Okay, I admit it, I'm part of the Wedding Industrial Complex — I work at wedding venue selling the dream day to couples who want something special. I'm that person who non-chalantly tells you it's going to be $3000 to rent the building plus $110/person for food (though inside my head I'm screaming HOLY CRAP $3000 IS SO MUCH MONEY).
I'm also an Offbeat Bride. I was on this site EVERY day when planning my wedding and regularly posted updates, comments, etc. I made my own invitations and centerpieces, I played Rock Band, and had a reading from Winnie the Pooh.
As an offbeat member of the wedding industry, I wanted to share a couple of insider tips for finding a venue and caterer.
1. Ask all of your questions.
Trust me: your venue has had unique events before, or at least unique questions. Yes, the coordinator may look at you like you're a little off(beat). But do you really care as long as you have your questions answered? If you want to have fire dancers perform at your wedding, that's the kind of thing the venue's going to have a pretty definite answer on (I'd say no at ours, but inside I would be thinking BUT THAT'S SO SUPER AWESOME CAN I COME PLZ?).
2. Ask for a discount.
Guess what — venues want your business. They especially want your business during their off months. Think you know what the off months are? Guess again! Our particular venue offers discounts in December through April, July, and August… if you ask. We don't advertise the discount, but if you ask, a lot of venues will offer.
3. Ask if the packages are flexible.
We have an exclusive caterer with four pre-made menus. But most venues and caterers with pre-made menus are flexible. If you're on a budget, give them the price you can afford and see what they can come up with. You'll be surprised what a good caterer/venue can come up with for $25/person.
4. Ask if you can bring your own booze.
In some states this is against the law and your venue/caterer will say no. But in many states it's totally okay (as long as you have a licensed server). Buying your own beer and wine is WAY cheaper and you can get exactly what you like to drink. We had a couple who were super into beer and wanted to bring their own and I said absolutely, no problem (but inside I was like GOOD BEER IS SO MUCH MORE DELICIOUS THAN BAD BEER YOU SHOULD HAVE A BEER FOUNTAIN OF AWESOME). Once again, this is not something that will be automatically advertised to you, you have to ask for it.
5. Ask when you can come to decorate.
A lot of venues will only do one event per day. Others will only do one event per weekend (like mine). If you can come in the day before to decorate, you can do a lot of stuff yourself without having to stress the day of the wedding. Also, ask what you can decorate. Some places are super strict and some places are like, “You want to rent two dozen trees and put them around the rooms so it feels like you're in a forest — do it!” (I did this at my wedding — it was awesome. I would also say yes to a bride doing it at my current venue.)
As a venue, we love our offbeat, DIY brides. You provide us with opportunities to see what our space can do that we would never have imagined possible. But we aren't psychic and we're not going to assume that you want an offbeat wedding, even if we suspect that you might. We're going to give you the same spiel that we give every other bride.
So ask. Ask us if we can do what you want for the price that you want. You might be surprised to find that the girl in slacks and a conservative top telling you about how great that staircase is for photos is really a cosplaying, sci-fi watching, faire-attending, Rock Band-playing, Offbeat Bride like you.