Posts Tagged ‘venue’

I am in love with my fiancé, poetry, good food, and autumn. Probably in that order. (I also like Italy, but that’s for another post.)


As you might have guessed, good food at our wedding is *very* important to me. I simply like eating and cooking.


I love to cook. My fiancé jokes that most people go to a restaurant, enjoy the food and then decide to return. I go to a restaurant and feel inspired to reverse engineer the food. When we went to Chicago and I had deep dish pizza for the first time, I promptly bought the proper pan and prepared it at home.


Sometimes I’ll ask for a “cooking challenge” from my fiancé. For his birthday, it was a few Creole dishes (how else can we prepare for a trip early next year?) A few weeks ago, it was homemade spanakopita and I was tickled that my fiancé mentioned it on his Facebook status. My Uncle Bruno’s favorite dish is bucatini all’amatriciana and this summer he was dismayed to find out that I hadn’t made it yet. That dish in particular became a challenge in trying to find the ingredients locally.


Bucatini all'amatriciana

When I was growing up, it wasn’t just a priority to eat breakfast and dinner together, it was simply expected. It was the time when we talked about our day, laughed and sometimes even went over lists of things to talk about. This has carried through to my adult relationship.


I don’t want our wedding to be much different. I’d like to taste everything that we’ve chosen for the menu and be able to remember it.



Recent brides and friends tell me that I won’t get to eat at my wedding.


Not eat? That’s ridiculous. I’m determined to eat and enjoy the food, the company and the day.


A fiction writing friend is the first person to tell me that she did eat at her wedding (a green, local-food wedding in San Francisco) and she still salivates thinking about the dishes served there. That’s the way to go.


We want to try out the food at venues before making a decision. I expected that there would be more tastings, but most of my contacts at venues have told me that the tastings occur after you sign the contract. I can’t fathom choosing a location without tasting the food.


We’ve made reservations at a number of venues that are restaurants that hold weddings (as opposed to catering halls) in order to test the food. While dinner for four is not necessarily representative of how a restaurant is capable of serving a large room of guests, it is some indication of the quality and service.


It has become an expensive venture. One or two places offered discounts, but generally we have been on our own. I found this surprising. With a few exceptions, most of the catering halls would not offer tastings at all. One lovely hall offered us a tasting for a price that would go towards our deposit. That seemed more than fair.


Each chef or contact person has told me that they are flexible with the menu. While we haven’t chosen a venue yet, I believe them. Be firm in deciding what you want to have served. Write down options, go through the menus they give you and choose your favorite dishes.


However, don’t make a kitchen do something they aren’t used to doing. You don’t want to be their test case.


The food doesn’t have to be fancy or traditional. The wedding we went to in Richmond had a selection of appetizers and then a delicious cake. Everyone’s favorite appetizer was a tiny waffle with fried chicken topped with a tangy sauce.


Final word: Do what you want, not what other people tell you want.


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It is uncouth to discuss money in the United States. This is inconvenient. 


If we were more open about money, we’d know how much people paid for things (i.e.: did we pay too much?), how much people make (i.e. why don’t I make a more appropriate salary?) and ideas about how to save better (i.e. why don’t I have any money left?) I found that Italians I met in Florence, Italy were quite blunt about money. They asked how much things cost, how I paid for them, etc. At first I was a bit flustered by such questions, but now I see how useful they can be.


I wish couples would be more upfront about what they paid and how they figured out how to pay for it.


When you are searching for a wedding venue, as we are right now, you have to know what questions to ask since some costs aren’t immediately disclosed.


Here are a few things I’ve discovered you should ask about:


Ceremony fee: If you are getting married onsite, there may be a per person or one-time fee to hold the ceremony there. This pays for the set-up, staff, etc.


Alcohol: You may receive a per-person price for the food, but check to make sure it includes the alcohol (for the reception, dinner and after dinner drinks.) Sometimes you can bring in your own alcohol, which lowers the final price tag considerably (depending on whether or not there’s a corking fee.)


Tents: Especially if you are renting a space and hiring an outside caterer to come in, you may need to pay for tents. This is not a small fee.


Insurance: Some smaller venues that do not regularly hold weddings may ask you to buy insurance.


Staff: Sometimes you are asked to pay for extra bartenders, waiters, etc.


Valet parking: Is this an extra charge at your venue? It is a particularly important question at a more urban site.


Gratuity and Tax: Some venues include these numbers in their per-person totals, some don’t.


Holidays/off-season dates/afternoons: Weddings cost different amounts depending on the day and time of day. It can be shocking how much they vary. Ask about holiday rates, afternoon and off-season weddings. Off-season dates might also make it a less expensive trip for your guests (airfare, hotels, etc.)



It can be an English major’s nightmare to plan a wedding according to a budget. Each website, attachment, etc. tallies numbers differently. Be patient. Ask a lot of questions and work to come up with a final number for each venue so that you can better compare and contrast prices. Remember, you are buying a product/service and have the right to understand what you are purchasing.

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My fiance’ and I are not weathered bridesmaids/groomsmen. Sure, he was in two friends’ weddings and I was in one. but we weren’t so involved that we inherieted the infamous “binder.”

Everyone from friends, relatives to dress salesmen have told me that I need a binder in which to put cut outs of dresses I like, flower arrangements, descriptions of cakes, etc.

I am not a joiner. I took out my Smith College reunion tote bag and put some notes in there. It looked properly feminist and untraditional, while still useful.

Then, I went to a sprawling, suburban Barnes and Noble with my mother to look at wedding magazines. It made sense to start by looking at some pictures in order to get some ideas. We spent the afternoon laughing over a pile of heavy magazines and two coffees.

How could dresses be so big, heavy-looking and absurd? I don’t want to find a dress for a costume party, I want to find something classic and flattering. How could wedding halls have so many carpet patterns and men kissing women in uncomfortable dance poses? I don’t think my back could ever bend like that.

Then, we started to look at venues with both my parents and his parents who were visiting from out of town. The venues were impersonal and commercial looking, like sterile wedding theme parks.

A few months later, we have a better sense of what we want. We’ve talked a lot. We’ve created a Google word document that we can share. On there, we’ve put our dreams, ideas and expectations. We’ve talked about everything, but we’ve also written it down so that we can better see, discuss and remember our ideas.

We will be back in NJ, where we want to get married, over the Thanksgiving break, and have a new list of venues to look at. It will be busy, but now we have a vision of our wedding and are ready to start making more concrete plans.

Everything we need is in the tote bag and a Google document.

Advice: Talk honestly with your love. Literally list your dream wedding and rate what aspects are most important to you. Discuss what you’d be willing to compromise on and what is most important. Talk to everyone about your ideas. It is like networking for a career – you never know who has a good suggestion, idea or warning about a venue. Start in magazines, but Google reviews and related links. Don’t be shy.

You don’t have to decide everything at once. The venue is the most important piece, but you can’t decide on that until you have a general vision (beach wedding, picnic, formal sit down dinner, etc.) and a guest count.

And a budget. This is potentially the most expensive day of your life; you want to have a lovely day, but you also need to be able to afford to eat the next day.

Start slowly and work up to signing any contracts. You wouldn’t choose an apartment, house, career, college, etc. in a day. Shop around and get a sense of both the options and what you’d like. There’s no emergency.

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