Since I knew my ring was on its way, I took it upon myself to start pre-planning. This included looking through wedding blogs for events with orange as a main color, religiously pouring over reviews of wedding vendors from planners and photographers to caterers and bakers, and, most importantly, rooftop venues.
For a while I had been looking at venues, and they just weren’t living up to Lee and my vision in either rooftop view or price point. Costaban mas que un ojo de la cara! Then, I stumbled upon a venue that wasn’t even a venue yet. Construction was still underway with completion slated for March 2013. I was ecstatic! The photos on their website highlighted a wonderful view of the capitol dome, hard wood floors, a lower patio and an adjacent enclosed area with air conditioning and heating, AV hookups, the works! I was in love, and just needed to get everyone else on board.
Word of caution: be excited and be open. When I shared the news of my venue with la familia they were less than impressed. All they worried about was being cold, that it was very plain and was not anywhere close to Tutera standards. I defended my choice, and thought I would prove to them how amazing it was. They brought up a lot of valid points, but I stayed strong. They would see!
However, I took their advice and compiled a list of requirements, questions and concerns to use for all my venue appointments. It is important to have a list like this of your own for each vendor, to ensure all of your questions are answered and all of your needs can be met. Don’t worry chamas, I will be sharing my trusty vendor questions with you. These were adapted from Here Comes the Guide.
- Is [insert wedding date] available?
- How many people can the site accommodate?
- Rental fee? What’s included? Is there a discount for booking off-season, Sunday through Friday? Is there a backup location? If your wedding is outside make sure to ask!
- How much is the deposit, when is it due, and is it refundable? Is there a payment plan?
- Is there a ceremony site? Any additional charge?
- Is there a bride/bridal party changing area?
- How much time is allocated for the rehearsal?
- What’s the cancellation policy?
- How many hours will I have the event space(s)? Overtime fee?
- Are there decoration guidelines/restrictions? Can I use real candles?
- How much time will I have for décor setup?
- Do you provide a coat check? Is there a space that can be staffed for that purpose?
- Is there an outdoor space where my guests can mingle, and can it be heated and/or protected from the elements? Is there a separate indoor “socializing” space?
- Do you have an in-house caterer or a list of “preferred” caterers? Can I use an outside caterer instead? Is there a fee for doing this?
- If I hire my own caterer, are kitchen facilities available for them? Caterers may charge extra if they have to haul in refrigerators and stoves.
- Are tables, chairs, plates, silverware and glassware provided, or will I have to rent them myself /get them through my caterer?
- What is the food and beverage cost per/person? What is the service charge? Tax?
- Can we do a food tasting prior to finalizing our menu selection? If so, is there an additional charge? Is the menu customizable? I want fried plantains and bolinhas de bacalhau at my wedding!
- Can I bring in a cake from an outside baker or must I use a cake made on the premises? Is there a cake-cutting fee? Tres leches anyone?
- Can I bring my own wine, beer or champagne? If so, is there a corkage fee? Can I bring in other alcohol? Port with dessert.
- Are you licensed to provide alcohol service? What are the tiers/prices of alcohol service?
- Are there restrictions on what kind of music I can play, or a time the music must end? Can you accommodate a DJ and/or live band?
- Is there parking on site? Is it complimentary? Do you offer valet parking, and what is the charge? If there is no parking on site, where will my guests park? Are cabs easily accessible from the venue?
- How many restrooms are there? You should have at least 1 restroom per 35 people at a 4–6-hour event.
- Do you offer on-site coordination? If so, what services are included and is there an additional charge for them?
- What security services do you offer? Do I need to hire my own security guards, or do you provide them?
- Do you have liability insurance?
- Can I hire my own vendors (caterer, coordinator, DJ, etc.), or must I select from a preferred vendor list? If I can bring my own, do you have a list of recommended vendors?
- What overnight accommodations do you provide? Do you offer a discount for booking multiple rooms? Do you provide a complimentary room or upgrade for the newlyweds? What are the nearest hotels to the venue? Some venues have partnerships with local hotels that offer a discount if you book a block of rooms.
- Do you have signage or other aids to direct guests to my event?
Remember, everything is open for discussion and negotiation. Keep in mind what is most important to you, and ask to see an itemized list of what is included in the fee. You may find ways to cut costs or things you simply don’t need. The more you save in one place, the more you can spend in another.
Bring a camera with you to each venue, and take pictures of every space mentioned above: views, entrances, exits, the works. Ask someone on hand to take a picture of you and your partner as well. Capture the excitement of this planning time together!
Get everything in writing. Whatever you talk about, any negotiations you’ve made, any little inclusions or tidbits that were “thrown in” at the last minute... make sure it is all in your contract. Often times your wedding will be passed over to a lot of different people, so ensure that the exact deal (and all the details) are included in your signed contract so there are no questions along the way. Keep all of your correspondence with the venue in one place too, just in case!
And lastly, have fun! It is exciting, fun and at times frustrating planning a wedding, but they are memories you are building with your love. Cherish them, photograph them and love them for all that they are worth.
Now back to my own venue search! When I finally made it out with Lee I was overwhelmed. The space looked amazing, the price was a bit over but nothing we couldn’t handle and the view was spectacular. With my questions, a pad and paper in hand, I began the venue interview process. The venue was amazing on paper; however, once I was on that roof I found that there were set-backs. The capitol view was limited and blocked on the right by other buildings, looking towards the left the view was a parking lot, Union Station and the Old Post Office. I couldn’t get over the construction and the view of the parking lot. All of that money for a parking lot view? The view is what we are after!
Once we got to talking to Emilie from Bliss, she broke the news that the price jump was going to blow our budget. She suggested other venues that were closer to our price range and we went from there.
So many venues, so little time!
The next installment of our venue search isn’t far off, but I must admit that with all that searching I couldn’t help but start looking at another very important part of the wedding... the invites!
Next up, a look at the ever elusive wedding invitation.
Tell us: Where did you have your wedding? Share below!