Written by Kelli Fuqua Hart, Ocala Magazine Executive Editor
Two large wooden doors swing open. With a brief glance, left to right, she sees the room is filled with a sea of pastels and white linen. The fragrance of spring peonies and lavender fills the room. Clean white candlesticks, held high by silver candelabras, cast a flickering glow throughout the chapel. Slowly she steps. Her satin heel makes landfall on a delicate path of petals. Right then left, she paces, arm in arm with her first love. Making her way center stage, she is embodied by the trickling of tears and flashing lights of captured memories. Her gown trails behind her, moving through the sanctuary like a slow brook. Through a veil of white, her future draws near. Finally, she meets her groom and the room is still. In that moment she realizes, this very spot – this place above all others on a planet made up of 5,490,383,247,360,000 square-feet – is where the rest of her life begins. This is the place where two become one.
Now, I ask you, “How important is it when choosing a wedding venue?”
Almost as important as choosing a spouse, the location in which you transition from Ms. to Mrs. is a choice worth investing a great deal of time and consideration in. So many variables need to be considered, from major logistics such as room capacity and available dates to smaller, but still critical decor and lighting details. My proposal is to sit down with an experienced bride or wedding coordinator and allow them to be your guiding light.
Angela Cordrey owns Savannah’s Catering in Ocala and has a plethora of wedding industry knowledge. Having worked nearly every venue in Marion County, Cordrey knows the ins and outs of what to look for and ask for when booking the perfect venue.
Lucy Miller can’t help but stare at the sparkling diamond Richard put on her left hand last fall. Since their engagement, Lucy and Richard have been busy planning their dream wedding. From choosing their attendants to planning the honeymoon, and every detail in between, this couple realizes coordinating such an event isn’t easy. In fact, when it came time to choose a venue, they were overwhelmed with the amount of decisions and responsibility it required.
Lucy has three best girlfriends, two sisters and a niece. Richard also has two sisters who will need to stand with Lucy, along with one brother, two cousins and four college buddies he has asked to stand alongside him. When combined with two flower-girls and one adorable ring-bearer, the soon-to-bes have a grand total of 21 people to make space for at the altar. This alone calls for strategy when choosing a venue.
Cordrey suggests asking a few basic questions before signing on the dotted line. Does the venue have space? Is there a stage or steps to take into consideration? How will everyone filter in or line up? Choosing a “space” means having enough of it. What “space” does your preferred venue offer?
With over 212 pins on her “Lucky Lucy” Pinterest board, she has narrowed down the flowers she wants, the theme she prefers and her heart’s desired decor. Blush peonies in mercury glass, highlighted by the glow of crisp, white pillar candles… Ah! This is going to be splendid! – Or not.
The fine print on one venue’s contract spells out, “No open flame.” Does this include a few itsy-bitsy candles here and there? You betcha! And what about Lucy’s vision of a Vintage Parisian Courtyard Sunset theme? A few of the venues she looked at went from one extreme of having modern lines and stainless accents to another lined in faux wood paneling and shag rugs – neither of which says, “Paris est belle de nuit!”
Cordrey advises brides and grooms to inspect all areas of a venue. Look at the ceiling for water spots or dusty fans. She insists on taking into account all of the permanent decor, such as wall color, upholstery, art work, lighting, flooring, etc. Don’t let your dream of a roaring 1920’s theme be wrecked by choosing a venue with 1980’s motifs or modern pieces of artwork that cannot be removed. Look at your venue with a clear vision and ask, “Is this a blank canvas that will fulfill my wedding vision?”
Likewise, read every word of the contract and be aware of whatever rules the venue enforces. Do they allow candles? Can you usher in your own caterer or liquor? What are their rules about attaching things to walls, such as fabrics and garlands? Cordrey also insists on asking the venue coordinator if there are any unwritten rules which could lead to an unpleasant surprise the day of the event.
“Unpleasant surprises” are commonly associated with pricing. Lucy and Richard had a budget in mind when searching for their venue. One contract offered the couple a rental fee of $3,000.00 which was well below the $5,000.00 they were willing to spend. This was great! – So the couple thought.
Lucy’s excitement went from a 10 to a 2 when she realized the low, low price of $3,000.00 only included access in the door and back out some four hours later. Lucy and Richard wouldn’t have a place to get dressed unless they paid an additional fee. The venue has 30 round tables, but the use of them would also be an additional charge. In fact, use of the courtyard for photos, use of their soundboard and use of their kitchen all come with additional fees.
“Flat out ask for a detailed list of what is and is not included in prices,” explains Cordrey. “Do not be afraid to ask.” Waiting until the day of an event with 200 guests in tow is not a good time to realize the facility’s parking lot is being used for a classic car show or that the ice machine is not accessible. Brides need to know exactly what they have access to, what times, and for how long – this includes a clear time on when a bride has access to the facility to set up and how long she has to ensure the room is broken down, clean and vacated.
Richard couldn’t be more excited about a night of great food, friends and spirits. After over a year of planning and paying for the anticipated event, his biggest priority is to celebrate throughout the night! Buzz kill – some venues’ night ends at 10 pm. Cordrey reminds couples to double check the contract for times. Many venues allow a set number of hours for the event, but often couples will not take into account the time it takes for cleaning up and clearing out. Ask any venue representative to specify if set-up and breakdown times are included in the time or if it can be bought. No one wants to cut a party short to start sweeping and stacking chairs.
Nothing would make Lucy happier than exchanging vows as the beautiful Florida sun sets in the background. Richard’s concern is being drenched by an unpredictable Florida summer thunderstorm. Can planning an outside wedding or reception happen with any peace of mind? Cordrey says, “Yes.” However, she also says there needs to be a very clear plan B in writing. Any facility that books outdoor events should have an indoor weather plan. Ask the venue coordinator to go over the details of what would happen in the event of bad weather. There should always, always be a plan B.
From the time you set up for the nuptials to the moment you are swept off your feet by your spouse, every detail in between is a make or break moment. Choose wisely. Ask questions. Visit and revisit your preferred location. Remember, this venue is working for YOU.
If someone asks you, “Do you have the perfect venue for your wedding day?” You should be able to answer with a confident, “I do.”