We had a total of three vendors for our wedding: the cupcake shop, the photographer, and our venue. While I’ll wait until the end to review the other two, I wanted to get the venue review out of the way, clear the air so to speak, before we get into recapping the wedding itself. Both to avoid ending on a negative note and to state the issues we faced so that it doesn’t seem like I’m harping in the venue every. damn. post.
Honey Lake Plantation is a beautiful venue, and that alone may be enough to ignore all the rest. But in my opinion, they have a ways to come before they round out the management and communication issues that were the root of the negatives we experienced.
Take, for instance, 6 months prior to the wedding: I emailed our DoC, an HLP employee, and had my email bounce-back. I tried the main weddings@ address from their website, and that bounced-back as well! Then it took a couple days of calling and leaving messages before I finally found out that the planner we’d signed with the previous year had opted not to return from medical leave. Which, hey, more power to her, but the venue could have made a point to contact her clients so we wouldn’t have this momentary panic when it was time to schedule our first planning meeting.
Of course, what we didn’t know at the time was that no one had a way to access the previous planners emails. We found that out while in the meeting with the new planner, Stephanie, who had nothing to work from other than the 2 page contract–not even the proposal that contract was based on.
But the real chaos started 4 days before the wedding. We’d done our one-week-out planning session over the phone as Stephanie was still on maternity leave (only to have her head to the office, anyway, but leave my file at home) to go over the day’s schedule and all. The Tuesday before the wedding I’d emailed her to add one thing to the schedule and ask at what time the decision would be made to use the rain plan, as the forecast was still pretty iffy for the wedding day. Her reply didn’t actually answer my question, but it did offer these three tidbits of information:
- Our rain plan cocktail location had been changed from the White Ballroom to the Lakeside Pavilion, on the other side of the property! Now, that’s rather unfortunate, especially for the timeline, but there wasn’t much we could do about it since…
- The other wedding scheduled that day? It was at the same time as ours and they had the run of the inside of the Gathering Hall, while our event was 2/3 outside of it. Now, this really pissed me off because we were assured that while there might be another event that day, it wouldÂ not be at the same time. And the fact that their ceremony was taking place inside the church (our guaranteed-by-paying-a-higher-rental-fee back-up in case of bad weather) meant that the other guests would have to walk clear around our event and enter through the side or rear of the Gathering Hall–not exactly great for them, either.Â But that was almost small potatoes compared to the little bomb she dropped on me next!
- Chef Bill had left. The chef we’d worked so carefully with to ensure the meal would accommodate my food intolerances without sacrificing the enjoyment of our guests was gone and it was iffy on whether he’d left any notes about our menu or not. While I was urged repeatedly not to panic (seriously?!), it was pretty much a clutch-your-pearls anxiety session for that first afternoon. Three calls from the DoC later and I’d found a ‘whatever happens, happens’ attitude from somewhere and continued on.
The wedding itself was everything we needed it to be, but not without some trying moments courtesy of the venue’s staff. No one gave any thought to making sure the tables outside were level before setting glassware on them. Only to have them fall off and break (twice!) before they realized gravity and slope were not on their side and fixed the issue. There was a communication issue with the transportation that was supposed to bring us to the pre-cermony Cocktail Hour, the planning I did to ensure the music cues were correctly timed were all for naught, and we ended up being rushed to start the ceremonyÂ so early that I think my best friend (who couldn’t make it to cocktail hour) might have actually missed most of it.
As for the reception, having two weddings going on at the same time stretched their staff too thin and there were considerable gaps between courses, not to mention some strange inability to divide the quiches into 24 equal portions–one half of the room received generous slices while the other half received only half as much (this was something pointed out by Mama Leadfoot, so yes: the guests noticed). And it was just was well one of the things I decided not to do that final week was print menus: they wouldn’t have matched what was served, anyway! And the room set-up, while what we’d agreed upon, left barely enough room for our guests to side on either side of the ‘U’, much less move around comfortably; had they set-up the tables when I originally asked if there’d be enough space or even done a to-scale diagram, I think the issue would have been caught and we could have made for a longer, more narrow U-shape and given everyone more room both behind as well as to either side of each place.
In the end, the planner offered to comp the beer service (i.e. the only thing we hadn’t pre-paid) to try to make up for the multitude of event sins that had been committed. Then we came back from the honeymoon to find they’d billed me for an extra night’s lodging, claiming that someone else’s room had been attached to my reservation. It took 3 calls over almost a week to get them to finally reverse the erroneous charge.
Was our wedding a blast? Yes–because of the people we shared it with, not necessarily the actions of the venue. Is it a great location with a ton of potential? Absolutely. Would I recommend them to other North Florida brides? Only with caution. (Or, as the lovely Mrs. Turkey would put it: Recommend with Reservations) I can only hope they learned that they areÂ not ready to take on two weddings in such close proximity at the same time and that they’ll be more cautious with their bookings in the future. A lot of the frustration we felt could have been alleviated with better systems in place on the managerial side to ensure consistency regardless of any staffing changes and a more thorough vetting of their own theories as to how their event spaces work.
And with that Â now out of the way, the Road Trip recaps can finally begin!