The place to start when planning your wedding is selecting THE PLACE. For Chris and I, once we decided that we were going to have a local wedding (near Red Bank, NJ) – we started thinking about the type of venue we wanted. We knew we wanted a waterfront wedding in a relaxing environment. We narrowed down our choices to either the Oyster Point Hotel or one of the many beach clubs on Ocean Avenue.
Once you narrow in on a general location, it’s really important to pick a time frame. We started almost a year in advance of our target wedding date (at the end of Summer 2009) – and I was shocked at how many places were already booked. We ruled out getting married on a holiday weekend as many of our friends and family had told us they had plans during big summer holidays. We focused on weekends near a holiday (so we could take advantage of one built in day off for the honeymoon). Business tends to slow down a bit at the end of August – so that was also a factor.
The Oyster Point is one of the two leading hotels/wedding venues in Red Bank. It is a modern “W-like” environment with a hip, cool lobby lounge and bar. And of course, it has a beautiful view of the Navesink River. The Molly Pitcher Inn (sister hotel to the Oyster Point) is a gorgeous hotel in town and on the river as well. Stylistically – the Molly Pitcher Inn is more traditional though. We prefer a modern sensibility so the Oyster was better for us. Both are elegant and sophisticated – it just depends on your style. I think it is important for the venue to reflect your aesthetic sensibilities.
(photo credit: Megan Conley)
The Oyster Point immediately treated us like royalty. Our contact – Bill Murray – met with us for an initial consultation and has been there every step of the way. During our first meeting, Bill took us on tour of the facility – including the rooms. It was important to us that the hotel rooms were well-appointed and comfortable (especially the beds). There is WIFI throughout the hotel and flat screens in the lobby lounge. And, each room has an iHome alarm clock so you can plug in your iPod or iPhone. That’s important to this digital couple. We also love the fact that The Oyster Point is on Twitter and Facebook!
Bill went over the wedding packages, pricing, and even discussed some of the suggested local vendors who they work with regularly on everything from flowers to music to decor. He is a wedding expert in his own right and has seen it all. He really had a grasp on all the details of planning and understood his venue and menu very well. He also explained all the different budget levels to us. Overall, everything at the Oyster Point was first-class and full-service. Working with them felt comfortable. I knew we were in excellent hands.
Being local has it’s advantages. It was easy for us to visit the Oyster Point for a cocktail or dinner. We’ve had many occasions to enjoy the view throughout the planning process. I could also see us celebrating anniversaries there. A perfect get-away at any time of the year.
August 28th was available so we put a hold on the date. We were pretty much decided on the Oyster Point – but we wanted to check out the beach clubs (for piece of mind). From Sea Bright to Monmouth Beach, NJ (along Ocean Avenue) – there are a myriad of beach clubs that do weddings: including: Merry Makers and Driftwood. As you get further down the Jersey Shore, there are plenty of wedding venues in Long Branch, Asbury Park and even further down in Spring Lake. We thought briefly of those as well but they all felt a little too far away from our target area of Red Bank.
We set up meetings with a few of the beach clubs. An oceanfront reception seemed like a cool idea. As we hoped, the views were amazing. We love the ocean and most places have accommodations in case it rains. Pricing seemed reasonable (although the price quotes were all without tax and gratuity – this is an important thing to take note of as that is a significant cost). For most clubs, the décor didn’t match the sophisticated modern style we were looking for. Everything felt a little too “beachy” for our tastes (and not updated). Size wise, some of the venues we went to weren’t able to accommodate 200 guests (our target). The idea of all that sand getting everywhere was a turn off for me as well. I just didn’t see my guests wanting to put on flip flops all night. There’s no question you can do a classy beach wedding and these places are great as well – just not what we were looking for.
The biggest drawback was the issue of transporting guests to and from the beach club to the hotels. With so many out-of-towners attending our wedding, I felt this would be difficult. While some could drive, we would have to consider mass transportation (which adds another layer of costs).
We did our due diligence and we were very happy with our decision. Things to keep in mind as you’re exploring:
- The food is key. Definitely make sure you do a menu tasting. My philosophy is that the 2 most important things people will remember about your wedding: Food and Music! That’s what counts.
- Ask for references. It’s important to talk to others about their experiences. How were the staff? Were you satisfied? Don’t forget – the venue selection is more than likely the most expensive part of the wedding budget, so do your research on pricing. Best of breed venues will happily provide you with references and detailed pricing packages.
- Be sure to ask about any projects or construction that may be on-going or up-coming. Who wants scaffolding at their wedding venue.
- Make sure you secure a room block (or blocks) as soon as possible. I think it’s a nice thing to offer multiple price points for hotels if possible. But either way – make sure you get people focused on reserving rooms asap.
- Take the path of least resistance. Instead of completely blank palate that we could decorate, we went for a place where the décor was beautiful enough so that you don’t have to bring in a lot additions. When you run the numbers, decorating really adds up.
- Shop around. Make sure you set aside time to look at a few places. This is not one of those things you want to feel regret about in the future. It’s worth an upfront investment. And go with your gut! As with other important things in life – make sure you have a good feeling about the staff. Trust me, you’ll be talking to them a lot.