Thursday, May 19, 2011

Venue In's & Out's, The Little Details That Can Mean Big Bucks - Chapter 2 - Venue Design

Time Lapse Video of Preston Bailey's Design Transformation of the Armory, NYC

It's time for our second installment of Venue In's & Out's - the Little Details That Can Mean Big Bucks.  This episode will discuss how your venue's design can either help or hinder your wedding budget.  And as I warned you last week, this post is a doozie, so before you get started, take a pee break, refill your water and dig around in your desk drawer for a fun size Snickers to enjoy while you read.

Let's play pretend for a minute.  You're invited to a party.  You're totally pumped, but of course you have nothing to wear.  And you're feeling fat.  And the party is tomorrow.  And your ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend will also be in attendance.  Feeling awesome yet?

So you head to Saks with a $250 budget.  You're browsing the hangers, and you see it - the most glorious concoction of thread, fabric (and maybe a sequin or two) that will have heads turning, tongues wagging, and new ex-boyfriend girlfriends sweating.  If you watch Pregnant in Heels, you'll know it's a good thing when I say, "this dress will make the children gag!"

Good news, the dress is on sale.  Bad news, the clearance price is $325.  Not wanting to spend the extra cash, you ask the clerk to help you find a dress that is similar in style but not in cost, and she politely points you towards Macy's.  I kid, I kid.  She escorts you to a sales rack, where you spot a similar dress, but the color is a bit different, it doesn't have sequins (always a downer), the hem is too long and your boobs are just a wee bit too big for the dress, so you'll have to wear a shawl.

But you're panicked because the event is tomorrow, so you look at the price tag ($200), run to the counter to pay (and then keep running all the way home in a feeble attempt to lose half a pound before the party).  You drop the dress at the tailor to have it hemmed, take your favorite sweater to the dry cleaner and buy a new pair of shoes because none you own work with the dress.  Your nail color goes with the $325 dress but not the $200 dress, and your new shoes have a peeptoe, so you get a mani pedi, too. 

Once it's all said and done, you've spent $60 at the tailor, $30 at the dry cleaner, $110 on a new pair of shoes and $25 on your nails.  Where does that put you? At $385!

Congratulations, you just spent $60 more than the $325 dress and are a whopping $185 over your original budget.

What's the moral of the story?  After a very long and exhausting imaginary shopping trip, if you'd gone ahead and bought the perfect dress, you would have spent $60 less than you ultimately spent turning the lesser dress into a poor imitation of the one you loved more.

And so it goes with venue selection...

....take into account all the expenses you might incur trying to turn a less suitable room into a more suitable one, meaning if you save $1,000 by going with a "cheaper" venue but then spend $2,000 covering the chairs to make it look like the nicer (and more expensive) venue, then you lose twice - the first time by not getting the venue you really want, and the second time by spending more money at the bottom line. 

If you find yourself wondering about any of the following, take a step back and ask yourself if you can't see the forest for the trees (all prices are average):

- renting chair covers   ($6 a chair x 200 chairs = $1,200)
- renting nicer linens   ($40 a table x 20 tables = $800)
- draping walls    ($10/ft x 60 ft = $600)
- bringing in lighting    ($500 - $2,500)
- renting lounge furniture    ($1,500 - $5,000)
- renting chairs for an outdoor ceremony    ($4 a chair x 200 chairs = $800)
- replacing the venue's tables with rental tables    ($140 a table x 20 tables = $2,800)
- skipping the venue altogether to tent the lawn and start from scratch    (about $25,000)
- renting a dance floor    ($3,500 - $5,000)

Now, I am in no way saying that this justifies booking a venue that is well beyond the scope out of your budget.  I do not in any circumstance think that you should eat ramen for a year in order to be wed at the Plaza.  Ramen is high in sodium and makes you bloated.  What I am saying is that, when selecting between your final two or three venues that fall in your desired price range, consider the design concessions you might have to make for Venue A that wouldn't be necessary for Venue B.  Does Venue A have lounge furniture available for your cocktail hour?  Does Venue B include uplighting? 

I've done an (overly simplistic) comparison of two venues just for illustration's sake - note all the incidental charges that went into making the typical hotel ballroom feel less like, well, a typical hotel ballroom and more like the second venue shown, a modern loft-like space.  To each his own, and there's certainly nothing wrong with transforming a space (did you check out the amazing time lapse video featuring the inimitable Preston Bailey?  Incredible), but when it comes to your average wedding budget, I can think of plenty of other ways to put $5k to good use.  Did you say moonbounce?  Good, I didn't think so.  Booze and bouncing definitely don't mix.   

Exhibit A 

Exhibit B

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