Vendors

What happened to our wedding cakes

by Melissa on April 26, 2012

Well, I’ve mentioned it about a million times here on SuperNoVAbride, but never actually dedicated an entire post to it. So, what happened to our wedding cakes and why were they all wrong?

We told our wedding cake bakery that we wanted plain and simple cakes as our wedding cake, plus cupcakes. We showed her pictures like this:

chocolate-buttercream-cake-2

Image Source

chocolate buttercream cake

Image Source

Because we wanted to have a table of a bunch of round cakes, like this:

cake table

Image Source

We sent her a contract and deposit about four months before the wedding, and a final balance 30 days before the wedding. Our contract specified that we wanted no decoration on the wedding cake, just the frosting and fillings indicated and to look like what was in the picture.

Well, the DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING, she is calling our coordinator to ask us what we meant by “no decoration.” Mind you, she had had the contract for nearly FOUR MONTHS and never asked us for any clarification. It seems to me like we met with her for the tasting, showed her pictures of what we wanted, then we sent in the contract, and she never bothered to look at it or take note of our requests.  Mind you, this was a reputable wedding cake bakery who had excellent Yelp and WeddingWire reviews.

I had talked about this before in my post about my day-of-coordinator, but the wedding cake bakery is the only vendor I found through our day-of-coordinator. And I hated how that entire process worked. How I was never allowed to contact the bakery myself. Everything had to go through the DOC. When I had a question, it was like a big game of telephone communicating it to the vendor through the coordinator. I really questioned why anyone would ever want to use a coordinator to find all their vendors, because it seriously took me like twice as long to get an answer from the bakery compared to other vendors.

While Ken and I are getting ready for the rehearsal and still reeling from all the craziness earlier that day, telling the coordinator (while she was on the phone with the bakery) what we wanted was just about enough to push me over the edge. I was just like, “PLAIN FUCKING ROUND CAKES AND CUPCAKES. Using the frostings and fillings that we had listed on our contract.” (like white cake with chocolate ganache, white cake with strawberry filling, chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, white cake with chocolate buttercream, etc.).  Unfortunately there was no internet access at the venue, so we couldn’t re-email the photos to her.

She still seemed confused, but the coordinator assured us everything would be okay.

Well, as soon as Ken and I arrived at the reception, we noticed that the cakes were wrong.

supernovabride-wedding-cakes

They weren’t those simple, rustic-looking cakes we had been hoping for and had shown the bakery pictures of. Instead, they looked like non decorated wedding cakes. Too formal for a rustic wedding, and they looked stupid.

supernovabride-wedding-cakes-2

 

Even though we wanted them undecorated, we wanted them looking like a the cakes in the pictures, not so smooth and stuff. I know, it’s hard to describe.  Plus, ALL the cakes had white icing! We expected the fillings to match the icing since we indicated that on our contract! But instead, they all just had the white icing.

At the wedding, we really weren’t that upset, just annoyed. As we thought about it in the days following the wedding, we wondered, “why on earth didn’t she call us in the FOUR MONTHS that she had the contract to clarify? Why did she wait until the night before the wedding?”  We were confused. She was reputable and does excellent work.

So, we requested a partial refund.  We weren’t requesting a full refund because the cupcakes were perfectly fine and correct, and the cakes tasted fine. It was just the completely incorrect decoration.

No response.  We e-mailed again (of course, through the coordinator), and again, no response.

I realized that she had never cashed our final balance check, even though we mailed it 30 days earlier since it was due one month prior to the wedding (or by that point it was probably like 40 days earlier). This struck me as odd for a business professional to do, so I decided I would stop payment on the check to get her attention. Well, the DAY I was going to call the bank to stop the payment, she cashed it.  BAH!! 

It took a lot of back and forth, but she finally agreed to an $80 refund.  We had originally requested a $150 refund, which was 30% of our total wedding cake cost.  After waiting for three weeks, still no refund. So, I e-mailed her again saying that we had not received the refund check. This was the exact text of my e-mail:

Hi [Bakery Owner’s Name], we have not received the reimbursement

She responded with a terribly unprofessional e-mail (this was about two weeks before Christmas)

HAppy holidays to you too!!!

The check is on its way.

Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was disgusted. She screwed up OUR wedding cakes and she has the nerve to give US a sarcastic attitude? We finally received our $80 refund check two days later.

Good riddance

{ 0 comments }

I’ve given some tips before on interviewing wedding vendors before and talked about what worked best for us, but here are some additional tips I learned along the way:

  • It is entirely your responsibility to be knowledgeable going into the interview. I realize that some things are complicated, like photography, deejaying, and videography, but you HAVE to know the right questions to ask. Otherwise the vendor you’re interviewing might start rattling off all sorts of information that SOUNDS impressive, but really might not mean a whole lot. Venture on to some industry forums and lurk around. Learn about why it’s crucial that your photographer shoot in RAW and not JPEG. Learn that there’s a difference between high definition and “high quality” video recording equipment.
  • Similarly, vendors know they can tell you all sorts of information that sounds impressive. So don’t be afraid to ask, “Why is that important.” For instance, the deejay you’re interviewing might tell you that they use a 1400 Watt Amplifier. Interrupt them. Ask “why is that important.” Ask them “is that an industry standard” and “is that considered “top of the line, mid-level, etc. equipment” and “what websites can I go to to learn more about your equipment? and “Do other deejays use similar equipment?”  Don’t just nod like a little sheep. Ask questions. It’s your money. Spend it on the right folks.
  • Ask them what the worst complaint is that they’ve ever received. Of course, you can always go and check their reviews on Yelp and Wedding Wire, but I always like to hear it from them. If asking someone in a job interview what their greatest weakness is, then asking someone about their worst complaint is perfectly acceptable. Ask them if they thought the complaint was valid, how they handled it, and what they did in the future to avoid such complaints.
  • Give them some scenarios that you see likely (or at least possible) to happen at your wedding and ask them what they would do. Ask your deejay how they’ll handle it if your non-dancing family won’t get on the dance floor. Ask your caterer and bartender how they’d handle Uncle Joe who likes to drink too much, and ask your photographer how they’d handle a lot of wannabe amateur photographers at your wedding. 

What other wedding vendor interviewing tips do you have?

{ 0 comments }

The Ultimate DIY Wedding Venue Supplies Checklist

by Melissa on February 28, 2012

As you probably gathered reading all about our wedding venue, Prince William Forest Park Cabin Camp #5, we were entirely on our own. The park has nothing like an on-site coordinator, or supplies to get the venue ready, or anything like that. So we had to make sure that we were full prepared for everything. If you have a similar, entirely DIY wedding venue, I hope that you’ll find the following checklist useful for things that you should bring if you have a similar venue!

  • Scissors
  • Utility Knife
  • Cable ties
  • String
  • Velcro
  • Wire
  • Scotch tape, masking tape, and duct tape
  • Steamer (to steam wrinkles out of things like table linens)
  • Rags
  • Surface cleaners
  • Power Strips
  • Extension cords
  • Electrical tape
  • Step stool
  • Ladder
  • Thumbtacks
  • Pens and markers
  • Flashlights
  • Pins
  • Notebooks and paper
  • Leaf blower or push broom (especially useful for outdoor spaces)
  • Boatloads of plastic containers to take home your leftovers

{ 0 comments }

The Story of our Wedding Venue Hunt, Part 3

by Melissa on February 21, 2012

This is the final installment. You can check out Part 1 and Part 2 (I mentioned the reasons in Part 1 that I never talked about our wedding venue hunt on the blog. But now that the wedding is over, I’m spilling all the beans!)

The morning after we discovered Prince William Forest Park cabin camps online, we called their office to see if we could arrange a visit. We were in luck! A group was checking out of the camp that afternoon, so we could come see it at 2PM. SCORE! But of course, I was still trying to keep my expectations in check. 

We arrived at the Park after about a 25 minute drive from our home in Alexandria, VA. We were meeting with a Park Ranger at the building called the Mess Hall. He arrived, and we walked in to the Mess Hall. We were immediately BLOWN AWAY:. We walked into a full industrial kitchen, with walk-in refrigerators and deep freezers.

prince-william-forest-park-inexpensive-dc-wedding-venue-supernovabrde

 

The dining area of the Mess Hall itself was rustic and beautiful, and there was a huge stone fireplace at one end of the room.

prince-william-forest-park-inexpensive-dc-wedding-venue-supernovabrde-2

We asked the Park Ranger if they had any catering restrictions. There were NONE. We could use whatever caterer we wanted, We could even self-cater if we wanted. We didn’t need a bartender to serve alcohol. We would just need to apply for a $50 liquor license through Virginia.

Then he took us to see the cabins. There were several cabins with no heat, but those can’t be used in winter. He took us to see one of the four cabins that can be used in the winter. It’s a heated dorm-style room with mattresses and communal bathrooms. There would be room for more than 100 of our guests to stay if they wanted!

prince-william-forest-park-inexpensive-dc-wedding-venue-supernovabrde-3

Next, he took us to the pavilion.  It was HUGE!  Like the mess hall, it had a large, gorgeous fireplace at one end. We were falling more and more in love with the camp. So many options and amenities, and it was just $540 per night!

prince-william-forest-park-inexpensive-dc-wedding-venue-supernovabrde-4

Next, he took us to the “council ring” which he said that was a common ceremony space for folks who rented the cabin camp for weddings. It really was a perfect space. There was even a long path that led to the council ring, which I could totally see as an “aisle.”

prince-william-forest-park-inexpensive-dc-wedding-venue-supernovabrde-5

To take the cake, he walked us back past the Mess Hall and cabins, on to another path, and showed us a gorgeous lake at the Cabin Camp. 

prince-william-forest-park-inexpensive-dc-wedding-venue-supernovabrde-6

Ken and I were sold! How had we never heard about this place before?

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had read something online that could be a downside to the venue. At this point, we had already decided that we wanted our wedding to be on November 11, 2011 … 11/11/11. This was largely because when we were going to book Glen Echo Park as our wedding venue, all their October dates were already booked. And since we wanted an autumn wedding, and since foliage peaks the first and second week of November in this area, we decided on 11/11/11. 

BUT. Prince William Forest Park had a strict application process. You couldn’t just submit an application and reserve a date. They accepted applications for certain time periods only within particular windows. So for instance, for November dates, we would submit our application some time between March 1 and May 1, and we would be informed by May 31st if our date would be approved.

The Park Ranger wasn’t entirely familiar with the policy, so he told us to call the Park’s office the following Monday. When we called, the office confirmed our fears. 

It was currently January, and we’d have to wait until March 1 to submit an application. They would accept applications for that time period between March 1 and May 1. There were a few reasons they do this, one of which is to maximize the amount of time the cabin camps are booked.

So for instance, if Ken and I wanted to book the cabin camp between November 9-12, but someone else in that time period booked it for November 7-12, it would go to the other person because they were booking it for 5 nights.

This was a big bummer. If we decided to go with this place as our venue, we wouldn’t have a confirmed wedding date until like six months before the wedding. This meant not being able to book other vendors because we wouldn’t have a confirmed date. It would mean not being able to send out Save-the-Dates until after then. (That was another reason why I never talked about my wedding venue hunt on the blog. I didn’t want anyone to know the specific dates we booked the venue for, so that they wouldn’t squeeze in during that same application period for an extra day and bump us out of our desired dates.)

But, we decided it was worth the risk. At that point, the venue was more important to us than the date, so if for some reason we couldn’t get November 11, we would just select some other open date that they had.

We also realized that, although we couldn’t BOOK any vendors until after our wedding date was confirmed, we could certainly research them. We developed an action plan, and we decided that we would identify the top three vendors in each category through interviews. That way, once our wedding date was confirmed, we could go to the top three vendors, and hopefully one of those top three would still be available for booking.  We would have the Save-the-Dates designed and addresses collected and ready to go.

We submitted our application for Prince William Forest Park on March 1. We requested the dates November 9-12, with our actual wedding date planned for November 11. We figured that would give us plenty of time to get things set up on Wednesday November 9 (check-in time was 3pm)  and have our rehearsal dinner there on Thursday November 10 too. All told, it would cost us $1620. That was less money than most traditional venues wanted for just a few hours, with a lot fewer amenities!

We faxed in the application at like 12:01AM on March 1. Then we waited.

And waited. And May 1 came and went. May 1 was the end of the “application period,” so we knew we would find out any day. When did we finally find out that our November 11 wedding day was confirmed?

Oh, at 8:30AM on friggin MAY 31st.  The last possible day they said they would inform us is when they informed us. I guess I should’ve expected that. Just over five months away!
Those waiting months between March 1 and May 31 were really annoying. It was like our family and friends forgot our situation EVERY SINGLE TIME WE TALKED TO THEM. So for instance, two weeks after we submitted our application, my mom asked, “Did you hear anything about the wedding venue?” No mom, they have until the end of May to tell us.” Two weeks later, same question, same answer. My family, Ken’s family, our coworkers, our friends. We understand that they were just anxious to find out the details, but heck, so were we! We were just trying not to think about it so much, which made it really difficult when people were asking us about it every two goddamm minutes.

So when we finally learned that our wedding date was confirmed, it was sweet, sweet relief. June was a busy month for us and we moved quickly! First and foremost, we booked our wedding photographer. Then we sent out our already-designed save-the-dates. We had already interviewed other vendors, like deejays (before we decided to iPod our wedding), videographers (before we realized that they were too expensive), and other vendors.

In the end, it worked out perfectly!

{ 2 comments }

One thing I’ve learned while blogging is that people get themselves worked up over the strangest things. One of the most popular posts here at SuperNoVABride is "Asking your guests not to take wedding photos? Are you crazy?" that I wrote in response to a few blog posts I had read. Talk about controversial!

A recent commenter, who agreed that guests should be allowed to take pictures at weddings, pointed out something that was also an issue at our wedding.

So, I’m about to backpedal a little bit. I do have one exception to my argument that you should allow guests to take photos at your wedding.

Do not allow guests to take photos during formal portraits. For some couples, this won’t be an issue. They’re whisked off to a different location to have their portraits taken in between the wedding and the ceremony. While we had our own bride and groom portraits taken before the wedding ceremony, we set aside about 15 minutes after the ceremony to take family portraits.

The location where we had our portraits taken was set back about 20 feet from the path that guided guests from the ceremony location to the reception location. A few overly eager family members tried to take their own photographs while the professional photographers were taking theirs.

Why was this problematic? Well, it only mostly happened with photos with the ring bearer and flower girl, was that they were getting a bit thrown off by all the different cameras and ended up sometimes looking into the wrong camera. In fact, this even prompted our photographer to say in a playful voice, "Hey, look at my camera, don’t look at them," while trying to get the attention of our two-year old flower girl.

So there. I admit there is an exception to my sweeping statement that you should never forbid your guests from taking photographs.

{ 1 comment }

The Story of our Wedding Venue Hunt, Part 2

by Melissa on February 9, 2012

Part 1 (I mentioned the reasons in Part 1 that I never talked about our wedding venue hunt on the blog. But now that the wedding is over, I’m spilling all the beans!)

After we were totally floored by the behavior of Matters of Taste catering and realized that we had to ditch Glen Echo Park as our wedding venue of choice, we decided to reconsider the Pavilions at Turkey Run. That was the venue where a previous company I worked for held their annual company picnic. We had gone to visit that venue our first week of venue hunting since Ken had never been there before (and since I wanted to see it through the lens of a wedding venue hunter, not an employee attending a company picnic).

Their pavilion rental price was very reasonable, tables and chairs would be included, and although we’d have to use their internal catering service, the prices were very reasonable. We could easily stay within our $15,000 budget by getting married there, even if we had 150 guests.

So I started contacting Turkey Run again and I asked about potential dates. They got back to me and said that all their weekends in late October / early November 2011 were still available, so we could have our wedding day during peak foliage season in a nice wooded setting. Sweet!

It was time to proceed! We wanted to have our ceremony and reception at the Pavilions at Turkey Run. There are three actual pavilions that we would be renting, so we figured we could use one for the ceremony, one for the reception, and one for something else … like dancing or games. Turkey Run was mailing us a contract.

pavilions-at-turkey-run-wedding-venue-supernovabride

pavilions-at-turkey-run-wedding-venue-supernovabride-2

We gave Turkey Run our proposed start and end times. 3PM for a ceremony, with the reception following immediately after and going until 10PM or 11PM. They said that wouldn’t fly. They had a strict 5 hour rental time. There was no getting them to budge.

Ken and I sat down to discuss. Perhaps 5 hours would be plenty. But Ken’s family is full of talkers. They all just like to sit around and talk into the late hours of the night. We didn’t want to kick people out so quickly. We also didn’t want to move the ceremony time to any later in the day, because we wanted to make sure we had natural daylight for the ceremony and wedding photos. But, the food and venue at Turkey Run was so reasonably priced, and we could have so many fun options, like a rock climbing wall and moon bounce. We also toyed briefly with the idea of having the ceremony at a different location so that the five hours would be entirely for the reception, but we nixed it quickly. We definitely wanted our ceremony and reception to be at the same location.

Then Ken said something that changed my entire view point on Turkey Run.

“We’re budgeting $15,000 for our wedding. If we stick with Turkey Run, that means that our 5 hour wedding will cost us $3000 per hour.”

That settled it. We were done. Glen Echo Park was out of the running, and now, less than two weeks later, the Pavilions at Turkey Run was out of the picture. We were nearly three months into our engagement and still had no wedding venue.

The following Friday evening when we were at home, we were both searching online for new options. I was on my laptop in the living room, and Ken on his computer in his home office. I was searching for something like “picnic pavilions DC” and tripped across a search result for Prince William Forest Park.

I browsed quickly through the site, realizing that it was another venue that probably wouldn’t pan out. I had searched for other picnic pavilion rentals in the DC area, but since most of them are tied to the operating hours of a particular park, most of them closed after dusk. And since we didn’t want a morning or afternoon wedding, that wouldn’t work.

But things were looking up. Prince William Forest Park had these entire campground things, called Cabin Camps, that you could rent all night. $540 per night! Holy smokes! That was a third of the cost of the cheapest venue we ever found. There were different buildings, including a pavilion, a Mess Hall, and cabins that could sleep more than 100 people. There was also a lake accessible from the cabin camp!

I showed it to Ken. He started to look at all the details and I could tell he was getting increasingly excited, but was trying to get his hopes up too much because of all our problems finding a venue. He said that we should call Prince William Forest Park in the morning to see if we could come see it. My reaction was a bit more tempered. I was in no hurry to go see another venue that would probably be yet another disappointment.

But, I agreed. I would call the next morning to see if we could see the Cabin Camp. Later that evening though, as we reviewed the Cabin Camp applications, we did realize that there would be one big downside of having our wedding there.  *Spoiler alert: we DID have our wedding there, so it wasn’t a dealbreaker, it just added some worry to our plate!*

More on that big downside in part 3!

{ 0 comments }

(Yet Another) Open Letter to Wedding Vendors

by Melissa on January 31, 2012

mailbox

It’s been several months since my first open letter to wedding vendors. And I had initially started drafting this post before my wedding, but I just never had a chance to finish it.

So, here goes. From a bride’s perspective, this is what I would like to tell vendors.

Use just one e-mail address when you communicate with me.

This is something that happened to me SIX (6!) times when I was contacting ceremony musicians and makeup artists. Let me walk you through this.

On a hair/makeup artist’s website, I find the e-mail address listed so that I can contact them for additional information. Let’s say it’s contact@companyname.com. I provide details about the wedding in an e-mail, ask them for an estimate, and then click send. E-mail, it’s amazing, right? I contact several vendors in rapid succession using this method.

About an hour later, I get an e-mail from jasmine.smith@email.com telling me congratulations and she would love to discuss hair and makeup options.  Who the heck is she?  She apparently received my request for makeup services for my wedding day, but I have no idea what company she is from!  Nothing in her signature, nothing to indicate the company she represents.  There was no “reply” traffic for me to track down the answer.  I know Gmail is convenient.  But seriously, use your company e-mail address. 

I’m a bride. But that does not mean I’m an emotional wreck.

I realize that some brides are emotional, fragile beings that need their hand held the entire step of the way. But the fact that vendors work under that assumption from the very beginning irritates me!  Like, when my wedding dress got lost, and the first thing that the dress store tells me is “Don’t worry, don’t panic, weddings are so stressful!”  Fuck that. I wasn’t panicked or stressed. I just wanted to know where the eff my wedding dress was! So, when I ask you specific details about my wedding day,  I do not want to be told “Don’t you worry about that. We’ll see to it that everything will be taken care of on your wedding day.”  I need to know the specific details of how you’re doing that.  I also do not want to be told, “I can get you a great price on that.” I want to know the price you can get me so that I can do some research on my own.  Do not worry about overwhelming me with details. 

Having a good phone pitch and excellent electronic materials is indispensable.  

Early in the wedding planning process, we met with a few wedding vendors in person. We realized almost immediately that this was a complete waste of time. We were taking time out of our weekends to meet with folks that we would’ve realized from a simple phone call that we were not compatible with. From that point forward, we realized that a preliminary phone interview would be our primary interview method. But, for some reason, many vendors push the whole meeting in person thing. They wanted us to "look at their sample albums" or "view their binders of music listings." If you can’t send that to me electronically, that’s a deal breaker. Oh, and by "electronic materials, I do not mean a scanned version of your printed brochure. Vendor fail. 

Picture Source

{ 0 comments }

An absolutely amazing photographer.

I looked long and hard for a great photographer. And we found one. And I am still on an absolute high after receiving our wedding photos about two weeks ago. They are stunning.

An amazing photographer can make even a simple, inexpensive wedding look like a million bucks. Conversely, if you spend all your money on food, decor, a wedding dress, etc., and then skimp on a photographer, your wedding can look cheap, regardless of how much money you spent to make it look amazing.

Our photographer was our biggest wedding expense of $3210 – more than we spent on food, and more than we spent on our venue. And now, we have these incredible photos to last us a lifetime. Much, much longer than any food or decoration!

Something unique and fun

For us, this expense was board games. Yes, we had board games at our wedding. Why? Well, a few reasons. 1) Prior to taking dance lessons, Ken and I never liked to dance. That made weddings, especially ones where we didn’t know many people, very awkward for us when we were guests. We wanted to make sure everyone had fun at our wedding, even if a guest didn’t like to dance or didn’t know anyone else at the wedding! 2) Of the 147 people that RSVPed to our wedding, 33 were kids! We wanted to make sure they had fun at the wedding too! So, we bought about $300 in board games, decks of cards, and poker sets. We also had LED frisbees and small Nerf footballs. (We wanted to rent a moonbounce too, but our venue wouldn’t allow it). As I look through our wedding photos, I practically cry with joy seeing how much fun people were having playing those games. Grownups, kids, teenagers … they were all having a blast playing games. And seriously, how often do you see a teenager having fun at a wedding? This was a great expense, and made the wedding memorable for our guests! 

So, pick something fun and unique and trust me, it will be a worthwhile expense!

A few, high-impact decor pieces.

As brides, we tend to get weighed down with the “details.” And how can we help it. All those shots of “details” on Style Me Pretty and in Martha Stewart Weddings! But … details are damn expensive! So, instead of individually wrapping all your silverware sets with twine, or tracking down the best prices on striped straws to and mason jars for your signature lemonade cocktail, just focus on a few big impact decorations. Perhaps huge pieces of muslin fabric draping your ceiling. Or an amazing lighting scheme. Focus on the big picture items, and the details won’t matter!

 

What was your most important expense for your wedding?

{ 0 comments }

You’ve Decided your Wedding Venue. Now What?

by Melissa on January 26, 2012

Having a big DIY wedding? Want to make sure that you plan everything the best you can? After you decide on your wedding venue, if you can, go back for a second visit. When you’re there, bring the following items:

1) Pen and Notebook (or better yet, a Smart Pen!)

2) Measuring tape or laser measurer

3) A measuring wheel. Seriously, this was invaluable for us at our campground venue since everything was so spread out.

4) Camera. Take photos of everything. And not just a few quick shots. Take a panorama of photos of the entire venue. Zoom in, and take another panorama. Take a wide angle shot. Take close up shots of the tables and chairs. Shots of the kitchen facilities. Shots of the ceiling. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I referred to the photos of our venue, for any number of reasons. For instance, I sent pictures of the pavilion to tent rental companies when I inquired about having plastic walls installed on the sides. Ken used pictures of the ceilings when he was trying to figure out where he could hang a lighting fixture. I used the pictures of the ceilings to figure out how I could possibly drape fabric between the beams. Even if part of a venue seems inconsequential, TAKE A PICTURE OF IT.

5) Sample decor items to see how they look. For instance, order one or two colors of some tablecloths or runners, or bring some sample centerpieces to get an idea of how they fit with the venue.

Record the following information at the visit

  • Dimensions of the room. When you measure the dimensions, be sure to take note of any nooks or things that might jut out, like a fireplace or emergency exits.
     
  • Length or diameter of tables (if they’re provided). This will be invaluable when you’re playing with floor plan ideas. We used Microsoft Visio to plan our layouts.

Floorplan

  • Dimensions of dance floor. And don’t fret if it’s too small! I read a few months back that a huge dance floor is not necessarily a good thing. A smaller dance floor will feel more intimate, and plus will encourage folks to dance and interact, because the smaller dance floor will create the illusion of more people dancing.
     
  • Distance from seating area to nearest restrooms. This might not be a necessity for everyone, but at our venue, the restrooms were actually quite the walk from our reception. Perhaps 200 feet or so. We wanted to be able to communicate this to our older guests before they game.
     
  • Location of power outlets. This is CRUCIAL. It can completely drive your floor plan. Are you having a slideshow? Well, you need an outlet to plug in your television. Are you having a deejay or an iPod wedding? Either way, you’ll need to know where all that equipment can be located.
     

What do you think? Am I forgetting anything?

{ 0 comments }

The Story of Our Wedding Venue Hunt, Part 1

by Melissa on January 19, 2012

For our wedding, Ken and I rented a campground for three days. For those three days, we paid $1620. The rental rate was $540 per night. It was an amazing wedding venue. But, it took us a long time to find it.

We had to kiss a lot of frog venues before we found our Prince Charming venue. 

It occurs to me that I never told the story of our wedding venue here on the blog.

There were a couple of reasons for not talking about it. 1) Sometimes I can be overly paranoid about privacy; 2) I didn’t want to talk about venues and dates that I was loving and have another bride find my post, and think, “Hey, that’s a great venue and date!” and then manage to book the venue before I did. Weird, yes, I know. 3) The venue we ultimate chose had some unusual application timeframes, so once we applied to our venue, we had to wait nearly three months before we found out if we actually got the venue. I’ll explain all of that in the next few posts about how we found our venue. And 4) I didn’t want to blacklist myself from finding a venue or caterer by blogging about every asshole I encountered. So, let’s get started.

We first started wedding venue hunting in the DC area in early November 2010. Very early readers of SuperNoVABride may even recall the overview I provided of the venues we visited during those first two weekends of our search. After visiting several venues, it was a toss up between two different DC area venues:

The Pavilions at Turkey Run and Glen Echo Park.

The Pavilions at Turkey Run

The Pavilions at Turkey Run Park was not a traditional wedding venue per se. I had been contacting venues for weeks, but they were all either too expensive, or just to … blah. So I tried to “Think outside the box.” I used different types of search terms to help me find a venue. But then I recalled a lovely picnic area at Turkey Run Park in the Northern Virginia area where the company that I formerly worked for held their annual picnic. 

I contacted them to see if they allowed weddings. They said that they did, and they actually sent me some photographs from a wedding that had just been hosted there. It looked beautiful! To make matters even better, their food was “reasonably” priced, at just $30 per person, and you got a significant amount of food for that money. And it was normal, picnic-style food, just like Ken and I wanted. As an added bonus, they had an entire catalog of activities that could be selected, including a moon bounce rental, and a rock climbing wall. I was pretty much in love with that venue.  But, we still wanted to shop around.

Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park is a popular wedding venue in the DC area, and it was, relatively speaking, very reasonably priced and within our budget.

On our second weekend of venue hunting, we went to Glen Echo Park, a venue I had been secretly eyeing up even before I got engaged. Ken and I immediately fell in love with the Bumper Car Pavilion at Glen Echo Park. And the entire park itself was just so unique. We could have the ceremony in one part of the Park (we liked the Cuddle Up Pavilion) and then the reception in the Bumper Car Pavilion. Best of all, the venue was reasonably priced compared to other venues we had found. 

Glen Echo Park has a limited selection of preferred caterers that you can choose from. Some of the caterers had pricing listed right on their website, and I could rule out right away as too expensive. One of the caterers, Matters of Taste, seemed like they would be more reasonably priced, so I e-mailed them for an estimate.

Although I had to follow up with them a few times to get a response to my estimate request, I was impressed when I finally talked to them on the phone. The woman was really nice at first. She apologized about our estimate being delayed, saying she was slammed with holiday party catering estimates. After speaking with them, she quickly turned around an estimate for food, and it actually seemed like it was going to be in our budget! 

However, the estimate left out a few things. Specifically, bar service, alcohol, and table and chair rentals.  I followed up with her by phone. (There were a few issues experienced in between, like bounced back e-mails). She said she would update the estimate and get it sent back to me. However, she told me that I should go ahead and take advantage of Glen Echo Park’s two week, no deposit hold they have available. The caterer warned me that “engagement season” would be kicking off (this was the week before Thanksgiving), and that I might have difficulty booking a date if I waited much longer.

Taking the caterer’s advice, Ken and I placed the two week hold on the venue.

There was just one problem. Matters of Taste never called me back or responded to my e-mails with the updated estimate. I contacted Glen Echo Park for advice. They just said that was very unusual for that caterer.

FINALLY, in early December, two days before our no-hold deposit was going to run out, someone answered the phone at Matters of Taste. I asked to speak to the person I had been trying to contact. In a curt voice, the woman on the phone said, “It’s the holiday season and it’s SNOWING out.” I was completely taken aback. After all, I was simply waiting for a few additions to the estimate. I had already been provided with the estimate for the food!  And what the fuck did snow have to do with anything?

I said, “I have been waiting for a return phone call or e-mail for TWO WEEKS. Now, either have her call me back, or you’ll just be missing out on a sale.  Plus, you all have been giving me this “holiday season” excuse for more than a month now!” The woman told me she’d have my point-of-contact call me back that afternoon. I never received a call back.

I was really pissed.

So, Ken and I contacted Capital Q BBQ, another one of Glen Echo Park’s preferred caterers. The prices on Capital Q’s website seemed very reasonable, so I e-mailed them with the details and asked for an estimate. I still had not received a response by the end of the day, and I was getting panicked because our two week hold would expire in two days. I followed up with Capital Q by phone, and they said they would e-mail me an estimate. You might remember what ensued after that, but the short story is that their estimate to me was about five times what was listed on their website. When I asked them why their estimate differed so much from the prices on their website, the man said, “Well, that’s for corporate catering, not for a wedding at Glen Echo Park!” The tone in his voice conveyed a huffy “You silly woman, how could you think we would charge such a low amount for a WEDDING!”

I hung up on him.

I was furious.

I talked to Ken. I said that maybe we should just put the deposit down on Glen Echo Park and hopefully we would hear from Matters of Taste soon. The most we would lose from the deposit was like $250 I think. So if Matters of Taste was in fact too expensive, we could just break the contract and lose the $250.

But then I realized what was likely happening. The caterer was just playing games with us. They were probably assuming  that we loved the venue so much that we’d put the deposit down without having a firm catering estimate, and then they’d be able to charge us whatever they wanted. 

I wasn’t going to play that game. I contacted Glen Echo Park and told them they should not expect our deposit. I told them the entire story, and included a link to a review I had written about Matters of Taste on Yelp documenting the whole saga.

Glen Echo Park was really nice and apologized and said they would contact the caterer for me, but I had had enough. I was not going to deal with it.

So, we would not be getting married at Glen Echo Park. More than two months after our engagement, and we were still venue-less.

I was so sad. Sad about how I was treated, about how everything had to be some huge ripoff just because I was getting married. I had spent the last several weeks envisioning our wedding there, and now, it wouldn’t be happening.

It was time to start over from scratch.  

{ 1 comment }