Reception Ideas

All-Inclusive vs. Venue Only?

Hello all! We just got engaged and want to nail down our venue for July 2018. 

We just moved to a new state (Montana) and have decided to have the wedding here. The majority of our guests will be flying in or driving in from Michigan (families) and Oregon (friends/where we moved from). 

Right now we basically have it narrowed down to two places:

Venue #1:
- Lodge + campground on a lake in the middle of the woods
- 1.5 hours from where we live 
- 6 Cabins & 9 rooms onsite (for 45 people)
- Central lodge + common areas to convene
- Restaurant/Bar onsite
- Rehearsal dinner, 2 breakfasts included in package

My FI has his heart set on Venue #1. He loves the lake (so do I), he loves that the family/WP could all be in one place (so do I). It's much more expensive (almost twice as much) than the venue-only option, but my parents have indicated that they will pay for the bulk of the wedding cost. I have a few concerns: it's far away from hotels/towns where some of our (~150) guests will be staying, it's inflexible because of the 'package' (my brother is a sommelier and wants to be able to select wines for the wedding... it includes dessert with the wedding dinner which we don't really want), and, lastly and perhaps most vainly, it's a little outdated and while I like rustic, I am having a hard time picturing myself getting ready for my wedding in a log cabin with carpet from the 60s... 

Venue #2:
- Ceremony & reception site on 170 acres in the woods 
- 30 minutes from where we live
- BYOB allowed
- No food provided (we would select a caterer)

This option is much less expensive because we can select our own caterer and bring our own alcohol; the ceremony chairs and reception tables/chairs/linens are included in the price of the venue rental. The owners seem friendly and  It's also gorgeous, brand new building and we love the style. BUT - if we selected this venue, we would basically be staying at our house during the wedding weekend, and family/WP would be staying the the hotel downtown, so we wouldn't really all be together. FI's parents are divorced and won't stay in the same house together, so getting a giant VBRO isn't an option in this case -- plus I don't think we want everyone in the same house for everyone's sanity. There would also be additional costs/considerations that are included with the previous option, like the breakfasts. 

I'm trying to visualize what this weekend looks like in either scenario and somewhat failing. I think either venue will be great, they are both beautiful and obviously the wedding is not about the place, it's about the people. So I guess I am looking for some feedback/guidance on things I might not be considering, or things I am overthinking! 

Also - do you think it is worth asking or OK to ask the lake lodge if we can tweak the package a bit for more flexibility? 

Thanks everyone! 
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Re: All-Inclusive vs. Venue Only?

  • I would absolutely ask the lake lodge if/what you can tweak. Most venues are willing to give you near whatever you want if you pay for it. Or, ask if you can substitute one thing for another. Things they may not be flexible on are bringing in outside food and alcohol. They may allow your brother to pick some wines and bring those in for you, but I would expect them to charge you for that (many venues have a house wine or buying from a specific vineyard) and not let you bring that wine in yourself.

    My biggest concern for the lake lodge is accommodations for your guests. How far away is the closest hotel? Is there parking on site? Is it a place your guests can easily get cabs? If your guests are having to travel more than 30 mins to get to their hotel, I would reconsider it.

    Even though venue #2 is close to you, you could still choose to stay in a hotel for the night. If you find a good hotel with a room block rate, you and your family could all stay at the same hotel and meet up for breakfast the next morning.

    Our wedding was very all inclusive. We only had the venue for the one day (ceremony and reception), but the price we paid per head included the venue rental, rehearsal time, cocktail hour, dinner, open bar, tables/chairs/linens, microphone and some decor. The only thing we paid for separate was the DJ, photog, cake, candy bar, and programs (and of course things like attire). It worked out really well price-wise for us. It was also a good location- it was on the water but still in the city, so easy access to the highway and several hotels in the area, the closest being 8 mins away. It also had ample parking and guests were allowed to leave their cars overnight, so if guests drove, they could easily call a cab on the way home and pick up their car the next day.

    OurWildKingdomcowgirl8238
  • I agree with the first poster and would choose option 2 over option 1, If the majority of your guests are already traveling they also won't want to travel more from their hotel to the venue. 
    image
    OurWildKingdomPrettyGirlLost
  • eileenrob said:
    Hello all! We just got engaged and want to nail down our venue for July 2018. 

    We just moved to a new state (Montana) and have decided to have the wedding here. The majority of our guests will be flying in or driving in from Michigan (families) and Oregon (friends/where we moved from). 

    Right now we basically have it narrowed down to two places:

    Venue #1:
    - Lodge + campground on a lake in the middle of the woods
    - 1.5 hours from where we live 
    - 6 Cabins & 9 rooms onsite (for 45 people)
    - Central lodge + common areas to convene
    - Restaurant/Bar onsite
    - Rehearsal dinner, 2 breakfasts included in package

    My FI has his heart set on Venue #1. He loves the lake (so do I), he loves that the family/WP could all be in one place (so do I). It's much more expensive (almost twice as much) than the venue-only option, but my parents have indicated that they will pay for the bulk of the wedding cost. I have a few concerns: it's far away from hotels/towns where some of our (~150) guests will be staying, it's inflexible because of the 'package' (my brother is a sommelier and wants to be able to select wines for the wedding... it includes dessert with the wedding dinner which we don't really want), and, lastly and perhaps most vainly, it's a little outdated and while I like rustic, I am having a hard time picturing myself getting ready for my wedding in a log cabin with carpet from the 60s... 

    Venue #2:
    - Ceremony & reception site on 170 acres in the woods 
    - 30 minutes from where we live
    - BYOB allowed
    - No food provided (we would select a caterer)

    This option is much less expensive because we can select our own caterer and bring our own alcohol; the ceremony chairs and reception tables/chairs/linens are included in the price of the venue rental. The owners seem friendly and  It's also gorgeous, brand new building and we love the style. BUT - if we selected this venue, we would basically be staying at our house during the wedding weekend, and family/WP would be staying the the hotel downtown, so we wouldn't really all be together. FI's parents are divorced and won't stay in the same house together, so getting a giant VBRO isn't an option in this case -- plus I don't think we want everyone in the same house for everyone's sanity. There would also be additional costs/considerations that are included with the previous option, like the breakfasts. 

    I'm trying to visualize what this weekend looks like in either scenario and somewhat failing. I think either venue will be great, they are both beautiful and obviously the wedding is not about the place, it's about the people. So I guess I am looking for some feedback/guidance on things I might not be considering, or things I am overthinking! 

    Also - do you think it is worth asking or OK to ask the lake lodge if we can tweak the package a bit for more flexibility? 

    Thanks everyone! 
    I'd go with the second option.  Montana is already a DW for the majority of your guests, and guest comfort/convenience is priority.  *A venue that's far away from where 2/3's of your guests will be staying isn't a good idea- don't make them travel twice.*

    Divorced parents or not, sometimes guests like their space, so everyone at different hotels isn't a bad thing.  *Some of your guests may be thinking of it as their trip to Montana, not your wedding weekend.*  Just a different perspective on worrying about everyone not being together the whole time.

    And to the bolded- no matter what venue you go with, it's always worth asking what can be tweaked! Some places are more flexible than others, but it never hurts to ask :) l
    Thanks for the feedback!

    There are quite a few Airbnb/VBRO options near our venue (10-20 min drive), so we are thinking some of our guests will stay there. We're really not sure how many will want to stay in Missoula (1.5 hours away). There is another town with a hotel closer (Bigfork, 1 hour away) and a very small town with a lower-end hotel about 30 minutes away. I'm getting a little hung up on where we recommend our guests to stay as "the" place, but there really are a few options nearby. 

    We know that a lot of our friends will be using our wedding as an excuse for their summer vacation to Montana/Glacier/etc, but to that point, they will probably already be traveling around Montana aside from getting to our wedding venue. We are planning to talk to people once we send out invites and see if enough people (without rental cars) are staying in Missoula to warrant a shuttle. 

    Our idea is that our immediate families and WP at least will want to hang out together the day before and the day of the wedding - kind of a home base that is all ours. But, we're definitely not going to force people to stay there. My FI dad and his extended family may prefer to rent a large house near the venue, and that would work out, too. 


  • SP29 said:
    I would absolutely ask the lake lodge if/what you can tweak. Most venues are willing to give you near whatever you want if you pay for it. Or, ask if you can substitute one thing for another. Things they may not be flexible on are bringing in outside food and alcohol. They may allow your brother to pick some wines and bring those in for you, but I would expect them to charge you for that (many venues have a house wine or buying from a specific vineyard) and not let you bring that wine in yourself.

    My biggest concern for the lake lodge is accommodations for your guests. How far away is the closest hotel? Is there parking on site? Is it a place your guests can easily get cabs? If your guests are having to travel more than 30 mins to get to their hotel, I would reconsider it.

    Even though venue #2 is close to you, you could still choose to stay in a hotel for the night. If you find a good hotel with a room block rate, you and your family could all stay at the same hotel and meet up for breakfast the next morning.

    Our wedding was very all inclusive. We only had the venue for the one day (ceremony and reception), but the price we paid per head included the venue rental, rehearsal time, cocktail hour, dinner, open bar, tables/chairs/linens, microphone and some decor. The only thing we paid for separate was the DJ, photog, cake, candy bar, and programs (and of course things like attire). It worked out really well price-wise for us. It was also a good location- it was on the water but still in the city, so easy access to the highway and several hotels in the area, the closest being 8 mins away. It also had ample parking and guests were allowed to leave their cars overnight, so if guests drove, they could easily call a cab on the way home and pick up their car the next day.

    Mentioned in another comment - there are quite a few Airbnb/VBRO options near our venue (10-20 min drive), so we are thinking some of our guests will stay there. We're really not sure how many will want to stay in Missoula (1.5 hours away). There is another town with a hotel closer (Bigfork, 1 hour away) and a very small town with a lower-end hotel about 30 minutes away. I'm getting a little hung up on where we recommend our guests to stay as "the" place, but there really are a few options nearby. There is also a lot of camping nearby and some of our friends expressed interest in that.

    There is plenty of parking onsite since it's typically operated as a lake lodge in the summer (we would basically be renting the entire place out)

    I doubt cabs would be an option, but depending on how many people end up staying in Missoula, we would arrange a shuttle after the reception. 

    Does that change anything in your mind? 


  • Remember that your guests comfort and convenience is more important than any wedding vision you and your FI may have.  As long as you keep this in mind, you are good.
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    OurWildKingdomernursejei34cowgirl8238
  • Option #2 all the way. Option #1 sounds like a PITA for guest comfort and convenience. It means that they are traveling twice.
    PrettyGirlLost
  • I agree to go with the second option. Family and WP don't have to stay together. Having a block of rooms for guest would be nice but you can't require people to stay there (not saying you were, OP). You need to make it as convenient as possible for guests - I would HATE having to drive 1.5 hours in an area that is unfamiliar to me.
    OurWildKingdomcowgirl8238
  • OP I do feel sympathetic, because in the northwest things tend to be really far apart. I spent some time in Colorado and people felt the same way, like 1.5 hours was "close". But in other areas of the country, this is not so, and as you can see from many of the responses here, many of your guests would feel put out if they had to drive 1.5 hours or take a 1.5 hour shuttle to your wedding. For context, I grew up about 1.5 hours from NYC, and if my family was invited to a wedding or event in NYC (which we often were) we would ALWAYS without hesitation get a hotel in the city.

    I think option 2 is the way to go. Also ditto PPs who say you can absolutely stay in the hotel the night of your wedding, and you can look into one that includes breakfast (chain hotels like marriots and westins tend to be good about this)
    ei34OurWildKingdomSP29cowgirl8238
  • edited February 2017
    I would go with Venue #2. Look, I'm a nature girl who loves camping too. And I'm sure the lake is really beautiful, but Venue #1 is asking a lot of your guests. You're already asking them to spend a lot of money to pay for a trip to Montana...then you'd also be asking them to extend their travels by road tripping to the middle of BFN and sleep in a cabin. 

    And even outside of the location and lodging logistics, it costs more! To me, this is really a no brainer. Save the money, make things easier for your guests and then go somewhere remote or to another pretty lake for your honeymoon.
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  • Honestly, I can't see option #1 going over well with most of your guests.   It's a logistical nightmare, tells guests who aren't into the cabin stay to drive for a huge distance and it forces their hand.   Not a fan.

    Save the cash and have your wedding in a location that makes travel easy for your guests.  If it's not I can tell you that your FI's grand idea of having a ton of people at this place is going to turn into a low turn out. 
    CMGragainSTARMOON44cowgirl8238PrettyGirlLost
  • Thanks for the feedback, all. 

    I really did not expect the overwhelming response of "that's too far for guests to travel" to be the overarching theme.

    We definitely want to get married outside, so being "in" the city is not an option for us. 30 minutes away is really as close as it gets.

    One thing about Option #2 is that there is truly no lodging closer than 30 minutes away.

    Option #1 obviously has the lodging onsite in addition to several options (not only cabins) from 10 minutes away to 1.5 hours away (in the city). But, to several people's points, staying out there would require a car rental. We have confirmed with our family and a few friends that they would like to stay either at the cabins at this venue - we're really not concerned about 'filling up' those spots.

    Things for us to think about! The tough thing is that neither are really slam dunks for us (Venue #2 because it's venue-only, and Venue #1 because of the logistics). There just aren't a ton of options out here unfortunately. 

    Any thoughts on if it would be appropriate to ask guests their thoughts? We've discussed both options with some friends and family who liked the lake venue and seemed unconcerned about the travel distance, but it's admittedly a small sample.

  • Maybe the solution is to change your plans to have a smaller guest list that you could house at the lodge and cabins in order to have the venue you prefer. That may end up being what happens anyway if a large number of guest decline your invitation.
    SP29ernursejInLoveInQueens
  • Who would be paying for the lodging at venue #!?  You?  Or would you be renting the place yourself and collecting rent from your guests?  Just wondering.  I have seen this scenario before and it doesn't go over well.
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  • I think 1-1.5 hours is too far to travel to the venue. Particularly after most of your guests are traveling TO Montana already.

    Cabins 10 mins away are fine- but are there enough for 150 guests?
    OurWildKingdomei34
  • CMGragain said:
    Who would be paying for the lodging at venue #!?  You?  Or would you be renting the place yourself and collecting rent from your guests?  Just wondering.  I have seen this scenario before and it doesn't go over well.
    The venue has the option for us to pay for it or have them pay for and basically subtract $6000 from the package - in the end it comes out to be fairly inexpensive, about $75/night per person. Most of the people staying at the venue will be family members, and then some (or all) of the WP.
  • I want to know more about these 6 cabins and 9 rooms for 45 people. Is that about 5 rooms per cabin? Or is that 1-2 rooms per cabin?

    I'm currently in the wedding party for a similar setup. However, instead of each person or couple having a room and perhaps sharing a bathroom, each cabin is one large room that hosts multiple couples (some on fold-out couches). After learning the details, I declined because I need to be able to go back to a room with a door I can close and be alone after a day of socializing.
    No fold-out couches -- 

    The lodge rooms are for couples/singles (1 room, Queen/King or Full/Twin bed). Maybe some bridesmaids will want to share a room? 

    5 of the cabins are single rooms with King/Queen beds. 2 of the cabins have twins, and 1 of the cabins has a Queen and a twin bed (ideal for my FI's sister, SO, and young son). 

    Because we're not going to be stuffing each room as full as possible (depends on who will be in the rooms), we probably won't get 45 people at the venue, maybe more like 35-40.

    Good point though, I am definitely a person who likes to be able to escape and get away from commotion, so I can appreciate that perspective. 
    LadyCatherineDBSP29
  • CMGragainCMGragain member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    edited February 2017
    CMGragain said:
    Who would be paying for the lodging at venue #!?  You?  Or would you be renting the place yourself and collecting rent from your guests?  Just wondering.  I have seen this scenario before and it doesn't go over well.
    The venue has the option for us to pay for it or have them pay for and basically subtract $6000 from the package - in the end it comes out to be fairly inexpensive, about $75/night per person. Most of the people staying at the venue will be family members, and then some (or all) of the WP.
    If you are requiring guests to stay at the venue, then you must pay for it yourself.  You don't treat family members or members of the wedding party differently from any other guest.   Where would your other 100 guests stay?

    So, let's say I'm a guest, and there is no place for me to stay unless I drive an hour and a half after your wedding is over.  I fly to Montana, rent a car, drive an hour and a half to attend the ceremony and reception and then drive back the same night?  No way would I attend this wedding.  I would also be telling people how horribly rude this couple is not to consider their guests convenience!

    Why not have a nice private ceremony with your family members, followed by a reception?  You could have a party for other friends in town at a later date.  Or, of course, you could select venue #2, which will suit everybody except for your wedding vision..

    httpiimgurcomTCCjW0wjpg
    OurWildKingdomSP29
  • CMGragain said:

    If you are requiring guests to stay at the venue, then you must pay for it yourself.  You don't treat family members or members of the wedding party differently from any other guest.   Where would your other 100 guests stay?

    So, let's say I'm a guest, and there is no place for me to stay unless I drive an hour and a half after your wedding is over.  I fly to Montana, rent a car, drive an hour and a half to attend the ceremony and reception and then drive back the same night?  No way would I attend this wedding.  I would also be telling people how horribly rude this couple is not to consider their guests convenience!

    Why not have a nice private ceremony with your family members, followed by a reception?  You could have a party for other friends in town at a later date.  Or, of course, you could select venue #2, which will suit everybody except for your wedding vision..

    We aren't requiring guests to stay at the venue by any means - but I don't think we will have trouble finding people who will want to stay there. There's a campground adjacent to the venue property and several of our friends have indicated they would want to stay there. 

    There are lodging options nearby (10-15 minutes), including nice VBROs (some of our friends and extended family like these options) and some smaller 'lodge' options. There's just not a Holiday Inn or hotel like that anywhere nearby. I do think there are enough options for all of our guests nearby, but we wouldn't be able to say: "here's a hotel block where everyone will be staying". If we went with option, we'd include all the nearby lodging options on our wedding website. 

    For people who are interested in staying in Missoula at the Holiday Inn, we would also arrange for a shuttle to/from the venue so that they don't have to drive. 

    The private ceremony + reception is an interesting idea - - although in that case I think it disqualifies the lake lodge place because it's pretty expensive for just a ceremony (the package includes 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts, + reception). 

    We do like Venue #2; I think both are good options. I wish there was some perfect combination of the two, closer to town. To @londonlisa 's point - There are a lot of gorgeous venues in Montana, but the majority are near Bozeman (3 hours from us). There really aren't too many venues near Missoula, which we've heard from some of the venue managers themselves.

    @starmoon44 I'm not necessarily writing off that there is a better venue out there, but I'm pretty detailed (spreadsheets of venues! :) ) and we've looked at several already and narrowed it down to these two. If anyone is familiar with the area and has suggestions I'd love to hear them. 




  • ernursej said:
    Thanks for the link - I looked and there were a couple I hadn't seen before, but all are either not the type of venue we want (in the city, museum/hotel/historical hall, etc) or just as far away (1-1.5 hours south) with limited lodging options. 

    I am looking at some different venue options in Big Fork & Whitefish - these options are drive for us (1.5 - 2.5 hours), but there is a closer (smaller) airport that guests could fly into and they have more lodging options closer to the venues there. They wouldn't be flying into 'our city', but the transportation on their end would be much easier because they can get free shuttles to the hotel from the airport there. 

    On our end, it makes it a little more difficult - probably would not be visiting the venue so much if it's 2.5 hours away. Thoughts on a type of venue like that?
  • ernursej said:
    Thanks for the link - I looked and there were a couple I hadn't seen before, but all are either not the type of venue we want (in the city, museum/hotel/historical hall, etc) or just as far away (1-1.5 hours south) with limited lodging options. 

    I am looking at some different venue options in Big Fork & Whitefish - these options are drive for us (1.5 - 2.5 hours), but there is a closer (smaller) airport that guests could fly into and they have more lodging options closer to the venues there. They wouldn't be flying into 'our city', but the transportation on their end would be much easier because they can get free shuttles to the hotel from the airport there. 

    On our end, it makes it a little more difficult - probably would not be visiting the venue so much if it's 2.5 hours away. Thoughts on a type of venue like that?
    We planned our wedding in a city 2.5 hours away from where we live. We took a day trip to look at venues and select one. Then we did one big day trip 8 months later where we did our walk throughs and final meetings. Most of the coordinating was done via email and phone anyway. It was really NBD.
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    kevinandlaura-2cowgirl8238
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