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Wedding Venues and What They Provide
Finding the right wedding venue will be one of the more difficult tasks in all of your wedding planning, and therefore should be tackled right from the start. There are so many options available for you. It will be helpful to check out all of our articles on wedding venues you’ll find below. Start with What is a Wedding Venue? And you’ll see that not all wedding venues are created equally.
Any wedding venues that you search for online fall into one group, as they specifically advertise themselves as “wedding venues.” Most locations that market themselves as wedding venues will provide the same products and services to their clients. These vary widely from those products and services needed for any other location couples wish to use for their weddings. But we address those in another article. Let’s look at what you will need to know when searching for that perfect venue.
- Furniture – Many traditional venues already have tables, chairs, and other furniture available on site, so couples don’t have to rent them. However, many of these venues will charge their customers for their use.
- Linens – White and off-white linens are the typical table linens (tablecloths) available to brides and grooms for their weddings. A few venues are also now offering black linens, but even fewer offer other colors or options.
- China, Flatware, Glassware, Stemware, Barware – Just like with furniture, most of these venues also have full dish sets, along with silverware (flatware), water and wine glasses (glassware and stemware), and bar glasses (barware) for 100-200 people. They will likely not have different choices for couples in this area, but can provide them for free, for a rental fee, or for a small dishwashing fee.
- Different Rooms – Many of these venues, being marketed specifically to couples getting married, have a variety of spaces available all over their location for an assortment of different wedding options. They may have outdoor locations, like courtyards, pavilions, gardens, fields, a big tree, a lake, a swimming pool, a fountain, or even a great balcony. They also have various rooms, like a ballroom, banquet hall, a provencal, a reception hall, a dining room, along with rooms that will come in a variety of shapes, sizes and names.
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- House Speakers – Another offering that venues will list for their couples is the house speakers. Most venue buildings will already be wired for speakers that brides and grooms can choose to use to play music from iPods, iPads, CDs, or other music systems in the case that they are not interested in hiring entertainment. Of course, the use of their speakers will usually come at a small fee, but you never know. A few actually offer this option for free.
- Tents – Depending on the venue, and the outdoor space they have available, many locations have tents that they can rent out to their couples. These are extremely expensive pieces to have lying around, being that they normally accommodate 100 to 500 people at a time. To rent one from a tent company as a bride or a planner would easily cost $2,500 to $5,000, (40x100 for about 200 people) and that price doesn’t include the sides of the tent, just the canopy, and it doesn’t include labor and delivery, setup or the take down of the tent. The price to easily climb to $10,000 in a heartbeat once all other fees are added in to that price. To buy one is such an exorbitant price, it’s almost worth it not to purchase one, but to allow couples to rent one from a tent company. Only venues that require the use of a tent on their grounds quite often would have any reason to buy one for themselves.
- Details – Just about every traditional venue, having weddings there often, will have candles, centerpieces, a champagne fountain, a number of vases, and even a bridal suite (dressing room) to rent out to their couples.
We’ve talked about venues having a preferred vendors list, which is a list of vendors that may be optional or required for brides to choose from for their wedding vendors. These may include catering, entertainment, photography, videography, wedding cakes, flowers, officiants, staffing, wedding transportation, wedding insurance, and bar services.
However, many wedding venues offer some of these services on their own. Catering and bar services are the big ones. I’ve told you that many wedding venues have a food and beverage minimum. This is what they are talking about. As most venues are hotels, country clubs, and bed and breakfasts, they already provide these services for regular customers. So they require that their brides and grooms, assuming that they will want food and alcohol for their big event, to spend a certain amount of money on these two services in order to be able to use the venue for their wedding location.
They likely offer a variety of different food service options, but probably not all of the ones we’ve listed in the catering section. Buffet and plated service are the standard food service options of these locations, as they have not been set up for, or do not provide, any other service options to customers. There are more options though, that couples can choose for their bar services. Many of these options include:
- Open Bar (also called Fully Hosted or Full Bar) – An open bar is just how it sounds. It is generally stocked with a variety of wines, beers, and hard liquor (the varieties depending on your choices or those of the service you are hiring). Throughout the wedding, guests can order whatever drinks they would like without having to pay. There is no limit on number of drinks or time limit. Typically this bar would be opened at the beginning of the wedding (or wedding cocktail hours/reception) and closed after the last person has left. You can see how this would be the most expensive option, as many people go to weddings specifically for the alcohol.
- Limited Bar (also called Consumption Bar, Call Bar, or Cocktail Bar) – A limited bar could be a number of things. Ultimately, all that this means is that the bride and groom are not giving free reign to guests for alcohol.
- Limited Time – Couples can limit the amount of time that they keep their bar open. This may be just during the cocktail hour, just during the cocktail hour and just after dinner, just during dinner, or even just a late night cut-off time, like closing at 9:00pm. This is a great way to monitor the amount of alcohol guests are consuming.
- Limited Alcohol – Another way to limit guest drinking is to limit what you supply to the bar. This could be lower grade liquors, just beer and wine, just beer, just wine, just two signature drinks chosen by the couple, along with many other options. The intention is to save the couple money.
- Limited Expenditure – One last way to limit a bar is for a couple to limit how much they are willing to spend. This is like putting a cap on spending. When spending reaches $1,000, for instance, the bar closes except for tea, water, sodas, and coffee. This is a popular option that can be changed at a moment’s notice if more spending is approved. However, you’ll want a backup plan for this one. What if the bar closes at 7:00pm and the wedding lasts until 10:00pm?(Melissa Kay Allen)
- Beer and Wine Bar – Not only is this a good option for those that would like to save some money, but some couples simply do not prefer or wish to serve mixed drinks. Wine and beer is easy and inexpensive to purchase locally in any area. If you consider guests drinking 6 mixed drinks and guests drinking 6 beers (from a keg), you’ll see the reasoning for this option. Beer also produces a different kind of drunk than liquor does, which may be another consideration.
- Signature Drink – Once again, this is a great option for saving money and for serving alcohol without supplying a source for drunkenness. Supplying on or two signature drinks, along with tea, water, sodas and coffee, will give guests the alcohol they are looking for, but rarely does a guest drink enough of the same mixed drink to get intoxicated. For families that have a good supply of lushes, this is a wonderful middle ground. Likely guests will only drink up to 2 of any mixed cocktail you supply, and then they want to move on to something new.
Other Bar Options
There are so many other creative options to supply guests, not all of them alcoholic, to give them a fun and unique experience without breaking the bank or fueling a fire for those simply coming for the alcohol.
Cash Bars – This is an option I would never recommend to any couple or planner. What this is exactly, is having a full bar available to wedding guests, but making them pay for their drinks in order to acquire one. The drinks are charged at the normal bar price, or might even being inflated to the normal rate the wedding venue charges. This is a very tacky and disrespectful way to provide drinks for an event. This would be like asking someone to your home for dinner and then making them pay for their portions.
Non Alcoholic Bars - This type of bar would supply tea, water, sodas, and coffee (that are normally free with any bar package), along with any creative non-alcoholic drink(s) requested by the couple. With the many problems coming from events with alcohol, this has been a more popular option in the last few years.
Top Shelf Full Bar Setup - This bar is usually stocked complete with premium liquors, fancy wines, import beers and domestic beers.
Martini Bars – Bar offering a variety of different cocktail martinis.
Wine Tasting Bars – A wine professional would come in and provide tastings to guests from and assortment of wines.
Frozen Drink Bars – This is pretty self-explanatory, being a bar offering a selection of frozen drinks like margaritas, daiquiris, smoothies, etc.
Cordial Bars – Bar providing guests with a range of cordials. Some examples being Amaretto, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Blue Curacao, Crème de Menthe, Goldschlager, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, Midori, and Southern Comfort. (Emery's Catering)
Juice Bar – A selection of fresh juices (fruits and veggies possibly being freshly juiced in front of guests) being offered to guests. This is a popular bar to be used during the cocktail hour.
Margarita Bar – Really becoming the rage at more modern weddings lately, especially for the cocktail hour, and served alongside fresh fruits. There are a large variety of margaritas available, and the couple could even suggest some custom recipes.
Coffee Bar – Even more popular than any other type of custom bar. Espressos, mochas, cappuccinos, macchiatos, lattes, and many different exotic coffees from different countries will delight and energize even the most tired guest. This bar usually comes complete with cookies, creamers, flavored sugars, and biscotti.
Lassi Bar- Popular bar amongst specific cultures supplied with different flavors of the Indian yogurt-based drink. (ProBarServ)
Venues also offer a number of other optional services to their customers. Some of these include cakes, and hotel rooms (if they are a location that normally provides rooms to customers, like hotels, B&Bs, or inns). However, some of the services they should offer you (albeit some charge a hefty fee for them and slip it into the bill as a requirement) include waitstaff, insurance, transportation, a wedding coordinator, and staff like a valet, a bartender, security, and a coat check clerk.
Be patient but wary when seeking out wedding venues. Like I always say, the more you know, the less likely you can be swindled. There are some truly great wedding venues available that are honest and trustworthy and truly want to give you the wedding day of your dreams, but there are just as many on the other side that don't care and just want your money.
It will be up to you to determine which ones are the good ones and find the right one for you. Hopefully this information is helpful!
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness