So I have decided to put a list together for some of our newer wedding planners and brides who would like to plan their own wedding. Although this list may not work with all the venues, it is a good reference to have. If anything, at least you know what you are or you are not getting from the venue.
When booking a venue, especially if it is a hotel, there are a few things you should consider and ask:
After I finish my somewhat extensive presentation, I always ask the bride and groom if they have any questions. Most of the time they reply “I have already answered all of their questions during my presentation” and “they can’t think of anything else.” Then I start again: “Did you ask me for coat check or parking?” or “How many chefs and carvers and how much?” Do you know if I have hidden charges and what they are?” So I just opened a whole new door for them and that is to ask questions and pay attention to all the details: The hidden questions that no one else wants you to ask.
If you are a bride or if you just got into this business, there are quite a few details you should know which makes a huge difference in your planning and will save you money in a long run. We all know the obvious things, but details are what makes or breaks the wedding; I am here to share some of them with you and will continue in a few blog series.
Things that we miss most of the time
Put it in writing
Starting with the venue, don’t just concentrate on the ballroom. Look at all the areas that come with your ballroom.
Ask for a map of the hallways, sections and side rooms you will get with your package. You’ll be surprised at some of the limitations and/or additions you have. From the bathrooms, to coat check to ceremony room and pre-ceremony room to back yard, outdoor and hallways: know exactly what areas will be yours to decorate.
Walk around your ballroom and note everything you see and make it a point that these need to be fixed before your wedding or you will need a 10% to 15% discount in case it’s not repaired or fixed.
Ask what is the procedure to inform the guests of the exact location of your ballroom. Do they use signs, arrows, TV monitors or a guest concierge? It is important for the venue to have plans for this and remember if you don’t ask, you don’t get it.
Most of the times venues have storage of “left over’s”. This is what all the other weddings left behind. If possible ask your catering manager if you can see what they have and how you can use them for all the areas that are not associated directly with your wedding like the second closest bathroom or the alternative hallway to your ballroom. This will help to save on the places you like to decorate but don’t want to spend money.
With a venue with a few ballrooms, ask all the important questions such as the % of occupancy during the time of your wedding. Most hotels have a record of previous years and some repeat groups who always book during that time.
It is good for both the venue and the wedding party to have only one event at one time if the price is right. So sometime it’s better to ask how much more you have to pay to insure the room next to you is not rented to some other events and if that is not negotiable or possible, I recommend either choose a slower season that is almost guaranteed there will not be other groups or do more research on other venues. I remember during one of my friend’s wedding; we had to walk through metal detectors because there was a UN conference booked in the other ballroom.
Another very important question to ask is not only about any future construction on the venue but also all the areas around your venue. Most of the time venues know about constructions, street fairs, street closures etc….about a year or two ahead of time.
It is very important that you spend less money on renting items such as chair, napkins, tablecloths, etc unless it’s an empty catering hall. If you have to go through a huge rental, I strongly recommend choosing another venue. The right venue is the one that you picked not for the price but only and only because you saw yourself getting married there and it delivers your vision. Remember too much change is “wrong”.
Ask if they have a special carpet (red or white) or flower arrangements at the entrance door or a presenter to stand at the door to let people in. First impression is everything.
If possible see the bridal suite and put the exact room number into your contract or at least put “equal or higher level” in case if the hotel had to change your room the last minute. Always make sure your bridal suite has at least two or three bedrooms since it gets crazy the morning of your wedding.
If your venue is a hotel, walk the floors; pick a specific floor for your guests. Pick a floor with rooms with the best view and least amount of noise. It is always better to put the guests on the same floor or if possible rent the entire wing. It seems guests likes it more and works much better with room service and room deliveries. Make sure you ask if there is going to be any future construction that might block the view of the rooms.
Last but not least make sure you negotiate a room for your groom since most of the hotels do not provide that.
If the menu is included in the contract confirm there is a clause that mentions you have the right to use the newer version of the menu when it comes out or keep the same even if it has been discontinued.
More details to put into your contract
» Power drops for the photographer, videographer and the band
» Power drops in your bridal suite (trust me you need them with all the hair dryers and straitners etc…)
» Steamer, hangers, barstools, bottle water etc… for the bridal suite
» Stage, stage cover and dance floor
» Make sure you see the dance floor and put the exact color and condition in your contract. Sometimes you are surprised with the “older dance floor”.
» Serving Plates and Silverware: Check and note the plates, silverware and their colors. Sometimes Venus changes their serving plates, colors or other stuff without prior notice and if you were planning your colors around them there will be a problem. Also put it into your contract in case the venue purchases any new items such as new staging, dance floors, dishes, silverware and table cloth/napkins, you have the first choice to decide if you are going to use them for your wedding.
» White glove service, Champagne up-on arrival and “In-room gift delivery” are the least costly things for both you and the venue and most impressive things to add to your wedding.
» In non-union or five star venues, I would ask for the colors and condition of the wait staff’s uniforms and make a note into your contract.
Some more details to negotiate
Another thing to negotiate is the food for the day of your wedding at your bridal suite. Most of the times hotel will send a light continental breakfast, finger food or tea sandwiches but it is only one time a day. Negotiate breakfast and lunch as well as a private hospitality suite for the bridal party and the families before the guest arrival. This helps everybody to relax and get ready for the wedding.
If you are planning to change your wedding dress negotiate a changing room (this is a small room close to your ballroom) since sometimes getting to your bridal suite takes a long time especially if you have to take elevators or go from a one wing to another.
Power of smell
Make sure either the venue or your florist delivers flowers to your bridal suite. Nothing puts you in a good mood more than the sense of smell especially if they are the same as the ones you picked as your wedding flowers. In most of the five and six star hotels you will have a personal concierge and maid in your room. Make sure you note that on your contract because sometimes hotels fail to mention that to you or they put it up-on availability.
Negotiate and meet with a dedicated mater’d or a Capitan for your wedding. A day before your wedding walk the floor to make sure everything is set the way you wanted it. It is almost impossible to make last minute changes without reoccurring charges
Steaming and ironing of the napkins, table cloths, curtains and buffet tables skirting are a must. This seems to be one of the most common things that the planners and brides forget and trust me it makes a huge difference.
Time line – diagram – menus and last minutes changes
Although I always tell my brides nothing goes 100% based on your time line but it is very important to make sure the band, mater’d and the venue know there is a reason for every timing you have lined up. If there are any suggestions or changes, they should let you know at least a month in advance
If you agreed to the diagram all the set ups should be “as per diagram” and nothing should and can be changed. From the size of the stage for the band or DJ to the dance floor size and location, tables, stations and all the other miscellaneous set ups.
Look at all the albums especially the most recent one in the catering office to see different set ups, colors and decorations. This can be a very good reference for your set up.
Your other vendors & vendor to vendor relations
Meet with all of your vendors to walk the space, get some ideas from them and share yours. Treat all of your vendors with respect, since they are the ones who will make your dream day come true. Negotiate vendor meals. Do not and I repeat do not ever give them something other than what all the other guests are eating. That is totally wrong. The best rate would be half of your per person prices since they don’t eat your wedding cake and don’t drink alcohol. Make a point that you expect your vendors to be treated well and fed at a specific time and not at the end of the night.
The good deed
Always make arrangements for the left over’s: if the venue does it it’s great but if not contract the local charities, closest hospital or shelter to your venue and see if they can use your left over flowers and food.