The Definitive Guide to Planning a Tacoma Wedding
Having planned thousands of weddings in over 40 years in the catering business, we offer this guide to help you plan the wedding of your dreams!
Snuffin’s Catering is the premier caterer for Weddings in Tacoma, WA and has planned thousands of beautiful weddings and receptions. Snuffin’s is a preferred caterer at the most prestigious wedding venues in South Puget Sound. We have the knowledge and experience to help you plan your dream wedding in the Tacoma area!
Let’s get started!
CHOOSING YOUR WEDDING DATE:
Most weddings are planned 9-12 months in advance. In the Pacific Northwest, May through September are the prime wedding months to take advantage of good weather. Saturdays are always booked first, followed by Sundays and Fridays. Your date can become a key choice in venue availability and rental costs. Fridays and weekdays will be less expensive and usually more available.
If you dream of an outdoor wedding, the prime months in the Tacoma area are June, July, August and September. May and October are possible, but iffy! In additional to weather, the amount of daylight will also be a consideration. Check the sunset time of the date you are considering when making final decisions about dates as well as timing of the wedding and reception.
If you have your heart set on a popular venue for a Tacoma wedding, you may need to reserve your date more than 12 months in advance.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR WEDDING VENUE:
What’s your style? Casual or formal? Rustic or elegant? Now you can begin to eliminate venues that don’t fit your personal style. Some venues are more of a blank slate and can be decorated to suit your vision.
Is it large enough for your expected guest count? Room for enough guest tables, a dance floor and serving tables is essential. If the ceremony will be held in the same space, is there enough room for flexibility?
Does it provide tables and chairs, or will they have to be rented? Most indoor venues provide tables and chairs for their expected guest count. Non-traditional sites might require furniture to be brought in. Example: an airplane hangar or museum space. Having a rental company bring in furniture will add to the cost of the venue rental.
Who does the set-up of tables & chairs? It’s a deal if the venue does the set-up and take down! If not, check with your caterer about labor costs for setting and clearing the room. You certainly can have family or friends do the labor as a no cost alternative.
Is there adequate parking? Venues in city centers may require your guests to pay for parking, or park in less desirable locations. On site, free parking is a bonus!
Are you required to use their catering options? Many popular venues have a preferred list of caterers that are familiar with the venue and are proven, experienced vendors. You should check out those caterers before you book the venue to be certain you will find a wedding caterer that’s the right fit for you.
Does the venue make your heart sing? Most important of all! If you can visualize your dream wedding in the venue, your choice will be made!
Be sure to make a personal visit to venues you are considering, if possible. Carefully read the rental contract to be certain of any time restrictions or insurance requirements. Make close note of payment procedures – amount of deposit, payments required, when final payments are due. Some facilities require you to provide additional insurance for your wedding day.Cost can be an important factor in your choice. Tacoma area wedding venue rentals can range from a low of $1600 for a smaller room to $10,000+ for high-profile, specialty venues that accommodate larger groups.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CATERER
Referrals from friends are always a good place to start. Absolutely, check out reviews on major wedding sites such as The Knot and Wedding Wire. Notice which caterers appear on many venue preferred lists – they are the most experienced caterers in your area. Some venues will have preferred caterers, others will have suggestions for caterers that frequently work at their facility.
When researching caterers, ask these questions:
Does the caterer offer a variety of menu and price options? Are they flexible? Can you make changes to their menus or design your own, custom menu? Your wedding day is one of the most important days in your life. You should have the freedom to choose foods that you and your guests will enjoy. The caterer will certainly have suggestions for menu items that will fulfill your wishes, yet be practical to produce with the facilities available at your reception site.
If you or your guests have special dietary needs or allergy restrictions, ask about their ability to provide menu items that will be safe and suitable for your attendees.
Do they offer tastings? Most caterers are eager to have you taste their most popular items and will prepare a complimentary sampling during your initial consultation. Group tastings are often held several times a year and allow you to sample a wide variety of menu options. Ask if there is a charge for group tastings and when they are held.
Can your visit their kitchen? A professional caterer will be proud to show you their kitchen and introduce you to their culinary staff. Notice if the kitchen is clean and well organized. Seeing the kitchen will tell you a great deal about the level of professionalism of a caterer.
What is the caterer’s presentation? Look at photos on their website, Facebook and on-line sites. What is the design of the buffets or plated meals? Do they use interesting and innovative serving pieces with thought to presentation? How are foods garnished for maximum impact?
Do they provide bartenders? Most venues will require a licensed bartender(s) for any alcohol service. Unless your group is very small, it’s advisable to have a trained bartender. Licensed bartenders are required to check ID and monitor consumption. You really don’t want a guest to get out of control and ruin your wedding reception with unruly behavior, or be responsible for someone driving while impaired.
Can you provide your own alcoholic beverages? You will spend a great deal less money for the bar if you are allowed to purchase the beverages rather than pay per drink. Ask if there is a corkage fee and have that fee specified in your contract. Most caterers will be happy to help you with suggestions for amounts to buy to serve your size group. After the reception, you will need to plan for a friend or family member to take home leftover beverages.
Venues such as hotels and restaurants will insist on providing the bar service on a per drink or per guest price.
Does the caterer arrange for rentals of china, linens, flatware and glassware? What about tables, chairs and tenting, if needed? This is one area you do not want to handle yourself! An experienced caterer will arrange for delivery and set-up of any and all rental items you may need. Rental dishes, glasses and flatware need to be scraped and re-packed before being returned to the rental company. Be certain that the catering staff will handle his as part of their services. Delivery, set-up labor and pick-up charges will be included on the rental invoice.
Will you need tenting? Outdoor weddings on private property need to have a back-up plan for poor weather. Some rental venues may need tenting to accommodate your number of guests. Your caterer can handle tenting arrangements for you as well as coordinating other rental needs and delivery/pick-up.
What will event staff wear at your reception? Ask to see photos of their staff in action. They should look neat and crisp and happy to be serving you and your guests. Will they be wearing gloves when preparing and serving food and observing proper sanitation procedures? Do they train their own staff or use temp workers?
Check their contract! For your protection, it is important to have a contract that is clear about financial arrangements and that specifies when payments are to be made. Pay special attention to the cancellation policy, just in case. Along with the contract, you should receive an itemized estimate showing all items you will be paying for.
What happens to any leftover food? Caterers may have differing procedures regarding excess food, depending on their local Health Department regulations. In general, foods that have been out on a buffet (exposed to possible contamination) must be discarded.
Are they licensed for off-premise catering? Health Departments require a separate license for catering at a rented venue or on private property. Caterers with these licenses have the equipment and training to safely transport and serve food outside their kitchens. Most states do not allow catering to be produced in a home kitchen.
Do they have liability insurance and provide workman’s compensation insurance? This protects you if anyone, guest or staff person, is injured while working your event.
The single most important question is one you ask yourself: Does this caterer really listen to me and do I feel confident she will do an exceptional job for me on my wedding day? If the answer is yes – reserve your date right away! (Premium days book up very quickly.) If you have doubts, it would be best to continue looking until you find a caterer you trust with the most important day of your life.
DO YOU NEED A WEDDING PLANNER?
Hiring a Wedding Coordinator will help alleviate a lot of the stress that goes into the details of planning a wedding. When choosing a coordinator, be sure to ask many questions to make you feel comfortable with your decision. It is important that you choose a planner that shares your vision – they are the ones that you are trusting to make sure your big day goes off without a hitch!
While levels of coordination vary, the two main options for wedding coordination are Full Service and Day of Coordination. Both options contribute greatly to the peace of mind for you and your family on the big day.
With Full- Service Coordination for your Tacoma wedding, your planner will manage your wedding from start to finish. Starting with your vision, she/he will assist you with design of the details of the entire day, vendor selection, contact, negotiations and payments, as well as budgets, wedding ceremony rehearsal, timeline of the day, and be present on your wedding day to assure things go according to plan. A full-service coordinator will be very involved in the entire planning process. For the couples that are wanting to be more “hands off” on the details, planning, and stress; this is a great option to consider!
Day-of Coordination will free you and your family from worrying about the details on the wedding day. For “hands-on” couples that want to plan on their own wedding, this option is ideal to ensure that your vision and hard work comes to life! Your coordinator will involve themselves a few weeks prior to the wedding and will be present to guide you and the wedding party down the aisle, attend to details, generate a timeline and layout, and act as “damage control” for any problems that may arise so that you don’t have to worry about anything except getting ready and enjoying your special day!
Remember when deciding which coordinator is best for you, this person will be your right hand during the planning process. When searching for a coordinator, be sure to ask for recommendations from vendors, venues, friends and family members who may have a personal experience with a great planner!
CHOOSING TACOMA WEDDING VENDORS
Again, checking out referrals is a good first step. Particularly, look at suggested vendors on wedding venue sites. Venues frequently list vendors they like and that are very familiar with the features of that venue. Vendors you seen listed on multiple sites will be some of the top vendors in their class. You will want to set up a personal meeting to choose key vendors such as photographers, cake bakeries, etc.
Just like venues and caterers, other wedding professionals fill in their calendars quickly. If you have your heart set on a particular vendor, contact them as early as possible. Check out all contracts to be certain that you know what is (and isn’t) included in the quoted price.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST FOR A WEDDING IN TACOMA?
Weddings are like buying a car – it always ends up costing more than you think! Wedding planning sites and bridal magazines have forms that will guide you in setting a budget, as can your wedding planner.
Sit down with your partner and any family that will be helping with costs. When setting your budget, start with the two largest expenses: the cost of the venue and reception catering costs. These will be your first commitments and will affect costs for other aspects of your wedding. Your choice of venue (and its cost) depends on how many guests you expect. Food and beverage costs will also be driven by guest count.
When setting your budget, remember to consider gratuities for vendors. Limo drivers will definitely expect a gratuity in addition to the contract fee. Other vendors may include a gratuity in your final invoice or it may be left to your discretion. The best way is to simply ask what the expectations are for that vendor.
What about Do-It-Yourself? Be wary of taking on too much for yourself or your family, especially items that have to be done last minute. Do you really want your Mother to be frantically finishing flower arrangements instead of relaxing with you and your attendants?
Do you really want the stress of making your own cake? Then having to take it to the reception and set it up? Really?
Projects that can be done ahead such as guest favors are more practical. Handmade favors are also a sweet way to personalize your wedding.
My most important piece of advice is this: decide what’s most important to you about your wedding and reception, then allow enough in your budget to accomplish that dream. Make less costly choices on items that are not as important to you. As example, if you really don’t like cake, have a non-traditional dessert at a lower cost. Flowers? Choose flowers that are in season and readily available.
About the Author: Sharon Snuffin is the owner of Snuffin’s Catering in the Tacoma area of Washington State. Snuffin’s
has planned thousands of beautiful weddings and is a preferred caterer at the most prestigious wedding venues in South Puget Sound. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Menu and pricing information are available at www.snuffins.com.