Wednesday, July 10, 2013

wedding wednesday: venues

I am totally bummed that I didn't blog during the wedding planning process. I mean, I tried to, but then planning the wedding got in the way. The time that I should have spent blogging was spent on lots of DIY and research.

Since my wedding, I've had the opportunity to interact with lots of vendors in the hospitality industry. There are so many things that I have learned that I wish I knew then. So, as an excuse to show my pictures and talk about my wedding/in the interest of helping any brides-to-be or others planning an event, I thought I might use my wedding photos and experience to go through some wedding advice. (Plus, I toured thirteen venues in the Houston area. Houston brides, if you have any specific q's, let me know!)

After you get the ring and pick a date (or at least a time of year), you need to pick a place. And a budget. There is no use looking at the Four Seasons if you are on a backyard budget. It's also important to determine a "feel" for  your event early on. Are you crazy for a Pinterest-inspired rustic wedding, or do you want an evening, black-tie affair? I don't think ball gowns typically belong in a barn, so establishing an idea of tone at the beginning will also help narrow down your search.
all professional photos from Lindsay Elizabeth Photography

Do you want your venue to be all-inclusive or find it yourself?

Venues that I consider to be all-inclusive are those like hotels and country clubs. You sign a contract and you use their furniture, food, baker, decorator, etc. Congratulations! Your wedding planning has the potential of being much easier.

Before booking an all-inclusive venue, look at reviews. How is the food? Are the cakes the look you're going for? Are you happy with the lighting, included furniture, and general set-up? Look at the carpet, too. Some hotel ballrooms have hideous carpet that could clash with your bridesmaids' dresses or other decor. If you have already fallen in love with another vendor, see if there is any way to work with them before signing the contract.

Maybe choose another venue if you can't overcome this on the floor. Via.

If you want to have your wedding reception at a hotel, think about all the things you will need before signing any contracts. Will you need rooms for guests from out of town? Hosting a bridal lunch on your wedding day or a farewell brunch? Look into hosting as much as you can at that property and include it on your contract. If the hotel is getting money from 20 guest rooms for three nights, they can sometimes work with you on other aspects, like throwing in a suite to get ready in on the wedding day. You should also look at hotel prices and policies very carefully. Never pay for meeting room space. Instead, request a food and beverage minimum. Most hotels will accommodate, and at least you will get something for your money rather than just an empty room (note that minimums do not include tax and service charge, which can be as high as 24% - ouch!).

All-inclusive venues might get you with a higher food and beverage cost, but they often include extras that other venues don't have like basic linens, china, glassware, and flatware, upgraded chairs, and basic centerpieces (think mirrors, fish bowls, and tea lights). Weddings are expensive enough, so look at what is included with your package and think about how you can supplement it to create a wedding unique to you.

I loved the tile, the carved mirror, and the natural light. The flowers and candelabras were all obtained separately.

You can choose a more find it yourself venue, too. That is what I ended up with. I got married at Las Velas (formerly Paraiso Maravilla) and all I got with the venue fee was the space, tables, and chairs. I was completely on my own for food, decor, cake, and every other service. This venue and many others has a list of "suggested" vendors. I started my research with those first. Working with someone who had seen the venue more times that I had gave me a sense of confidence in their expertise.

When selecting a venue, consider what else the venue might be used for and if budget is a concern, plan your event on a night where they will want to fill the space. Friday and Sunday weddings are nearly always cheaper than Saturday weddings and daytime events tend to be cheaper than those at night. You may also want to look at the amount of set-up and clean-up time you are given; if you are having a lot of DIY elements set up by your family and friends (not professionals), two to four hours of set-up (which is average) may not be enough time for your plans. Many venues will let you purchase additional time upon request, but if there is another event at your venue too close to yours, this may not be an option.

My coordinator and a few friends who helped had to set out every menu, place card, and tiny box and light the candles and set up the floral arrangements. Tip: Don't bother with place cards. They were a huge PAIN!

One last thing to think about - if you are having your wedding and reception at two different venues, then you can skip this - is how to flow from your ceremony into your wedding. I had both parts in one venue, which meant that I needed a ceremony space, a reception space, a bride's room, and a groom's room. Some venues only have one prep room, so you will have to spend more money on a nearby hotel room or have to prep at home or in the home of a friend or family member nearby - and who wants to mess with that? At my venue, I was originally told that my guest count was too high and that we would have to have the ceremony in one room, move to another room for a cocktail hour, and have the ceremony room "flipped" for a reception. This meant more money for more staff to get that done and I was nervous that it would take too long and run into my planned party time. Luckily, I enlisted the help of a wedding coordinator who found a way to make the ceremony work in the smaller space, but had I been left on my own, I wouldn't have pushed for that and gone with the venue's original suggestion.

Regardless of the type of venue you choose, you want to check your contract or ask about changes being made to the property between signing and your wedding date. Will lighting fixtures be changed, painting happen, new flooring, different landscaping, anything like that? If you're a visual person, this is important to ask because one change might affect your entire vision. I speak from experience; my venue painted (no big deal, but I did think it was ugly) and removed some hanging lights that I loved before my wedding. Luckily, they decided to reinstall the lights just before my wedding day, but when I first asked about it I was told they didn't know when they would be replaced and I was really bummed. You also want to take advantage of any open house events your venue is having. My venue only allowed us to come by twice before the wedding date to check measurements and see the space. We got around this by attending open houses and getting the info we needed when the venue was open for other reasons.

I fell in love with the gorgeous gardens out back and loved the balcony, where people watched us dance. The bottom left is a tiny glimpse of the dancefloor and the hall is the area they painted. It was more of a putty color (like the top right pic) and they painted it silvery-grey a few weeks before my wedding. Ah well.

I am of the belief that this is your day. Do you have the right to be rude to your friends and family? No. But should you be able to be heard and have your expectations met by your vendors? Absolutely. Asking the right questions at the beginning helps get rid of surprises later and makes sure that you're getting the best product available.

What is/was your wedding theme? How did you pick a venue?


  1. We knew we wanted to get married at the shore, and we knew our guest list was over 250, so that limited our options. From there, it was easy to pick based on the feel we wanted - two of them were too dressy for what we wanted.

    Your venue is gorgeous!

  2. Our wedding is scheduled for Aug 2014. I am going for a wedding themed wedding. pinterest keeps making me think mason jars are cute. I've never canned a thing in my life.
    we have booked a venue though. All inclusive which is great because I hate this planning. seriously. It's the worst.

  3. Oh, and your pics are gorgeous.

  4. this venue is gorgeous! nicely done :)

  5. Our venue that we just settled on is an art gallery. It may be a little small for what my mother wanted, but it's just perfect for us. We will be getting married in the theatre on site and having the reception in the hall downstairs. It has exposed brick and is beautiful!

    I love your venue! That is beautiful!

  6. We chose our venue in under a second. haha. We already knew where we wanted to get married, so it was a no-brainer. Now the other stuff.....that was the hard part! Good luck with planning!!!
    I have 6 more weeks! Ahhh.

  7. Great tips! I love how you & Whitney both blogged about weddings today :-)
    I love that picture over looking your ceremony! That tile is perfect lol

  8. Your wedding photos are beautiful!!! Seriously, it looks like you were in Europe somewhere. And how come you didn't mention the groom & grooms men chuck tailors?? Or did I miss that :) So cute and unique! My wedding was way back in 2004 WAY before it was cool to blog about them LOL

  9. I love seeing your wedding pics! I've never heard of that venue. Is it in Houston?
    We knew after looking online and touring two places in TX that we wanted a destination wedding in Mexixo and that was that!
    So freakin happy I didn't know about Pinterest when I got married!!

  10. I love your wedding photos! You were a beautiful bride and your dress was amazing! Choosing a venue was the hardest part for my husband and I.

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