Choosing Your Venue: What You Need to Know!
An Interview with Melissa Feith, General Manager, at The Springs Event Venue
Let me tell you that I love nothing more than meeting with clients and other wedding professionals over a hot cup of coffee. When I found out Melissa is also a fellow coffee lover, I knew that a morning meeting at The Springs NewBraunfels was the perfect way to start a Friday.
Melissa greeted me in Stonehaven hall with a friendly smile, a firm handshake, and I instantly felt welcomed and less anxious about meeting someone new. As we began chit chatting about life and getting to know each other, I knew exactly why she was chosen for the General Manager position at Boulder Springs. She was relatable and had a way of making me feel as if we had been friends for years even though we had just met for the first time minutes before. In any business, this is a trait that is invaluable and when you find someone that posses it, hold on to it because it’s gold!
I also found out that Melissa is still relatively new to the New Braunfels area and is discovering new things that she loves about this town almost every day. It took us a little while to dive into the meat of the interview because we were genuinely enjoying just having a little adult conversation. (Mother of two over here, who’s most commonly used phrases are: “Don’t put that in your mouth!” “We don’t sit on sister!” “Don’t hang on that!”)
On to the interview…
Me: What are your top 5 things clients should consider when choosing a wedding venue?
Melissa: This is something that is really important to the Springs Venues. Since we do have so many locations, we try to maintain that excellence across the board. We are pretty different. We are open 7 days a week from 9-6, so they can call us any day, anytime. Our office phone is a cell phone, so we text with our brides all of the time. We try to get responses back as soon as possible throughout the entire planning process. If you have a question on Thursday, you don’t want to have to wait until Monday to get a response. So that is something I don’t think brides think about, but it’s definitely something you wish you had.
Me: So open communication is one of your top 5?
Melissa: Yes! And availability.
Me: Got it! I love that y’all do that!
Melissa: So the next one is a back up weather plan. If there is bad weather that day, because a lot of places don’t have a great weather plan and you never know what it’s going to be like.
Me: MMMHMMM…In Texas, where it could be snowing, raining, sunny, all in one day…
Melissa: Exactly, lovely in the morning and then a completely different setting by evening.
Me: Ok, so make sure to ask about a back up weather plan. Got it!
Melissa: And then, we always highlight the fact that it’s a full day rental here. We do 9am until midnight. I would say that you would want at least 12 hours. Ideally, start to finish, if you think about your vendors coming in, setting things up and decorating. And then having time for the actual ceremony and reception. And then tear down…all of that afterwards. We do 15 hours here so that gives you plenty of time. Six to eight hours is really normal for most venues. We feel that the 15 hours gives you more flexibility.
Me: I agree, sometimes weddings can take every bit of that time.
Me: Ok, so what do you think is another that should be in the top 5 to consider?
Melissa: You would want to ask how their vendors work. If they are a venue that has a set list that you have to stick with or if there is ever any fee for choosing someone that’s off the preferred list or anything like that. Or any fees to look for….maybe that should be number 5.
Usually there’s a starting price that you’ll see, and then at the end of the day, there’s more things added on to it that you might not think about. You definitely want to make sure that you’ve got the full big picture. That there is not plus this, plus this…like the amount, plus tax, plus gratuity.
Me: What types of fees could they see? You’ve got tax, gratuity, what else?
Melissa: Tax, gratuity, any vendor fees, cake cutting or corking fee, a security deposit, if they charge anything up front. We are climate controlled with A/C here. I talked to someone who was here on a tour and they asked us, ‘Do you charge a fee if we turn it on?’ No! But apparently there are places that if you turn on the A/C, it will cost you!
Me: Haha, wow!
Melissa: Don’t get married in August then!
Me: Yeah, or any month!
Me: So, when visiting a venue what should a client bring with them to help them be prepared?
Melissa: Bring a camera, or your phone. Definitely take pictures if you’re visiting multiple places. It will help you remember when you’re trying to wrap things up at the end and make your decisions. We always provide a folder where we have a bunch of notes and you can write things down with. But if you’re a note taker, bring something to take notes with.
I actually met with a girl yesterday and her fiancé is in Afganistan. Her maid of honor was shooting video of everything. We have skyped tours before even. The more you know, and the more of a vision you have in mind, share that as much as you can. You’re talking to professionals who have seen everything, and so they will often have ideas to help things go smoothly, or ideas that you might not have thought about. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind.
Me: What questions should clients ask venues before booking?
Melissa: I always try to make it really clear what our role on wedding day is. Sometimes people assume that I am their wedding coordinator. I’ve seen that happen before, and I just try to make it clear that I am not. I may be at the desk that day, but as far as J-Lo, headpiece in, lining up the bridal party…you might want to designate someone to do that if you feel you need one.
Always ask about any extra fees.
We actually give them [brides & grooms] a sheet of questions to ask during the tour.
*Melissa hands me the sheet* (You can view the list of questions here: http://thespringsevents.com/wedding-blog/questions-to-ask-on-a-wedding-venue-tour/)
Me: That’s awesome!
Melissa: Oh, Alcohol, security, bartending. You want to make sure you know how that works because usually there are a few different things to think about. There is the actual alcohol product, the bartending and security. Ask if you are allowed to bring in your own product. Do you have to buy it through the venue or through a certain vendor? Usually the 3 biggest costs of a wedding are your venue, the catering, and alcohol/bartending.
Me: Ok, so this list is basically what you would encourage brides to ask before booking?
Melissa: Yeah! So let’s see here…Do they have a back up plan? What do you do if there is bad weather that day?
This is a good one that people don’t often think to ask: Who is the staff that is here on the day? Are they here the whole time during the rental? Who is going to be the one taking out the trash? Will there be anyone checking on the restrooms? If something spills, who cleans it up? Things like that…
Me: Oh that’s a great question that brides probably don’t think about! I mean, what does happen if the bathrooms get a little…questionable…I mean the bride is not going to be in there cleaning it up!
Me: So I think that everyone wants to save money when they are going through the wedding planning process, so what are some ways that brides can save money when booking their venue?
Melissa: So the number one thing that…well this might be tied for number one…your guest count. Nobody wants to trim their guest count, but the bottom line is that every guest costs money.
The other one is your day. Everyone wants a Saturday, and that’s kind of what they think of as traditional, but last year, in 2015, we had 217 weddings. Now if you think about it, we’ve got 2 halls, there’s 52 Saturdays in a year…that makes 104 events on Saturdays, which means that over half of our events were on non-Saturday dates. We see a lot of weddings on Fridays and Sundays, and it’s about a $2000 difference.
Me: Wow, that’s quite a difference! Anything else they can do to save money?
Melissa: Choose a venue that is really pretty to start with. There might be an event center that might be less expensive, but you’ll have to pour a lot more in to your décor budget to dress it up and make it look like it’s wedding ready. If you find somewhere that is already landscaped and already pretty, you won’t have to put flower arrangements everywhere or drape fabric to cover the walls/ceilings and that sort of thing.
Me: OH, I LOVE THAT! That’s such great advice!
Me: My next question is, what do you feel is the biggest mistake clients can make when booking a venue?
Melissa: Oh, that is a really good question! I hope I’m not putting my foot in my mouth when I say this, but I think that you need to have a realistic budget and think about what you really want. I used to always tell people, that what you’ll remember when looking back on your wedding day, you want remember all of the details probably, but you’ll remember how you felt. So everyone thinks about the traditional Saturday wedding, but you can have the exact same event on a different day and it will save you big time in the long run.
Me: So you feel that the mistake is that they are coming up with a budget that is just not realistic.
Melissa: Yes. The venue is the first thing that they choose, you know…after the groom and ring. I’d say you would definitely want at least a rough budget.
Me: Before going in, kind of have an idea of what you want to spend?
Melissa: Yeah, have a conversation of how much you have to spend, how much you would like to spend and what your priorities are. Get together and have that conversation with the decision makers, whoever that may be….the couple, parents, if there are other families contributing as well.
Me: What are the hottest trends you have seen in recent weddings at your venue? Colors? Traditions? Anything!
Melissa: I’m guessing that one of the really hot colors of the summer will be the really pale blush, but also the dusty lilac.
One trend that is really cost effective is maybe in lieu of a really grand wedding cake, doing a dessert bar with even homemade desserts. That’s something that can be really big and your guests can choose. It feels fancy, but it’s not very fancy dollar wise…very cost effective.
Me: That’s a good one! I love dessert bars!
Melissa: Yeah, and it’s also interactive for your guests. They can get up from their seats and check out the dessert bar to see what’s up there.
Me: Yeah, and then getting them up again when they go back for seconds! Such a great idea!
Me: How long has your venue been in business?
Melissa: They finished building Stonehaven in 2010 and then they added Legacy in 2012. The Springs venues have been around since 2009.
Me: Why do you feel that clients choose your venue specifically?
Melissa: We always try to be caring with people around us. We are dealing with a lot of people and a lot of feelings throughout start to finish, so we want to be sensitive to that. Being customer friendly and being easy to work with. We don’t have too many restrictions. We try to make everything as smooth as possible. Being very communicative and giving full disclosure and teaching you as much as possible.
The venue in itself, we have very high standards. We try to keep it very clean, pristine and beautiful all of the time. It’s a lot of work! We have a quarterly inspection and we never know when it’s going to be…it’s always a surprise. We grade ourselves and mystery shop ourselves. People are making an investment so we want to make sure we keep that quality up to standard.
Me: Yes, I totally agree. It’s one of the biggest investments that they will make starting off. They will look back on this event FOREVER. Their kids will be looking back at the photos and hearing the stories….and possibly even have their weddings here one day!
Melissa: And when you think about it, this is the one day, unless you’re really lucky, that you have ALL of your friends and family in one room and that’s really special. So we try to keep that in mind and just give them an all around great experience….the emotional, the sentimental side of things, but then the logistics too.
Me: That’s really great!
Me: How far in advance do you recommend booking a venue?
Melissa: 12-18 months. The fall and spring are always really popular. If someone wants an Saturday in October, call yesterday! That’s what everyone wants.
Me: Call yesterday…I’ll make sure to underline that!
Melissa: We already have people reserving October 2017.
Me: Wow, that’s amazing! Well that speaks volumes about your venue…that they are booking that far in advance because they want you!
Me: And my last question, when a bride walks away from touring your venue, what is the one thought you want them to leave with?
Melissa: I want them to feel at home here. I want them to feel comfortable that they can call us any time. That they want to bring all of their family and friends to see the venue too. Hopefully they are leaving here and they can picture it for their own wedding vision. And just be really excited about working with us for the next however many months.
Me: Melissa, I certainly appreciate you sitting down with me and taking time out of your busy day, especially on a Friday with two weddings happening today. It’s been a pleasure picking your brain. I know this will be very helpful for brides when choosing their venue.
Melissa: Oh no, thank you! I love chatting over coffee!
As I was walking back to my car, I turned around to get another glance at the venue. It is truly a striking venue as it sits high in the hill country. The view can not be beat. The landscaping and lawn were perfectly manicured and green. But the feelings you get when you are there…that’s what hooks you and has you saying, “I do!” to The Springs.
If you’re newly engaged and about to start your search for your venue, I highly recommend stopping by The Springs. You won’t regret it!
Stay tuned for more helpful tips from wedding professionals in your area!
For more information on The Springs New Braunfels, you can visit their website at boulder.thespringsevents.com, or give them a call at (512) 585-5899. Tell them I sent you!