Friday, January 14, 2011

What To Do When You Realize You Can’t Afford the Catering

One of my many woes as I plan my wedding is the response time it takes to hear back from the location and the catering staff. I had wanted to get married at the local zoo carosel room, it’s a beautiful room with hand carved wooden horse and wonderfully painted walls. The down side, it took the events person 4 ½ months to provide me a contract from when I originally requested one. One of my friends stated that she was having the same problem with her facility choice, so naturally I assumed that it would be the case for all wedding locations. I was wrong.

My fiancé found this wonderful building called ‘The Ruins’ located near Alki Beach in Seattle. I requested some pricing information and asked some questions, basically resulting in 4 or 5 emails back and forth and every email was answered the same day. This was also over the Christmas holiday, Dec 23rd to the 26th. That was when I learned that not all locations where the same.

The Zoo makes most their money on everyday admissions, so they aren’t too worked up about ensuring that the facilities are rented after hours as it really isn’t their bread and butter. The Ruins on the other hand makes most their money hosting events and are most likely more liable for when people slip through the cracks as its important income they wouldn’t normally be generating.

Break down of prices I received from the Zoo and pricing estimate I received from the Ruins
Point Defiance Zoo
Facility: $638 ($250 an hour minus 15% for off season)
Fully refundable deposit: $500 ($300 w/out alcohol)
Catering for cocktail reception: ($2325, 75 people) $31 per person (appetizers ($25 per person) and dessert bar ($6 per person), price does not include wedding cake)
Cash Bar: if $350 in sales isn’t met, out of pocket price for bartender $150

Facility rental contract: Price paid in full when signing the contract, the $500 damage deposit due 30 days before the event.
Catering contract: $500 due when contract is signed and payment received in full 20 days before event, final attendant number due then.

Positives: The room is wonderful and a fun location, plus it’s the zoo! The actual rental price of the facility is amazing considering all tables and chars and plain table cloths are provided.

Negatives: The response time from the sales/rental correspondent, 4 ½ months to work up a rental contract is a bit extreme. The price of catering was a bit much for a cocktail like setting I wanted. I had assumed that they would be less then the Ruins, but they where more and dessert had even been priced out separately. $25 a person for a cocktail party seems a bit extreme for the five items I wanted, one of which was fruit. They also still wanted to charge a $3 per person set up fee even though the reception wasn’t going to be sit down. The contract also had listed a $485 service fee, and I still haven’t heard back on what that fee entails. The prices of the open bar, $5.50 for domestic beer and $6 for importuned, was a bit much. The bar pricing reminds me of stadium beer pricing.

The Ruins
Facility: $1300 +$150 (ballroom and bridal room)
Catering for cocktail reception: ($1875, 75 people) ~$25 per person and the wedding cake is included
Open bar: only option available if a bar is desired

Facility rental contract: Room price paid in full when contract is signed.
Catering contract: Half the estimated price of catering needs to be paid about 30 days in advance, the final attendance numbers supplied three days before event, and the remainder of the bill needs to be paid 30 days after the event.

Positives: I love the ballroom and its wonderfully colored theme. They are excellent at responding to emails and answering all your questions. Everything is taken care of by the Ruins, including decorations and flowers, except for the bridal party. The rental information they sent me broke everything down, right to the amount of servers I’d need for my size of group and the hourly wages I’d be responsible to pay for the servers and the bartender. I love the contract and payment schedule at the Ruins, especially the amount of time you have to tell them your final group numbers.

Negatives: Open bar is not going to happen with my friends and family, the bar tab alone would probably cost more then the catering. If you wanted a cake from a specific location it won’t be happening here as everything must be done through the facility including decorations and flowers, except for the bridal party.

So now that I know my fiancé and I don’t want to take out a loan to help pay for the location and catering, and not enough time and extra cash to save up in the amount of time left before the wedding (~5 months), I’ll have to start my search again for a location that would fit our needs and allow for the wedding party to supply the food (since this is what he had wanted to do from the beginning).

I personally didn’t want to do a potluck like event for my wedding, but if we supply all the food, it turns into not quite a potluck (I keep telling myself this) and into more of a hosting party. So I’ve been given a dead line of February 21st to find a new location (he’ll also be looking) or else we’ll need to reschedule the wedding. What fun!

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