Questions to ask when choosing a venue
- Can the venue accommodate all my guests? Be sure to ask about the largest wedding held at the venue and if there are any pictures of previous weddings hosted.
- Are there rooms for the bride and groom and guests to freshen up?
- Are any other events or weddings booked for the same day? Some venues may only book one wedding a day while other reception locations may book two weddings back to back. You need to know exactly what time you have for décor set-up, and when you’re expected to clear out after the wedding.
- Would you accommodate us should we run late and exceed the given lime limit? This is important to check as some venues can go so far as to turn off the lights when your time is up.
- How many hours prior to the event are the air conditioners switched on?
- The cost: how much is required to reserve the date, and is it a deposit or a retainer? There is a difference! A deposit is a down payment, and in most cases is fully refundable. A retainer, on the other hand, cannot legally be refunded to you upon cancellation of your event; it’s just the vendors’ way of protecting themselves from cancellations.
- When is the full balance due, and what forms of payment do you accept? Sometimes putting everything on a credit card that earns points or miles (and paying card’s balance in full as you go along, if possible) is a great way to earn free tickets for your honeymoon, or at least a 1st class upgrade.
- What are the hidden costs? Are linen and glassware included? What is the corkage fee? (When you purchase your own alcohol for the reception, a corkage fee is sometimes charged for each bottle of liquor opened and served).
- Is parking readily available? Would you need to hire additional parking attendants? Are there other major events or activities in the vicinity on that day that could lead to parking or traffic issues?
- Would we have a venue contact on site or easily reachable on the day? Try to meet this person before you sign the contract.
- What’s your cancellation policy? Most places will refund the deposit if you cancel well in advance. Remember, it’s not unheard of for them to cancel on you either, so ask about that too.
- Published in Checklists, Tips and Tools
Mexican Wedding Fiesta
Photos by Aaron Dieppa Photography
The couple envisioned a wedding weekend that would significantly incorporate their guests, as all 28 were flying to Mexico to witness their marriage. Thara and Aaron prepared welcome bags for each guest with snacks, games, and even a personal newsletter from the couple! The newsletter included an itinerary for the weekend and suggested activities that guests could enjoy while at the resort: snorkeling, tennis, spa, fishing, kayaking, etc. The wedding guests also got a handmade map of the hotel and surrounding area, a Spanish/English page of phrases, sun hats, and little painted wooden turtles to keep by their bedside with a note that said: “In Mexico, these hand-painted wooden figures are believed to keep bad dreams away”.
The day before the wedding, guests were treated to a ‘tequila tasting’. A representative from a major tequila manufacturer joined them at the resort, explained the process of making tequila, and administered the tasting of different varieties.
Thara and Aaron chose the extraordinarily beautiful outdoors of the El Careyes Resort for their ceremony and reception—the same place where they got engaged.
Theme & Décor
The couple went with a Mexican theme and wanted to incorporate their personal, simple yet elegant style into all the elements of their wedding and reception. They opted for light orange and light blue as their colour scheme, and created an emblem with their initials, “T&A”, which was used on the wedding invitations, welcome bags, wedding program, and other printed items.
Tall, white umbrellas were set up around the cocktail area for shade, and hanging lanterns lent a soft glow to the setting for their dinner reception at the hotel. The evening ambiance was made even more exquisite with a bonfire.
On the morning of the wedding, after breakfast, Aaron—accompanied by his two groomsmen and a few of the other male guests—went to the Polo grounds. They split themselves into two teams and played a friendly game. The women had their own agenda too: after a tear-jerking champagne toast and light breakfast, they joined together for a private outdoor yoga class overlooking the water. The wedding ceremony itself was in the late afternoon, followed by cocktail hour with a live Mariachi band and canapés (appetizers). The reception with dinner, cake, and dancing brought the unforgettable night to a close.
Although neither Thara (Toronto-born, of Guyanese parentage) nor Aaron (born and raised in Indiana) is Mexican, they incorporated one special Mexican wedding tradition into their ceremony. Mothers of the bride and groom both wrapped a lasso of orchids around the couple, symbolic of protecting the love that would bind them together for the rest of their lives.
Thara’s dress, by designer Jim Hjelm, was an all-lace, V-neck, and very low-back number, and her veil was custom-made by designer Sara Gabriel. Her only jewelry was a pair of earrings—that Aaron had gifted her on one Christmas—and her engagement ring.
Orange roses lavishly decorated the top of the white-curtained ceremonial structure under which the couple exchanged vows, and potted flowering plants decorated the border of the area. The lasso used in the ceremony was made of orange orchids. Roses featured prominently in the bouquets: Thara’s had red roses (that were actually supposed to be orange!), and her two bridesmaids (her sisters) carried orange roses mixed with an array of tropical flowers.
In keeping with the Mexican theme, of course, nothing less than a tres leches cake would do—deliciously created by the hotel chef. The cake topper (ordered from etsy.com) was a custom hand-crafted paper representation of Thara and Aaron, dressed as they were on their wedding day (the bride’s favourite detail of the wedding).
The Mariachi band and a solo guitarist provided the Mexican-flavored music during the cocktail hour and dinner, and everyone danced to the couple’s selected playlist at the reception.
The groom and groomsmen wore chili pepper boutonnières (an idea the couple got from a magazine), and bells, parasols and maracas were all keepsakes for the guests. Thara and Aaron hand-crafted name tags for each guest’s place setting at the dinner table, where they also placed a small bell with a note saying that the newlyweds would kiss anytime a bell rang!
Parasols were set up in baskets so that guests could each take one and use it as sun-shade during the ceremony. Pairs of maracas were also placed in baskets so that guests could take them to shake after the ceremony as the couple walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. As a parting gift, the couple gave guests a hand-painted Mexican Christmas tree ornament (Christmas would have been celebrated in two weeks).
One moment that really stands out for the couple was having Aaron’s grandfather perform a reading during the ceremony. Aaron’s grandparents were almost 90 at the time, yet still made the trip for the wedding. After the couple’s first dance during the reception, they played their grandparents’ favorite song…and the once-upon-a-time newlyweds danced alone with everyone watching.
- Published in Real Weddings
My bridesmaid is upset because I didn’t allow her a plus one (my fiancé and I told her that we were only inviting married couples). What should I do?
Who you invite is at your discretion. Many couples forgo or limit plus ones based on venue or budgetary constraints. Some prefer to be surrounded by only those nearest and dearest to them.
Though it is frowned upon in some circles to exclude spouses (Prince William and Kate Middleton ruffled many feathers doing so), it is widely accepted that less involved partners can be excluded.
Do consider your friend’s circumstances. Does she feel singled out because your other friends are married or engaged? Is her intended plus one a serious boyfriend? It’s okay to have separate rules for members of the bridal party; but if you enforce the rules in this instance, be sure to do so across the board.
- Published in Editor's Q&A