thing weeks before. She insisted she would take care of it on her own, mostly because she wanted to save the money she would have to pay me to help. Now, it was about three weeks before the wedding.

After talking with her about how to handle her dear mother, I told her I would make some calls. I got some numbers of potential musicians, called her back, and she took half to call up and I took half. By the end of the next day, she had some wonderful musicians which did a great job at the wedding. She couldn’t have been more pleased.

No matter what type of coordinator you choose, you definitely need someone to manage the details and proceedings the week and day of the wedding. I say that from my own experience. When Chef Mike and I got married, I failed to hire a coordinator. Why should I? I thought. I knew exactly what I wanted. Exactly who I wanted. However, the day before the wedding people came up to me with questions like “What do we use to light the candles?” and “Who is going to tell the bridesmaids and groomsmen when to come down the aisle?” and “Who signals the musicians?”

I stared at these people, family members, with a blank stare reminiscent of a dog who couldn’t remember where he put his bone. I had nothing. Fortunately, my family members had been in lots of weddings and took it upon themselves to manage these tasks. I was lucky. Every bride is not.

Hence, a wedding coordinator.