Category Archives: WEDDING ADVICE

Rentals or "tables cost HOW much???"

A few weeks ago when I wrote the (awesome!) 3 part series on venues in LA, in Part II on off-site venues I promised I’d devote an entire blog to the beast that is rentals. This blog even bores me, but I made a promise, so here’s some reading if you  have insomnia.

If you have rented an off-site venue to hold your wedding, you more than likely have to bring everything you need for an event in: tables, chairs, linens, napkins, flatware, glassware, etc. Some bare bones venues don’t even have a kitchen and so the catering company has to build one on site. Most catering companies don’t just own this equipment, so stoves, grills, hotboxes, pans, and trays also have to be rented. Many sites also don’t have lighting, power or restrooms, so all of that also has to be rented.  Then you have pretty stuff like lounge furniture and decor that can be brought in. 

What you need in terms of rentals is going to be determined by your venue and your chosen caterer. There are quite a few rental companies in this area, and of course, the higher end companies such as Classic Party Rentals and Town and Country are not only going to have the biggest selection but also the highest prices. Lower end companies such as Pico Party Rentals or Burbank Party Rental will have a much more limited selection, but more affordable prices. Usually, my clients tastes in chairs and furniture determine the rental company we go with. Even with the affordable rental companies, for a wedding of 100 people, I rarely, rarely see a rental bill under $3,000. See, you don’t have the capability to wash glasses at off-site weddings, so you have to order plenty of glassware for a bar for 4+ hours. That’s a lot of wine glasses.

Not only do the actual items you are renting (ex: 100 spoons at $.47 each) add up, but so does the the labor, set up, tax, and same day pickup. And when your rental guys come to pick up, they do not pack up the items–they expect to have all plates scraped and placed back in trashbag lined crates, all silverware sorted, all glassware back in the crates, all linens bagged, and so on. This is something that the catering staff is responsible for. If a couple goes with a low end caterer or a restaurant that is not prepared for this, the couple is either going to get a massive labor bill or that couple’s family will be scraping plates.


The Master of Ceremonies

From Wikipedia: “An MC (emcee) is the host of an official public or private staged event or other performance. “MC” is an abbreviation for “Master of Ceremonies”. The MC usually presents performers, speaks to the audience, and generally keeps the event moving. An MC may also tell jokes or anecdotes. The MC sometimes also acts as the protocol officer during an official state function.”

I bolded the “keeps the event moving” line because that’s what this blog is about. Like Harold Zigler verbally whipped the men of the Moulin Rouge into a frenzy, the MC is the puppet master of your wedding reception and can do the same to your guests. I learned the importance of an MC early on in my career when I did a few iPod weddings, and weddings where the band did not have an MC.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it is wrong to have an iPod wedding, this blog is not about your music choices, but about who is orchestrating your event.

Most of  the time, your DJ or your band leader is your MC. It’s a logistical non-exciting thing that people don’t really talk about when it comes to wedding planning. But when it comes to your wedding day unfolding smoothly, the MC is either my bestie or my archenemy. When it is time to move the guests to a new area, announce the bride and groom’s entrance, first dance, cake cutting, etc., the MC and I speak about it beforehand and then the MC facilitates it. Usually with a groovy soundtrack. Even for the clients who aren’t doing any traditional activities, it is utter chaos to move 100+ people around without someone with authority on a microphone.

In a few cultures, mainly Middle Eastern or Indian, a brother acts as the MC for the reception. It is a lot of work, and that brother doesn’t get to party too much, but it is an honored roll for him. The DJ loves it because he gets to focus on making people dance their faces off and not have to talk at all.

When you think about your reception, you need to think about the type of personality you want on the microphone. Do you want Mr. Cool who barely talks, or the guy who takes the mic out on the dancefloor to start the conga? Neither are wrong, but just make sure you have SOMEONE as your MC.

Los Angeles Wedding Venues (part 3 of 3)

These past few days I’ve spoken about the three different types of venues that we have in LA:

1. Hotels or All-inclusive venues
2. Unique or Off-site venues
3. Non-traditional venues

Non-traditional venues are the Holy Grail for a bride to find: they are awesome spaces whose owners don’t know the going rate in LA for site rentals and don’t know that they’re sitting on a gold mine. I once was about to do a wedding at an insanely awesome loft in downtown LA and was told that the rental was $1,000. After I picked myself up off the floor I asked if we were the first wedding they were going to have there? They asked me how I knew? Then I laughed. Today, that loft charges $6,000.

Know that in order for a property owner to rent their space out, they have to hire a full time site manager to manage the thousands of inquiries that are coming in throughout the year. A property owner, if they have any other job at all, cannot do this enormous job themselves. In order to pay this full-time person and make a profit, they have to charge a certain amount.

But! The Non-traditional venue owner doesn’t know any of the above. YET. They just happen to own a cool space and a resourceful bride finds them and asks what they’d charge for having their wedding there? The property owner thinks “how hard can one day be?”  and will then process through the learning curve to answer that question for himself. There is a joke amongst wedding industry professionals that says you can tell how many years we’ve been in business by the number of clauses we have on our contract.

So, the property owner then becomes the default site manager/wedding coordinator because they don’t know any better, and when the wedding comes and goes, the wear and tear on their property is so heavy (furniture soiled by wine or burned by candles, glass broken, plumbing backed up, etc) and the amount of sheer time that the property owner spent with the bride & groom working through this maze blind with them has left them frazzled and exhausted.

Weddings at your own home fall into this category of Non-traditional venues, because chances are it’s the first event of this magnitude that will happen there. Many things such as plumbing are never thought of until it is too late. The Third fastest thing that kills a party is a major plumbing mishap (First: cops showing up. Second: crappy DJ)

Pricing of Non-traditional venues


and that, my friends, is the beauty of finding one.

PROS of Non-traditional venues

  • The rental fee, or lack thereof
  • The fact that none of your friends have attended a wedding there
  • The lack of rules (fire permit? what’s that?”

CONS of Non-traditional venues

  • You don’t have a site manager or a caterer that knows the space in an event flow kind of way and can say: “great idea, but it won’t work and here’s why….”
  • The lack of a contract that can harm you. One bride I know visited her non-traditional venue not long before her wedding and found that they had knocked down walls and completely changed the layout of the space.
  • The lack of rules can harm you in that you may not know what the sound ordinances are. Remember what I said the first thing is that kills a party? Imagine the cops breaking up your wedding reception ala a college kegger.

And these, ladies and gentlemen, are the three types of wedding venues you have to choose from. They all have their own PRO/CON list and there’s no right or wrong about any of them. It’s what’s right or you, your fiance, and your families. Happy venue hunting!

Los Angeles Wedding Venues (part 2 of 3)

Yesterday I spoke about Hotels or All-inclusive venues. Today I’ll talk about unique or “off site” wedding venues. These are my fa fa fa fa favorites!! to work because of the potential that they posses.

Unique or “off-site”  venues

These are sites such as historical sites (Greystone or Union Station), Museums (Los Angeles Natural History Museum or Pasadena Museum of California Art), Parks (LA River Center and Gardens or Temescal Gateway Park), Private Estates (Rancho del Cielo or Rancho del Diablo Dormido) or hip hot spots (Smog Shoppe or Marvimon)  that regularly rent out their facilities and therefore know what they’re getting into.  I don’t consider weddings at your own home in this group because chances are, you’ve never had an event this logistically challenging or large at your home. That type of wedding will be talked about in the next blog post on Non-traditional venues.

These venues don’t offer catering, rentals, or staffing. Many times they also don’t have lighting, power, water, restrooms, parking, and security. They cannot afford to keep all of that stuff employed or maintained like hotels or country clubs can.

We call these venues “off-site” because depending on their amenities, we are bringing everything in and creating a site. Most private estates won’t even let you use the inside of the house–the rental is for the grounds only.  Why? BECAUSE THEY CAN. Because people will pay $10,000+ for an estate in Malibu just to have the views and the privacy.

Pricing for Unique or Off-Site Venues

In the Los Angeles area, I’ve seen some of the parks priced as low as $2,000 for the site rental, and the estates in Malibu in the $10,000-15,000 range.  Most off-site venues average in the $5,000-10,000. The lower priced ones get snapped up quickly, and many times are booked 18 months out for prime dates. So if you’re glued to one meaningful date, you probably won’t be having it at Villa del Sol d’oro or somewhere similar. Remember how I said yesterday that your reception budget needs to not take more than 50-60% of your entire budget? The site rental, fees associated with it, catering, alcohol, rentals and staff have to be included in that calculation for an off-site venue.

The base rental price is not factoring in other fees that come with it though: liability insurance, a site manager, security deposit, cleaning fees. Those all have to be added to the rental fee to get an overall number. Just so you know, the site manager/site coordinator is not your wedding coordinator–they are the ones who answer your questions about the venue, unlock it for you, and stay there to make sure that your guests don’t destroy it. Most off-site venues require you to have a professional wedding coordinator (someone who is not related or a guest) to manage the day. These venues have gone through the learning curve of what it takes to successfully host weddings and they know the wear and tear that it does to their property.

PROS of Unique or Off-site Venues

  • Aesthetics and ambiance. Do you want an English manor? A Tuscan villa? An urban loft? LA’s got ’em all for you!
  • Privacy and exclusivity. If you have security (and you should) you’ll have no looky loos or wedding crashers messing with your day.
  • If you choose a gorgeous location, you don’t have to do a whole lot to dress it up.
  • The freedom to bring in your own catering–Kosher food, ethnic food, In ‘n Out truck, buffets or chef tended stations….you name it. ****

CONS of Unique or Off-Site Venues

  • Logistics, logistics, logistics. While you can do a wedding at an off-site venue without a professional wedding coordinator, you might lose your mind in the process. These weddings are twice as difficult as traditional or all-inclusive venues.
  • If you hire a team of non-wedding professionals or vendors who are not familiar with the property, you could be in for some trouble.
  • The way that these venues are priced makes it almost impossible for a lay person to know ahead of time what the budget is going to come in at because you usually don’t have the time to price out catering and rentals before you book it.
  • RENTALS. Someday soon I’ll devote an entire blog to this ugly beast. 
  • The natural elements. Yes, this is sunny Southern California, but we do have rain sometimes. You can’t just pick up the phone the morning of your wedding and order a tent if it’s raining. Everyone else in LA’s back up plan will already be in effect by then. Heat, wind, cold, mud, and sun cannot be regulated and therefore backups for backups have to be thought of.

Stay tuned for part 3 of 3 on non-traditional venues!

****I neglected to mention in yesterday’s post that if you require a certain kind of food (Kosher, Indian, Persian, etc) but your guest list is so large that it requires a huge ballroom, you CAN “buy out” the kitchen in order to bring in your own caterer. This means that you pay the hotel for the profit that they would be making if you were using their caterer, but then you bring in your own type of food. It’s expensive, but mandatory for some people.

Los Angeles Wedding Venues (part 1 of 3)

I feel like I sound like a broken record when I say this, but I just have to say again: getting married in Los Angeles is expensive. Three reasons for that? Location, location, location.

I have some clients that are getting married at a summer camp 4 hours north of LA and what they are spending on the rental of the camp for 3 days and 4 meals (including their reception meal) is what an blank venue such as Saddlerock or Vibiana costs for a 12 hour rental. 

Read that above paragraph again. Let it soak in.

While we are blessed with any type of venue you could ever want here in LA (mountains! ocean! city! villas! cathedral! boutique hotels!) wedding venues here really boil down to three types:

1. Hotels or all-inclusive venues
2. Unique “off site”  venues

3. Non-traditional venues

This will be a 3 part blog talking about each type of venue and their pros/cons.

Hotels or all-inclusive venues

Hotels and all-inclusive venues (like Calamigos or The Ebell) are the easiest to plan and execute logistically because everything is there on-site: ceremony site, ballroom, parking, tables, chairs, food, drinks, staff, and so on. They do up to a few hundred weddings per year there and they really have it down pat. You can’t really bend the rules or do things differently at venues like these, because they’re set up to be efficient. Many times you will be told NO! if you want to do something that isn’t efficient.

Pricing of Hotels or all-inclusive venues 

Most of these venues have a Food and Beverage Minimum that they have to meet in order to give their facility to you. Obviously, Saturdays are the best day, and therefore this day is priced the highest. Some venues deep inland, in the valley, or not to affluent areas have F&B minimums that start as low as $7,000 or $8,000 for the event.  Four and five star resorts, especially those on the beach or places like Beverly Hills, sometimes start at $50,000 and go up from there.  Know that these numbers above are NOT your wedding cost. They are the cost of the reception facility, food, and drinks. In order to have money for other things such as your photographer, DJ, coordinator, invitations, and cake, you need to spend no more than 60% of your entire budget on this.  I prefer no more than 50% though.

PROS of Hotels or all-inclusive venues

  • Efficiency of planning
  • Package pricing (this can let you know in the beginning if you really can afford it)
  • Comfort for your guests – handicap accessibility, parking, air conditioning or heat, etc
  • Easy logistics
  • Many times even non-hotel venues such as country clubs have rooms that guests can also book and stay at. There’s something to be said for stumbling to your room upstairs at drunk-thirty…

CONS of Hotels/all-inclusive venues

  • Bland or generic feel
  • Bland or generic food 
  • Package pricing is set to get you in the door. ANY change/upgrade you to is going to cost you (“oh, you want linens to the floor? That will cost XXX”)
  • You might run into as many as 4 brides that day. And their guests.
  • Ever seen “Wedding Crashers”? Enough said.
  • Many times the Service Charge (read more about that HERE) and Tax is not included on preliminary quotes. So that venue you thought you could afford and booked just cost you 30% more.
  • Strict times that event set up can begin (for a DIY bride, this will kill you) and when the event has to end
G e t   s o c i a l