As I move along through my wedding planning blunders, I thought a blog segment lovingly called "What Not to Do" was particularly appropriate. I hope you can all find enlightenment through my misfortunes. This past Saturday, my fiancé and I finally made it to our first site tour at the McMenamin's Grand Lodge. The property is a sort of laid-back resort filled with McMenamin's flair (if you've ever been to Portland, you know what I mean). It seemed like a viable location for many reasons: Lodging for out-of-town guests? Check. Options for everyone to dine and be all together during the weekend? Check. Within our small budget? Check. Spa and mineral bath? Okay maybe that wasn't on the list, but it certainly sweetened the deal!
However, the site tour also opened my eyes to the world of reality vs. the information you can find on websites. For example, they do not provide outdoor chairs, tables, a dance floor or tent. Meaning to fit an event over 100 people, you have to rent all these items. Suddenly the venue with the "no site fee" is actually more comparable to a site that charges $2000+ to rent their space and chairs. But enough ranting, here's the list of what I wish we would have done:
- Take pictures! Even with your camera phone. Every site will look completely different in person compared to the stylized images you find online. A picture taken from your perspective, no matter how crappy it is, will help you remember how you saw the event space.
- Bring a notepad and a pen. Yes, this should be a no brainer (I have even made my own planning binder, but alas, I was running from work and forgot to bring anything!). The (very nice) tour lady was spitting out random fees and numbers that I wish I could remember. Important things like an 18% gratuity and a $3000 food & beverage minimum for 'this space on a Saturday night in July'. It is much easier to decide if the venue will fit within your budget if you have all the costs in front of you to compare.
- Bring your list of questions. For me, this was if they would allow our flower pug, Chloe, on the premises, which would of course be a blatant violation of the 'no dogs' sign that you pass on the way in. I remembered to ask this question... on the drive home.
- Make your list of 'must haves' and don't be romanticized. The first one on the list should be your budget! This is often the first venue that couples book, so it's important you don't blow your budget in the beginning then have no flowers to dress it up later. Also, booking a venue that fits with your vision and fulfills your needs (for us: nearby hotel rooms, affordable food options) can often help you save money in the end.
But I must say, it was kinda fun throwing caution to the wind and finally enjoying being "engaged" with my fiancé. And that's the most important part of this whole planning thing, right?