Friday, March 8, 2013

Independent Venues and the Questions to Ask

Every destination bride has her own reasons for choosing New Orleans as her wedding location. For some, it may be the place where she met the groom. For others, this may have been the first place she and her groom vacationed. Then there are the couples who have never even been here, yet they have always loved us from afar and decided to make their wedding the get-a-way they've always dreamed of. No matter what brought them here, nine times out of ten, they all want the same thing; a venue that you won't find anywhere else.

What that means is that, if they can help it, hotel ballrooms are not an option. They want unique, independent venues that offer outdoor spaces or exposed brick.  They want the character that this city is known for.  But they aren’t always aware of what that character costs.
Independent venues such as The Board of Trade, the plantations on Esplanade, the Chicory, the Wax Museum – basically, anything not within the walls of a hotel – will offer the charm and “New Orleans appeal” most destination brides are looking for.  And for some reason, brides have an untrue notion that these venues are more reasonably priced than downtown hotels.  Perhaps it’s because, when glancing at price lists, the hotels list a food and beverage minimum, but the independent venues just give you a rental cost.  Seeing that a venue only costs $2500 seems like a great deal when you compare it to a $15K minimum at a hotel, but when you consider bar packages, catering prices, linens, chairs, tables, ceremony space, etc, the price can become a lot more than that $15K you were thinking you could beat..
When you price out these independent venues, you will be given their rental fee and then, either a fixed menu with a price per head that you can add to if possible, or a list of caterers they approve you to use.  Bar packages and catering menus are definite things to pay attention to, but what you really need to find out is what’s included in the rental fee.  Does the venue provide linens or tables and chairs of any kind?  Sometimes, the answer is “no,” and you need to find that out up front so you can price out what it’s going to take to “build” the reception or ceremony you are dreaming of. 
For instance, if you are using the space for your ceremony as well, you need to find out the ceremony fee.  And, if chairs are not included, you will have to rent those for the ceremony, at least.  To give you an example, even for white wooden chairs (the cheapest), you’re looking at about $2 a chair.  For 100 guests, we have an additional $200 plus deliverer and tax from the rental company.  With the rental fee that can sometimes be at least $500, you just added $800 to the $2500 rental fee.  If that hasn’t broken your budget, tables can range from $5 to $7 a piece plus linens to cover those tables can be $20 a piece, minimum. 

Here’s a low estimate of a floor plan with limited seating:
Eight tables (48 inch rounds), seating for 8 at each table plus linens for each of the eight tables – $5 x 8 tables = $40 plus $20 x 8 linens for the those tables = $160 plus $5 x 64 chairs (everyone wants chiavari chairs for their reception and those are at least $5/chair) = $320.  So for seating for only 64 guests, we’re looking at an additional $520 not including tax, set up charge, delivery and pick up – which can be an additional $300 depending on set up times, etc.

I’ve just listed two minor scenarios that added almost $1000 each for rentals of things that may not be included when glancing at the venue’s rental price.  My point in all of this is that asking the right questions is crucial when trying to stay on budget.  Contracts are not hard to read, but sometimes it’s what’s not written in that contract that we don’t think about prior to booking which sticks us with the unexpected costs in the end.  Courtyards need rain plans and potential tenting and outdoor spaces also need heat in the winter so make sure you think of all details before signing a contract based solely on a low rental rate and a cool outdoor ceremony option.  Keeping in mind that New Orleans is known for 3 hour receptions should also give you a heads up to ask if the rental fee includes three hours of rental for the space or four.  That fourth hour can be the budget breaker!

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