Friday, November 25, 2011

{La Advice - Venue Hunting}

One of the biggest hurdles of wedding planning is finding a venue.  There are so many factors to consider when looking at potential spaces.  In the spirit of keeping it real, we're going to let you in on a little secret.... Venue hunting....Sucks.  Here's why and a few tips to make it less sucky...

This is the biggest decision you're going to make with regard to your wedding (aside, of course, from saying "YES!" when the big question was popped!).  This decision is also going to be one of the most expensive wedding related items on your checklist.  Choosing a venue can lead to arguments between you and your fiance, and possibly your families too, and I can assure you, that unless you have a fiance who's favorite phrase is "anything you want sweetums", this may be the first compromise in your married life.
So, yeah, it's not all unicorns pooping rainbows.  It's not all doom and gloom either though.  The key to minimizing casualties in the venue hunt is preparation and imagination. 

The first discussion you'll want to have is "Where" - with a capital W.  We're not talking about "where" little w as in at the Ritz Carlton or the Four Seasons.  We're talking area code (or even country code).  Especially difficult for the couples that each come from different cities/states/countries and now reside together in a 3rd location, the Where aspect can get dicey.  Take a deep breath, and weigh out the pros & cons of each location such as weather, costs of wedding venues/flowers/accommodation/etc., as well as the general vibe of the area.  If you've been dreaming of a sunset beach wedding, odds are Wichita isn't going to cut it for you; conversely, if you want cornfields and prairies as the backdrop in your photos, Brooklyn's probably not your best bet.  

Don't be afraid to stray from the "norm" either.  There's no rule saying that "good weddings" only take place in ballrooms/hotels/lofts/etc. Some of the best weddings that I've been to (both professionally and personally) have been in small restaurants, backyards, theaters and even bars.  

You also have to think about who your VIPs are - the people you most want to share in your wedding with (besides each other), and how they will be affected by the possibility of having to travel to your wedding - as travel can be prohibitive for some key players.  Take into account financial and health situations and take it from there.  

Be prepared for some ruffled feathers, no matter what you decide.  Mom might be upset that you're not going to walk down the aisle in the church that 4 previous generations of your family did, but guess what?  Mom will get over it *eventually. 

Another option is to have more than one reception.  You can get married in your hometown in Southern California (and walk down that aisle that mom is still obsessing over) and have your beach reception and then later plan a trip to his hometown in Connecticut and have a reception at his parents' country club.  (Though this option requires planning 2 receptions - if you're up for it, mentally and financially!).  We wish there was an easy solution to this scenario.  There's not.  Just try not to let it stress you to the point where you want to call the whole thing off! 

Once you've figured out the "Where", there are a few more things that you need to decide before you go hunting.  It's a good idea to know the style that you're leaning towards for your event.  If you are envisioning an English tea in a garden, you probably don't want to spend time making appointments at industrial lofts.  Knowing the vibe helps narrow down the seemingly limitless options that you're faced with. You should also have an idea of approximately how many guests you'll be having.  You can then weed out venues that are too large/too small.  It can also be helpful to know your wedding date - although this is not absolutely necessary.  If you haven't set a date and are not leaning toward a particular time of year, you have some flexibility. 

Some further considerations to make:
-How many different areas will the venue need to have (ceremony space? separate cocktail hour space? bridal suite? Outdoor space? Tent? After-party area?  Locations suitable for photo taking? 
-What other essentials should be available?  Do you want a full service venue with in-house catering? Do you want a raw space where you need to bring in everything from chairs to forks and everything inbetween?
-Are there any specific must-haves regarding the physical location of the venue?  Does it need to be close to the ceremony site or hotel? 

Once you've got those key questions answered, it's time to start narrowing down venue options and setting up appointments.  If you have set a date, make sure the venue isn't booked.  

Before you make an appointment, confirm that the venue is within your price-range.  You're not going to get an exact, down to the penny quote over the phone, but if you adivse the manager of your date and approximate guest count, they will give you a ballpark. Be frank with them - tell them that you're not interested in wasting their time or yours, and they should be willing to divulge at least a basic pricing guide.  (and if they refuse to budge, maybe they're not the type of place you want to have your wedding at....)

Once you start making appointments, it's just a matter of "trying the venue on".  Photos can be misleading, so there will be some venues you thought you'd love that you end up walking in & out of fairly quickly.  Others you'll want to take time to scrutinize.  

Small tangent (it's related, I promise), have you ever watched those house hunting type shows on TV?  I am mildly obsessed with them, and it irks me to no end when people look at a house and all they focus on is "Oh, I don't like that paint color." or "Oh, those carpets, yuck!" or "Hmmm, I don't like the way they arranged their furniture."  and they pass on a structurally lovely house based upon easy cosmetic fixes.  It's sort of the same for wedding venues.  You can't change the paint or the carpet, but keep an open mind when it comes to things like layout.  Also, try to visualize the space with your colors and style in mind.  You may be put off by a beige and white room, but hey, it wouldn't compete with those yellow flowers and charcoal table linens you've been dreaming of. 

Other things to note - does the venue do multiple events at the same time?  If so, how close are the spaces to one another?  Are the restrooms shared and are they far from the event space?  Is there a bridal suite (it's not necessary in all circumstances, but it's nice to have)?  

If you're looking at a venue that includes catering, ask them if you can see the kitchen (granted, you may not know much of anything about a commercial kitchen, but this will tell you a. if it's grody and b. how accommodating the venue is).  

Most importantly, if you like the space, ask questions.  Ask about the staff (the ratio of servers to guests/staff attire/whether there's a bridal attendant/etc.).  Ask about the hours (venues in residential zones often have legal limitations placed on them with regard to noise and hours of operation).  Ask if they have any plans for renovation or construction in the coming months.  And don't be afraid to ask them what I think are the most important questions of all...  "Why should we book with you?  What makes your venue the best choice for us? Why do you stand out from all the other venues in the area?"  Don't be timid, and don't let them give you a sales pitch.  Put them on the spot and ask honest, to the point questions. 

Happy venue hunting & good luck! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

{La Traditions - Bridesmaids' Luncheon}

Bridesmaids’ Luncheons are a wonderful way to spend quality time with your dear friends before the big event and to thank the ladies for being part of your wedding party.  There are no hard and fast rules to throwing a Bridesmaid’s luncheon – it doesn't have to be lunch, and it doesn't have to be just your bridesmaids.  It can be as casual or elegant as you’d like, and it doesn’t even have to be lunch – it could be pre-wedding mani/pedis and other spa pampering, dinner and dancing, a wine tasting, or even pizzas and beers.

Photo by Tim Eng of Visual Appeal Studios
 A bridesmaids’ luncheon is typically held a few days before the wedding which allows for out-of-town bridesmaids to be a part of the festivities.  This is particularly nice if your OOT Bridesmaids were unable to make it to your bridal shower/bachelorette party.  You may think that the days before your wedding will be too stressful, however, in our experience, the bridesmaids’ luncheon is a great distraction that allows the bride a chance to relax and unwind (besides, if you’ve got a top-notch wedding planner, you probably won’t be so busy and stressed!).

Generally the bride or her mother/grandmother/aunt hosts the bridesmaids’ luncheon – it’s almost like the opposite of the bridal shower -it’s the bride’s chance to shower her bridal party. In attendance should be the bridesmaids, both mothers, and any close friends that you’d like to have there – i.e. if you have a cousin who is doing a reading, by all means feel free to include her.  However, we don’t suggest that you invite every woman who is attending the wedding.  Instead, use this event as an intimate gathering to thank the women who are playing active roles in your wedding.  

Photo by Hart + Sol

Whatever you do, we hope you have fun!