Monday, March 9, 2020


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When you start planning your big day, you never know what you might find out

My fiancée and I got engaged on a Tuesday.

By the following Tuesday, we had our eyes on a couple dates and had appointments scheduled at a halfdozen potential reception venues.

By the next Tuesday, we had viewed all the places, declared a winner and locked in the date at both the venue and the church.

And the requisite fight (only one!) came after the massive venue hunt, which I consider a minor victory in and of itself.

But in two harried weeks of planning – planning that only resulted in setting the date with the venue and church – we learned more than we probably expected to learn in the process, in addition to unearthing some questions that might not be top of mind when you’re in a flurry of prenuptial bliss.

First Off …

Our wedding date was a little more than 14 months away from the time we booked it. Even then, some of the nearby dates we had initially thought of were already taken at either the church or the reception locale. You don’t have to do everything right away, but getting the date/location set in stone is a good thing to check off your list. Promptly.

Location, Location, Location

As I mentioned, we viewed a handful of places, which were all hotels. For us, the main thing we wanted was to have guests be in one spot, so that the only thing between the party and their bed is a quick elevator ride. Nearly all of our family and friends will be traveling to our wedding, and keeping logistics simple was one of our big priorities. We wanted them just to go from the church back to the hotel, end of story. Obviously, pick the venue you love most, but keep your guests in (the back of your) mind when picking out the place.

The Total Package

Most venues have a “wedding package,” which includes obvious things like food and drinks but also some other items that may be less obvious. Here are some of the finer points of packages and questions you should ask:


• Minimum. Most places will require that you spend a certain amount of money. Obviously, you’d like to be committed to the lowest possible tab, especially if your guest list isn’t super large.

• Gratuity. A gratuity or service charge often is built in. When you’re spending thousands of dollars, a 1- to 2-percent difference between venues will make a big difference.

• Tax. If you’re looking at spots in different townships, again, the slight difference in local tax will make a difference on your total bill.


Your per-entrée price is going to cover a lot – pretty much everything that’s included in your package. So, yes, you don’t want to pay $10 or $20 more for the same filet you could get at a different location, but you need to keep in mind what else you’re getting in your package. But a few things on food before we move on:

• Cost. Some packages charge you per item purchased – you pay for X beefs, X chickens and X vegetarians – whatever you order based on your guests’ RSVP. Some places, though, will charge you for the highest-priced menu item. So, for example, even if only 50 of your 200 guests order the beef dish, you’ll pay for 200 beefs, rather than a per-item breakdown.

• Appetizers. Are they included in your perplate price or are they a separate, per-guest expense?

• Dessert. Is there a dessert course in addition to cake?


• Quantity and quality. How many hours of open bar are included in your package? How many bartenders will you have? How many beer selections do you get? How much is a package upgrade or additional hours of service?

• Wine service. Is there wine service during dinner (when the bar is typically closed)? Is it unlimited or is there a limited per-table quantity?

• Champagne. Is a champagne toast included or extra?

• After dinner. Is there coffee service?

Cake & Flowers

Some venues may partner with local vendors to include your cake and centerpieces as part of your package. You go to the bakery or florist to pick out/design your creation, and they make sure it’s set to go for your big day. Does your venue do this?

Other Considerations

There’s something to be said about privacy. One venue we looked at could accommodate up to four – yes, four – weddings in a single day, and the way the ballroom and cocktail areas were set up didn’t assure me that a celebration there would be the most intimate, so always ask how many events will be taking place on your special day.

One final thing you may or may not luck out on is chair covers. In all honesty, I’ve always thought chair covers are a frivolous expense because they add up very quickly. And all they do is cover the chair! But I will admit that they do make the room very nice (Google them). Serendipitously, chair covers are part of the package at our venue, not an extra charge. So ask if they’re included. You never know.


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