You probably have a list of questions for your venue all about the actual space, guest count capability, cost, experience, etc. But take it from us, if questions about specs are the only ones on your list, you are leaving so much on the table.
Venues Know Things
Our team has the unique opportunity to work closely with the owners and operators of venues across the New Orleans area. From that experience, we know just how knowledgeable these professionals are. Think about the unique perspective they have into the wedding experience. Usually, he or she is the first wedding professional a couple meets since the venue is usually booked first. And then they see the event to the very end of clean up. They see a broad range of weddings from various budgets, styles, and cultures. Plus they work with so many different vendors.
Here’s What They Know
Since you may have already missed out on this opportunity to ask them about all their advice, I’m going to share their insider tips for saving money, stress and time as you plan your wedding.
I have heard the little pieces of advice they share that make a huge difference for couples. They know things that you just can’t know without the type of perspective they have. And I mean this, I’ve found that no matter how many weddings I coordinate, I continue to learn new things from venue owners, salespeople, and venue coordinators. They have tips are that for saving time, stress and money. Whether its changes to the flow, timing or other logistics or some odd wedding hack they learned along the way, they have advice that can help you plan your wedding better.
Chris Jones, Felicity Church
We will start with Chris Jones, owner of Felicity Church, an old historic church that he and his wife restored and converted into an incredibly beautiful wedding venue located in the historic Lower Garden District.
“Every wedding has a budget. Big or small, there’s always a budget. Spend as much of that budget as possible paying other people to do things for you.”
Let me say that again PAY OTHER PEOPLE TO DO THINGS FOR YOU! Don’t just buy things, buy service!
Here’s your second piece of advice from Chris:
“Plan an after party! You don’t have to rent out a place, just call a few weeks beforehand and let them know you’re coming with your guests. They’ll be able to hire extra staff. They make money and you get served faster.”
He also shares:
“First looks are the best. Often I find that grooms say they don’t want a first look because they think that’s what the bride wants them to say. It’s still a powerful moment and once it’s explained how much time and stress it saves, it’s a no-brainer.”
“You don’t have to have a lot of options for food. Sometimes 3-4 well-made dishes are a better option than 10-12 slapped together items, and remember staff is more important than food with it comes to the way the event will run. If budget is tight and it’s between the shrimp puffs and an extra server/busser, lose the shrimp puffs.” AMEN to THAT!
“Best second line drink is Trader Joe’s canned champagne. Hands down. It’s $5 for a 4-pack. Don’t give your guest options on second line drinks. Just a can of champagne or a small bottle of water. Just grab and go. No holding up the line.”
“Nighttime Second lines that are not in the quarter: Don’t worry about handkerchiefs as they won’t be seen too well. Opt for glowing, blinky things. They’ll show up great on pictures and video and people get pretty jacked up when you pass them out.”
“20 inch sparklers are the ones you want. 36 inch are too long and people get sick of them, and the short ones are too short to get the timing right for the picture.”
“If you’re doing a bubble exit, rent a bubble machine or have some bubble guns. The cheap bubbles don’t have enough output to show up great in pictures.”
“If you have to do speeches, do them during the rehearsal dinner. Everyone who’s there will be the people who want to hear it. Your cousin’s boyfriend doesn’t care.”
Let me stop for a minute and say, do you see what I mean yet, venues have a wealth of information. Have you heard those tips anywhere else … no? me either! That’s why I’m always picking the brains of venue professionals. They know things! Comment below if you agree!
Stephanie Baker, Marché
Stephanie Baker is the President of the Wedding International Professionals Association’s, New Orleans and Gulf South Chapter and the Catering Sales Manager at Marché. Marché is located above the French Market in the French Quarter and they have unbelievable view of the Quarter and the Mississippi River.
Stephanie says to consider what she calls a “Turn Key Venue”. She says that the “more the venue includes, the less you will have to spend on items to bring in. This will also help reduce stress and save time from needing to find additional pieces and working with more vendors.”
“If you are trying to save money, go with a Friday or Sunday or Off-peak dates. Generally these dates have lower food and beverage minimums and rental fees associated with them. Your guest count will play the largest factor in the cost of your wedding though, even during off-peak season.”
Maggie Zschiedrich, Messina’s Catering
Maggie Zschiedrich is the Director of Sales with Messina’s Catering. In addition to providing off-site catering, Messina’s has 2 wedding event spaces, the iconic Terminal Building, a 1930’s Art-Deco venue at the New Orleans Lakeshore Airport and the Rooftop on Basin, atop the historic Basin Street Station.
Maggie says to “Take out do it yourself– a lot of couples want to make their own centerpieces, bouquets, photobooth back drops, etc. to save money and/or time! This will only add stress! Trust us!! I have had too many couples say to me they will never do their own bouquets or make their own centerpieces again because (remember) a lot of the DIY things might only be able to be configured the day of your wedding and that is the last thing you’ll want to do the morning of your wedding day! Its your big day- relax- soak up every minute because it goes by fast! Hiring the professionals might be more expensive now but in the long run you will be thankful you did! (Because who wants to be putting a photobooth backdrop hours before your wedding ceremony at your reception venue!)”
Jenny Dyer, Pitot House Museum
Jenny Dyer is the Historic House Manager at the Pitot House Museum, a historic venue and gardens on Bayou St. John.
“Skip the decorations – Many venues in our area are special because of their unique set and setting which requires very little added effects to create a lovely backdrop. Too often I’ve seen couples spend too much time and money on decorative stations and details that really aren’t necessary to the overall mood of the venue. All those little things add up and often the venue itself is lovely enough without it. Use the venue as it is (isn’t that why you chose it?) and you’ll cut out a little extra headache and expenditure.”
She also shares that you should negotiate, saying “Many smaller venues are negotiable on their pricing and what you get for that pricing. If you’re honest and upfront about your needs and your budget you can often find ways to work out an agreement with your venue to discount some of your fees or add some extras. Don’t be afraid to ask!”
Let me add to that. You can’t negotiate anything until you have figured out your real budget! One mistake couples make is asking for a discount without know what a fair price is for the venue. So know what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice before you go into any negotiation.
Raven Ousley, The Court of Two Sisters
Raven Ousley is the Sales Manager at The Court of Two Sisters, home to the French Quarter’s Largest Courtyard.
Here’s what Raven said, “Repurpose your floral/décor from the ceremony space to the indoor reception space. One of the great benefits of having your ceremony and reception in the same location is you will be able to get your money’s worth out of those decorations and florals!
She says “Most venues will allow you to drop off personal items for the wedding set up, just ask! We will allow our clients to drop off items up to TWO days beforehand. You think you will have a lot of time on rehearsal day and day of, but time goes by much faster than you think. One less thing to worry about!”
She also recommends “a New Orleans cocktail style reception. Meaning- it is a free flowing seating plan. You can save money and the headache on seating charts, table numbers and name cards. Less is more here in New Orleans!”
Jennifer Green, Pat O’Brien’s on the River
Jennifer Green is the Social Event Sales Manager at Pat O’Brien’s on the River, a wedding venue in Jax Brewery. If you have only heard of the Pat O’s, the piano bar, this is a hidden gem for weddings!
Here is her advice: “If you choose an all-inclusive venue – You don’t have to worry about finding a catering company, bartending services, or a rental company.”
She suggests scaling back on the cake, saying “especially if you have a groom’s cake, everyone doesn’t eat cake, maybe 2/3 of the guests at most. More times than not there is a ton of leftover cake at the end of the night that either gets boxed up or tossed. If there are concerns about having enough cake, there’s always the option to do a kitchen cake with a smaller wedding cake for display.”
She also shares this cost saving tip: “Second line through the venue and have your reception entertainment play the music – A lot of our couples go this route to incorporate the tradition without the additional expense of a permit, police escort, & separate second line band.”
Common Thread: Hire a Coordinator
I saved one one piece of advice that most of these venue professionals gave, until now. For various reasons which I’m about to share, they said you should hire a coordinator or planner. I didn’t want to include that in their advice because the truth is I’m not trying to sell you our services. We do this blog as an added service for our clients and anyone planning their own wedding.
But I do think their advice is valid and something you should consider so I’m sharing it all here at the end. Here’s what they said:
Chris Jones said “Number 1 won’t help too much as it’s always: GET A WEDDING COORDINATOR.”
Stephanie Baker said: “Hire a wedding coordinator or planner, they can save you from making costly mistakes in the booking process, they will also alleviate stress and save you time.”
Maggie Zschiedrich said “ hire a planner or a coordinator, having a professional solely focused on your day is so important – as the couple you do not realize how much planning and tasks there are (especially the week and day of!) so having someone there for you will definitely ease your mind! (And vendors minds too!)”
Jenny Dyer said, “Hire a coordinator – As the manager of a lovely, historic DIY venue, I can’t stress enough how much time and stress can be saved by hiring a coordinator! They take the guess-work out of hiring vendors, creating a timeline, using the site to its potential and so much more. Each DIY venue has its own set of quirks and unique policies that coordinators are typically more aware of. They’re intimately familiar with common problems that pop up and already have a toolbox for handling them. They are there to see that things run smoothly even at an unusual or challenging venue. Every penny spent on their assistance is worth it.”
Raven Ousley also said: “Booking a day of coordinator will be life changing!”
So there it is, venue advice on whether you should have a coordinator.
All of this insider information is exactly what positions some couples to avoid stress, budget their money well, and efficiently plan the day from start to finish. It is worth doing the research on the front end, learning these little tips and tricks, and then going about planning the actual wedding.
Please join me in thanking these venues for offering their advice by checking out their websites and following their social media pages:
Chris Jones, Felicity Church @felicitychurchnola
Stephanie Baker, Marche @marchenola
Maggie Zschiedrich, Messina’s Catering @messinascateringandevents
Jenny Dyer, Pitot House Museum @pitothouse
Raven Ousley, The Court of Two Sisters @courtoftwosisters
Jennifer Green, Pat O’Brien’s on the River @patosontheriver