When you are planning a wedding (or any event), there are five major perspectives that should be considered. These are perspectives not universally considered- especially by the event vendors individually as they relate to the event as a whole. A perfect event will consider, incorporate, and execute on these five perspectives.
1) Bride/Groom Mother/Father Host/Event Planner
All of these “perspectives,” or “elements” of your event must be considered, coordinated and properly executed for your event to be seamless: the one you envision!
Unfortunately, the hospitality industry doesn’t typically consider or explain these perspectives. It seems that it is not standard procedure for any caterer, venue or even event planner to encourage considering the various points of view (POV) when planning an event. Grab a pencil, and perhaps a coffee, and get ready to tackle your big event!
What are the five points of view?
POV #1: Bride/Groom (or other client)
POV #2: Financial
POV #3: Venue
POV #4: Catering
POV #5: Guest
POV #1: First and foremost, this is YOUR event! There have likely been dreams, desires, and inklings about your event you’ve had tucked away for quite some time. Getting these ideas out of the client can sometimes be challenging. One has to know what to ask to elicit that desired information. However, an experienced event designer can work with you to reveal many of the thoughts and ideas you might have hidden in the recesses of your mind. The actual event is the culmination of a journey. The journey begins with the start of the planning stage and ends only after your ideal event has come to fruition.
It is important that you participate in this process as only you can truly know what is ideal for you. This means thinking about your likes and dislikes, keeping notes as ideas come to you, and then discussing these things with your event designer. Allow your imagination to run wild! Dreams do come true; they might be limited by various constraints, but the more input you can give once discussing the event with the designer generally equates to a “more perfect” event! Verbalization on your part is key. The experienced designer can ask certain questions to help guide you and elicit your desires, but your well-thought input is also invaluable to obtain the desired end result. In the final analysis, this is YOUR DAY and it should be the very best day of your life!
POV #2: Financial
When it comes to one’s wedding day, many brides and their families begin the process without a set budget. At first, cost can sometimes be considered inconsequential. The truth that generally emerges over time as costs build and compound is that almost everyone does in fact have to work within some sort of budget. This is not necessarily a hindrance to the perfect event. It is simply a consideration that is important to keep in mind. It is easy to fall in love with “the perfect venue,” or the “perfect dress,” etc., but one has to remember that there are many elements- all of which are important- that have to come together on Wedding Day. Allocating too much of one’s budget to any certain element of the total event and then having to cut corners later on other elements is an unfortunate trap into which many brides fall. This is why it is so important to be as realistic about the financial point of view from early in the process and allow your designer to assist you with all those elements. “Perfect” weddings have cost little and “perfect” weddings have cost millions. A skilled and experienced designer can help you consider all the different pieces and help pull them together to create a dream experience while working within your budget. This point of view is obviously very important and it is best to be as realistic about it in the beginning as possible! Few weddings are “inexpensive” but most do not have to be exorbitantly pricey either to achieve the desired result.
POV #3: Venue
Perhaps it will come as no surprise that POV #3 is likely the one most important to consider and we will allot it the most attention as a result. All of the elements are interrelated, but understanding the venue and how all the other pieces fit into it is extremely important. Failure to understand the venue and the interrelation between it (and what it does and does not offer) and all the other required elements of the event is the number one mistake that brides and grooms make. Renting a venue should be a decision made only after the true additional costs are considered and understood. It is a fact that a wedding in one’s backyard can often be more expensive than one in a venue that specializes in weddings. Due diligence is paramount on your behalf. This is where a top-quality, experienced event designer can assist you in understanding additional “hidden” costs that someone who is not familiar with all the ins and out of an event might overlook. Look around at various venues. Compare! Hear what they have to say, and as you explore you will soon learn about things you would otherwise have not considered. A large secluded beach (or your backyard) might be a wonderful setting for a wedding, but rentals of lighting, flatware, glassware, plates, tables, DJ, cake, bar, gift, chairs, linens, dance floor, tents, flowers, centerpieces, other décor, photobooths, etc. (there is potentially no end to this list) when all done from scratch can create enormous expense. Consider the laborious setup and breakdown of all the necessary elements involved in all of this, and the numerous providers involved, and one can easily begin to understand how much the costs of the various inputs can add up and multiply. Additionally, considerations such as wind and rain, in which direction the sun sets...these are other things you have to consider for an outdoor venue. In the case of rain, for example, are you willing to take the risks associated with such a venue? Are you willing to provide for a contingency plan (tents, etc.) should poor weather prevail on your big day? This is an extreme example but one that illustrates the very important point that even many established “wedding venues” do not provide these things in their pricing structure. Buyer beware!! You have to understand what is included in the cost of your venue rental and what is not included. Décor can help take your event over the top, but not when all your money gets tied up in unexpected expenses before you get to that stage in the planning process!
As the venue is such an important point of view for consideration, here are some additional thoughts. We’ll call them "the good and the bad".
As for the good, the trend now is that brides and grooms are tending to bypass more traditional venues for ones that more truly fit their personalities. Such venues also tend to specialize in events like weddings and therefore provide more of the various elements of the event allowing the clients to be more in charge of the financial point of view. This greatly simplifies the planning process and the financial considerations. In such a case, typically the event has better flow and comes off more seamlessly than one that is staged at a venue that does not specialize. Venues that have been designed strictly for weddings tend to be better thought out, more creative, and provide much better value for the client.
For the bad, due diligence is still the responsibility of the happy couple. Not every venue is going to be completely up front with you unless you ask the right questions. Not realizing this until it’s too late in the process has led to more than a few hyperventilating brides as the planning progresses and costs continue to accrue.
A given venue might look great on paper, but experience with event planning is invaluable when it comes to understanding how the pieces of the particular venue all fit together. Many venues are just that- venues only. They probably provide some tables and chairs and might include linens. In that case, you still need to determine if those items are suitable for creating the look you want. Are they in good condition? Will you require chair covers? An elegant ballroom with dilapidated tables and chairs or worn linens leaves much to be desired. Square footage can also look good on paper but can be misleading. Are there doors, windows, poles or columns that will dictate suitable placement of the tables, dance floor etc. for your event? A good CAD program (or Computer Aided Design program) can utilize technology to consider such things in advance. In the hands of an experienced user, such a program can virtually eliminate any otherwise unforeseen issues with the layout of a venue. Such programs can ensure that tables aren’t too closely gathered that guests and servers have difficulty navigating the venue. It is important to ensure a space that looks large enough for your guests actually can comfortably facilitate their movement and experience. Seeing a room empty and then filled with tables and chairs makes for a stark contrast. It is wise to ask to see photos from your event with setup like the one you envision for your event. It is also highly recommended that you reach out to other wedding professionals- caterers, florists, photographers, DJs, etc.- that have worked a venue multiple times. Often they can offer very valuable input based on their individual experiences there. Finally, every venue has a “difficulty range.” This can arise from various things. Some venues have unrealistic time restraints that will rush you and your vendors to set up and break down in time. Some have very difficult load in and load out- unavailable parking (for guests as well as vendors), doors kept locked that are not to be propped open in secured buildings, elevators that don’t work well. These things can create chaos for both vendors and attendees. These considerations are not ones the venue is likely to bring to your attention. Some venues only have warming kitchens (a kitchen with warming boxes), triple sink and a small refrigerator AND NO STOVE which can make seated dinners extremely difficult. Menus have to be developed for that particular space and may not be the menu that you desire. So again, do your due diligence once you’ve found a venue you really like and ask around for input from professionals who have experience with that venue. And don’t be afraid to ask the venue for those references from those professionals- if they have nothing to hide from you, they should be happy and able to provide these!
POV #4: Catering
The caterer is another integral part of your event. Aside from the venue, the catering is likely the most visible aspect to your guests of your previous planning for your wedding day. A catering point of view can be priceless. Experienced caterers, though not all created equal, have seen just about everything when it comes to events both small and large. In some cases, the caterer and the venue are a package deal. The catering company in such a case is intimately acquainted with the venue. This can contribute greatly to helping your event flow seamlessly. In such a case, the caterer is not simply “the caterer,” but also can serve in the roll of advisor in many respects. When the catering company and venue are intertwined, their experience is often vast and as a result problems can be averted due to prior experience. The caterer can serve as an invaluable resource for that particular venue and can help you address all of the points of view. This reduces variability and increases the likelihood and an event that flows well.
The term caterer is widely used and broadly defined so be sure about what you are getting. Experienced caterers will understand the layout of any given venue and can give you advice on all aspects of the event from setup to putting out food at the right time(s). Menus should take many things into consideration- not just the couple being wed, but also things like the location of the venue and per guest price point. Ask about additional “hidden charges” (plus plus). Ask questions, define contracts and definitely request a food tasting! Again, do your due diligence and research potential catering companies. Social media and other websites make available vast resources to the consumer and provide great research tools. See what others have to say about the catering company- good or bad. Use that information to assist you in making an informed decision.
POV #5: Guest
The final point of view is often the the most important point of view, one with which the bride and groom are typically most concerned. It is the measuring stick of every great event. The guest point of view is all-inclusive and takes into account all of the aforementioned points of view. Every venue, vendor, provider, and the event as a whole will fall under the scrutiny of the guests. Meeting and exceeding their expectations should be the paramount goal of everyone involved in helping to bring your wedding experience to fruition. How does one go about judging the relative success of this goal? We recommend, simply, that you the client envision looking at the event from your guests’ point of view. Doing so will put your event completely into perspective. What would your expectations be if you were going to your own wedding as a guest? While the client obviously bares the overwhelming cost of the event, the guests also bare a substantial financial cost (in additional to time and effort) in attending as well. When clients and guests leave feeling elated and completely satisfied, the five essential points of view have been well thought out and executed. And both client and guest have an outstanding memory to rekindle and cherish for a lifetime.
By Jim Schaal
Event Designer and Caterer/Chef