Wedding venue or a patch of grass…?

In my previous life, before all the pots, pans and preserves, I ran a rather fabulous little event company called ICE Events. The ICE stood for Imagine, Create, Experience. I loved it and was rather good at it. But as with all good things and BEE, they come to end and for the most part that season is done. However, I do still event BUT very selectively.

A while ago I was contacted by an incredible young woman to help her plan her dream wedding to her dream man. Now, I have know this young lady for a very long time; I even had a hand in her 21st birthday.  I adore her dad and loved her very special late mom – who was an absolute fire cracker!

So I dusted off my wedding wand, discounted my rate – HUGELY – and negotiated that all my suppliers quote them directly. This was after all a labour of love.

The bride and groom to be live and work in London and on a trip down to sunny South Africa, we met up at a venue in Hazyview. It’s gorgeous, we are all happy and deposits are paid. Several months later, nobody is happy, the venue is in trouble and refunds are sorted out.

A month or so to the wedding date we find another venue in Hazyview. The bridal couple are now back in London, so I do the site visit.  I use the word “venue” very very loosely.  In my mind, a wedding venue constitutes some form of structure.

Essentially, it’s a patch of grass alongside a river.

The setting is truly spectacular, so I take some pics and send them to the bride via Whats App. We go ahead and book said venue. Now bear in mind, that this space offers the most beautiful of beautiful settings… and bathrooms. That’s it. It also does not come cheap and added to the mounting costs is the fact that absolutely everything has to now be brought in. And I do mean everything. Kitchens, generators (this is South Africa after all and load shedding is always a possibility), lighting, bar’s, tents, tables, chairs, crockery, cutlery, staff and the list continues.

The bridal couple had selected a plated menu and the 150 guests got to pre-order their main courses. Try coordinating a kitchen with four different mains, in the middle of nowhere. We literally had to bring in ovens, warming stations, scullery and everything else in between. The plating station ran like a well oiled machine. Hubby and I even got roped in. I ladled the gravy and he added the garnish. Now if you are going to tackle a catering task this size, then you really need to work with the best and that prize went to Zest Restaurant. Not a single hick-up (other than the gas ovens playing up) and the food was absolutely delicious. Lizelle and her team ran that kitchen calmly, perfectly and deliciously. You also need to take into account that they had another major event for several thousand people happening at the same time.

But I digress…you see I have a few issues but for the sake of this blog, I’m going to focus on just one of them. The venue.

Now maybe it’s just me, but I believe that if you are going to market yourself as an upmarket wedding venue and if you are going to charge a shit load for it then you need to offer something more than just a patch of grass and the bathrooms. What you also don’t know is that my hubby spent most of the night pouring buckets of water in the men’s loo’s because there was an issue with the water. The venue owners eventually got to us later in the evening and finally fixed the problem. There was an insect stuck in the water pipe…like I said, Africa. But again, I digress.

Anyway, we have a patch of grass. Now because this is South Africa and we all know that crime is rampant and that absolutely nothing and sacred and everything is up for grab’s, we arranged for security to be on site to ensure that the mountain of kitchen equipment etc was safe. My clients had to pay for this security. For me it was a case of “we’ll take your money and you can have your wedding here, but we guarantee nothing.” That for me just does not work. Your “venue” is an open piece of land, easily accessible from all sides and one little security guard is most certainly not going to do anything if confronted by two or more unsavoury characters. The owner repeatedly told me over the few days of set up that they couldn’t build anything on the site because it would be dismantled and stolen. But it’s okay to leave all your stuff here because we have one security guard. Well, as you can imagine, come Monday morning and there are huge shortages and this has now resulted in a distasteful back and forth between all parties.

Quite frankly, if you are going to offer a venue then at the very least need to ensure that there is a place where your clients and suppliers can store their stock, stuff and everything! Seriously!

And while I am on my soapbox, you also need to ensure that you provide enough lighting to at least highlight the pathway to the bathrooms and the open field where all the guests and suppliers vehicles are parked. Why should the client’s pay for that? You are literally in the middle of nowhere and Africa at night is pitch black. And then, please make sure that your electricity supply is adequate to run the multitude of equipment that is needed because you don’t supply anything.

The moral of my tirade is…don’t rip off your client’s and suppliers. The frikken South African gravy train has got dibs on that.