Making Your Day Your Own (At Venues With Little Flexibility)

Happy Spring Friends!

The first moment you walked into the wedding venue you chose for your day, you felt at home. The location, the style, the price, it all seemed to be a match made in heaven. You quickly signed the 10 page contract, submitted the deposit and selected a date. The world was at your fingertips, nothing could go wrong, and then… wait, we’re not allowed to do that? Oh, so we can only use vendors from your approved list?  But how do we make our celebration distinct and our own if we are only allowed to do things the way every other couple who has gotten married here before us has done?


I can’t tell you how common this story is. Many of the most gorgeous and coveted venue locations have crazy strict guidelines.  Everyone wants their wedding to be deeply personal; from the aesthetics, to the day of flow, and from the music to the menu, it is important that your wedding actually reflects who you are as a couple and tells your story, even if you are getting hitched in a spot with very little flexibility. Today we’re going to share some ideas on how to do this, particularly in the areas of food and entertainment, despite getting married at a beautiful, yet strict venue.

mezze 1The biggest struggle some of my couples face is getting to serve the food they want on their day. Many times, a venue will only work with one specific caterer, or you will have to choose from a very limited list of preferred caterers. If you find yourself in this situation, do not fret; you may have more options than you think. Yes, most of these places have set sample menus that they prefer to stick to, but try talking with your contact to explore the possibility of altering the normal menu to include specific items that are important to your story.  For example, let’s say you want to give a nod to your mother’s Middle Eastern heritage and serve mezze after the cocktail hour, as guests enter the reception area. There is a high possibility this will not be on the pre-set menu. If you share the importance of this tradition with your caterer (and remember that you catch more flies with honey, so be nice), there is a good chance that for a few dollars extra per head they will be able to accommodate you.

cotton candyAlways dreamed of having a cotton candy machine at your wedding? This is not a service that most caterers have the equipment for and are set-up to offer. Share how important this aspect of your day is with your venue and catering contacts and request that you be allowed to bring in a specialty vendor just for this purpose. Nine out of ten times the venue will let you bring in who you want simply because it is not something their preferred caterer is able to do! And it doesn’t stop there: frozen yogurt, churros con chocolate, popcorn, taco trucks, there are a ton of specialty dessert or late night snack vendors that will help create a lasting memory for you and your guests that your venue is likely to sign off on, despite their strict guidelines, because the preferred caterer isn’t able to offer something that is important to you.

cigar bar

Really want to spice things up? Feel free to try going outside the standard forms of entertainment for moments that leave a lasting impression on your guests. This could be as simple as creating a cigar or scotch bar in a loungy area of your reception. Once again, even strict venues usually allow you to bring in specialty vendors like this, particularly if you hint at the angle of this being an important cultural tradition for your family! Decided to get married at a venue that won’t allow a live band? Usually this has some kind of direct correlation to the city’s sound ordinance and the sound being amplified. True, the venue probably won’t budge for the reception, but they will generally  let you bring in a small live band (without amplification) for the ceremony and/or cocktail hour. Or think outside the box completely and bring in something  unexpected: check out one of our past blogs about belly dancing & bagpipes for a bit of inspiration! Whatever the choices you end up making, we encourage you to work to wow your guests. Even if it feels like the venue is saying “no” to everything (we’ve worked at many places like this), don’t give up! Make your day yours!

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