What to Look for When Booking a Unique Venue by Bob Tomasso

Advice From Pros and Brides

Unique Venue with Bob Tomasso

Bob has over 30 years’ experience in the Hospitality industry that includes restaurant, catering, hotel, and club management; Consulting on restaurant design, event management, operations and contract services in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington DC, and Chicago. He is a Philadelphia native who understands the needs of a broad range of event planners and is currently project director of the Phoenixville Foundry for the Hankin Group of Chester County.

Bob has over 30 years’ experience in the Hospitality industry that includes restaurant, catering, hotel, and club management; Consulting on restaurant design, event management, operations and contract services in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington DC, and Chicago. He is a Philadelphia native who understands the needs of a broad range of event planners and is currently project director of the Phoenixville Foundry for the Hankin Group of Chester County.

On December 29, 2006 The Hankin Group acquired the Phoenixville Foundry property, listed in the National register in 1987 as a contributing structure in the Phoenixville Historic District. The Phoenixville Foundry project is a key to the revitalization of the former steel town. The adaptive reuse of the old building in many ways is serving to bring the town back to life. The Foundry serves as a flexible facility that accommodates a variety of events from formal weddings to corporate conferences to live performances and exhibit space. The Industrial character of the Richardson-Romanesque style building has been improved to provide a sense of sophistication and elegance that is necessary to produce weddings and other formal affairs. Bob has been active in a variety of professional organizations; he served as Chapter President-elect for ISES, International Special Events Society, long time member of NACE, National Association of Catering Executives, PAMPI, Philadelphia Area Meeting Professionals International, and SWP, Society of Wedding Planners. Additionally, he sits on the board of a local non-profit organization. Bob resides in suburban Philadelphia with his wife of 35 years, Loretta; they have three children, & have been blessed with two granddaughters recently.

What to look for when booking a unique venue

I have taken a dual approach to this topic; one perspective from a soon-to-be bride that I asked to share her thoughts, and my own as a facility director of a unique venue.

Phoenixville Foundry is a unique venue that offers couples a blank canvas to paint as they wish. The intent is to realize the vision of the couple and explore creative possibilities to achieve their dream.

From a Brides perspective

-Determine what is unique to you:

Something is unique when it is out of the ordinary, not run of the mill or overdone. But what is unique to you? Is the location on a vineyard unique, the venues past life as a steel mill, are the features of an old theater specific to you and your cinematographer fiancé? Identify characteristics of a venue that stand out to you unlike your typical country club or banquet facility. Location, lighting, architecture, décor and furnishings can all contribute to the overall feeling of a venue and will enhance or detract from the uniqueness. Make sure that the venue and your theme work together not against each other. Choose a location that incorporates antique china as décor for your vintage English wedding or a vineyard for a wine theme.

-Find out whether the uniqueness of the venue will limit your vision.

If choosing a secluded old farmhouse means you can only invite 25 of your 250 person guest list maybe this unique venue isn’t right for you. Determine the criteria that will make or break a venue for you like modern amenities, upkeep of the space, accessibility and seasonal availability. When creating your list of venue must haves, consider your guests’ needs as well as your own including elevators, a bridal suite and ample bathrooms.

-Location

As old becomes new again, many buildings once featured in small town America as industrial fixtures are being revamped into state of the art event venues complete with flexible tech systems, romantic lighting and stunning architectural elements. Choose a unique venue that is both tucked away yet still accessible for all guests. Keep in mind things like elevators for older guests if there are multiple floors or cramped spaces which can make navigating a wheel chair difficult. Is there a hotel nearby? Can you access it year round?

-Photo ops

The lasting memories you create on your big day will forever be captured in the pages of your wedding album. So make sure the background is something you want to look at for a long time. Does your venue maintain the landscape? Are there focal points for photo ops? Does the standard photo area enable you to fit your whole family or is Aunt Sue going to have to sit this one out? Unique venues should come with unique features to enhance your photos. Choose a location with character that will enhance and not detract from your look. Going for a Gatsby themed affair? Choose an estate with well-kept gardens and scenic terraces. Want a more modern industrial flare? Look for renovated foundries or mills with exposed beams and old (but well maintained!) machinery. Make sure that you ask about where photos are typically taken at the venue and check with your photographer to ensure they are familiar with the setting enough to quickly and easily maneuver you around the property to get you through the photo session and on to the party.

From a Facility Director’s perspective

Does the venue offer event coordination?

Unless you have a wedding planner, this can be a daunting process in a unique facility; however, some standard event protocols that may be provided by the venue include consulting on all creative aspects of planning the event, coordination of all logistics, formation of event timeline, and production of CAD plans for the site in consultation with you and your selected caterer, as well as on-site management during your event.

Flexibility of the space

Is the space large and flexible enough to offer indoor options for the ceremony and reception in the event that an outdoor plan must be relocated due to inclement weather? Will they allow you to add your personal touches for escort cards, center pieces, and other design pieces?

Insurance

Do the vendors have a proven history of handling complex off-premises events, understand the dynamics of the specific venue and carry the necessary insurance and licensing.

Kitchen

Does the venue offer a fully equipped kitchen or is the caterer required to rent ovens, etc. in a remote location that may increase costs to you? Parking Does the venue offer secure parking, do they have attendants, and do they offer an optional valet service?

Sound / Light

Does the venue have a sound system capable of supporting sound throughout the facility for the speeches/toasts, can they control lighting levels?

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