February 20, 2008

Wedding Location: Where to Marry?

Posted in Wedding Locations at 1:38 pm by Jess

Jon and I are not particularly religious, and our technical religions clash anyway, so we decided to do a non-religious ceremony.

This presents a horrible logistical problem, which we are in the throes of solving, but that is another post.

The positive side of this is that we are not marrying indoors, and got to choose an outdoor location. And, we only have to choose TWO locations. Yes, in Switzerland, there are three. Okay, four if you count the civil ceremony. But for the day of the wedding, there is usually a Church wedding, followed by a road caravan to a place for the Apero (cocktail hour) for another two hours, and then the road caravan goes to the Dinner Reception location for the rest of the night.

So we cut one whole place from our list, but this means that we needed a place that could do an outdoor ceremony, and provide the cocktails.

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This is the first choice. My favorite local castle, a brilliant tiny village. So, so quaint.

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Unfortunately, no catering here -we would have to find one – and the highway would be noisy, though possibly we would not hear it because of the ring of trees? Also, sort of far and isolated location.

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Choice 2, a Mansion turned hotel and restaurant. They are in “downtown” (cough) Neuchâtel, so people could walk over, and serve cocktails.

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The interior was gilded and ornate, and very much not my style though. The problem outside is that they don’t provide chairs! So everyone is standing, though only for a half hour.

So we went back and forth about these two locations…ugh forever. But then one day Jon suddenly remembered another place, it just was not in Neuchâtel, not even in the same canton! But, it was still only twenty minutes – as far as choice one.

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Well, when we got there there was no question. We booked the date that morning! Cuteness:You can book your restaurant dinner in the special one-table-room seen here in the foreground.

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The crazy thing is that we cannot even afford to stay a night at this place. It wouldn’t make sense, since Swiss weddings last until the wee hours of the night, it would be a waste. But, that’s just the excuse that makes us feel better :), truly we can’t afford it! Check out these rooms though… 

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Reception Location, the details

Posted in Wedding Locations at 1:17 pm by Jess

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This is just inside the front door. We are going to put a table here with the Escort Cards, so people can get them before walking up the small steps to the main floor.
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This is the main room. We will be something near seventy people. The trick is figuring out where to plan the Dance Area, the Food Buffet Tables and the Guest Tables! This is just one of the many joys of planning my own wedding. Learning to be a space-guru!
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On one end there is a little stage. What to do with it??
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This is Jon and parents trying to figure out how to arrange the tables. We found out that we have the smallest tables known to man. On one table the plates would nearly touch each other with four people to a table. There would also be no room for flowers. Two tables put together eases the plate-nuzzling problem, but doesn’t help the flower situation. So, finally we decided to put four together like a giant rectangle, and put twelve people (or so ) so each table.
The problem for me is that I think these giant blocks are going to take up a lot of the room. It looks big, but really, these giant rectangles are going to encroach on any dancing area. I guess we can also send people up to dance on the stage.

Choosing Locations: Our Dinner and Reception Location

Posted in Cultural Differences, Wedding Locations at 12:57 pm by Jess

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Maison Vallier, Cressier

We had five appointments in various parts of Neuchatel one Saturday in November, about seven months before the wedding. Honestly, at eleven a.m., after seeing the first possibility, which is in my all-time favorite village, I was ready to sign for that one. I was literally smitten, jumping up and down with excitement, both at finding a place that I loved so quickly, and at the prospect of freeing up our Saturday. However, Jon wanted to be practical.

We visited a sad little place in a random village, then a large place up in the mountains with a grand view of the lake, the valley and the Alps. However, the man who ran the establishment was such a rude and absolutely arrogant person that Jon and I walked out saying, “There is no way we are putting our guests in his vicinity.” So, sorry to tell you, but guests won’t get the Alpine-Lake view over dinner.

The next place we visited was a farm converted into a restaurant which specializes in regional cuisine. We were tempted to book it, because the couple who own the restaurant know Jonathan from his teenage years. It was a big surprise, and that touch was a nice idea. However, the room really didn’t speak to us, and the road – like many mountain roads in Neuchâtel – was extremely windy and narrow. I got road sick on it in the middle of the day. Not the kind of road I wanted my guests driving down after dinner and dancing.

So, I am pleased to say, that bright and early the following Monday, I was able to call and reserve the original, first place that we visited. WOW, I don’t think I could be happier. It is an historical home, in a village that I adore, which is near the lake, close to the highway, and therefore, very close (and flat!) to the hotels in either Neuchâtel or Morat. Ironically, long before we seriously talked about marriage, I told Jon that “if ever we did” I wanted to be married in this village, my favorite village in the Neuchâtel area. While the ceremony is not there, it is in a better place, and we are able to come to this same village for dinner!

Having booked this place now, I can honestly say that I could not be happier with our choices. For me, they are perfect.

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The Building Next Door

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The Maison Vallier from Exterior

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This building is 200 years older than my Country!!

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The front door, where I will hang our DIY Wreath

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View behind building – The vineyards will be greener!

So we showed up on a Saturday morning to check this place out and plan the seating arrangements. This is one of the greater examples I have of cultural differences.  Your wedding location person of contact is probably a professional looking person, possibly in a collared shirt, with a notepad. He or she points out things to you, and leads you around.

Our person of contact is the concierge, who lives in the village, and who keeps the keys. She showed up at ten a.m., already drunk. To be perfectly fair, this is totally normal in this region. It’s a more rural region, a farmer region, and also a (bad) wine region. So a lot of people can be found in smoky packed bars at ten a.m. on Saturdays. Sundays too.

She had on working pants and a parka. Her nose was the tell-tale sign: She has the same bulbous, vein covered nose that so many older people have in this region. It’s a side-effect of alcoholism. I really had a hard time looking at it. But, she was very nice. She did not “show” us anything; She stood in the background, timidly, and let us explore. We started to erect a few tables, and it was kind of cute how she inched forward a few feet to watch, but still refused to say anything.

We had a few questions, but she directed, in slurred words, to call the city hall on Monday. All she does is keep the keys.

At one point a sudden burst of noise erupted – loud laughing voices. It turns out that there is a “cave” in the building – we had walked right past as we went up the stairs, but the door was closed and we did not notice. A few extremely drunk people came up the stairs to inform us that they were done drinking and were leaving and we had to leave! The concierge meekly tried to explain that she had the keys. It took a few tries, but eventually they understand and then suddenly they were shaking her hand, hugging her and saying “Oh but why didn’t you say…” Just as fast they all filed out the downstairs door and were gone.

Turns out the cave is in the building, but is separate. Does that mean that the cave could be rented out for the same day as our wedding? Quelle histoire! Can you imagine? It’s not even in a separate part of the building. It’s just a room half way up the stairs!!

What we did find out was that we rented the place for 700 Francs (roughly 600 dollars) and we can have it starting from Friday until Sunday when we are done cleaning.

Done WHAT!?

Oh yes, Jon informed me that we would be spending Sunday afternoon cleaning up after ourselves.

Is he crazy? I mean CRAZY crazy??!!

There’s another whopping difference for you. Well, not only do I have to take people back to Geneva to catch airplanes, but there is just no way that I am cleaning up that place the day after my wedding. Or doing it period. This is my bridezilla moment people, and I’m riding it full steam.

So, we are hiring the bulbous nosed concierge to clean it, at 40 Francs an hour.

Choosing a Reception Location

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step, Wedding Locations at 12:46 pm by Jess

To help things go as smoothly as possible in planning, contact your vendors A.E.A.P. That’s As Early As Possible. Whether you are opting to hire someone for every aspect (Photography, Video, Lighting, Food, Music, Floral etc) or doing a mix of Vendors and DIY/Generous Friends, it helps to look early at the possible vendors. Here are a few of the reasons why: 

~There are many, many other couples out there, and a very specific, limited number of dates. Getting to a vendor early means that you will get closer to your heart’s desires, and hear fewer Nos. Probably. You will here many “We are already booked” and more the longer you wait, which spurs a particular sinking of the heart that one doesn’t wish to endure on a daily basis.

~The vendor can help you set up a realistic time-frame for when things need to get done. From the Expat perspective, I can share that I do not have access to unlimited number and type of flowers here. The florist told me over the phone that I could come, but that the flowers to pick from won’t be ready, or available for viewing, until April. So I can mark down April for the time-frame that I need to go back in and have a more detailed meeting.

~Perhaps you are torn between hiring a Musician and asking a friend. We had a similar experience with Photography, and we are currently leaning towards asking friends. Our budget is very limited due to the incredibly high cost of food and wine in Switzerland. Photography is a priority, obviously, but we do have a talented friend. Still, we scoped out Photographers as Vendors, and it pays to do so: The information you gather helps make some decisions for you. Photographers here seem to be less expensive than in the United States, but are nowhere near as stunning. I will get into this on another, more personal post, but suffice it to say that researching the Vendor options has quickly made up our minds that we want to ask our friend.

Bottom Line: The more information you have, and the sooner you have it, the more options you have.

Now, for those of you planning a destination wedding or living as an Expat and planning in your new country, you are probably going to learn that things run on a different schedule than in America. For you expats, you know that all too well with daily life, right! Consider that the Wedding Industry is truly an American Brainchild – something created and propelled by America. On the one hand, other countries are beginning to see Wedding Planners (there are 4 in Geneva that I know of). The UK has an accredited program for Wedding Planners specifically modeled after the US style. Nonetheless, you may have fewer options, less flexible budgets, and an entirely different take on Customer Service. I can say from real experience that Customer Service is Bad if not Nonexistent in Switzerland (except for the odd exception which makes my whole month), so I am none too thrilled to be starting to meet with vendors this year. I anticipate friction, or fewer options, and I may just have to live with that – with what they have. You may too. I don’t mean to suggest that it will be a negative experience. You simply must be aware that a destination wedding is not in America and thus you will have to adjust your expectations a bit. (On a positive note,  perhaps you will be surprised in positive ways. I hope that through my personal journey documented here you will see some of the happy, surprising sides of a destination/expat wedding too)Here are a list of questions that I recommend asking the manager of the location and/or figuring out on your own:

What does the price include (Cleaning, preparation, serving food etc)

If it is outdoors, what is the Rain Plan? What are the indoor options?

What time can you have the location, what time must you be out of the location

Is there a working, or caterer’s kitchen? *You will want to organize a visit with the caterer to assess the equipment on site

What kind of dishes do they have on site already?

What kind of musical/electronic options exist?

What is the lighting situation?

Is there a microphone, projector screen?

What are the site of the tables, what are the shapes of the tables, what do the chairs look like?

Will someone be on site, or will you need to return the keys to someone afterwards?

What is the liability policy?

What are the handicap options?

How far is it from Ceremony, Hotels, Airports?

Take a Notepad, Two Pens and a Camera. Take MANY Photos and notes while you are there. Trust me, this will be key. You will forget so many of your detailed thoughts when you are visiting multiple places. The 2nd pen is your backup 🙂

Lynda Barness, via Style Me Pretty has this absolutely NECESSARY list for destination weddings, and general vendor questions also.