It’s time for a reality check. After hundreds of weddings, I see this almost all the time: couples come to our world-renowned Santa Barbara including its beautiful wine country and see the epic resorts, private estates, ranches, beaches and wineries and they are smitten. This is one of the reasons I’m so proud to call this place home and specialize in weddings in America’s Riviera. The location options afford a unique wedding experience for the wedding couple that they – and their guests- will remember for a lifetime.
That said, with venue rentals ranging $7,000-$10,000+ just for the location (and often locations with incredible restrictions), many newly-engaged wedding-location- seekers are so star struck when they find that “perfect” venue that is “the” one, they will do whatever it takes at any cost to host their wedding at that location. This means that they will sink all their wedding budget or a good majority of it into a wedding location rental fee and forego the other elements- mission critical elements to an event– just to get married and eat a meal with friends in that epic setting. But let me say this: they and their friends will not enjoy the setting they have paid for if they are not making sure that their guests are tended to and comfortable. In fact, it often backfires on them, with guests leaving the wedding with a less-than-favorable impression. The bottomline is this: do it right, or don’t do it at all. It’s simply not worth it to put the majority of your wedding spending plan (budget) into the venue fee if you cannot afford to do the rest of it right and be the gracious host/hostess your guests deserve by investing in their comfort.
Here are my top three items that I see clients forego or pare back on in the interest of money, including the recommendation of what should be done.
Problem: Not renting enough heaters for event plans that include an outdoor portion. Why: Even in wine country, where our temperatures can soar to 100 degrees by day in summer, evenings can drop to 56 degrees and there is almost always a breeze. The least expensive, more traditional “mushroom” heaters (the industrial -looking kind) rent for about $70 each and with the recommendation of 1 heater per dining table, it is no wonder some clients see this as adding up and either forego heaters entirely to save money, or order a limited number of heaters and think they will just place them by key guests such as the elderly or bridal party. What ends up happening: No matter how well a client thinks they know their guest list, they don’t. Guests end up “fighting” over the heaters and having catering staff move them back and forth or worse: try and do it themselves. They are cold and miserable. Many leave early and others express their dissatisfaction with the caterer or wedding planner for “allowing” their discomfort to happen with few heatlamps, not knowing that it was the client’s decision entirely and they were trying to save money. The recommendation: For outdoor cocktail receptions only, work with your professional full-service caterer on the lay-out, where key traffic areas are, etc. For sit-down dinners, it is recommended one heatlamp per 8-12 guests, or one heater per dining table , if 8-12 guests are at a table. Hint: there are some beautiful, creative ways you can provide heaters for your guests. From fire bowls to Italian heaters (the kind with a cylindrical “fire tube”) which creates a glow 360 degrees as well as warmth to guests. For clients who have more flexibility with their budget, these are a lovely option. For those who have a more limited budget, traditional heatlamps may be the way to go. Your Full Service Caterer and Professional Wedding Consultant can help you determine what types of heaters to match your event style and budget.
Problem: No shade on sunny day outdoor events. Why: Market umbrellas are another cost in the rental budget but cannot be overlooked as a necessity. Whether the ceremony is beachside or in the blazing hot sunny wine country, if the event is outdoors for any portion of the day that has the sun up in the sky (so before approximately 5pm), plenty of shade needs to be offered for your guests. This is for any ceremony, cocktail or reception area, and it’s really almost year-round, even in mild temperatures. It’s not so much about the heat (although on a 100 degree day, one may wish to create even more shady areas than normal) as it is the glare of the sun at any temperature. What ends up happening: many guests arrive early for the ceremony and asking them to stand in a blazing hot sun with no cool patches, areas of shade or relief will have them wilted before you even walk down the aisle. And they certainly won’t be taking in the beautiful views and location you so painstakingly chose if they are miserable and wilted from the heat or glare of the sun. The solution: Create areas of shade where you know guests will be waiting pre-ceremony, cocktail hour and even for the reception. In fact, for an outdoor afternoon reception, I strongly urge a wall-less tent to allow air flow and a view but protect all from the afternoon sun . There are many ways to add drapery and swagging to a wall-less tent to make it gorgeous and showcase the venue you so carefully chose. In the case where the ceremony area cannot be covered, investing in lovely parasols for guests to shade themselves as they watch the ceremony is a nice design-touch that also provides practical comfort for guests.
Problem: Insufficient portable restrooms for private estates, ranches or beach weddings where the event is constructed on site. Why: VIP Trailer Portarestrooms (the kind that are a step above field portarestrooms with a step up, sink and toilet inside but not as elaborate as the Deluxe “Hollywood” Trailer kind with mini lounge areas inside – see side photo) start at about $350 per unit and can drain a budget significantly. Note: this is mainly only applicable to private estate or ranch weddings where restrooms must be brought in. The rule of thumb is one toilet per 40 guests. I see weddings of 200 guests thinking that they can get by on two restrooms- a ladies’ room and a gentleman’s room. What ends up happening: incredible lines with uncomfortable guests, oftentimes guests creating their own alternative means to making their own restroom (read between the lines there) because they have an emergency and so many more things that had their host/hostess been thoughtful enough in the planning process, would have known to have allowed this for their budget spending plan. Guests waste a significant amount of time in line waiting for the restroom and missing out on the rest of the festivities planned by the couple. The solution: ensure adequate restrooms by following the guideline above: one restroom (toilet and sink) per 40 guests. Consider designating a ladies’ room and a gentlemen’s room and perhaps give the ladies one more restroom , since there will always be more of a demand for them than the men.
When I interview clients, one of the things I listen for is that the couple is interested in making this a special day for their guests, too, and not just for themselves. This is the art of being a gracious host/hostess. One can always make some choices with their budget when it comes to the finer decor and details. But one should never compromise the comfort of their guests simply because of their budget. The key is to know what things are going to cost you in advance before you book your venue and a professional wedding consultant can help you do just that.
It comes down simply to this: keeping guests comfortable in the epic setting that was chosen for very special reasons is not just a luxury, it is a necessity. Make it part of your spending plan from the start.