Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Wedding Planning Saga Begins

My daughter will be getting married next July. So this past week the hunt for a “wedding venue” began in earnest, transforming my life into a scene from Father of the Bride. I sat quietly in the corner of rooms as my wife, sister and daughter began discussing the byzantine complications associated with picking the perfect location for the big event. Finally, after a vigorous and comprehensive internet research jihad, the candidates were narrowed to four finalists. This past Saturday, the three of them left the house for an all day tour. A week and a half later, we have a winner.

I must say that the wedding venue business may very well have the most arcane pricing structure of any business in the history of commerce. Trying to find out exactly how much the thing is going to cost is like trying to guess how many Skittles there are in a fish bowl. The only reliable answer seems to be, “This will cost somewhere in a range between $13 and $65 thousand dollars.” Ok.

Here’s how it works. The perky and uber-friendly event planner/sales gal extols the virtues of “The Veranda on the James”, or some such pretentiously named place with glowing words like “elegant, ambiance, dreamlike and unforgettable.”  Then she wraps up her virtuoso performance with, “And you can have all this for a mere $30 per person!” Pam quickly does the numbers in her head, 200 guests times $30 per person, why, that’s only $6000!  Visions of our beautiful daughter walking down the rose covered walkway leading to the Victorian gazebo overlooking the river begin dancing through her head. She’s about to sign the contract and plop down the deposit when she discovers that there are a “few extras” that she might want to consider first.

While $30 per person would indeed pay for a perfectly lovely event, these “extras” will make the difference between ordinary and memorable. She learns that the food included in the $30 intro package isn’t enough to satisfy a hummingbird on Weight Watchers. $30 buys your guests a plate of carrot sticks and low fat ranch dip as an appetizer, followed by an entrée of beans and franks. Of course, if you want your guests to have knives, forks and spoons with which to eat this feast, you’ll have to pay a $5 per guest “utensil fee.” Drinks include one small bottled water per guest. Other “extras” include $2 per guest for chairs, $3 per guest bathroom access fee, and $1 per person rice allotment. Pam soon realized that the $30 intro package was akin to paying $1,000 for a lake house in Maine only to discover that electricity and plumbing are an extra $699,000.

After the full impact of this particularly horrific sticker shock wore off, Pam, and Kaitlin got down to the serious business of decision making. Pros and cons were placed on spreadsheets, numbers were crunched, calls made, e-mails sent, credit lines secured, until finally last night after dinner the light bulb flashed over Kaitlin’s adorable head. YES!! The decision was made, at a reasonable price, everyone including me is happy, so now we can move on to the easy part of…… finding a dress.