I thought I would share an article that I wrote for Suhaag magazine (published in October 2011) about how to choose a wedding venue. The article was inspired by my own frustrations in trying to find a wedding venue (balancing cost, capacity, and venue uniqueness). I’m republishing it below; hope those in the preliminary stages of wedding planning find it helpful!
How to decide on a perfect venue
Booking the venue. It’s the first thing you want to do after flaunting your rock to everyone and their mom. And as I’m finding out, it’s easier said than done. (The venue search that is; showing off the rock is under control!).
A desi shaadi brings its own unique set of considerations which makes finding the perfect venue so challenging. These considerations – venue style (ideally unique); capacity (most likely large); food (preferably desi); and cost (lower the better) — become very connected.
After some initial research, you realize that most of the unique, non-desi wedding venues have a capacity for less than 250, which would be fine… if you decided to not invite half your family. Where capacity isn’t an issue, food might be. You’ll either have to choose from a caterer who is on the venue’s ‘preferred supplier’ list, or their in-house catering. The menu prices for these packages can range from $75-$250, which for the desi shaadi is high, especially if you’re dealing with a large guest list. As an alternative, some venues may allow outside catering, which is great because you can bring in your own community’s caterer (read: desis want desi food). However, while you may be saving on the food costs, many places will charge you a base rental fee or a per person ‘service’ charge (which can range from $20-80), as well as other fees such as, per person bar charge, security fee, SOCAN charge, etc. etc. etc.
Wedding Planner to Bride
So how does one navigate these nuptial terrains? Suhaag sought the expertise of Raana Chaudhry, a woman who has planned not one, but 251 weddings (including her own), as a Wedding Planner with her company Sapna Weddings. The best venue advice she has? “Do your due diligence ahead of time” says Chauhdry. “As opposed to visiting 15-20 halls, think about all the criteria that is important to you – capacity, food, price – list out what that criteria is and call up places that you’re interested in. You don’t need to go see 15-20 venues, you only need to go see 5. It’s quite simple actually.”
What to Watch Out For
Knowing what you want, and of course knowing how to negotiate, can go a long way when it comes to finding a venue that works for you. Chaudhry warns, “When you’re looking for a venue, the number one thing you need to look out for is the audio-visual system. You book your venue, let’s say at $60 a head, and then you will be told that you have to contact whoever the in- house sound and lighting company is to get a separate quote for all your lighting, screens, projectors, separate from the venue. It’s a good thing in terms of quality, but it’s expensive, so the biggest thing you need to look out for is increased AV cost. You also have to look at the types or brands of alcohol you’re getting if that’s important to you. Then you have to talk about pricing for adults vs. children.”
The Bottom Line
Weddings aren’t cheap, and the venue, as the greatest expense of a wedding, is a key concern. However Chaudhry also urges people to take into consideration service quality, in addition to price, when choosing a venue. “I’m not saying you can’t do a wedding venue on a budget, you absolutely can, but to save a little bit of money, to sacrifice the service quality, it’s not worth it. When you book a venue you’re usually 8 months to a year and a half away, you don’t realise the impact. But once you get on the day, and your chair covers are dirty, and your floor plans aren’t right, that’s stressful, and it may be because you made a price-based decision.”
Of course, there are ways to help control costs; for example, having your reception(s) on a Friday or Sunday, will always be less expensive than a Saturday, or as Chaudhry says, “You can do without the giant centre pieces, the water bars, the massive stages! You can get all of those without spending a lot of money; you just need to know where to look.”
Desi Hall vs. Non Desi
And as someone who knows where to look, we asked Chaudhry, what are the differences, both good and bad, with going with a desi hall vs. a non desi? “Pros with an Indian wedding venue: generally you‘ll find the price point is lower; they will be more willing to negotiate; and in most cases they will provide Indian food, or will allow you to bring in desi food. The cons of an Indian venue: because the price point is lower, generally their service quality is lower. With a non-Indian venue, it’s the exact opposite, sometimes you can’t bring in Indian food, because they force you to use their own preferred suppliers and their price point is higher, but the pros are service is impeccable, generally, its more formal, you have a proper written detailed contract, with accountability” says Chaudhry.
At the end of the day, choosing your wedding venue, like any important decision, simply requires proper research and analysis. (Enter: charts, notes, and spreadsheets). And just think, once you have that venue booked, you get to focus on the real fun stuff: hair, makeup and bridal wear!
Non-Desi Venues that Allow Outside Catering:
Angus Glen Golf Club, Markham
- Capacity: Great Hall: 400 guests; The Elgin Hall: 200 guests; The Marquee Tent: 250 guests; The MacKenzie Hall: 200 guests
- Will allow outside catering, with a rental fee of $35 per person, plus tax
Paradise Banquet Hall, Concord
- Capacity: Can accommodate up to 500 guests banquet style
- Will allow outside catering, with a rental fee of $28 per person, plus tax
Mississauga Convention Centre, Mississauga
- Capacity: Can accommodate over 2000 guests banquet style
- Will allow outside catering with a rental fee of $29.50 per person, plus tax
Capitol Events Theatre, Toronto
- Capacity: 250 banquet style.
- Will allow outside catering with a rental fee of $2500, plus $20-80 per person
My wedding venues:
The mehndi, Gambrel Barn, Milton:
The shaadi, Paradise Banquet Hall, Vaughn:
The valima, Mississauga Convention Centre, Mississauga: