A true story about one family’s disaster wedding on their property and why free or cheap wedding venues in Northern California are not the best value for you.
Recently, I watched a wedding video where the couple used a “free” wedding venue. It was on the grandparent’s property, and it looked like a great wedding day. But I started to wonder how much it cost to convert the grandparent’s property into a wedding venue for a single day.
In talking to the family, I found out that the grandparents wanted the day to be spectacular for their granddaughter and began fixing up the property a year in advance. They wanted everything to be perfect for the summer wedding and spent countless hours manicuring everything each month and paid a landscaper to do what they could not.
The rental company delivered all of the rented furniture, decor, and other items for 150 guests the day before the wedding. Multiple large delivery trucks arrived with all the workers to set everything up and the bride tribe arrived to direct all the activities to get everything in the right place. The bride was crying and stressed the day before her wedding as countless issues arose and they had to make on the spot changes to her wedding day vision.
Click here to read why we want you to have a wedding planner to take care of you >> (5 min read)
The bride tribe was completely rushed because they only had a few hours before the wedding party arrived for the rehearsal dinner. Things felt tense, rushed, and there was anxiety lingering in the air. Because the bride chose to forgo a wedding planner and have her best friend help her plan her wedding, they didn’t have the experience to handle the countless issues and last-minute changes.
After the grandparents had a second to think about it, they decided not to allow 150 guests into their house to use the bathroom. So, they ordered “luxury restroom trailers” at the last minute. Unfortunately, they arrived late in the day and the family had to coordinate moving other vehicles around for hours to get the bathrooms into place.
On the day of the wedding, the bride tribe arrived early to get their hair and makeup done. While doing their hair and makeup, a bridesmaid dropped a curling iron on the carpet, creating a significant burn, but no one admitted the damage to the grandparents which caused them tremendous grief as the carpet was original to the house.
The best man arrived a little later than expected with borrowed chairs and tables. He enlisted some of the other friends to haul all of the tables and chairs, which took several trips and set them back even further on their timeline.
As they set up the tables and chairs, they all soon realized that the backyard wasn’t as large as it appeared when empty, and the tables had to be set up very tightly to accommodate all of the guests. Even more tables were brought in for the buffet, bar, gift table, guest book table, heard table, dessert table, and DJ table. By the time it was all set up, it was borderline claustrophobic.
Grandpa had made a beautiful wedding arbor, and Aunt Mary, who had taken a night class, decorated it with flowers, made the boutonnieres and bouquets.
With over 100 guest and vendor vehicles, parking was a bit tight but everyone found a spot. Not all the neighbors were happy about the invasion. Some called the County to complain, but fortunately, Grandpa had obtained the needed permits.
Guests arrived to find an open bar, free choice beverages (beer in a large tub with ice) and made themselves at home. As everything was running a little late, they had plenty of time to catch up with the groomsmen who had been taking advantage of the free beer during the morning prep and were all intoxicated.
Click here to read about our alcohol recommendations for your wedding day >> (5 min read)
The ceremony went off without a hitch. The bride was beautiful, the music was timed just right, and the karaoke system provided enough volume that the guests could hear. The father of the bride served as the Officiant after obtaining his registration from an online company.
Wedding photos followed the ceremony, bride and groom, bride’s family, groom’s family, friends, bridesmaids, groomsmen, etc. It was a little unorganized without a wedding planner there to direct everyone, but it worked. The delay in having to round up the people for the photos just meant the guests had an extra long cocktail hour, so many of the guests were intoxicated.
To save some money, a personal friend that does BBQs was hired to cook. He used the kitchen in the home for meal preparation and it was tight, but he was able to put the meal together. Unfortunately, he used the same cutting board for the raw and cooked chicken. At least that’s where they think all the guest’s upset stomachs came from.
The DJ was a friend that played at some parties. He had his equipment and a bit of experience, but none with weddings. Thinking he was the star of the show, he talked a lot, sung into the microphone with his favorite songs, and played the music he liked. Maybe that’s why a lot of the older family members left early.
The party lasted until the sheriff arrived. Neighbors had complained about the noise, and the Deputy reminded Grandpa that the permit said the music stopped at 10 pm. After the warning, the Deputy left with the assurance that everything would end.
But recall the beer being freely available This was when they figured out that was a mistake. There were red solo cups all over the neighborhood, as guests were drinking on the way back to their cars. Hooting, hollering, and littering as they walked. The neighbors noticed.
Click Here to Read What You Need to Know About Serving Alcohol at Your Wedding (<5 Min Read)
This is about the time the two Sheriff’s patrol cars arrived – this time with lights that were flashing. The four Deputies weren’t nearly as lovely as they had been earlier in the evening. One groomsman got mouthy with a Deputy and almost got hauled to jail to sleep off his public intoxication. After making it understood, the Deputies left the area. But as a couple of guests found out, they stationed themselves a couple of blocks away, just in case anyone was naive enough to drive under the influence.
It was the next morning when everyone heard about the wreck. It was terrible, and people in the car and the one they hit were injured. Grandpa called his Home Owners Insurance company only to find out that he wasn’t covered. When his insurance agent heard that beer was available in unlimited quantities, not being served by a licensed bartender, he advised Grandpa not to speak with anyone until he talked to an attorney. He explained the “Reasonable Person” Standard in the law – that it’s a standard created to provide the courts with an objective test that’s used when deciding whether a person’s actions constitute negligence. He again told Grandpa to call his attorney.
Grandpa argued that he didn’t provide the beer and found out that made little difference. It highlighted that the couple provided most of the beer (they allowed friends also to contribute) and didn’t buy any wedding event insurance. Attorneys are now questioning everyone that provided alcohol to the party. Likely they’ll want everyone to pay – you see, the person the drunk guest hit – died.
This wedding example was made up of instances that have happened to people trying to have a cheap wedding. Tring to find a wedding location that’s “free.” These, and many more, disasters have occurred before, during, and after weddings. Trying to save money by having it at an unlicensed wedding venue without proper wedding venue insurance may turn out fine, but it may not. Saving money by not hiring wedding industry professionals to help guide you through the maze may also work. But there are these disasters and many more that have occurred in couples trying to save money. Oh, and a few of the other disasters we didn’t mention earlier?
- Many of the borrowed tables and chairs broke. One of the chairs broke and injured Aunt Ruth. Another chair sunk into a gopher hole and cause injury to a guest.
- A fight broke out between two drunk wedding guests which caused quite a commotion, and the party had no security guards.
- The power system on the property couldn’t take all of the lights, DJ, and sound, so it kept tripping off and the PGE power safety shut-off occurred.
- The wedding cake cutting didn’t happen, because it had already been cut by an unknown guest. Whoops!
My advice? Hold your wedding at any number of wedding venues Northern California that are licensed and insured using professional wedding vendors to provide services. Let your wedding planner know your budget and follow their guidance. Saving money may mean a smaller guest count, but that’s better than some of the alternatives we mentioned above. And it may end up costing you more in the long run…just like grandpas family. No, it does not 100% guarantee that a snafu won’t arise, but it makes for a lot less stressful day. – John Alden, Owner, Mountain House Estate