Finding a Venue, Part 2

So I narrowed it down to three choices, and made appointments to visit Phipps Conservatory and the Mayernik Center.  The North Park Boathouse didn’t have an email, so I would have to call to set up an appointment. I’m not ashamed to say that actually having to call someone is a serious deterrent for me. *shrug* Gen Y, lazy. So  make that two choices.

Thankfully, I had the good sense to schedule both visits pretty close together so that if we loved the first venue, we wouldn’t have long to wait before we could see the second, and then we could make a decision! It was definitely a good choice, because all of the details were fresh in our minds, and it made October “wedding month” for us! Somewhat coincidentally, it also marked the two-year mark from our intended wedding date. I say “intended” because, well, things change. :)

First up was Phipps. We had an appointment to visit Phipps’ Garden Center first, which is a smaller, more casual area that only holds 100 people. I thought that would be OK for us, since Phipps was pricey anyway, and we would be limiting our guest list already. Once I saw the Garden Center, though, it was immediately ruled out. We visited on a Sunday when it was set up for an event, which just so happened to be the brunch of a wedding held at the Conservatory the night before.  The setup wasn’t a deterrent, but the overall look of the Garden Center was just NOT what I wanted.  It was too casual for what we want our reception to be (ironic, since I think we’re having a casual wedding, but this was more “jeans” casual), and it was just too small. They say it holds 100, but it looked to me like over 60 would be pushing it, and there wouldn’t be room for a dance floor with that many people there.

However, visiting the Garden Center sparked a couple more ideas, because it is next to Mellon Park. It has a “walled garden,” a gorgeous little stone-walled courtyard with a fountain, which would be a gorgeous space for a wedding ceremony. I bookmarked it in my brain for later in case the rest of the visit didn’t work out. We also inadvertently went to the wrong building when we arrived for our tour, and found ourselves at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, which is also a venue for wedding receptions. I did send an email there after our Phipps visit because I loved the look of the building, but I wasn’t keen on the long response time, or the gruff response that I received.

http://pca.pittsburgharts.org/sites/images/large-slideshow/rentals_wedding.jpg

But isn’t it gorgeous!?! / Image via pca.pittsburgharts.org

Let’s take a pause here. Now, I may be crazy, but I don’t take kindly to short or unfriendly responses that I receive from potential wedding vendors. If I am thinking about giving you thousands of dollars, and you can’t find it in you to be polite and send me a nice response to my inquiry, then I’m not going to give you my money. I don’t care how fabulous your venue, work, service may be. If you’re not nice, I’m not going to involve you in the biggest event of my life. I will find something maybe less than perfect, but with nice people who actually appreciate my hard-earned dollars in their pockets, thank you very much. Whew, end rant. Let’s move on.

So I ruled the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts out based on my insanity “the nice vendor principle.”

Thankfully, the rest of our Phipps visit was spectacular.  We met with Emily*, the Event Sales Supervisor, who was super friendly and helpful.  She showed us all of the places in the Conservatory that I had requested we see, was patient with my craziness seemingly endless questions, and sat down to talk to us post-tour. The next day, as promised, she sent me an email with all of the available dates (for a two-month span), answered my numerous emails, and was great to work with.  She really met my expectations and put my mind at ease. We drove home from our visit doing rough calculations (on my phone’s calculator) and discussing whether we could make it work with our intended budget and our actual ability to save money over the next two years. I spent the rest of the evening constructing a ridiculous budget spreadsheet with budget estimates, calculations for guest-list estimates with each food and alcohol package, and a total estimate for all of the wedding expenses. In our excitement, we were really considering the budget-busting plan of having both ceremony and reception at Phipps.

After our visit at Phipps, we had to wait until the following Saturday to visit the Mayernik Center. Now, I had already hounded Suzi, the event coordinator at Avonworth Park, with tons of questions and details, so I knew she was quick to respond and took my craziness in stride. I was surprised to find that when I met her, she wasn’t what I expected. She actually reminded me of my aunts. We took a walk around the facility, I took a bunch of pictures, I found out that one of my cousins would be a guest at the wedding there that evening (small world!), and we discussed dates and details with Suzi. We both felt really comfortable with her, as we did with Emily, and it just felt right. As we walked out the door and across the bridge to the parking lot, we were holding hands and basically just asking each other “Are we really doing this?  Are we really ready to make a decision?” Talk about fun moments of wedding planning!

And I think this calls for a pros/cons list.

Phipps Conservatory

Pros:

  • Stunningly beautiful
  • Memorable
  • It gives out-of-town guests an “experience” rather than “just a wedding.”
  • My family loves visiting Phipps, and it gives us another reason to visit.
  • It’s my dreeeeeeeeam.
  • They’re truly wedding professionals, and all the details would be covered.
  • Their catering is in-house, and the cake is included in the cost.
  • We just have to provide the vision and our choices, and they’ll put it together.
  • Pictures would be phenomenally gorgeous (yes, very dramatic).
  • It’s in Oakland, where I went to school, where we got our engagement pictures taken (spoiler alert!), and where I spent so many important years of my life.
  • We would only have to choose our photographer, DJ, and lighting company. Everything else (that we would use) is coordinated by the caterer.
  • It fits my desire not to use flowers, because it’s a garden and there are flowers everywhere. Check!

Cons:

  • Really, just one. But it’s a doozy. It’s suuuuuuuper expensive. We’re talking food starting at $90 pp and alcohol starting at $25 pp. Our choices would likely lead to $130 or more per person. That’s  way over budget.

Mayernik Center

Pros:

  • The look fits my wedding vision. It’s warm and cozy, rustic, and perfect for a fall wedding. (It’d also be fabulous in winter.)
  • They have three preferred caterers** to choose from.
  • It’s still pricey as far as rental fees go, but choosing our own caterer would help us stay within budget.
  • We can provide our own alcohol, and they provide the bartenders and beer (both purchased through the Center)—which would greatly reduce costs as well!
  • We get to choose and bring in all of our own vendors.

Cons:

  • We have to choose and bring in all of our own vendors. This is both a blessing and a curse. While it would help us minimize costs, it also is more stuff for me to organize and keep on top of while trying to juggle the rest of life.
  • Decorating time is limited to two hours prior to the event, so decorations would have to be minimal. They also restrict decor inside—you can’t hang anything on the walls (seriously, nothing), so the majority of the decor would have to be on the tables and the mantle. The short time to decorate (and tear down) gave me a little panic attack.  I’m sure it’s that way with a lot of venues, but it really made me think about the day-of details, and it freaked me out.

Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that any wedding will be pricey if we go “all out” and have a “typical” big wedding (i.e., invite family and friends, have a full dinner reception with alcohol and dancing), so we had to get to a point where we were comfortable with what we could afford, without compromising on quality. We took a deep breath and discussed our options. We didn’t think either Phipps or the Mayernik Center was a perfect solution.

Think you have a solution? Find out what we decided next.

Did you veto any vendors based on “the nice vendor principle”? Do you make pros/cons lists?

*Emily has since left Phipps

**The Mayernik Center initially offered three preferred caterers, then added a fourth, and now they are back to three.

BLOGGER

Miss Parisian

Location:
Pittsburgh, PA
Wedding Date:
September 2014

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comments

  1. Member
    kristen182 447 posts, Helper bee @ 8:33 am

    i totally veto’d my dream venue because they took foreverrrrrrrr (weeks and weeks!!) to respond, and it was only after my 3rd email when i began to be rude that she responded saying that they have no time for tours for months. she waas such a b**** and i was just furious with her and her lack of wedding package information even when she did reply that i now hate the place and would refuse to ever step foot in it lol.
    exciting times though! i remember being all excited when we were looking around and deciding on our venue too :)

  2. Member
    roadtrip 803 posts, Busy bee @ 8:35 am

    So totally with you on the no-email, no business idea as well as the nice vendor policy. If they can’t be prompt and pleasant when they’re trying to sell you on their services, there’s no guarantee it’s going to be any better once they already have you on the hook!

  3. Member
    parisian 588 posts, Busy bee @ 8:35 am

    @kristen182: Yep! I just don’t understand how you could be such a b- as a wedding coordinator/event contact person! Your JOB is to be the contact for people making these really big, expensive decisions. It’s like a special kind of sales/customer service position. If you don’t like to be nice to people, get out of that field! Whew, end rant. I’m glad I’m not the only one who vetoed a venue based on rude contact people though. :)

  4. Member
    parisian 588 posts, Busy bee @ 8:35 am

    @Mrs. Road Trip: That’s my thought too… I have another post coming up on a similar topic!

  5. Member
    phonebooth 57 posts, Worker bee @ 9:06 am

    Preach to the choir about the non-responsive/rude vendors! If someone hates working with people and/or is horrible at communication, they definitely shouldn’t be in the customer service/sales/wedding business. Good for you for walking away rather than having to deal with that throughout wedding planning.

  6. Member
    parisian 588 posts, Busy bee @ 9:21 am

    @Miss Phone Booth: There’s a little bit of a theme… “Miss Parisian don’t take no crap!” ;-)

  7. Member
    mspalmtree 1122 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:40 am

    I forgot how pretty Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is! F the vendors who cannot communicate – overall, their loss, yay for the Suzi’s and Emily’s of the world.

  8. Member
    parisian 588 posts, Busy bee @ 9:42 am

    @Mrs. Palm Tree: I know! with those paper lanterns, so gorgeous! Yay for good vendors like @Mrs. Palm Tree: ;-) It really makes the good ones stand out so much more though when you deal with some crappy ones!

  9. Member
    wellies 1425 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:12 am

    If I am thinking about giving you thousands of dollars, and you can’t find it in you to be polite and send me a nice response to my inquiry, then I’m not going to give you my money.

    THIS. I can’t believe how rude some people in the wedding industry are, especially given how expensive everything is. Be polite, people! It’s not that difficult! :P

  10. Member
    parisian 588 posts, Busy bee @ 4:48 pm

    @Miss Wellies: yes, it shouldn’t even be a question!

  11. Member
    waltzdreams 295 posts, Helper bee @ 1:33 am

    I completely agree with “the nice vendor principle;” I’ve been applying it myself lately. Rudeness or failure to show the potential customer assistance certainly isn’t winning them any points in selling their establishment. :)

  12. Member
    msfilly 827 posts, Busy bee @ 1:58 am

    Totally with you on the nice vendor principle! I’m not expecting anyone to kiss my butt just because I’m the bride, but one of our potential bakers was so rude and seemed so put out because I wanted to make an appointment to talk options, pricing, etc that I just told her forget it.

  13. Member
    gondola 1046 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:37 am

    I am strong believer in the nice vendor principle! I couldn’t believe how rude some vendors could be and there are people out there hiring them.

  14. Member
    parisian 588 posts, Busy bee @ 6:29 am

    @WaltzDreams: @Miss Filly: @Mrs. Gondola: That’s the thing that baffles me too – how can they be so rude, and yet people still give them business?!?! It’s crazy. But I won’t perpetuate the cycle if I have any say in it!

  15. Member
    mswaterfall 1403 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:56 pm

    Pros and cons list! I’ll just get my legal pad ;)
    And I totally applied the nice vendor principle as well.

  16. Member
    parisian 588 posts, Busy bee @ 1:58 pm

    @Mrs. Waterfall: Yes! it’s the wannabe lawyer in me manifesting itself ;-)

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