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Wedding Venue Tips From Donnie Brown

Originally Posted: July 13, 2010

Claudia Copquin

Clearly there were no décor limitations when Donnie Brown designed the wedding reception for Jason Maxiell (of the Detroit Pistons). (lidestriphoto.com)

Southampton - Last month we asked one of our choice wedding planners, David Tutera, a few questions on wedding venues. Just so we are thorough, we posed the same group of questions to another of our favorites - Donnie Brown, author of "Donnie Brown Weddings From The Couture To The Cake." Famous in his own right, Brown has done a slew of celebrity weddings. Among his clients: LeAnn Rimes, Emma Thompson and Jason Maxiell (of the Detroit Pistons). Brown also appears frequently on the Style Network's "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway."

Celebrity wedding and event planner Donnie Brown.

At what point in time should a couple begin looking at wedding venues?

DB: As soon as possible. Once a venue is booked, it's booked, so you want to get into the venues and book them as soon as you start the planning. Not only does it help you with setting the date, but it also helps to secure what
type of wedding you are going to have.

Since Long Island is the second most expensive place in the country to
get married, what would be a reasonable budget for the wedding venue here?

DB: There are many places on Long Island that are expensive but also those that aren't. Food and open bar at a reception can cost between $100 to $150 per person all by itself, but you have to consider the entire event, including service charge, gratuity and tax. So for example, $350 per person for the entire wedding, which includes the gown, the rings, flowers, food, entertainment, the planner fee, etc., would be reasonable for a really nice, but not over-the-top wedding.

Are wedding venues able to negotiate on price these days? If so, can
you give couples some pointers when negotiating?

DB: Yes, the best things to negotiate are the food and beverage minimums to keep the total amount within reach. Also, try to get the service charge and tax
within the minimum rather than on top of it. Also, a good thing to do in order to
keep the budget down is to select an off-peak time, such as a Friday or
Sunday as Saturday is prime-time. If they have a food and beverage minimum
and a rental fee, ask if the fee can be waived in lieu of meeting the food and beverage minimum. It never hurts to ask.

An outdoor ceremony such as this one at the Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club is lovely, but ask about a rain plan. (David Vaughan)

Speaking of asking, what are some typical questions couples should ask once they begin visiting potential venues?

DB: What is the rental fee or food and beverage minimum?, What is the room or area capacity? If it is an outdoor area, is there a rain back-up? Do you give complimentary suites for the couples and families? Do you offer discounted room blocks for guests? Do you have décor limitations? What are your charges for additional power? Do you charge for rehearsal times? Do you have your own in-house catering department or can I bring my own?

What happens if a couple is set on a particular venue, and a particular
date for their wedding (their dream date), but the two don't mesh?

DB: Be prepared to select a different date or venue. Always be ready to
negotiate and consider your options. Sometimes things happen for a reason.

Lastly, what do you say to couples who are scared to take the leap - to book
the venue? It's such a commitment!

DB: If you are committed to each other and the wedding, take the leap. Don't let it get booked out from under you.

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