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I guess we can't get married in a cardboard box.
October 10, 2012 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Help two budget wedding dorks make the most of appointments, touring venues, etc. What questions do we need to ask in person? How do we get it all done in a weekend? Can we get discounts on entry fees for looking at all these places?

My fiancee and I are planning to get married in upstate New York, which is about a 4-6 hour drive from where we live. We're taking a 3-day weekend to visit, but since it's such a hike we'd love to get our venues nailed down in that one weekend if possible.

I've been reading a lot of wedding blogs and boards, but I still feel like a noob about how you actually intelligently choose a venue. We're on a major budget, so my foremost questions are things like "can you put on a wedding that costs $5000 or less?"

So to those of you that have planned and put on a wedding:

1) How many venues can we reasonably look at in a 3-day weekend?

2) What questions do we need to make sure to ask while we're in person, since we likely won't go back out to the area for quite awhile?

3) Do you have to pay for catering tastings? How do you request one? I have no idea how this works.

4) We're looking at several state parks, which all have entry fees. We're also considering a couple boat cruises. Is it appropriate to ask if we can get in free or discounted since we're looking to book it for a wedding? It'll get pretty pricey to "try out" 2 boat cruises and 5 state parks, etc...

If details are relevant to your answer: we're planning a fall 2013 wedding, about 50 guests. We likely will not have a DJ or live music (not in the budget). We'll probably have to have the reception indoors since it'll be fall and heat lamps are expensive to rent. You can assume we've already contacted the venues via email/phone and asked basic questions about availability and price range).

(Also, if anyone has recommendations for cheap venues in: Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Finger Lakes, Ithaca, drop me a Memail.. I'm all ears)
posted by nakedmolerats to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also planning for next fall, so my advice is pretty noobly, but if the sites have event-coordinator type people and you schedule a meeting with them, you won't have to pay to get in. If the state parks don't have coordinators or they aren't available to meet that weekend, you could probably still talk your way in at the gate. And it seems reasonable to ask about the cruises!

They're trying to sell you something, it's in their interest - I keep forgetting that myself. E.g. more than one venue seemed surprised that we parked in the public visitor parking and walked, instead of pulling up into the more-convenient staff/private parking area, which I never would have assumed.

Most questions can be asked by phone or email later; in person it's been more about getting a sense of the space, whether it feels like a comfortable size for the amount of people you're expecting (you can ask if they have pictures of other functions, or google for other people's wedding photos), how foot traffic will flow, parking and accessibility (if that's a concern), and the professionalism of the staff.

Our visits to venues have been <1 hour generally, but I'd allow plenty of time for wandering around, for people to be running late if you have meetings scheduled, and for sitting down between visits to talk about your reactions and make notes, before they blend together in your memory.
posted by songs about trains at 8:26 AM on October 10, 2012


1) How many venues can we reasonably look at in a 3-day weekend?

This is impossible to answer without knowing details like how far apart the venues are and what activities you hope to accomplish there. Are you stopping by and snapping a picture (15 minutes)? Meeting with an event planner (an hour or more)?

2) What questions do we need to make sure to ask while we're in person, since we likely won't go back out to the area for quite awhile?

I would focus on pricing, since that is one of your top concerns. Especially pricing in relation to their policies. Things like "how much is the deposit", "are there any food and beverage minimums we must meet", "what is your cancellation policy" (in case of an emergency).

3) Do you have to pay for catering tastings? How do you request one? I have no idea how this works.

I would first talk to the venue's event manager before contacting any catering companies, as many venues require that you use one of their pre-approved caterers. Some probably charge for tasting, some probably don't. The venue staff can point you in the right direction with these questions. Because catering decisions are often dependent on the chosen venue, its going to be hard if not impossible to accomplish this all in one weekend, in my opinion. Your best bet is to set up a meeting with each venue and ask if they can have their catering samples present while you are there.

4) We're looking at several state parks, which all have entry fees. We're also considering a couple boat cruises. Is it appropriate to ask if we can get in free or discounted since we're looking to book it for a wedding? It'll get pretty pricey to "try out" 2 boat cruises and 5 state parks, etc...

State parks may let you in for free if you have a pre-scheduled meeting with someone on the staff to talk about an event. But if you are just stopping by on your own to look around, that seems less likely. As for the boat cruise, I guess you can ask, but I doubt they will let you go on their cruise and have dinner for free. I would guess that you may get some sort of discount if you contact them ahead of time in reference to potentially planning an event with them.

I think a common budgetary rule of thumb is that food is about 30% of the wedding budget. Based on $5000, that puts you at $1500 for food. If you have only 30 attendees including yourselves and wedding party, that puts you at $50 pp, which is going to be tough to find (if you are wanting a cruise, dinner, and possibly drinks). You may also want a cake. And don't forget the service fees and tips.
posted by halseyaa at 8:34 AM on October 10, 2012


I am also in the midst of wedding planning and it's daunting!

I would try to not look at too many venues. You should be able to do a lot of weeding out by just looking online and calling/sending emails. The more choices you have, the harder it will be to make a decision. And if you see a place you like and that works for you, even if it's the first one, just go with it! Yeah, you might find something that's a little better, but you could spend a lot of time searching for the perfect venue that just doesn't exist.

Things to consider re: venue: How much is the cost and deposit or is it just per person (per person is more likely for cruises and hotels)? How long do you have the venue (consider set-up and clean-up time)? Is there somewhere for the bridal party to get ready? Are tables/chairs/linens included? Is there a sound system (for an ipod or laptop music)? Location of ceremony/reception? Is catering provided by the venue, do they have preferred caterers, or can you bring your own? If catering is provided, how much extra is alcohol, cake? Also consider things like dance floor (if that's important to you), bathrooms, parking. And don't forget to include things like service fees, taxes, and tips into budget allocations!

$5000 is really not that much, so be clear on what's important and what you can cut out, especially on the big ticket stuff. You already mentioned cutting out the DJ, but what about photography? The cheapest I could find in my area was still starting at $1000. Flowers can also be pricey, so consider your options there.
posted by wsquared at 9:32 AM on October 10, 2012


We had a destination wedding which is what you are doing. Don't kid yourself that a few hours drive means it's not a destination wedding. It is. You will not be there to meet with vendors to handle details.

If I had it to do over, the most important thing I'd look for in a venue is a very good wedding coordinator. Check out the reviews on theknot. (The knotties are craZee; don't let them make you crazy.) Some venues will require you to pay to use their in-house coordinator whether you use her or not. That's how we met ours and she was fantastic.

Our coordinator saved us so much money because she had good relationships with local vendors. We told her our budget and what was important to us. She advised us on where to make compromises. For instance, she told us to ditch the traditional wedding cake and use fresh flowers on the cake instead. She also managed the florist so that that the bouquets were the colors we wanted, but used whatever flowers were fresh and inexpensive. The day of the wedding she personally managed every vendor and since she knew them all we got great service at the cost quoted. (Day of wedding upcharges are pretty common in destination weddings.) She brought our wedding in right on budget.

The other thing is she freed my husband and I to enjoy our wedding day. And enjoying your wedding is PRICELESS.
posted by 26.2 at 10:14 AM on October 10, 2012


I second the recommendation to use a wedding coordinator - we didn't because of budget, and I regretted it later (there are SO many little things to keep track of on the day, it can be distracting to have to deal with them yourself).

In Ithaca specifically, you might check out the Stewart Park Pavilion. Also, you'll find this site useful.
posted by marlys at 11:39 AM on October 10, 2012


I read somewhere that you can sometimes get cheaper quotes from venues by telling them your event is a "family reunion" not a wedding. Many places will charge more when they hear "wedding." I guess this makes the most sense if you're getting married elsewhere (church/town hall) and only using your venue for the reception. When you boil it down, receptions are, after all, just big parties.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 1:39 PM on October 10, 2012


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