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Full-Service Venues vs. Off-site Weddings | Interview with Katie Ryan of Katie Ryan Events | Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Today on the podcast, Katie Ryan of Katie Ryan Events is back on the mic to discuss the differences between hosting your wedding at a full-service venue and having an off-site wedding. Whether it is a tented wedding on private property or an unconventional wedding venue that does not have built-in accommodations, there are so many more details and logistics to coordinate the perfect wedding day. It can be daunting, but it is absolutely doable! So whether you are considering your venue options or planning an off-site wedding, this episode will be a lifesaver! Let Katie and Sara help you navigate whether planning an off-site wedding is the right decision for you with these tips and tricks! 

Tips for full-service venues vs. off-site weddings with Katie Ryan of Katie Ryan Events on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! podcast

Katie was one of our first guests on this podcast when it was in the very beginning infant stages. And we’re so happy that you’re back. Can you tell our listeners about yourself?

I’m Katie and I’m now the owner of Katie Ryan Events, which is new. The last time I was on, I was co-owner of Lila Ryan Events. I’m still a wedding and event planner based in Newport, Rhode Island. During the pandemic, I had women reach out to me from all over and I realized that I wanted to offer something to help with planning, no matter the budget or location. I wanted to get creative and find ways to help them. So, I started Katie Ryan Events – I’m still in the process of branding it and working out my packages, but I’m excited to help guide more couples through this process! 

So, speaking of the pandemic – what are your thoughts now? The pandemic helped people think or want to do things differently. 

Well, I think there’s some positive things that came out of COVID. I think it took us a little while to really think that way, because it turned our world upside down. We all had to pivot and change among all the restrictions. But now I think brides and grooms are more focused on love and family and the closeness of a wedding day – not just the big party. I think the mindset of having a wedding and celebration has changed a bit. 

Absolutely. I think that ties into what we’re talking about today. So many couples are choosing different venues and smaller celebrations, still. Let’s talk about some of those new venue options. What’s the difference between private homes and full venues? 

Let’s start off with the fact that when you’re looking at venues, you have the building and the structure. When you’re at a private home and thinking of doing a backyard wedding, you have to bring in a tent, and think of all of the rain backup plans. Venues usually have a rain plan in place. 

Basically, from what I’m thinking, the best way of saying it is that a venue has  the structure and you have your options, whereas with a private home, it’s like a blank slate. And you have to just create everything. 

Tell us a little bit about the difference of on site versus off site locations for wedding days!

Well, with venues, you’re typically signing a contract that the venue’s going to provide you with food and beverage minimums, but a private home wouldn’t have that. 

That’s interesting – I would have assumed the caterer would come with a minimum. 

No, the caterer doesn’t have a minimum. So it’s actually based on the guest count and your choices. Their “minimum” is really just about how much food they need. 

Okay, so right off the bat, you’re working with a completely different budget structure, correct?

Yes. I don’t want to say one is less than the other because, obviously, that’s up to the couples and your preferences. But, it can get pricey up here in New England. When you’re booking a venue, you’re setting a timeframe – 5 hours or whatever. You’ve got a liquor license until maybe 1am, but you could always extend your venue time if you wanted – based on your agreements. At a private home, you have an unlimited timeframe but you have to be more mindful of sound ordinances or whatever. 

Tips for full-service venues vs. off-site weddings with Katie Ryan of Katie Ryan Events on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! podcast

That makes sense. So you’re constricted with the geographic area of what the laws and the rules are for your location. 

Yep. So caterers that you would have to have on site for a private home event, they only have a five hour serving license, so that can’t be extended. So, you can maybe extend the entertainment until when the town says you couldn’t, but you can’t keep serving alcohol. Sometimes we can find ways to extend things without hurting anyones licenses or agreements but it takes some work. 

You literally took the words out of my mouth: that’s why working with an event coordinator can help you! What else should couples think about?

Location! Typically there’s hotels nearby popular venues, but that might not be the case with a private property. You’re going to run into the challenge of room blocking and transporting guests. So I think,  something to consider when you’re thinking of a private home versus the venue, is which hotels are nearby? How long will your guests’ trip be? Because, we don’t want guests being on a bus or trolley for an hour to get to your private venue. It can be done but we want your day to be smooth and enjoyable for everyone. 

Tips for full-service venues vs. off-site weddings with Katie Ryan of Katie Ryan Events on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! podcast

Can you talk to me a little bit about the logistics and the differences of having your event at a venue versus a private home?

Logistics are like night and day. At venues, you have everything on site for you. Honestly, there’s two types of venues – onsite and offsite. Some venues have everything you need – culinary team, tables and chairs, linens… which I consider onsite. Then you have offsite, where you’re bringing your caterer in and all of your rentals.  Everything but the building is coming in from offsite. Finally, with private homes – you’re starting with a blank slate. You have to plan for everything. Like for a tent, someone has to come check where you’re going to place it for piping in the yard. You have to have rentals for everything – chairs, linens, glassware, bars, lounges, transportation, restrooms possibly. 

All of that stuff also comes with more load in and load out times. For private properties, there’s just so much that has to be moved in (and out). Like, if you’re getting married on a Saturday, your tent needs to be up on Thursday and someone has to be out there making sure it’s in the right spot. As an event coordinator, it’s important for me to be onsite during vendor loadings. It’s respectful to the property but also for my couples’ peace of mind. It’s typically a 2-3 day process, whereas at a venue, it’s all happening the day of or within a day. 

Tips for full-service venues vs. off-site weddings with Katie Ryan of Katie Ryan Events on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! podcast

That might feel overwhelming to someone listening! Venues are nice because you can just show up but with a private home, you have to manage all of this. But, you get a blank slate to do what you want. 

That’s why planners can help. When I first walk on a property, I can see what will work best for the flow of the event – and what won’t. We’re creating a venue at a private home, we have to think through all of the steps. I think that’s why you need professionals on site to make sure it’s perfect – whether you’re at a venue or a private home. Having a planner on site that is walking with you and knows the best option for you and your guests and what the experience will be is important.

Most of the venues have an event or venue coordinator that’s been trained on these questions. You don’t have to have a coordinator necessarily, but it can still be super helpful. 

There’s an expense to hiring a coordinator, but they can save you money in a lot of ways, too. Our goal is to listen to the couple and understand their vision. But, I’m also a stickler: it doesn’t matter if they say they have an unlimited budget. I’m focused on numbers and we want to find the perfect vendors for them. If I talk with a couple, and I know what’s important to them, and we have unlimited resources and contacts, that I would be able to provide them perfect fits for them within their budget. That doesn’t mean that they’re getting less of a product or less of a service, it means it’s a perfect fit. It’s exactly the photographer’s style that you like. 

So I think having a planner be involved with the booking of the vendors and being on site doing walkthroughs to make them feel comfortable. Ultimately end up paying for our costs. No matter what package you choose.

Looking at the logistics of a private off site wedding, I think it’s very important to have a coordinator with you. There’s too many things that the venue takes care of – that’s what you’re paying them for. When you’re coordinating stuff offsite, you need someone who’s going to think carefully about all of the details and you want it to be executed flawlessly.  

Tips for full-service venues vs. off-site weddings with Katie Ryan of Katie Ryan Events on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! podcast

An event coordinator is going to work differently at those locations, right? 

My role is different, but it still doesn’t change the fact that we attend meetings that the event coordinators or event specialists at venues do. We create vision boards and timelines. We’re there making sure that all vendors are communicating with each other, which is really important to make a less stressful day. 

I think it’s also important to think about what you are trying to achieve. What do you want responsibility for? What do you want to outsource? So what I mean by that is if you’re planning a venue wedding, what are you going to do for yourself? What do you need help with? For me, I’m in the industry and I planned my vendors. But I knew I’d need help with lad in. I needed help with the logistics and execution. As soon as my event started, I didn’t want to think about anything  and my coordinator handled everything. 

Tips for full-service venues vs. off-site weddings with Katie Ryan of Katie Ryan Events on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! podcast

If you decide having an off-site wedding is for you, where do you start?

I strongly feel that you should call a wedding planner that’s in your area. No matter where you’re getting married, I think calling and talking to a few wedding planners is a good first step. Get as much information as you can before you make a decision. When I get on the phone with a couple who’s looking at an off-site wedding, I look on Google maps and begin to think about where things will need to go, slopes of the hill, and all those types of things! 

Then after, I send a call with packages and any more in depth notes we need. With private homes, you have a lot that goes into it – electricians, tents, panels, and so much more. So, all joking aside, call different planners and get their thoughts. 

Wrap-Up Question

What are some key points that couples should be considering when having an off site wedding at a private location to ensure that their wedding day is a perfect event?

Absolutely thinking about the property layout and the logistics aspect of the load in and load out. 

Consider all of the vendors and items that have to be brought into your property and what that entails. 

Hiring an event planner to execute and to walk you through your wedding to make sure it’s perfect. 

Tips for full-service venues vs. off-site weddings with Katie Ryan of Katie Ryan Events on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! podcast

What We Discussed

Meet Katie (2:04)

Differences between venues and private properties (19:25)

Logistics of private homes (24:19)

Budget of wedding planners (39:03)

Wrap-Up Question (53:19)

Links Mentioned in the Episode

Find Katie Ryan Events at Website | Instagram | Pinterest

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