Planning a wedding is hard work. I don’t know anyone out there that would disagree with me on that statement. Although, I have to say, I personally loved every second. I have always been someone that thrived in a chaotic environment and loved to plan, so to plan my own wedding truly was thrilling. I was married on September 23, 2018 at the Park Chateau in East Brunswick, New Jersey. It’s almost been two years…which is crazy to think about. After some time, I have thought a lot about what I loved and what I may have done differently in my planning, and I wanted to share them with my Verve tribe.
First of all, let me just say that the Park Chateau is a modern-day Princess Palace. If you live in New Jersey, I am sure you know what I mean. Anyone who fantasizes about a fairy tale wedding, would fall in love with this venue. However, it may shock a lot of you that I myself did not picture myself getting married there in the beginning. One thing I always tell my brides or anyone planning their wedding, is to not rush into selecting a venue. It is so important to make a list of what you envision, and what you will not settle on, because for me, I sometimes feel as though we rushed, and our budget and wedding may have suffered for it. I had always wanted an outdoor tented wedding. My Pinterest boards were filled with images of beautiful venues of great white tents, complete with string lights and a wooden, fold out dance floor. I wanted rustic and elegant, and I wanted to be outside. So, imagine my surprise, even now, that we decided on the Park Chateau.
The reason that we found the Park Chateau, actually was because another venue we were looking at turned out to have tons of hidden fees in their contract that were not known to us until my grandmother went with us to visit. When we met with that venue’s coordinator, we were disheartened to learn of all the hidden “extra” fees that we were not made aware of originally. Over lunch, we all came to realize that we would not be able to get married there, as it was very much over our budget. As a bride with a vision, I was heartbroken. I had envisioned myself and my special day at this place and now it was going to be impossible to secure. It was then that my grandmother suggested that we take a look on our way home at what was formerly known to her as the East Brunswick Chateau, prior to it becoming the Park Chateau. She herself had actually gotten married there, which made it more intriguing. On a whim, we drove right up to the door, knocked, and as luck would have it, there was someone in the building. We explained that we wanted to find out if we could take a tour, but did not have an appointment. To our surprise, she let us know there had been a cancellation and that the coordinator could fit us in.
Now, mind you, I knew that this place was newly renovated and had heard how stunning it was. However, word of mouth and seeing it for yourself are two very, very different things. I was immediately floored by the beauty, the elegance and the bridal suite. The grounds looked like they belonged on the grounds of Versailles. There was even a chapel on site, which made my husband and I very happy, as he had always wanted to be married in a church and I though it a wonderful nod towards our religion. As I walked the halls of this venue and towards the office, I felt immediate dread. Surely, if we could not afford the previous venue, there was absolutely no way that we could swing this.
However, to our surprise, we found that it actually was priced below all of the other venues we had visited– as it was still under renovation. No hidden fees, no extra fee for open bar, just one total price. Not only that, but the Park Chateau has the option to book a Saturday or Sunday afternoon wedding. Now, for those that know me, I am a homebody that is in bed by 10pm. So, the idea of a Sunday brunch/garden wedding really gave me butterflies. It would be different, and it would be affordable & to seal the deal- they had a Sunday left in the month I always thought of, September. We were sold.
There is so much that I loved about this venue, but I also couldn’t help but think about the fact that I had always pictured my wedding differently than this venue, regardless of its beauty. To this day, as beautiful as this venue is and as magical as my wedding was, I still can’t help but think of what other places we might have found, even out of state, that would have been a bit closer to my vision. Which is my first recommendation – don’t rush into choosing a venue. Make appointments everywhere – even the places that you aren’t sure how you could make work. When you find the right one, you will see the image in your head, and you will know you are there. On the other hand, you may find an unexpected treasure that may surprise you and make you rethink your vision.
My second recommendation would be communication. I cannot say enough about the people at the Park Chateau. They truly go above and beyond to make sure that your entire experience is wonderful. I had a coordinator who was good with her emails (rare) and didn’t confuse me with other brides. She remembered my face and my name, and could easily recall what we had spoken about last time. Even the day of, my bridal attendants, the waiters, the maitre’d - everyone was fantastic. My bridal attendants spent an hour (Yes, an HOUR) trying to help me get my twisted necklace off so that I didn’t have to cut it off because it was stuck. This is just who they are. Additionally, the next day when we went to pick up some things from the venue, they already had all of the food from our cocktail hour packed up because we didn’t even have a chance to get to our cocktail hour, because we were taking photos.
Which brings be to my third recommendation – try to do a first look and/or plan your photography timing outwell. I had a very early ceremony- 11:30am to be exact. Which meant that my bridesmaids and I were up and being made up at 6am. My husband and I did not want to do a first look, as we wanted to save the moment for when he saw me walk down the aisle. This was such a special moment to us that we thought there was no way we could ruin it with a first look. We did, however, have a moment where we were back to back behind a column and were allowed to hold hands while we read our letters to each other. But because we did not do a first look, we did not get a chance to get ahead of the pictures, and had to use our entire cocktail hour to get a majority of them. Not only that, but it then trickled into our reception. It saddens me to say that a lot of my guests did not know where we were during our reception, because we were outside taking family photos and couple portraits. I would say that, all in all, my husband and I got to spend about an hour and a half at our actual reception, which is just enough time to sit, eat, hear the toasts and dance for about 20 minutes. AKA – not nearly enough time.
My fourth recommendation would be that I would spend a great deal of time going over your music playlists with your DJ. For the brief time that we actually were in our reception, I can tell you that our DJ did not play enough of the things that we asked him to. Then again, we didn’t really spend enough time describing what we wanted. While the music was okay, it seemed as though it was a reoccurring Frank Sinatra hour,when we wanted our guests to get up and dance. Finally, towards the end of the reception, I was able to tell him to switch up the music, but it was only for the last 45 minutes or so.
Finally, need to mention that you need to soak it in. I tell my brides this all the time. The day is so fleeting that you need to take a step back, sit down and really take in your event that you spent so long planning. Remember the moment as it is, because you will not get a chance to get it back. I did tell myself to do this, but I did not get a chance to do it for nearly enough time, and I do regret that.
Overall, the most important part of planning a wedding is to sit back and contemplate what you and your partner really want. This is an experience that you cannot take for granted, and you won’t get a chance to change after the day arrives. Be true to your heart and what you want, even if it means prolonging setting the date for an additional year to save up for an aspect of it. Don’t settle and don’t rush. This is such a magical experience, so enjoy every moment.
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