Wedding 911

Venue renovations...

FI and I booked our venue in March 2015 for our October 2016 wedding. It was a smaller winery owner by a family that owns several wineries. We fell in love with charm and intimate feel. The maximum capacity was 100 guests and that was fine with us. It is a single building winery from the late 1800's. We were told that there was planned renovations from 12/15-06/16. The renovations were explained as bringing the building up to ADA compliance by adding an elevator the back of the building. We were also told some minor beautification to landscaping would happen.  The Sales Manager told us that the family loved this historic property and wouldn't do anything to ruin it.

Somewhere in the renovation planning they decided to make this venue accommodate larger weddings... 250 person weddings. They torn out all of the beautiful vineyards that were in front of the building and added a patch of lawn and paved a large area. They also built a redwood fence to serve as a wedding backdrop. The intimate charming feel is gone, it now feels barren and more like a super commercial banquet hall, something we could have rented for much cheaper, had we wanted that.

I have been very disappointed with the changes, but have tried to stay positive and change my vision for that day. It is so hard because for over a year I pictured so many parts of that day feeling and looking a certain way. FI feels the same way, but he cares far less.

I met with our florist today who does a lot of work with our venue, she told me that almost every bride that has the space booked is disappointed and upset.  She asked me if I had told the venue and I told her no because I didn't want to be difficult. She told me that so many couples are getting large discounts and comped extras. she told me to email the sales manager asap and be direct.


I've written an email and would like your feedback:

Hi Sales Manager,

I hope you are doing well.

I have been dreading writing this email. I have been trying very hard to be positive about the changes to VENUE but now that we are almost 60 days out from our wedding it is impossible to hold back my feelings.

Since last spring when you showed us the artist rendering, I have been worried about the changes to VENUE. I didn’t want to be difficult but after seeing the changes in person, and realizing that we would need to change our original vision for our wedding and realizing all of the added costs associated with this I felt this is something I had to bring up with you because FI and I are very unhappy.

When we booked the venue early last year we knew there would be renovations made, but we were promised that the changes would enhance the beauty of the property and not destroy the charm and intimate feeling of the space. Had we been told that the renovations would make the VENUE look and feel less like an intimate vineyard, we wouldn’t have booked the space.

FI and I are paying for the entire wedding ourselves, and we booked VENUE because of the charm, but more specifically we didn’t felt that we would need to spend a lot on rentals, decorations, and floral arrangements because of the natural beauty of the property.  Now because of the renovations all of that has changed. We cut the gold chargers and late night snacks we had originally planned for because we knew the cost would need to be redirected to floral arrangements for the ceremony since we would no longer have the vineyard as our background.

In the last 2-3 months, I'm having to re plan and vision my wedding, which is very stressful, and not within the original budget FI and I set. In talking with our vendors, to keep somewhat of an intimate feel, I am considering having our ceremony in the barrel room. This will come at a higher cost to us because this means additional floral arrangements, lighting, candles, etc. In having the ceremony in the barrel room I would like to have the reception on the lawn. Again, this comes at an added cost to us; renting market place lights, outdoor heaters, etc. We may even have to have the DJ have a second set up for speeches and dinner music would still like to have dancing in the barrel room, but since dinner would be outside, there would be no seating and we would need to rent lounge furniture. FI and I are requesting that we be comped for most of these change, as the venue for our wedding is nowhere near the same venue we booked last year.

It is so frustrating to feel this way just a few months from our wedding especially because the changes made to the property are way more drastic than the proposed changes that were explained to us when we signed the contract. 

You have mentioned previously that a lot of couples have been upset and disappointed with the changes so I feel we are not alone in this. Please let me know what can be done so that we can review our options and move forward.


Thank you-

Just for reference below are the before and after

Before renovations


ceremony site before renovations

New ceremony site... the lawn is sloped.

the front of the building

the new view from outside the building

Re: Venue renovations...

  • Thanks! I appreciate the feed back. 

    The reason I stated we are paying for the wedding ourselves is because several times the sales manager has said things like "oh, just hit up mom and dad for more cash!" when we have said something is out of budget or said something like a dessert buffet wasn't something we wanted to pay for when we are already paying for a cake. It's been a weird situtation. I think she assumes FI's parents are paying because they came with us to a site visit. 

  • The meaning of your communication is the result you get.  This letter isn't going to do what you are wanting it to do.  Above all else, you need to read your contract's terms as you may have a leg to stand on in negotiating that you shouldn't have to pay all these add-on fees, OTOH, if those things aren't included in the present contract, they didn't exist at the time you signed it no matter what anyone says.  Whether you like the renovations or not is simply irrelevant as you have two choices, cancel the venue per your contract terms as the renovated venue is not true to the drawings and isn't representative of the finished product you were promised.  That may get you most of your deposit back so you can find a new venue.  But really, go back to your contract!

  • SP29SP29 member
    First Anniversary First Comment First Answer 5 Love Its
    I can see why you are not happy. As far as what you will actually get out of this, I am not sure, as much depends on your contract (generally you don't sign the contract stating "venue as is"), but I would still contact the venue and express your displeasure. I think there is at least a bit they could accommodate for you.

    I agree with the above that your letter is wordy and feelings-y, and to make it more direct and list both the reasons you are unhappy AND what you would like to see them do to fix it. I would also follow up directly (either in person or over the phone), and state in the letter you will be doing this.

    I also agree to focus less on smaller details like flowers (no one needs flowers) and more on items directly related to the venue set up/structure/etc. You can definitely mention the aesthetic, but I wouldn't lead or focus on that.

    I can see why you are unhappy with the ceremony space. The original space was very nice- looks like a concrete pad. Not only is it level and easy to access, but say if it rained in the morning and then cleared up, you could still use the space. Now that it is on grass, you could be dealing with wet grass or mud. I would say something to the effect that the new ceremony space is not comparable to what was there before, and you have concerns that the uneven ground and possible issues with rain/mud make it unsafe for guests. As for your solution, I would ask them to move your ceremony into the barrel room for the same price as you are paying for the outdoor ceremony.

    I would clearly state the reason you chose the venue in the first place (you liked the feel/aesthetic, it suited your smaller guest list, need for minimal decor which would save you money) and I would not be afraid to say that the venue now resembles as common banquet facility, which you could have gotten for a cheaper price. State that you were happy to pay for the original venue space because you felt like you were getting something unique that was not available at other venues, but you no longer think the venue is worth the price you are paying. This is where you may get a discount (since you mentioned other couples have gotten one).

  • Thanks everyone for the feedback! I've sent the letter to a few friends and my Florist, who recommend I write it in the first place. To get their feedback as well. I will keep everyone's comments in mind it when I rewrite it!

    Just wanted to add a little extra info because I did type up my post quickly and upon re reading it I feel I left out important details that totally make me sound like a brat

    • My florist is the one who recommended I write a letter to our sales manager and she told me to make it heart felt. She also told me to mention everything I would need to add on including flowers, candles, seating, etc. She told me I should even ask for them to comp linens but we have already paid for those and would have had to regardless, so that felt awkward to me.

    • Florist said "I can't tell you how much money other couples have gotten taken off or how much they have been comped, but I can tell you that with everything we have discussed, it would be more than enough to make things match your vision."
    • I will of course provide seating and heaters my guests regardless if the venue pays for them or not.

    • We haven't paid the full amount to our venue yet, we still have about $7K left to pay.

    • The letter was formatted much better, however, when I posted it in there from my email it took most of it away.
    • When the Sales Manager made the weird comments about parents footing the bill for our wedding we were already in contract and couldn't take our business else where.

    • I have reviewed our contract and there is no mention to changes made to the venue. But from what we have heard from the vendors we work with is that the venue wants to do everything they can to make people happy because they don't want bad reviews when they want to do a lot of weddings here.

  • Damn, so basically the florist is "helping" you get big discounts so she can get more business.  If I was the venue and found out what she was doing I would be banning her from my place.      

    I agree with everyone else.    It's to wordy.   It's fine to be heartfelt, but you took it too far.  After a while it's just blah, blah, just get to the point.  

    What differentiates an average host and a great host is anticipating unexpressed needs and wants of their guests.  Just because the want/need is not expressed, doesn't mean it wouldn't be appreciated. 
  • edited August 2016
    Nailed it, @madamerwin.

    Good luck, @dyerwise! Keep us posted.
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