Friday, February 07, 2014

What You Don't Know About Your Wedding Venue

Jessica + Rodger, Long Beach Museum of Art, Photo by Hazelnut Photography

I'm on the preferred vendor list for the Long Beach Museum of Art, but that's not the only reason it's one of my favorite venues. Let me count the ways, in no particular order:
- The ceremony and reception area faces an un-obstructed view of the San Pedro bay and the ocean beyond it.
-The food is incredible
- The staff is personable, professional, and a lot of fun to work with. 

It was a no-brainer, once I decided to re-boot my "What You Don't Know About Your Wedding" series, to talk to Sara Vasquez and Andrea Crane, the Special Events Coordinators at LBMA. When you're booking a wedding venue,  what don't you know, and what do you need to know?

So, starting from the beginning - what happens after a couple calls or emails about availability, or send an inquiry through a site like The Knot or Wedding Wire?

"We have a template of everything that we include, for their date and guest count, and build them a proposal in the first email we send them," Andrea says. "And it has our menu, and pictures. Sara added, "Yeah, we like to provide all the cost information right away, and that way they know up front if having a wedding here is doable, if they’re going to have to tweak a few numbers here and there, or if it’s just way out of their budget." 

The Museum's site fee is $4,000, and a food and beverage minimum of $4500 on Fridays and Sundays, and minimum of $6500 on Saturdays. The food and beverage minimum is the contracted amount you have to spend for food and beverage, in order to have a wedding or event there. This is a pretty standard practice with most venues and caterers. The catering at the museum is provided by their on-site restaurant, Claire's.

It's a very popular wedding site - they're set to host 53 weddings this year - and one of the most reasonably priced oceanfront venues in Los Angeles. They do have a few weekend dates left for this summer, plenty of Fridays, and are currently booking for 2015. As to their popularity, Sara and Andrea laud the relaxed and friendly atmosphere, Claire's reputation, and well, you can't beat the view, Sara laughs. "You cannot have a horrible day here, because if you are having a horrible day, you just have to walk outside and look out at the ocean, and that takes care of that!

Every couple receives a proposal that includes two passed appetizers for the cocktail hour, a choice of entrees, and a hosted bar for 4 hours. It also includes all staffing and standard rentals - tables, chairs, linens, plates, silverware, etc. The museum staff is responsible for setting all of that up, and then breaking it down at the end of your wedding.

Each proposal also comes with a payment plan, as well. The site fee and a $1,000 refundable deposit are required to book your date. The next payment, based on 50% of your catering proposal, isn't due until 30 days before your wedding. Final guest count and payment is due two weeks before. 

I ask for something similar from any venue that my couples are looking at. It's very important to know what you're spending for exactly what you're getting. Most venues don't have a problem providing that, so don't feel shy about asking, either.

Daytime events at the museum are scheduled from 10:30am -2:00pm, and evening events from 5:30 - 10:00pm.

"Once they get the proposal, they might have some questions, and if they want to continue after we answer those, they schedule a tour of the museum," Andrea concluded.

What kind of questions do they ask?

"Mostly questions about the food and the bar, first, especially the guys!" Sara says. "We only have a soft liquor license - we don't serve hard alcohol, only wine, beer, and specialty soft liquor drinks." Soft liquor is fermented, not distilled, and the museum has a menu of cocktails they provide. "It leads to some interesting discussions of how much alcohol is actually in the alcohol! And, we discuss the advantages of that, that you won’t have totally belligerent people at the end of the night. People can can still get buzzed on soft liquor, we don't see the craziness that can come with hard liquor. " Menu tastings include soft liquor cocktails, and most people are surprised that it tastes almost exactly the same. 

Amanda + Nathan, Michael Jonathan Studios

So, here's the big question: What isn't provided?

The couples are responsible for bringing in everything else - the flowers, cake, DJ, decorations," Andrea says. String lights and chiavari chairs are also not included in the standard proposal (Just in case you were lusting after the ones in this picture), but the museum can give you a list of recommended vendors for them. "They’re also responsible for anything that needs to go on the reception tables, and for taking those out at the end of the night."

What are some of the challenges and traps they see couples falling into when they're choosing their venue?

People need to have a budget for the venue, and then a separate budget for everything else, says Andrea. "Our venue is different, because we do provide a lot of things. For couples who don’t have coordinators, or someone to help them manage their budgets, they haven't done this before, of course, so it can be a little bit confusing." A good formula to use is that 50% of your budget should go to your venue rental and your catering, and the other 50% goes to everything else. Another issue that often comes up, especially if a couple is trying to save money, is cutting down on the staffing or rentals. Not a good idea. "They need to understand how essential the staffing is, and that all the rentals that we provide are necessary." Staff isn't just the servers you see at the reception, "you’ve got... bartenders, chefs, cooks, managers." The rental list has to include extra plates glasses, and silverware, etc, in order to provide the best customer service experience. This is also a great thing to keep in mind if you're going to be responsible for all of the rentals at your venue. Ask your caterer or serving staff to look over your rental list, to make sure that they are comfortable with your numbers.

Couples should also remember that the event staff is limited to how much they can help you outside of the wedding venue. They can give you recommendations, yes, but, "Some people do have a tendency to act like we’re their wedding coordinators, like, 'Where should we book our hotel rooms, where can we do a rehearsal dinner?'" Sara smiles,"And we can steer them in the right direction, but we’re not officially in charge of that. And if they need help with dresses or invitations, then we definitely can’t help them with that!"

If you're interested in current wedding availability at the Long Beach Museum of Art, you can contact them at (562) 439-2119,x234 email, or fill out the Special Events inquiry form online.

Next Friday: What You Don't Know About Your Wedding Flowers, with florist Kim Williams from Enchanted Florist. In the meantime, if you would like to talk about your wedding, call me at 323-592-9318 to schedule your complimentary consultation. 

See you at the end of the aisle, 

Liz Coopersmith
Silver Charm Events

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