Saturday, August 22, 2009

Your Reception Venue Can Cost You More Than You Think

Picking the dream location for the perfect reception is a big decision. Location, parking and of course price all come into play in the decision making process.

But you've found the perfect location. And the price is in your budget.

Or is it?

There are things to consider when selecting a reception location.

Are you locked into to using their vendors (in-house or preferred caterers, DJ's, etc) or can you select your own vendors? Especially on the caterer decision, this can be a major impact on your budget.

When choosing between venue A and venue B, the caterer choice can be huge. Venue A is $1500 cheaper but you have to use the in-house caterer, who has a minimum of $10,000. Venue B will cost you $1500 more for the use of the room, but you can bring in your own caterer who is only charging you $6000. You've saved $2500 by getting the more expensive room.

Are there hidden charges? I say "hidden" tongue-in-cheek because the charges are available to you somewhere. One example is the kitchen access fee. Many facilities charge the caterer a fee to have access to the kitchen. This can be a flat fee (I know one place that charges $450) or it can be a percentage of the catering bill (one place charges 10% of the catering invoice with a $300 minimum). I've recently been told about one place that charges a flat fee PLUS a percentage of the catering invoice.

Before you think "wow, that's a lot of money for the caterer to pay", let me remind you that the caterer is NOT the one paying it. You are. These fees are usually added to the catering invoice.

I had a client call me just a few weeks ago and he was eligible for a couple of discounts that I offer. I told him I was calculating the discount before adding the venue's percentage fee which would reduce the venue fee for him. The client was very upset to hear about this charge and told me, "If I had known they were charging you, and in effect charging me, that fee, I would have negotiated it when I booked the place!"

An event in gramma's big back yard, by the pond, may sound dreamy and romantic, but many times there are additional fees involved to assure a pleasant and safe catering event. There is usually limited or no kitchen access, which means the caterer must bring extra ice to keep cold foods cold, extra equipment to keep hot foods hot, portable hand washing stations, and extra staffing for the extra work involved in an outdoor event.

I even have a short list of venues that I will not work in because of the super limited access. *IF* someone can convince me to work at what I refer to as a "non-vendor-friendly" location, trust me .... they are going to pay me for it! I have a lot of heavy equipment to transport and it is not worth it if I have to park 2 blocks away and carry everything to the tent or the building in the backwoods. (Yep, had one of those. Won't have one of those again!)

So as you shop for the perfect location, please remember that the price for the room rent is not the only cost you pay. Your vendors may have some additional costs to pass on to you based on the location you've selected.

This is where a wedding planner comes in handy .... they know the questions to ask and they know what to look for, because they know what the other vendors need so they can make your event a success.

As I tell folks, "If you're going to pick a silly place to have a reception that causes more work for everyone else .... then you're going to pay for it one way or the other."

Debi Brim can be reached via email at

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