The Soup To Nuts Of Getting The Right Venue

The Soup To Nuts Of Getting The Right Venue: An Interview with Jennifer Mackowski of Stevenson Ridge

Have you ever been to the countryside of Northern Virginia? If you have, you know how beautiful and scenic of a backdrop it is.

If you look a little more specifically in the small town of Spotsylvania Courthouse – or at least, that’s where their mailing address finds them – you’ll find Stevenson Ridge.

Stevenson Ridge is one of the most gorgeous wedding venues on the East Coast, but more than that, it’s one of the best run as well, thanks to the leadership par excellence of Jennifer Mackowski.

Recently, we were lucky enough (or more precisely, Eric Herod was lucky enough) to sit down with her, and she shared her nuggets of wisdom with us, and you.

Here are the cliff notes:

1 || When Comparing Wedding Venues, Do Your Homework To Make Comparisons.

As Mackowski puts it, “The biggest thing about catering in general is to compare apples to apples.”

Venue organizers, caterers and the rest don’t necessarily make that easy, alas. They will price things in different ways. The will have different offerings.  Each vendor will have their own pricing quirks and policies to make comparisons difficult..

So you just have to roll up your sleeves and do the work. Ask vendors what their price comes out to looking at it in X way, with the X standing for your barometer. If a vendor won’t help you figure out their rate in the way you want to frame it, stay away.

2 || You Can Save Money By Getting A Venue That Comes With Services.

Stevenson Ridge does this. Their catering is done in-house. They do certain portions of wedding coordination, particularly day-of. They even rent linens and other wedding necessities and niceties.

By getting these services rolled into one, you save money. But Mackowski also highlights an advantage of venue-based catering beyond saving dough:

“If a guest comes in and they have a certain allergy that you didn’t know about, we have everything there that we can make something special for them if we need to, as opposed to an outside caterer who might not have those resources. And it’s a lot fresher. We don’t have to transport the food, so it’s cooked just minutes before you eat it.”

3 || Friday And Sunday Weddings Are Cheaper.

Not only that, but you don’t have to book them as far out in advance.

I especially advocate Sunday weddings. Guests with regular 9-to-5 weekday jobs might have to take Friday off, but they have Sunday off anyway. There’s at least a sporting chance, then, that they can still get in to work on Monday after enjoying themselves at your wedding the day before.

4 || You Can’t Force The Funk

As Mackowski puts it, “If you’re looking at a venue, use what the venue has, appreciate it for what it is and not try to completely change it, because you’ll spend a lot of money in the process, and try to stay as close to your budget as possible…a lot of people will go way over their budget because they fall in love with a venue and then realize, ‘Oh no! I have $200 left for my dress!’”

This is special risk in venue shopping, says Mackowski, because people typically choose and book a venue first. This tends to give the venue a lion’s portion of the wedding budget, because 100% of it is available at the time.

You should be careful not to fall into that trap, whichever wedding purchase (venue, dress, DJ, etc) you pull the trigger on first.

If you stick to your budget, and follow some of the above money-saving tips, you may actually come in UNDER budget. Who woulda thunk it?


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