Thursday, December 12, 2013

Transcript: 10 Steps to a Fantastic Bare Venue Wedding

Monday, November 4, 2013

Okay, I think we’re ready to go. Welcome, Everyone. This is “10 Steps to a Fantastic Bare Venue Wedding.” I just want to welcome everyone, and thank you, number one, for investing your time and energy in creating the wedding you want.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Liz Coopersmith, and I’ve been a Los Angeles  wedding planner and the owner of Silver Charm Events for almost ten years, since 2004. My wedding planing articles have been featured on The Huffington Post,,, and I’ve written a weekly wedding planning advice column for since 2010. I’ve also written two e-books, both available on Kindle through Amazon.

So, two things before we get started:
First, you need to know that there is a special gift waiting for you at the end of this call. Or you can call it a reward or a bribe, but  it’s going to be worth it to stay until the end.

Second, I want to encourage all of you to take a deep breath. You’re on this call now because you’re worried about your wedding, and stressful challenges you’re having in planning it. You’re spending a lot of time, and a fair bit of money, I’m sure, on what you’re hoping will be one of  the best days of your life. And it will be. You’re taken a great move towards that right now. So, deep inhale and exhale [breathe in and out] and let go of some of the craziness and confusion you’ve been experiencing.

Now, after your deep breath, I need you to remember one more thing: You’re not supposed to know how to do this, you’re not supposed to know how this “wedding thing” works. It’s your first time planning one! I give you permission to give yourself a break.

Oh, and if you do have questions along the way, Text them to me at 323-592-9318, or email me at I’ll answer them if we have time at the end, and if not, I’ll answer them each personally, and in the follow up materials I’m sending you tomorrow. Either way, you’ll get your answer.

Ready to get started? Let’s Go:

What I love about bare wedding venues is that they give you a great opportunity to create. You’re going to hear that word a lot tonight. You can create the atmosphere you want, bring in your own food, your own decorations, with much fewer limitations than in what I call ballroom venues, full-service sites that only offer a few options. Bare venues give you a better opportunity to control costs, too. Across the board, they offer more freedom. But as they say, that freedom comes with a lot more responsibility.

Bare Venues create three distinct challenges for you, that ballroom venues do not:

1. Your budget. This might come as surprise, because for a lot of couples, this is one of the main reasons that they choose a bare venue - they’re often less expensive, and you feel like what you’ll save in site fees, you’ll continue to save as you add in rentals and catering and decorations. But the truth is, depending on what you want your wedding to look like, and the choices that you make, you could end up spending just as much, or more, than you would in a full-service, “ballroom” venue. If you are on a budget - and, trust me, pretty much every couple is - then you have to watch your expenses very carefully. There are always ways to cost costs, but there are smart places to do that, and not so wise ones.

2. The unknown unknowns. The stuff that you don’t know that you don’t know, that can bite you in the butt. These will come up, and you will have to take care of them, in one way or another, or suffer the consequences.  Examples like: how long it takes to set up a reception for 100 people, to having the right extension cords so your photo booth, which needs a three-pronged outlet, can plug into the venue’s two prong outlet. I coordinated a wedding a couple of months ago, where the bride’s mom bought chafing dishes to warm the barbecue she had delivered - but didn’t realize that the dishes did not come with sterno cans to heat them! Luckily, I was able to run to the nearest grocery store and hit up the hardware section. And we always  have extension cords, too.

3. Time. And, by that, I mean having enough time to find exactly what it is that you need. Or, at the very least, feeling that you don’t have the time, and just getting frustrated. Frustration is the number one cause of wedding stress, and I see it a lot in my first consultations with clients. Many couples get fed up and give up, and end up settling for less than the wedding they want. Depending on where they are in the planning process, I like to help them backtrack and pinpoint the unsatisfying choices they’ve made, and see if we can shine them up a little. There is always a solution to every challenge, you just have to be open to finding it.  

Tonight we’re going to go over the ten steps you need to take to create a fantastic wedding in a Bare, BYO venue. These are based on the many landmines that I’ve seen my couples encounter, and have helped them avoid or work around.

Let’s get started.

1. Your first step, before anything, is to get over the idea of a one to one ratio. Forget about it. What do I mean by that? You can’t rent just one plate per person, one fork, one knife. And you’d be surprised how many people get caught on this. Why do my guests need an extra plate? Why do we have to have more than one fork per person?

Think of it this way: If I were to walk into your kitchen right now and open your cabinets, I wouldn’t find just one plate per resident!

And that’s for the same reason that you wouldn’t do that at your wedding - plates and silverware  get dirty, and you’ll need clean ones right away. You probably wouldn’t eat two meals off of the same plate, not to mention dessert. And if you’re having a buffet, your guests definitely won’t expect to, either! You can’t provide one bottle of beer per person, because what if someone wants a second bottle? If you go out to Happy Hour, when you go to the bar for your second drink, the bartender doesn’t ask you for the glass from your first drink. I’ve probably made my point. You are going to need at least two or three of everything per person, and that’s one of the places where the cost comes in. But, it’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have. You don’t have to go overboard, but you do need to figure out who to ask for to get the best ratio formula. This doesn’t have to kill your budget.

2. Don’t reinvent the wheel. You may have a wildly original idea of what you want your wedding to look and feel like, but you you still need to figure out how to pull it off, using the current laws of time and physics. Your vendors have seen it all, or can extrapolate from what they HAVE seen, so use them as a resource. Don’t waste time trying to come up with something new.  You could find the right answer, or you could end up doing twice as much work to reach a less satisfying conclusion. Use your vendors as a resource.

3. Mind the rules. You can’t start earlier, or stay longer than you’re contracted for. If you’re forbidden to tape things, nail things, light things, stick with that. Every venue has a deposit that they keep, just in case you break the rules. And, they will. You can find another way to accomplish what you need to do. I did a wedding at a historic site this summer, that has some...questionable figures and symbols on the property.  My couple was afraid that their guests would be offended. Most of the symbols were covered up, but when I arrived at the venue, I found my bride trying to rip out a sign that explained the symbols, from out of the ground. NO. Once I stopped her, and calmed both her and the very upset venue manager, I was able to offer a solution - cover it up with an extra tablecloth, and decorate the the cloth with a directional sign to the wedding. Or some extra ribbon. Or just leave the blank tablecloth on it all by itself. But either way, don’t break the rules.

4. With whatever you’re dealing with, be it rentals, flowers, the cake, the food, always think about these five things: Who, what, where, when, and how. It’s just like journalism. For example, who is bringing the chairs in, and is it the same people who are setting them up? If you’re only getting one set of chairs for both the ceremony and reception, who is bringing them over to the reception area? How are they getting out of the venue? And when? How is your food getting there? Is it being delivered? Does someone need to pick it up? Who is going to make sure that all flows smoothly? Where are the leftovers going? Who is going take the catering supplies back to the caterer? What catering supplies are they providing, and where are the rest coming from? Where is the trash going? What condition does everything need to be in if and when you return it? And, who is going to be in charge of making sure that every individual part of that happens?

5. Don’t skip staffing. This is one of the first places where people try and make cuts, and it’s usually a mistake. And, I’m not just talking about hiring an event staffing company, which is the optimal solution. I’m talking about not having enough people on hand to manage all the moving parts of your wedding. This is especially important when it comes to the food part of your wedding. Do yourself a favor - the next time you go out to a restaurant, or even a bar, observe what’s going on around you, and what every waiter, busboy, bartender is doing. If you’re serving food, even if it’s a dessert or appetizer buffet, instead of a sit-down or buffet dinner, you will be reconstructing a restaurant at your venue. Someone needs to monitor  food service, bussing tables, cleaning up every so often, making sure that the sodas and alcohol are kept cold, and fifty other things that go into any catered event. You are not in a restaurant all these things will not be automatically provided for you, they need to be provided BY you.

Dishes and glasses and silverware and napkins are going to pile up on tables or fall to the ground, if someone doesn’t move them. Trash will end up everywhere and anywhere that is not a trash can. This is one of the many reasons I come with at least one assistant, and for bare venues, I come with two. But even with that, it is good to have a few more people around who have serving experience - the “rule” as it were, is to have at least one person per every two tables. And if you’re worried about the cost, think of it this way: They are ways to stagger the staffing so that you’re not paying for 7 people or whatever for the whole time, AND catering staff can also work double duty, helping you set up the rest of your wedding, chairs, tables,  and break it down, which will save considerable time and worry. That being, YOUR time and worry. It’s going to be a long day, don’t make it any longer.

And, speaking of which,

6.  Realize how limited your own time is. Even with friends and family helping out, everyone can’t be everywhere all at once. And if they haven’t done this before, it will be hard for them to prioritize what actually needs to be done, and what can be done in the time they’re given. Another example: working with a couple right now, who hired me shortly after their engagement party, which they planned and executed themselves. It took so long to set-up, that they weren’t even able to get dressed for their own party before their guests arrived! Be realistic about your time, and time in general. You don’t want to be that couple.

Constructing a wedding ceremony and reception takes HOURS. Breaking it down takes less time, but it still takes HOURS. Not an hour, not 30 minutes. HOURS, even with people helping. And, you need to be taking pictures, you need to be getting dressed, you need to be getting married, so you can’t do that much, either, not on that day. You either need more time, or you need more hands on the ground. Both are possible.  Try to avoid conscripting people who are going to have other things to do.

7. Avoid scrambling. Have everything that you need close at hand, and know where it all is, and where it’s going. Make those decisions BEFORE your wedding day. Keep your wedding and reception area compact, and everything close to get to from everything else. Memorize where the bathrooms are. Keep everyone’s numbers in one place on your phone - that includes vendor numbers. Get each vendors CELL PHONE, the number that will be available at, on site. Never scramble.

So, 7th inning stretch - A reminder that if you have any questions at this point, text them to me at 323-592-9318, or email me at

8. Another tip to avoid driving yourself crazy about your budget, and one that I pass onto each of my couples. When it comes to your rentals, start out with the least of what you need or want. As you get a better idea of what you want your wedding to look like, you can choose to add the extras, or not. This also works with flowers, and with food, actually.

9. And, given that, stay very clear about what your vendor contracts allow you to do, and what they do not. Everyone asks for a deposit, what does that deposit cover? Can you downgrade if you need to? Can you upgrade? When is the deadline for you to decide either? Put it in your calendar ASAP.

10. And this the most important: Don’t ever, ever, ever assume. Ask. This is the actually the #1 thing that drives me a little nuts. First of all, there is so much fear associated with it, that you can’t get what you want. That you can’t find what you want. That you’re just going to be constantly rejected.  So much fear that you’re even afraid to ask, so you figure you’ll just deal with it if and when it becomes a problem. THAT’S a problem. Or the flip side, is that you assume that it, whatever it is, is going to happen automatically, so you don’t ask and check. Never assume, always ask. And start with this question: What else do I need to know, or should I know? Any vendor will be able to rattle off any number of things that have tripped up their clients in the past, and help you avoid the pitfalls.

And there you have it.

Thank you so much. Have a good night. 

See you at the end of the aisle, 

Liz Coopersmith
Silver Charm Events

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