Thursday, December 18, 2008

Know What You're Getting Into!

...and I don't mean in terms of marriage.

I mean in terms of what is required of you wherever you are planning to have your wedding ceremony or reception.

Because let me tell you, there are some wacky weird nutty and plain old non-sensical rules out there, just waiting for some bride to forget to read them.

I discovered the fine print in the wrong order: After I had started getting excited about one of the possible locations for my own wedding, and fantasizing about checking that (huge) task off my list. Just as I was about to cartwheel away from the computer and perform my "happy dance" for Jake, I happened to stumble upon the long list of no-nos at my chosen location. That's when I realized I may need an attorney just to interpret the rules and explain the consequences of (gasp!) breaking a rule or two in the contract.

In case you can't tell, I am not too fond of rules or being told what to do. I'm not even all that great at taking advice, (though I try!) even when it comes in a nice, logical, and friendly package. I tend to be stubborn about doing things my way to my own detriment. The time I INSISTED on making 230 Halloween cupcakes from scratch for Jake's entire class, comes to mind. In my defense, the idiotic idea arose because it was his first year teaching and I wanted him to be liked, and I decided that sugar was the way to the kids' hearts. I refused any and all help and swore I could do it "on my own," a phrase I use often, which inevitably turns into my "famous last words." Eight hours, six store-bought overpriced-because-I-was-desperate muffin tins, four trips to the grocery store, two blisters and one screaming match later, the damned things were done. But I won't be doing that again anytime soon. Or ever. I (gulp) learned my lesson, yes. Well, I mean just in terms of the cupcakes. I certainly don't apply the moral of that story to other like experiences. Call it blind dumb determination.

The point is, if you are anything at all like me, you better check the fine print of your beautiful, inexpensive, too-good-to-be-true dream location, sooner rather than later. Some of the rules at these places simply do not allow for any flexibility to have your wedding your way. Seems sort of counter-intuitive? "Let us make your wedding special and long as it's not too special and unique."

The rules come in many forms. There are crazy rules and then there are rules that make things downright inconvenient, annoying, unrealistic, or cost more money on top of already costing a lot of money. Brides beware!

In case you're curious why I am getting my feathers ruffled about this topic, here are some examples for your bride/groom-to-be enjoyment:

"Only one ceremony is permitted on Saturday and one on Sunday at 9 a.m. Ceremony must be completed by 10 a.m., when the grounds open to the public. No exceptions." I am not a morning person, and I tend to be late. Cramming a ceremony into a one hour time slot? Too rigid for me.

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet
"Ceremonies are all stand-up. No chairs, tables, decorations, flowers, balloons, rice, or birdseed. No food is allowed. No excessive noise." Is smiling allowed? Can you imagine negotiating this one? Please please can I have just a tiny little bouquet to carry with me during the ceremony? Sounds like a drag.

Photo Credit: John Mayer
"Chuppahs must not measure higher than six feet in height and four feet wide." Are you kidding me? My groom is 5'11"! Is he supposed to crouch through his own marriage vows? And about that width--are we supposed to huddle throughout our ceremony just to make sure we fit inside the canopy? Dare I say, I think they just don't like Jewish weddings!

Photo Credit: Barbara L. Slavin
"Only soft, small, hand-held music is acceptable." This one is just plain humorous. I'm picturing one of those little shower radios in bright yellow, being held by the flower girl, quietly playing classical music that no one but she can hear. This rule is a pretty big buzz kill if you envisioned having music as part of your wedding. Image finding that out...once you have booked the venue?!
"A tent is required in case of rain. Tent not provided. There is a fee for bringing tent into the gardens (it was $250!). Set-up of tent allowed fifteen minutes prior to reception." We have to have a tent, we have to pay to rent it, we have to pay just to let the tent be allowed into this venue, and we have approximately 900 seconds to put this thing together? No thanks.
"Fee for photographer entry to venue ($180)." This one I just don't get. It seems like nothing more than an attempt to make money off of you and your wedding. We are already paying the photographer, why do we have to pay the venue to have the photographer attend? And what if--like Jake and I are considering--we have a friend/guest who doubles as the event photographer? Does that person require a special fee for being a guest at my wedding? Nonsense, I tell you!

Photo Credit: Nicole Cole

"No hats allowed. Jacket and tie required. Shoes must be worn at all times." No option for a casual wedding there. See ya!
"Trash receptacles will not be provided at the venue. You are required to provide a minimum of 8 trash receptacles on site and are responsible for removal at the end of the event." This one is just....gross. Since we are considering having a buffet reception without servers or formal catering, this means I would have to schlep to some housewares store and buy 8 of those ugly 32 gallon monstrosities, schlep it to my wedding, and then schlep it FULL OF GARBAGE home with me once I'm hitched? Makes me wonder what cockamamy thing went wrong for this venue at one of their events to make them require this.
In fact, I am willing to bet that most of these rules came about as a result of an obscure lawsuit that they had to settle for big bucks.
I guess if I was doing an "Organized Wedding Mafia" wedding some of these rules, and others I uncovered, would not have mattered too much. It would be just one more little fee here and there, and I could simply tell the "wedding staff" to take care of some of it. But since we are trying to do as much as we can ourselves--both to save money and to make the wedding reflect who we are and not who others think we should be--and it's basically going to be us and our homies throwing this thing together, these are make it or break it rules for me.

Lessons Learned:
  • Check the fine print asap. It may look nice at the location, but if you later find yourself scrapping some of your favorite wedding ideas in order to accommodate the place's rules...well, what fun is that?!
  • Realize (like I didn't) that especially if you have your heart set on doing things differently, or want to bring in a lot of your vendors (or your super skilled BBQing Uncle Al) to your wedding, you will likely find most location rules rather limiting. The menus alone at some of these places, where you are stuck with only one or two caterers from which to choose, can be a huge turn-off.
Next Steps:
Now, more than ever, a simple, understated park seems like the best choice for the kind of casual-ish, community oriented, laid back, and crafty wedding Jake and I are imagining. The kind of place where the worst rule might be "no dogs allowed off leash."

Ah, the lovely scent of freedom awaits. Somewhere...

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