it's now or never!
I had a draft that i wrote since Feb 2012 about choosing the wedding dinner venue!!! I am restarting it here, the actual pricing info might be outdated but hopefully it may still be useful to BTBs when considering venues.
For memory sake I will just start with a little story.
We both knew we would get married on June 29, 2013.
6 months into the relationship, he 'proposed' the timeline that we would get engaged in our 2nd year and then get married in our 3rd year. I was very touched he showed such early commitment and to me that was as good as an unofficial proposal without the actual "Will you marry me?" question. And so the 3 year plan was a goal that we were working towards. We started a joint account in Jan 2011 and were saving up, but we didn't really knew the market rates for the vendors. Then I chanced upon a heart-shaped diamond ring in Oct 2011 in The New Paper, and it was love-at-first-sight. We checked it out at Love&Co, Vivo City and decided to buy that ring, it was a little impulsive and definitely very early, but I think we thought that it is never too early since we already had a definite date in mind, plus the ring would take a couple of months to be ready. I am very happy that I chose my own engagement ring, because the usual solitaire doesn't satisfy me! (As usual I don't like to have something that most other people have)
In January 2012, I started doing plenty of research to check and compare vendor rates so we could have a budget to work with. Before I knew it, we were receeing hotels in March 2012. It was early, but we wanted to find the dream venue for the dream date before we regret letting someone else book it. We found a place we both liked and made the booking in April 2012 (Crowne Plaza Hotel) as they had a wedding show and we found no reason to decline the package offered since our date was fixed. We also booked our photographer and videographer whom we met at another wedding show, and whose portfolio we love. So all these happened before he proposed. It may seem like I was crazy, but I was quite happy to decide on these vendors so early in the planning, and I think it actually helped as we didn't have to scramble around looking for these vendors after the actual proposal. Saved lots of headache as after the proposal happened, I was able to get right down to business, having already sorted out the major vendors.
Then our 2nd anniversary in June 2012 came and went, but he didn't propose. Of course that would be too cliche and unsurprising to propose on the anniversary day, but I wondered when it would happen. All other planning like gown trying was then put on hold because I felt he need to propose first!! And everyone who knew I am getting married often asked me to tell them about the proposal or show them the ring, which made it kind of awkward for me, as I had to explain I was planning my wedding without being officially engaged and with the ring.
It became a bit of a "arghhhh why is he making me wait soooo long?" grudge and as and when I will ask him whether he was going to propose, and when. This made it more difficult for him to surprise me as I didn't let down my guard. Then all the dates like his birthday, my birthday passed, and I was left thinking "what the hell" again. Many times I felt quite sad and pressured because I really wanted to restart the planning process proper but I felt like "No, I don't want to try on a gown without being officially engaged".
Well it turned out he wanted to propose in August, and then Nov, but both times I somehow 'spoilt' the plan by bringing work home, or being moody so he had to postpone. And the flowers he prepared had to be thrown away. :(
So finally the proposal happened on Dec 21 (there will be a cartoon love story on the wedding that depicts how it happened), and even though I still wish it could have happened earlier, I understand that it actually turned out for the better because by then I had already let my guard down (adopting a zen approach of "if it happens, it happens") and was truly taken aback by surprise. :) (Thanks again baby for making me wait so long!!)
Also the good thing about the way things happened is that I wouldn't be pressured to say Yes when he proposed, because I have had plenty of time to think through this decision and commitment. I do wish we had videos or better photographs of that special moment, but yet I am thankful that it was just the 2 of us, because that after-moment really feels alot alot more special than if friends were around to help record it. A moment to remember, literally.
Ok, so let's move on to the planning process and info
We looked at mostly banquets that require a low minimum of 20 tables for weekends because we thought we had very little people to invite (wrong! we almost bursted the maximum at one point). So if anyone is also planning a small banquet, I hope these would be helpful as a start. (Warning: do buffer at least 5 tables than what you think you have in the guest list)
Here are the hotels we've visited in alphabetical order -
*price per table is an estimate based on 2012-mid 2013 packages.
Coordinator: Violette was professional and warm. She treated us to tea and gave us complimentary parking.
Ballroom: Quite spacious for 25 tables, long march-in, carpet is kind of unique with words all over, beautiful fibre-optic ceiling panels that makes it look like stars, but can also be a little empty/plain if you don't have much decor, low ceiling. Prettier than in photos.
Perks: Gave us a few good perks without us asking. eg: waiver of corkage for unlimited bottles of wine that we bring in, free usage of soleminzation room, helper's room etc)
Others: Option to do a poolside soleminzation at $600++ extra. Near Tanjong Pagar MRT, convenient for guests.
Didn't like: Amara hotel is 4-stars only and doesn't feel as new/grand as the other hotels. There's renovation going on now to link the hotel to a new mall beside it. Dusty and noisy when we visited. [Update: the new 10am mall is up and pretty convenient now!!)
The way leading to the ballroom was quite indirect, guests may need to ask for directions. You may also have to share the recep area with others who are having functions in the other rooms, and the main ballroom door seemed more like a side door instead (at a corner).
Per table: $928++ for weekends
Worth checking Amara Hotel out for the pretty & spacious ballroom and affordable price.
Coordinator: Feel that Joanna was abit disorganised and appeared to be in a rush. Although friendly but not really someone we feel we could trust to manage our expectations. No drinks provided but she did direct us to her staff to get free parking ticket from the recep.
Ballroom: Empress Ballroom 4&5 which is their new ballroom is pretty but the layout makes the tables very cramped and near one another. Empress 1,2&3 looks similar but they have a few block pillars which can be a little in the way of some guests. High ceiling but not vowed by the layout. Also don't feel it's worth to have to pay $30 more per table to use the newer ballroom.
Perks: The most "ngiao" (stingy) hotel because they only give you additional perks if you book a minimum of 28 tables for weekends or 25 tables for weekdays (strange cuz' weekends get less benefits at the cost of more tables). If you take less than that, no nego for perks. Upon hearing this, in my mind already strike out this hotel. Mind you, their perks are just the normal ones that ALL the other hotels i visited threw in for free. ie. additional 10% wedding cards and carkpark passes. and complimentary food tasting is not even given!!! -_-
Others: Lobby and main hotel area very new and posh. Location is central and easy to reach via MRT.
Didn't like: Said everything above
Per table: $978-$1008++ for weekends
Basically Carlton Hotel didn't need our business. Don't see any incentives to sign up at all.
Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel
Coordinator: It was their 2012 wedding show we went to, so no specific coordinator that we spoke with.
Ballroom: I remember they had a few ballrooms, but only the biggest one looked spacious and airy while the rest were more like function rooms. The Grand Ballroom's ceiling is quite high (6m) and looked quite new. They have different minimum seating for different ballrooms. The Waterfront Ballroom was the one we considered with Minimum 22 tables & Maximum 28 tables. Good thing about the hotel is the beautiful outdoor wedding chapel that is suitable for solemnisation. The chapel is however located right at the drive-in area, quite weird.
Perks: No free food tasting (have to pay 50%), the others were standard throw-ins
Didn't like: Location is definitely poor as it is not near MRT. Its carpark was very shabby and dirty looking and was linked to a mall that looks run-down. Doesn't feel grand.
Per table: S$1,318.00 nett, which was abit too high for the location in my opinion
Not in our eventual consideration as it's price point did not match with our expectations.
Fairmont and Swissotel
Coordinator: Wendy, a middle-aged lady was very warm and friendly, and even slightly motherly. She was not pushy but quite humorous and explained the packages in detail to us.
Ballroom: Similarly they had a couple of ballrooms which you can use depending on your table requirement, and if I do not recall wrongly, there are no restrictions whether you book through Fairmont or Swissotel on the usage. The Atrium ballroom fitted our criteria of min 20, max 30 tables, however it was not high ceiling and some views would be obstructed due to the pillars.
Perks: Stunning ice sculpture provided at the reception decked with fruits, along with the usual free carpark coupons, free 6 btl of wine with every 20 tables, free barrel of beer etc
Others: Location is good as it's just above Raffles City SC and City Hall MRT. However with the multiple ballrooms and the fact that it is joined to the shopping centre means that it can get a little confusing and difficult to locate the correct ballroom as there would be a few weddings on weekends.
Per table: S$1098++ for Sundays, and $1138++ for Saturdays
It was one of our shortlisted hotels for the good branding, central and accessible location and affordable packages.
Coordinator: No particular person as we attended their wedding show. We actually went there because there were a few other vendors we were interested in (Ichiro Films, La Belle Couture, Bryan Jean Photography, which we actually signed up 2 out of 3 packages there and then).
Ballroom: Ballroom was alright, even though the ceiling was not high, they didnt have any pillars. What was interesting was that they had some pretty unique themes like "Starry Starry Night", "Fairytale" etc, and each theme was quite elaborate and colorful (at additional cost but are quite suitable for brides who want fancy themes!).
The ballroom is inside (looks like restaurant to me) and you can do the solemnization outside at the carpark area.
Strangely at the wedding show, the models even kissed when they went on stage.
(Maybe they were a real couple?!) haha!
Perks: Can't remember honestly, since we were not looking into details
Didn't like: Right next to CTE and the drive-in to the hotel is easy to miss, as it is kind of situated on a slope. We missed it and had to drive for another 10 minutes to find a U-turn. Nearest MRT is Outram and then it's alot of walking (if you can even find your way). Apparently they do provide shuttle bus services from a few locations - that tells you how accessible it really is. :P It also looks very like a HDB flat rather than a hotel. My guess is that it's established as a boutique hotel.
Per table: $988++ to $1138++ depending on package
Not shortlisted because we were not comfortable that it was not an 'established' hotel brand, and the price range is a little high. It's unique though if you fancy those strong themes - which I did not care for.
I shall continue with the videographers and photographers that we researched on in another post! :)