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Planning Tidbit: Must Knows about Private Estates

August 26, 2009

Private Estates are sneaky little devils…they promise privacy, intimacy and even offer a blank slate to create a world that is all your own. But, with that blank slate comes a cost and one you should definitely figure into your budget BEFORE committing to a private estate. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE private homes…They are perfect for the type of events I usually plan and the brides that invite me to be a part of their day. You don’t have to worry about hotel guests crashing your reception or bumping into another bride all dressed in white, on YOUR wedding day. You can usually bring in any type of caterer you like and even save a few dollars on alcohol if you want to bring in your own. For these reasons, they are the perfect match for a lot of couples, but very often, I’m brought onto a wedding for a couple who have already picked their venue. They’ve chosen a popular private estate in Southern California and couldn’t be more excited. Sure, they know they have to bring in the tables, chairs, forks, glasses, etc. but rarely do they know how this can add up. Here are some of the added expenses you may run into while planning your private estate wedding:

~Rentals: Yes, I know they told you about this, but did they tell you that rentals alone can cost from $60 to $100 per person when all is said and done? This includes chairs, tables, linens, forks, knives, dessert plates, bread and butter plates, coffee cups, martini glasses, oh and those super cute double shot glasses that you want to see your desserts displayed in.
~More Rentals: If your private estate will not allow your caterer to cook in the existing kitchen, which 95% of them will not, plan to rent items like convection ovens, heating racks, fryers, prep tables, trash cans and even things like astroturf to protect the floors of the venue and to protect the staff.
~Portable restrooms: I know you hate them, but you need them. Even if you can use the home’s existing restrooms, if the venue recommends adding a portable restroom, or if you are working in a home where you are simple not sure of the plumbing system’s capabilities, then spend the couple hundred dollars it costs to get a portable restroom. Best case scenario, it can be used for the vendors so they don’t have to track through guests and your home during potty breaks. Worst case scenario, it acts as a back up plan if all of the sudden, the homes restrooms can’t handle your crowd. Oh, and if the portable restroom is your only outlet, I would recommend upgrading to a VIP restroom which can rent for $1000 to $2000. They come in on a trailer and look just like the bathroom in your very own home inside, complete with sinks, mirrors, etc.
~Parking: Homes are not designed to park 100 cars. There’s no way around it. Plan to spend a couple hundred to rent a nearby parking lot if street parking is not an option.
~Valet or Shuttles: Well, if the parking lot is not attached to the home, chances are the guests are going to need to get to the venue somehow. Make it easier on them by either offering valet service to take their car to the lot for them, or by shuttling the guests from the lot to the venue. This can run from $750 to $2500 and up depending on how many guests you are trying to transfer.
~Lighting & Generators: Again, most homes aren’t designed to host parties of 200+. They might have track lighting to light pathways, or enough power to run a small sound system, but chances are, they don’t have enough light or power to run the event. I recommend checking the venue out at night to see exactly what type of basic lighting you might need. I’m not talking decorative lighting here…I’m talking the necessary light that will ensure your guests are not eating in the dark. Once you determine the amount of light you need to bring in and the amount of power necessary, check with your band, DJ and caterer to determine how much additional power they need. It is very rare that I get by without a generator at a private home, so do plan for the worst budgetwise, but you never know…if you go super basic on lighting and then just have a DJ, you might be able to get by on the home’s existing power, but if there is any question at all, don’t risk it. There would be nothing worse than all of the power going out just when the dance floor is getting started.
~Lastly, and you’ll rarely here me plug the services of a wedding planner, but if you are going the private estate route, do yourself a favor and get a wedding planner. At minimum, you’ll need one to double and triple check your rental order, power needs, ensure the valet is going smoothly, etc., etc., etc. Don’t put this added stress onto yourself by being bogged down with the logistics.

With all of this said, I don’t want to talk you out of a private estate in any way, shape or form. I L-O-V-E, love them! Some of the most amazing events I have ever planned have been in beautiful courtyards, mansions overlooking the pacific, or even just quaint and historic plantation houses in the Hawaiian Islands. So, while I 100% believe they are worth the extra work, make sure you do your research both on your needs and expenses you will face before signing on the dotted line of your venue contract.

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