Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In Praise of the All-Inclusive Venue

When I started this wedding planning process, I started at the end. By which, I mean that I asked myself how I wanted our day to feel, and tried to imagine a wedding-day schedule and a planning process that would help us achieve that feeling. For us, the best description of our wedding feeling is "backyard barbecue, without the backyard or the barbecue." Laid-back, on the formal edge of casual, friends and family interacting like they've all known each other forever, and a buffet style dinner that transitions effortlessly into dancing.

I always wanted a backyard wedding, like my parents and other family members had.  I wanted something low-key, personal, and simple.  I want the feeling of a casual summer afternoon in which hugs are passed around freely.  Unfortunately, we don't have an adequate backyard.  Our compromise is that we're trying for the backyard wedding feeling.  And that decision has shaped so many of our vendor decisions as we try to work with small businesses and artists we respect, keep things local, to keep the event in our "emotional backyard," at least.

But right now, it's hard.  Right now, I want to wave my magic wedding want and make everything just happen effortlessly so I can focus on the ceremony and on whatever details I deem fun-worthy.  Right now I don't want to worry about finding affordable friend-artist-vendors or worry about how my decisions impact the morning-time logistics and feeling of the day.  At no point in my description of the day's "feeling" did I imagine how it would feel to run around managing DIY and vendor issues and getting dressed in a fluorescent-lit bathroom and doing my makeup in a crowded Rec Center Green Room. Because, even with the amazing efforts of our Coordinator Sweet Emilia Jane, I get the sense that our wedding day will not exactly follow the "typical" bride timeline and may include some nutso logistics.  And it will definitely include a bathroom with fluorescent lights and a crowded Green Room for "bridal" prep time. And groom prep time, for that matter, since there's no where else to get ready and no hotels nearby.  And that's the price we pay for paying much less of a price on this wedding stuff and for having the freedom to craft a completely unique day with the perfect vendors for us (and our budget). 

But this whole experience also has me thinking that unique is overrated, at least a bit. Because for people whose wedding day feeling-goal is "I really could care less about the details and I'm going to scream if someone asks me about flowers and all  I want is to spend time at the salon with my mom and bffs and get married, for crissake" then maybe, just maybe, an all-in-one banquet hall or hotel package is the right way to go.  They're certainly sanity saving.  And can even save you money (I'm not saying they're cheap, but once you bump our of that $10K budget category, you're not too far off. ).  And not all of them have bad carpet.  Some are even very pretty and reasonable affordable. Yes, pretty, affordable and simple. Hurrah.


 Calamigos Equestrian (more affordable than Calamigos Malibu)

Happy Trails Catering (photo courtesy of Andrew Kitchen Photography/NMG Photography/Harthen Studios)


The more independent-minded wedding world seems to have a problem with package weddings but, after nearly three weeks of being unable to get in touch with my perspective venue (or any other low-cost venues around town, for that matter) I can see the STRONG allure of an all-in-one option. Sure, you lose the personalization of choosing your own caterer, florist and rental company. You can't get married in the woods with a parade of your closest friends twirling ribbons and puppets. It feels more apparent that 1000 brides have been married here before you and will be married here after, so you're obviously just one of many. Yes, we're all just one of many sets of couples getting married, but it will be more apparent your wedding day isn't 100% super duper unique if you get married at a location that caters to weddings, especially those that appear to be more "traditional." But who the eff cares?  It's going to be personal the moment you look into each others' eyes. And maybe there was a really good reason so many thousands of couples got married here before you? Namely the pretty, affordable, and simple nature of these all-inclusive spots. 

What's the feeling you want to hold onto?  Is it zen?  Then maybe a low-budget DIY super crafty wedding (read: potential logistical nightmare) isn't for you. Maybe a unique setting with 87 restrictions and the complications of managing the rentals delivery/pick up, decor, catering set-up, generator, and tent isn't quite for you.  Maybe you don't want to tear your hair out when you discover that rentals are going to cost you $3000 (that's just for tables, chairs, plates, glasses, linens, silverware, and serving equipment. I know.) So maybe, just maybe, an all-inclusive venue might be a very workable plan after all.

So, for all you smartypants people who went with an all-inclusive venue, hats off to you. Today, I admit that I envy your logistical foresight your ability to spend the morning with you mom and bffs getting pretty and drinking wine. And I envy your months before the wedding, when you're not fretting about deliveries and pickups and hiring extra cleanup staff in case you don't feel like running around at 11pm. I think we've given your all-in-one wisdom a bad rep here in "indie" wedding land.  Because frankly, I'm trying to chase that laid back feeling right now, and it's just not working. So, from here on out, I'm done judging the "uniqueness" of your wedding or venue. Because I have more important things to worry about, like how I'm going to achieve a backyard "feeling" at my unique venue when laid-back is the furthest thing from my mind.

54 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing this post. I'm getting married at a (semi) all-inclusive venue (we still had to pick some outside vendors, including the florist) and I'm happy about the ammount of stress it's saved me. Yeah, lots of people have gotten married and and will get married there, but it's still a lovely venue and will be special to us. I agree that sometimes there's TOO much focus on how unique things need to be, so I appreciate you bringing up this topic! :o)

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  2. haha, I'm glad :) Cuz we're doing a half-all inclusive type deal. And it's EXPENSIVE. but then- we get the ocean, a place already geared for our ceremony (on the ocean), places for people to sleep (cottages) ON site, reception On-site catered by the on0=-site restaurant chef (who we asked to do a "local-organic" black box meal). We don't have to worry about clean up, servers, and decoration-set up. they do that for us.
    and i am so glad.

    at the same time, trying to fit our sustainable ideas ('no really, I don't CARE about colour themes. seriously') has been a bit frustrating. So i've just not worried about consulting them. We're paying out of our butts for this place, so they can like our homemade apple pies (instead of cake), our beeswax handmade candles, and our mish mash of whatever flowers are at the farmers market flowers.

    and they better compost and recycle every last bit of food being served. lol.

    don't worry though- if Meg is anything, you will get everything together, especially with the help of family and friends :)

    ps- how COOL is a pinata and tacos????? SO COOL

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  3. oops, after re-reading that it kinda didn't make sense (that last bit)
    I meant to say, from Meg's practical example... as in I take a lot of solace and peace from her down-to-earth advice and examples.

    lol, did that make sense?

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  4. Apologies if I've mentioned it before. But our date and venue wiped out bc we were moving to London. I found our restaurant 4 months before the wedding through some random Google searches/Indiebride maybe? It cost less than the typical NYC reception (though would have cost a lot less if the alcohol was capped, that bill almost made me faint). Is there a restaurant that could fit your needs? What venue did $10K wedding use?

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  5. Yeah, one of our first debates when planning was the all-inclusive or not question. We decided to focus only on all-inclusive venues in the interest of our sanity (and saving cash not having to hire a DOC, or deal with rentals, etc.) I think a lot of people don't realise that there are all inclusive options other than bit hotel ballrooms. We were lucky that we found pretty and convenient. Convenient is underrated!

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  6. Good for you for thinking ahead and hiring extra clean-up staff! :) I did not and ended cleaning up after the reception with my new hubby in my dress at 3 am. So, you are definitely making a great choice about that, in my opinion! :)

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  7. Our vision sounds really similar to what you described - we wanted a really laid-back barbecue in our backyard. But then we'd have to turn our backyard into a wedding venue, and that sounded really scary. Going all-inclusive sounded really expensive at first, but then I realized I don't have to worry about renting tables or chairs, I don't have to find a caterer, I don't have to decorate, I don't feel STRESSED OUT (about the venue) at all. And the fact that they've done hundreds of weddings before ours just means they will help our day go smoothly and that we can focus on all the fun stuff. That's worth the cash, to us (plus, once we figured it all out, it's a lot cheaper than our "low-key" backyard barbecue would have been). Now I seriously admire all the indie brides on blogs who do ALL THIS STUFF themselves.

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  8. I was in this stress boat when we were planning our venue and it sucks. The expense and the logistics were becoming more than we expected and therefore more than we wanted to deal with at our cheap venue. And, after a lot of thought, 5 months to the wedding, we decided to just say eff it, and we changed. We're having the ceremony in a park. And we rented a restaurant for the reception. The booze is more expensive than if we could buy it ourselves, but balanced against the cost of renting all the tables/silverware/glasses, etc. it gets pretty close to evening out, not to mention that our only cost for the restaurant is food and booze-- no rental charge. We don't have to set up or tear down, or clean up, or find a bartender. We're getting married in 6 weeks, so who knows if it will turn out as low stress or not, but I guess I just want to say:

    Until you send out the invites, it is not too late to change your plan.

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  9. @Chic n Cheap - $10000 Wedding used Lawry's steakhouse. We're trying to stay away from so much meat and our non-negotiable was getting married outside (Lawry's doesn't have a patio). So, it's been difficult to find a restaurant with an outside bit large enough to accommodate 150 people and we had mobility challenges that excluded getting married elsewhere and then traipsing to the restaurant for a party. So we have a BYOB option and cheap-but-tasty food to make our locale affordable (but hectic) instead.

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  10. I love all-inclusive venues and think they really simplify things! And it doesn’t at all mean the wedding is not “unique,” as even all-inclusive sites offer plenty of options about colors, food choices, layout, etc. In the end, these sites save a lot of headaches.

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  11. Yes, I highly recommend all in one venues. We have one and though it is still a bit stressful at times, it could be way more stressful dealing with "The List" of a million vendors.

    We are trying to personalize it with little things like the dessert table, photography table, and centerpieces. That is pretty much it.

    I absolutely love indie weddings though. If you have a good team of people helping out, or a crazy good wedding planner, then go for it.

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  12. I am a fan of my all-inclusive site. it is a "wedding venue" for sure but it is also a beautiful mansion on the delaware river with gardens and an art gallery. We are having ceremony and reception there. They are our catering, cake, and DOC all in one. We looked at having it on a farm at my future in-laws and the cost of turning it into a venue was over the top- not to mention the headaches & stress. We knew we would pay more for the all-inclusive but the "it's being done & I don't have to worry about it" feeling was worth every penny to us.

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  13. We decided not to use an all-inclusive venue, having both had the hotel/country club weddings in our previous lives as stoopid people. This time around, we wanted to create something totally uniquely us. We're not starting from scratch, by any means. I don't think I am nearly creative enough to come up with a truly new/never-been-done wedding, nor do I particularly want to.

    Admittedly, this is a LOT more work than I had to put into the hotel wedding I planned with my mom when I was 20. For my "oops" wedding, other than making the favors and addressing the invitations, I think I did maybe 10 hours of actual wedding "work."

    I find that a ton more work is involved in this wedding, and I can't imagine being able to pull it all together in a couple of months. But I wouldn't change a thing. Because not only is there a lot more thought going into the wedding, every part of this marriage is a conscious act. We're not just "showing up," we're creating this celebration together, and it will truly be a reflection of who we are as a couple. So yes, a lot more work than an all-inclusive would have been, but I feel it is worth the effort.

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  14. I was a little bit bummed that we didn't get to choose our caterer, at first, because our venue had a designated caterer - along with designated tables, chairs, utensils, and linens :) But once I realized that was one less decision to make AND that the caterer was the former chef of one of my favorite restaurants, I was *delighted* to have one less decision to make (it might have been different if I didn't already know & love her cooking).

    With all the other mayhem of having family & friends in town and the zillion other details, I was so pleased to not have to worry about venue-related issues, for the most part, and even more pleased to have a Day Of Coordinator who, along with my husband and brothers, organized decorating... so that I could hang out with my besties and have my hair done over a leisurely lunch :)

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  15. @Sarah - This post isn't a ding on people who chose more unique DIY locations. Like yourself, that's what we're doing too. But I think it's important to not characterize people getting married at all-inclusive venues as "just showing up." Every woman who posted here has put a ton of thought into her wedding - many have blogs I follow and treasure as they work through meaning and import on their own terms. If I were getting married at a restaurant, I can assure you that I'd still be making it an incredibly special day that was a reflection of us as a couple and in which every decision was carefully chosen. I just wouldn't need to worry about logistics, shopping for every darn vendor (really, what do I care about plates?! How is that "unique" or important to my day, beyond providing a food-holding-implement) and crazy day-of-ness.

    Yes, it's a lot easier to "just show up" (kinda) with an all-inclusive, though describing it like that doesn't account for the planning, guest list, budgeting, family battles, rehearsal dinner, dress/attire shopping, decor planning/designing, transportation choices, compromises, and family time overall, of course. But it doesn't necessarily happen that way, unless you want it to.

    I also wonder if your age during your previous wedding was a factor in the "just showing up." I find I'm a lot more thoughtful about all my choices in life now than at 20. I understand the bigger picture. I've had major ups and downs. I value my family more and have forgiven them their faults (as they have mine) and crafting a day that values those things is at the forefront of our planning. It wouldn't have been at 20. It would have been a party. Not to say other 20 year olds couldn't plan a meaningful, extremely personal wedding, but I wouldn't have. I think the important efforts we put into our weddings are about the emotion, meaning, and community (for the most part) and the all-inclusive venue mostly takes out the effort related to the logistics.

    It's a tradeoff, of course. We're saving at least $5K by doing it with our hodge-podge approach, and we simply can't afford another $5K. We're stretched enough as it is. But for others who have $5K more... it's not a lot in the grand scheme of a life. And it might really be worthwhile to create space to savor family, friends, and time with loved ones on the day of the wedding, not to mention the time in the months before when you're not stressing over every single decision, by picking an all-inclusive site that meets your values.

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  16. I have a love/hate relationship with the all-inclusive location. When I was in college, I worked at one of these places that pretty much exclusively does weddings. I understand some people don't care about the decor and flowers and such, but this place was horrible, and it's left a bad taste in my mouth. It was trying so hard to be some generic, watered down version of the "European mini-mansion." Every wedding was exactly the same...same bad dj, same over-the-top flower arrangement, same 5-minute outdoor ceremony, same food. I cringe just thinking about it. I guess for people who don't care, it's sanity saving and I shouldn't judge. But it's just soooo not what I want. So I guess I'm skeptical, but perhaps there actually are decent all-inclusive wedding places.

    On the other hand, Mr. Beagle and I are seriously considering having our reception at a restaurant. Not one that specializes in weddings, which is key to our aesthetic, but one that has everything we want to save our sanity.

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  17. @ Ms. Bunny - I think that's the impression most of us have of all-inclusives: either a super-cheesy wedding factory or a hotel ballroom (often with terrible clashing carpeting, for some unknown reason). But it's not always the case. In Los Angeles we have those, yes, but we also have a ton of really beautiful all-inclusive venues that just save a lot of hassle, or are maybe "mostly" inclusive with options for your own music (for example) although a sound system is available on site for your ipod or outside DJ. And I've never heard of them running the same ceremony for everyone. That's ridiculous and I would guess most people chose their own minister, rabbi, justice of the peace, friend whoever, so let's not get overboard with what is and isn't personal at these locations. They run the gamut. Some provide ceremony space/setup, rentals, catering, drinks, cake and a coordinator, all of which are included in a base price. That's a god-send, especially at a pretty locale where you have some freedoms to "personalize". Or not. Whatever. We're not really doing much at our space either, except to "dress up" a plain room a bit. But it will be basic, imperfect, and probably not nearly as objectively pretty as any of these spaces. (Our ceremony will be pretty, without any adornment whatsoever. But that's why we chose the place.)

    The point is we need to stop demonizing others' choices, because they made them for very good reasons. Possibly to spend a lot more time with their out-of-town bridesmaids and not hanging bunting and lanterns from the ceiling. Possibly because they were the only handicapped accessible venues in town and having grandma attend was pretty important. And possibly because it's just legitimately gorgeous, and you can't find anything similar in LA for an affordable price. I hate the idea that women who chose these places don't care about aesthetics or personalization, because options exist that fit for everyone's needs, especially in a city like LA.

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  18. Thank you for the post! We chose a semi-inclusive venue (food through them, as well as tables, plates, etc.), but we have been able to customize throughout the process.

    For example, while linens are available for rent at our venue, we've decided to rent their white table linens and place a patterned fabric or burlap table square atop the tables for a little personalization on the cheap. We're also making our own fabric napkins, even though some are (again) available for rent.

    To me, having a semi-inclusive venue helps out greatly in terms of A) a kick-ass on-site coordinator that's a delight to work with, B) not worrying about buying alcohol, serving alcohol, cleaning up after alcohol, etc., and C) tables, tables, tables.

    Then again, in hindsight, if we could count on the weather in South Dakota to cooperate, we would have had the whole damn thing outside and had a blast DIYing everything.

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  19. @ A Los Angeles Love - So sorry for my poor choice of words. I did not at all mean my comment as a ding to those who have chosen the all-inclusive route. When I refer to myself as "stoopid," it is because of mistakes in life choice at an early age, not that the wedding was awful.

    The hotel wedding was indeed beautiful and fun. It was at an historic inn, and our families and guests were charmed. But there were definitely fewer decisions to be made because of the all-inclusive features of the venue.

    Part of my feeling of "just showing up" is because a lot of the choices I am making this time just weren't available to me at the hotel. The decorations, including florals, were decided for us because the inn (even our reception ballroom) was decorated for the holiday season. That was part of the charm of the inn, but it also took a lot of the decision-making out of my hands.

    I meant only to say that this time, we chose a route that has been decidedly more work on our end trying to figure out both the aesthetic details and the logistical stuff than it would have been if we had gone with an all-inclusive. But even the logistical difficulties are part of the process that I am enjoying this time around.

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  20. @Los Angeles I would NEVER demonize someone for their choice of wedding location. Obviously what is important to them is different than what is important to me. And that's perfectly OK.

    My point, which is maybe a bit off topic of what this post is about, is that I have yet to find an all-inclusive place that actually felt like I would want to get married there. I'll have to trust you that good places exist in LA, but in Chicago or the Detroit burbs I'm finding nada. Le sigh. If you or any other of your readers know about a secret gem, please contact me!

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  21. @Sarah and Ms Bunny - thank you for clarifying. I think words are important, and the subtle ways in which we talk about others' weddings can sometimes reflect unfair judgements. It's hard out here in weddingland, as you both know :). I just want to make sure we're not projecting our own values (or aesthetics, which aren't the same thing at all) onto others' valid choices, which happens far too often with all/mostly-inclusive venues. We all get enough of that. As you both know :)

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  22. We almost didn't even visit the semi all inclusive venue we chose. Although they do other types of events also (corporate meetings, etc), weddings are a huge chunk of their business. And we didn't want anything to do with a wedding factory. How surprised were we when we walked in to a beautiful room that we could customize with our own decorations, DJ, florist, and bringing our own wine. It was too much to pass up that we didn't have to bring tables and chairs, dishes, food, etc. It allowed us to concentrate on what is important to us (good wine, good music for dancing and socializing without all the wedding cheese) and not worry about what isn't important to us (cake, chair covers, tablecloths). I'd say the one drawback is that we will have pretty typical wedding food, but we knew we couldn't afford a gourmet meal for 85 people, so we settled in that regard.

    Overall I'm happy with our choice, as it was the best for us. But as the fiance likes to say...different strokes for different folks.

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  23. @Lauren since you're in the LA-ish area, I'd love to hear where you chose. Email me in private if you'd rather not put it in public, but I'm trying to collect a better list of resources for locals. Thanks!

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  24. One of the suckiest moments was when I realized that um, no, I can't actually have it all.

    I had assiduously avoided the usual "wedding factory" venues because I wanted a place that would give us some flexibility and not make us serve fancy-schmancy food.

    And then, as I started to concentrate on the logistics and not just the vibe, I realized our "relaxed BBQ picnic" was actually going to entail a loooong week of hard work and sweat. Up until the minute our rental is over. Uh, how did I make things MORE stressful, by trying to avoid the typical bridal angst??

    I think part of this is that almost no wedding (or big event) seems to come together with zero stress, even when the bride hands off every aspect and pays to have other people take care of sh*t.

    But I also realized that the trade-off we're making means no pampering, no leisurely morning, no sipping champagne and having someone paint my toenails. (*highfive* on the fluorescent bathroom prep room. ;)) Because a laid-back venue often means "you set up the chairs."

    I'm trying to spin this by telling myself it'll be good not too have TOO much time to focus on my looks. But um, it also kind of sucks. And it makes me feel bad about turning up my nose at weddings that all look alike and happen at a country club. Yeah, it's still not my aesthetic, yeah, it'd cost 4x our budget, but those brides are also onto to something and I should give them credit.

    Oh, well. At least we'll still get to use giant bubble wands and hula hoops.

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  25. Let's talk about NOT HAVING TO DIG YOUR OWN OUTHOUSES.

    Because I will be doing that. And you will not. And that is awesome. ;D

    All 4 of those venues are just stunning. Is one of them the one you're going with?! Did you decide? What will you end up having to provide - tables, dishes, etc? I don't think you say in the post if you're going inclusive in the end or not?

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  26. We started with a semi-inclusive venue, but what we quickly learned was when your venue requires you to use their affliates (caterers, doc, rentals) instead of shopping around, it can get really expensive. I would have loved to have found a venue where some of these items were included (like rentals!) while still allowing us to bring in our own bar.

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  27. @Verhext - Woah on the context. Suddenly I feel MUCH better about my florescent-light bathroom!

    We're sticking with our original plan, after we managed to speak with the venue last night (finally!). It's a very DIY site in the Santa Monica Mountains with a barn-like rec-center for the reception and a rustic outdoor space for the ceremony. We get tables, chairs (reception only), and that's it. Everything else is up to us. Hoo boy. But it will save us much needed $ and it *feels* right. It made our hearts happy when we saw it, and it's the best compromise we've found for family convenience/amenities and our real desires for a backwoods party.

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  28. @ Becca - "It made our hearts happy when we saw it"

    This is why I feel like our choice makes sense in the end, even if I end up cursing it during prep-time. As my guy and I walked around the shelter house and rustic benches, it resonated. And we both knew that, although it would've made for an easier ride, we weren't going to find that at the more wedding-friendly options in our city.

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  29. My dear, time for a chat:

    1) Simple low-key weddings in big cities when your not independently wealthy BLOW during the planning. They are hhhhaaaaaarrrrrddddd and it sucks. So yes, no one tells you that.

    2) You will not be having logistical nightmares the day of. You know why? 24 hours (ish) before (mine was about 18 hours before, when our picnic started) you are no longer in charge. No one can ask you questions, you can't tell anyone what to do. You can't be bothered to worry. It's GENUS. It's ZEN. I was stading waiting to walk down the asile, and someone said that the sound people hadn't shown up and the Rabbi wanted her mic. And then they did show up, and started to set up right there, and someone said we were delaying the walk for a few. And I was like, "whatever whatever whatever, I am about to walk down the asile, I am BREATHING." So. Yeah. It's great. Don't stress about that bit.

    And yeah. I'm a big fan of the easy wedding. I'm slightly "ehh" on all inclusive venues since they normally pound you with hidden fees. BUT, I'm HUGE on city hall or a church and then a resturaunt. Huge.

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  30. Oh! And who cares if tons of people get married there? We had to be out of our venue at 3 because the next wedding was in at 4. And we had to pick a caterer off the list. But you saw it.... and it was CHEAP. And again, who cares?

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  31. Amen. When I was doing research for my sister's SoCal wedding, I initially scoffed at all inclusive places that churn out weddings. And then I realized that because they do volume they are usually a) cheaper and b) super experienced and know what kind of glitches come up, which means you don't have to spend as much time planning. That's nothing to sneeze at.

    I probably won't choose an all inclusive venue myself, but I fully support those who do. If you don't have time or energy to figure out all the logistics, I'm sure these places are lifesavers.

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  32. we went diy to avoid the craziness and stress of other people demanding things and setting timelines. there's a different kind of stress, to be sure. but i have two friends doing the all-inclusive bag right now, and they're super stressed (sometimes i wonder about what, but meh. who am i to judge.)

    @rachel- i found the opposite! those wedding factories seem to feel they can charge a zillion dollars because that's their bag. but i imagine that may be different from city to city.

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  33. @Meg it totally depends in LA. I've seen some great all/semi-inclusive options around town. Still juuuuust out of our price range, and supposedly upfront with fees, but oh well. And I'm a huge park/beach/city hall + restaurant advocate too, though it isn't happening with our 150 guest list.

    Also, my Type A-ness needs more of that zen. Because I don't believe you, or Emilia Jane for that matter. I am furiously planning how to give away as much responsibility as possible, but I think there will necessarily be a bit of nutso-ness.

    Hence, my praise of pretty, affordable and simple more-inclusive options. Because they really don't get enough hurrahs out here in non-Kn*t weddingland.

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  34. and @margaret:

    "But I also realized that the trade-off we're making means no pampering, no leisurely morning, no sipping champagne and having someone paint my toenails. "

    depends on your timeline and your helpers. we busted our asses all weekend. but i SHUT DOWN the night before. the day of the wedding, i refused to race around like a madwoman- not because i'm some sorta princess or i wanted to look perfect. but because i wanted to ENJOY myself. i wanted to be thinking about what the hell im doing here, and not what to do about the choc cupcakes that melted in the backseat.

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  35. @Liz - I would LOVE to see that week of timeline and helper-responsibility list. Not because I don't believe you, but because I think we DIY/on-a-tight-budget brides don't generally see realistic timelines that let us "have it all" (or some semblance of it, at least).

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  36. Ok people. I know Becca has said this like twelve times already, but seriously, can we stop assuming that all inclusive venues are all "wedding factories"?

    I live in a city that is 90% "wedding factories" (most venues are hotels or Italian halls, or maybe golf clubs) and besides the fact that I've been to awesome weddings at them, because who cares, we were NOT in NY or LA or wherever and still managed to find an all-inclusive venue that was beautiful, didn't feel cliched or cheesy, and felt very, very "us". It was an old art deco music venue, with a restaurant next door that did the food, and is among the best affordable French bistros in the city. So "all included" we got: the space and set-up/clean-up for both ceremony and reception; awesome food; all tables/linens/dishes/etc; a full sound/light set-up along with a technician to manage both; wedding cake and dessert table; etc. The space was beautiful so it didn't require tonnes of decor. The venue even took care of donating our leftovers and centerpieces to a homeless shelter the next day.

    We all need to make decisions that are right for us, but I'm not sure it's helpful for those trying to make decisions to characterize the choices as a dichotomy between: easy but ugly, or difficult but beautiful. I think part of the whole point here was that there's plenty of space in between. We DID care about having a beautiful and personalized wedding (although in retrospect, I'm not sure I would have cared so much), but an all-inclusive venue still let us do that. And in some ways, do it better (i.e. the light technician did an AMAZING job with the lighting, something which we would have been idiots at because we, you know, know shitall about lighting.)

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  37. Oh, and re: price, there were no hidden fees whatsoever. They charged us only for the food/booze consumed, no site fee or anything, and the only extras were: a) a fee of about $60 that anyone holding an event where they play music publicly in Canada has to pay, and b) something like 4 hours of extra pay for the sound technician ($80) in addition to what was included because we were having a band which meant they needed the person to be there longer to set-up, do sound check, etc.

    That's it. The ONLY thing that made our venue more expensive than a DIY one is that we couldn't bring our own booze. But our total bar tab ended up being less than any site fee at any of the DIY venues we looked at. So for us, it would definitely not have been cheaper to go with a DIY venue.

    Obviously my case doesn't apply to everyone, but that's my point exactly: DIY venues are not always cheaper, or more "special", just as (as someone mentioned above) all-inclusive ones are not always easier or less stressful.

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  38. When we started this we honestly didn't even sit down to really ponder over all-inclusive versus not - granted we had a place in mind right off the bat that was far from all-inclusive, but I sure am seeing the benefits of all-inclusive now. Now that I have also torn out my hair after seeing the $3000 pricetag for renting tables/chairs/dishes/linens (and that's just chairs for the outdoor ceremony, inside we're going with the free fugly chairs). Oh and arranged the delivery and (midnight) pickup of a dance floor. Still have no clue how cleanup is going to happen... needless to say I'm glad we have at least hired a day-of-coordinator (found a newbie who doesn't charge much on craigslist who seems great, highly recommend this for others as an affordable option!)

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  39. @ LA- i know, right? it seems in the wedding world you don't get reality- you just get pretty pictures with no price tag/explanation of the work involved. whether we're talking wic-tastic, or indie-chic.

    @ accordians- i didn't say "wedding factory" in an effort to be degrading. we have places in philly (not hotels, not golf resorts) that are dedicated to JUST hosting weddings. that's ALL they do. hence. wedding factory.

    about 6mo before my own wedding, i actually threw my parents a silver anni party at one of these places, and it was gorgeous. very personal, very pretty- and affordable (but only because it was an anniversary party, it was mid-snowstorm, and it was for 25 guests) when we came back 2mo later to see about our wedding, the W word alone made the price SKYROCKET. because that's their shindig.

    re: "easy but ugly, or difficult but beautiful" ...i think what we're experiencing is the backswing of the pendulum. we're used to wedding mags, etc telling us we need to choose between "cheap but ugly, or expensive but beautiful." this is simply the response of the DIY world.

    truth is, if you want something pretty, you're gonna need to shell out cash OR effort OR time (searching for an awesome place that's both affordable and great). pretending a pretty wedding is always a piece of cake is unrealistic, no matter if we're talking about energy or finances.

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  40. I feel like once you're involved in wedding planning, you become part of a pissing contest with everyone you know who has planned/is planning a wedding (not just in blog-land, where you go looking for it, but in real life). Obviously we're all going to make the choices that work best with our partners, our taste, our budget. And all of these weddings will end the same way - with a couple joined in marriage. And I think it's good that we're all so confident in our choices, but it drives me nuts when everyone starts smack talking the-thing-they-decided-against because it wouldn't work for them (or, when we're so easily offended when the options we think are perfect are passed-over by someone else).

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  41. Thank you, I am sure I will return to this post as we make final decisions about our venue. We're leading toward more-inclusive options and I don't want to feel like I'm making a terrible mistake. I originally thought that Wedding Bloggers never got married in hotel ballrooms because of expense. Now I realize these decisions are way more complicated than the already intensely complicated issue of budget.

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  42. "At no point in my description of the day's "feeling" did I imagine how it would feel to run around managing DIY and vendor issues and getting dressed in a fluorescent-lit bathroom and doing my makeup in a crowded Rec Center Green Room."

    If it makes you feel better, we are dealing with the same exact thing- vendors, picking up food ourselves, issues with catering, issues with stupid, heavy-ass picnic tables we have to haul all around the place. We'll also be getting ready in the Nature Center bathroom with tiny, green tiles and fluorescent lights. We can't play music too loud, can't have liquor, can't set up before an hour and half before the start of the ceremony... but I don't want those things to ruin anything, I won't let it. All I want to think about is the 4.5 hours in between.

    Just started following you and I'm going to keep your "sanity check" links close-by.

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  43. @Nikki I hate that pissing contest with the passion of a thousand fires. I know we're all invested in our particular wedding choices and rationales, but it doesn't make our choices better or right. They're just ours. Other peoples' considerations are obviously different and just as personal/meaningful. I try to be very careful in my language with weddings to respect everyone else's personal right-for-them, because I wish more people did the same for us. I've been careless before and I've seen firsthand the pain my words/assumptions/references caused to dear friends.

    We're judged everywhere about our weddings, and I'd like to make sure that we don't get judged here, where at least the comment moderation is somewhat under my control.

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  44. I like "on the formal edge of casual". Exactly what we want.

    For our Irish wedding, we're going with an all-inclusive type-thing. It is a lovely venue and I like knowing that they've done it before. Plus, organising any more than I have to from the other side of the world, and while planning another wedding here in Australia, does not sound like fun to me. All I had to do was organise the music and wedding cake. Easy.

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  45. Do what brings you joy. That is my wedding mantra and it applies to all of it- the venue, the music, the details or lack there-off, the flowers, the dress, the food, and so on and so forth. It may suck sometimes, or it might be hard, but that makes the pay off even more sweet! As for an all-inclusive venue I say go for it so long as it makes your heart sing. Or maybe more realistically you can picture yourself getting married there. :)

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  46. Love you. Hard. Long time.

    So, I just assumed we couldn't afford anything inclusive based on basic venue prices. I didn't even try that route. Our everything has to be DIY. I thought that was the most affordable option. Then I discovered some girl I CANT STAND found a beautiful all inclusive place that is cheaper than my plan AND WAY FANCIER. I pouted for two hours. But what can you do? So I need to believe right now that our plan is the best option for us. And I think at the end of the day, that's all you can do. Have faith in your choices, icky park bathroom and crazy time schedule and all.

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  47. @LA Love - TOTALLY. I've been guilty of it too - when I read the title of this post I had a squeal of glee because "that's what we're doing!!!" And then I read the post and it seemed like you were saying "this is a great option, too bad it won't work for us" and then I felt humble and glad that it's going to work in *our* situation. Love your posts :)

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  48. OH! I also wanted to point out that it's not just brides that feel this competition. My brother got married in November and he is hardcore dissing our wedding - from the colors to the venue to the lack of booze. Weddings bring out the crazy.

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  49. i'm not sure if beverly hills is a desirable option for you, but i've planned a party at il cielo before and the people there are so painfully amazing that i wish i wanted an all-inclusive wedding (meaning food and venue and ceremony) because if that's what i wanted, it would be my first choice. they have a pretty room with a retractable roof where lots of ceremonies happen.

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  50. Who knew that was hiding in El Segundo! Great post. I think all inclusive would do wonders for most people's sanity. And you can't put a price on that!

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  51. I'm so glad we got an all-inclusive venue. Much less stress considering I graduate from grad school two weeks before the wedding. We really like The Grand in Long Beach.

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  52. Yet another bride going with a semi-all-inclusive. It's a gorgeous, GORGEOUS location (a barn next to a field and pastures), a beautiful building (again: 18th century barn), is attached to a restaurant that does the catering (it's an angus steak farm), and the coordinator has been doing this for YEARS. When we were deciding on where to get married, it was either this location or a local historic home. The home would have been entirely organized by me, juggling caterers and rental chairs and DJs... Nightmare. My fiance looked at my normal stress level and told me it was worth the extra money to go with the place that would organize everything for us. And he's right-- I'm so anal retentive, that my stress levels would have been THROUGH the ROOF. This way, I can leave it in their hands, and focus more on things like the ceremony, and my family and friends.

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  53. One semi-inclusive mention that hasn't really been mentioned here is a church. Ceremony in the sanctuary (or some have gardens) and then reception in the fellowship hall (or again, some have gardens). Seating, table, and chairs (and frequently sound equipment) are all included. So for people on a tight budget, this could be a nice compromise.

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  54. Instead of seating, table, and chairs I meant to say venue/site, table, and chairs. Oops!

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