How on earth has anyone managed to organize a wedding, ever?
September 29, 2010 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Los Angeles Filter: I am a geeky/artsy gal who is currently based in NYC, who for various inextricable reasons is slated to get married in Los Angeles this summer. I am completely overwhelmed by LA and how little I know about it, but I am trying to make the most of the situation. I have a few questions which you LA-folk might be kind enough to help me with. I'm not the wedding-planning type at all, and so far my only main goal is that the wedding happen in an interesting place, which is somewhat compatible with my traditional extended family from their somewhat ostentatious culture. Big, giant sigh.

1) My fiance and I are both eccentric characters. My extended family is conservative. And likes dancing. And is large. We could limit our total numbers to either 500 people, or 250 people, depending on the spot and our budget. Which is probably going to be on the minimal side of things, but hopefully a few steps up from shoestring.

Is there any place that is quirky, but could hold either of these numbers and not be insanely expensive? A petting zoo probably wouldn't work, though a loft downtown might, or something strange like Greystone Mansion (though affordable. I wish I could be more specific about budget, I just have no idea right now.) Also, I hope to make the location somewhat reachable by people in both Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley. I know this is quite specific, but you crazy cats and your great ideas are my only hope!

2) This question should hint at how lost I am about this process, but what is a ballpark minimum number of times we should expect to physically visit LA before the wedding itself? We have no one to help us there, so we will be doing it all from afar, except for these minimal visits. (one? two?)

3) Is there a website/blog or two which would be helpful to read? The ones I have skimmed have made me kind of overwhelmed and anxious. I want to keep things somewhat simple, fun, but not so DIY-looking that my extended family will feel like it is a tragic event. (They can be diabolically judgemental, so I am not overly concerned, but my fiance would like to make as many people as happy as possible, since neither of us are particularly invested in the idea of some specific, perfect wedding.)

4) Is there any hope that this can be anything other than a painful, overwhelming process? Any tips? As always, much thanks!!
posted by wondershrew with a helping of potato salad to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimer: I am not from LA.

Honestly, you cannot get away with hosting 250 or 500 people at all on a "shoestring" budget. Let alone without it being DIY-looking.

Focus on figuring out your budget. It is the most important part of planning a wedding. Sit down. Figure out how much you can put in. Figure out whether your parents can put in. Do I need to say it again? Most important part.

Then figure out what's important and what's not important to you both. Think about everything. Talk about what you both would like to happen that day. Once you know that, start looking for venues and caterers. They're going to be your biggest budget items. After that, you'll have a better idea for how you can/will allot the rest of your funds based on the things that were important to you.

My opinion was always if the folks aren't helping out at all, it's time to elope to an island somewhere and have a beautiful wedding/honeymoon there. Thankfully, both of our parents are contributing most of the money for our wedding next March. Good luck!
posted by two lights above the sea at 12:13 PM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Ebell Club is a very cool old Los Angeles historic building. They have a theater, and also a real old-school ballroom adjacent to a very nice courtyard, a great space for weddings and special events. I don't know how expensive they are, but most likely cheaper than a fancy hotel. I've been to several weddings there and produced a couple of events at the theater years ago. This might be the affordable alternative to the Greystone Mansion if you decide to go that way.

I live in a loft downtown, and my landlord owns several properties that he rents out for film shoots and parties. It is definitely very funky downtown industrial in not so great parts of the area. It probably would be fun for you and your friends but not at all acceptable to the conservative parts of your family. Memail me if you want contact info.
posted by ljshapiro at 12:15 PM on September 29, 2010

Honestly, 250-500 people in a location where you don't live and have no one to help you, in an interesting space, when it sounds like much of the event will be staged to standards that your family expects and that don't fit with your lifestyle... Well, it sounds like a recipe for months and months of completely avoidable stress.

You'd do well to read blogs and forums of other people plannings weddings so you can gauge the difficulty level of your requirement so far. Not the Knot and its ilk, but more friendly, down to earth, accepting places like

A Practical Wedding
Offbeat Bride
Intimate Weddings
Project Wedding
The Thirtysomething Bride

Don't panic, and don't make any big decisions right away. Except budget. You need to know RIGHT NOW the entire amount you're spending.

I can't imagine, with a minimum of 250 guests and a fairly conservative family that you want to please, that you're talking about less than 35k. Or do you need a reality check here? Do you have 20k and you want to spread that around 250 people? If so, you'll need to adjust a lot of details, like buying a $150 vintage cocktail dress instead of a new, traditional $1500 bridal gown. And like having a brunch reception instead of dinner, dancing, and an open bar. There is nothing wrong with these options, by the way! Many people actually have them as their first choice.

One thing my fiance and I did when we were trying to figure out how much to spend on what: Came up with an amount we could live with, and entered it into a spreadsheet cell. Then we created entries for all the things we knew we couldn't live without, like: clothes, catering, wine, and rings. We spread the entire amount over the must-haves, and as we thought of other things we wanted, we had to take money away from those things and put them toward the new things. Sounds elemental, but I'm trying to break down for you that wedding planning is no different than household budgeting.

Planning weddings can be so, so fraught with emotions, but having all the information you need about money up front is a great force field to have against the potential beast.

Good luck!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:35 PM on September 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

We asked ourselves that same question as we started to get into planning our wedding. And ours was nowhere near as large as your sounds.

Then we eloped to Hawaii.

19 years later and neither of us has ever regretted how we did it.
posted by COD at 12:44 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

One thing about having guests in the valley and in Santa Monica: Angelenos are used to driving. Pick any location you like and people will get there without complaint. Valleyites drive over the hill all the time, and vice versa.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:59 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out Greystone prices? My impression from friends who had a lovely (fairly simple) wedding there was that there were tiers of cost depending on how much of the property they wanted to use and whether or not they wanted it closed to the public.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a geeky/artsy gal, ask yourself a very serious question. How much do you really want to please your extended conservative family? Because it sounds like pleasing the family will be important to you.

This is an impossible task given the criteria and number of people you want. Think how much you would spend in time, effort, and money you'll spend on this wedding if it were done in NYC, just assuming everyone on your list were to show up. And ask yourself if you really want to go there. Then transfer the shindig to L.A.

Still on board? Well, then, you sound like a creative couple. Good, because you're going to really have to think outside the box. Nothing about this is going to be easy, unless you completely and absolutely delegate the whole works to a trusted and willing person, and let the chips fall where they may. If I had the money, and were, for whatever reason, compelled to get married in an unfamiliar city, that's what I would do. Or I'd arrange the whole affair into a fairly unorthodox and quirky event, and accept the fuddyduddies will be aghast, which is kind of what I did on a truly shoestring budget. In the end, it turned out nicely memorable.

Or just take the money and elope. Seriously.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:09 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you even want to do this? (From your post, it sounds like you don't.) Some suggestions:
-- Bag it, and elope
-- Hire a wedding planner in LA, and have him/her coordinate everything. You may not have to visit before the wedding at all if you have someone else plan everything.
-- Have your family (or your groom's) do it. If pressure is coming from them, maybe you want to ask them to handle everything?
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:10 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: --Well, I'd elope without one second of thought, but it is 100% not an option, sadly.

--So if I stop trying to please the fuddy-duddies, and just aim to have as many people as possible (maybe 400) for whatever amount of money we are working with, are there any locations which could fit a quirkier/more DIY bill, rather than a please-everyone-bill, but still fit a bunch of people?
posted by wondershrew with a helping of potato salad at 2:04 PM on September 29, 2010

I'm sorry, but 400 or 500 people sounds like a recipe for madness in planning wedding. Why so many? I realize people add up very quickly (I'm also currently planning a wedding), but seriously think about who you want to be there on your wedding day and how you can restrict numbers. (We're inviting immediately family, our parents' siblings, first cousins and their kids; anyone beyond that is not on the list.) With 400 or 500 people, you won't even get to talk to everyone, even just to say "hey, thanks for coming." Also, you really need to start with a budget in mind to see how many people you can actually afford. If you think people add up quickly, just watch the expenses add up even faster.
posted by pised at 2:27 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Data point: I got married when I lived in London, and we had a large wedding in Edinburgh. I went up there exactly once, to tour venues and do tastings with caterers, all of which I arranged in advance. I made decisions and finalised things from London when I returned.

I did everything else online, including finding and hiring officiant and photographer, and buying booze. I went up to Scotland about five days in advance to get ready on the ground. This only worked because (god forgive me I thought I would die) hired a wedding planner.

The wedding planner was clear I didn't want her to plan so much as help. I was paying her not for fabulous design ideas but to be my hands locally. She found the bagpiper. She worked out the lighting with the venue. She took delivery of stuff I sent out in the months ahead - I made all our favours and shipped her boxes, she held them for three months, etc. I ordered wholesale flowers online and they shipped to her. Etc. I literally could not have done it without someone who's job it was to work for me locally.

It also meant that on the day, instead of being the go-to person for everything, my answer was "Ask Joan." This made a HUGE difference in my ability to enjoy the day. It was, literally, priceless.

I think I paid her £1,500. This would have been between 15 - 20% of our total budget. It was worth every penny. I have no regrets.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:45 PM on September 29, 2010

Response by poster: There is a cultural tradition aspect of this. It's a tradition that is actually extremely fun. Weddings are basically giant dance parties, with everyone dancing with everyone else until the wee hours. Even the 80 year old grandparents, and the young kids, for the most part. It's not an awkward affair with people sitting stiffly at tables and not really interacting much. That's the only reason I'm still trying to make it happen, despite the obstacles. Maybe one person out there has a venue idea that might possibly work? If not, it was worth a try. Okay, I'll stop hogging the thread. Thanks for all input, though!
posted by wondershrew with a helping of potato salad at 2:46 PM on September 29, 2010

What, roughly, is the actual budget you are looking to spend on this? Can you give a ballpark amount/range in actual dollars rather than just "the minimal side of things, but hopefully a few steps up from shoestring"? That will probably help people figure out what suggestions to give you.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 2:51 PM on September 29, 2010

Not to pry, but how is eloping not an option? If it's a family reason, that's a valid starting point for discussing help with funding the wedding. If it's a money thing... well, you are trying to plan a wedding for 400 people? I doubt you'll spend less on flying to an island. Hell, there are beautiful places in the US you can go.

If it's just something you don't want to do, that's fine. But 400 people at $40 a head for dinner (which is low for a city affair) is already $16,000... and that's not including the venue rental or alcohol! Or anything else! ...Do you actually know what weddings cost? It's not actually a fairytale, honey. You are paying for this.

Be realistic. Think of a budget. Budget, budget, budget.

And remember: It's your day. Do what you want with what you can afford.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:53 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also: 400 people is more people than attended my prom, and my school had to rent three separate rooms (two dining and one dancing) to accommodate that many people. So, venue costs are definitely going to be high.
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:06 PM on September 29, 2010

We planned our Pasadena, CA wedding from NC without traveling there once before hand. We did go out for the wedding two weeks in advance to finalize everything, which was very helpful.
Now, I had plenty of family there to help out, but they actually only ran two errands for me (My mom and Godmother visited the venue, and picked up craft items for the favors). The indispensable person was the wedding coordinator/planner. I was definitely a "hands-on" bride, despite being so far away, and my hubby and I had a lot of specific requests. We did a lot of shopping around online and found our own sources for: venue, bakery, officiant, etc. The coordinator was amazing in that she was able to use her business network to fill in the blanks. Also I'm sure she liked us expanding her contact list for her.

I can't think of a venue that would hold that many people, except a major hotel, and I have no idea what you mean by "minimal" as relates to budget. We had 200+ guests (actually pretty sure less than that) and our wedding was not "low cost". But it wasn't "extravagant" by today's standards, and it was exactly what we wanted.
posted by purpletangerine at 3:36 PM on September 29, 2010

Is there really noone there to help you? I mean, what about all those people in Santa Monica? NO ONE to go look at a venue or taste the cakes?
posted by purpletangerine at 3:38 PM on September 29, 2010

How much time do you have to plan? You could do an outdoor event by renting out a park or something, but that requires permits. Then there's the added cost of setting up sound systems and dance floors, etc.
Ok, I'm done. Seriously though, we planned an LA wedding from the East Coast nearly four years ago; if you want to MeMail me, I can probably dig up the names and contact info for some of the vendors we used.
posted by purpletangerine at 3:40 PM on September 29, 2010

The Smog Shoppe (yelp) might work for you.

I went to a wedding reception at the Oviatt Penthouse that was quite nice. The venue and views are spectacular. and I think there were about 200 people there.

The catering company for the Oviatt also links to some of their favorite locations. Looking at that list, I remember that I went to a lovely wedding at Orcutt Ranch, but that venue only holds 175 people.
posted by mogget at 3:46 PM on September 29, 2010

You might consider the Pasadena Masonic Temple. I've attended dance weekends there a couple of times now, and the building is lovely and will easily hold over 250 people. I don't think you can see it from the photos on line, but there is a stage for the band, so that they don't take up any room on the dance floor.
posted by jvilter at 3:59 PM on September 29, 2010

Wedding venues in LA book up very quickly. You're talking about summer 2011, right? Are you getting married and having the reception in the same place?
posted by Ideefixe at 4:15 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry to join the pile on, but you're not going to be able to do hundreds of people at a cool venue. You're going to need a reception hall.


- let your parents plan it all where everyone is in a big VFW hall or whatever the local joint is
- elope
- have less people

As others have said, you need to figure out exactly how much you have to spend and work from there before you even start exploring venues.
posted by k8t at 4:19 PM on September 29, 2010

A previously you might find helpful...
posted by ApathyGirl at 6:45 PM on September 29, 2010

Let me guess -- your family is Persian Jewish? They are the only ethnic group I know of that routinely has that kind of big, big wedding out here, and many of them end up at the Hyatt in Century City, which has extensive underground ballrooms. It's not a quirky location by any means, but they're used to dealing with large group events like weddings, so you could start there and see what their price structure is like. They may be able to recommend caterers and florists too.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:09 PM on September 29, 2010

If you're Persian or some other big-in-SoCal ethnicity, you should get a wedding planner that specializes in your ethnicity. (Veteran of many Armenian weddings.)
posted by k8t at 7:11 AM on September 30, 2010

« Older Where in NYC can I volunteer late on week day...   |   Turn a Picture into a Painting Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.