My husband and I were married 6 months ago, and I still can’t get over what our reception site put us through. This is a long saga, but bear with me until the end, because it just gets worse and worse.
It all started well. We booked our venue over a year in advance. This was a well-respected venue where several of our friends had their weddings. The staff there was extremely helpful, and we developed a very friendly relationship with the venue’s event planner/manager (who is the son of the owner) over the year of planning. We’ll call him Adam.
On the wedding day, we arrived at the venue, and Adam was not there. We had not been told that he would not be there, and we weren’t introduced to anybody else who would be our management contact during the event. Turns out, there was no manager working that night. For my 200+ guest wedding, Adam just trusted that his hourly staff knew the drill well enough to run things themselves.
Issues began immediately. We had a buffet. Our contract was not for a certain amount of food (400 shrimp, 100 servings of beef, etc.), but guaranteed the venue would keep the buffet stocked for x number of hours for our entire guest count. We had arranged to have a gourmet cheese and vegetable display available, along with cocktails, when our guests arrived. What we were promised (and paid for) was a beautiful display with wheels of brie, aged cheeses, Italian meats, and chilled, grilled vegetables. What we got was deli meats and cheeses, and a vegetable tray with ranch dressing. To make matters worse, they ran out after about 25 guests had a chance to grab a bite, and never restocked the station.
The problems continued when the dinner buffet opened. After about 1/4 of our guests made it through the buffet line, the buffet was almost bare. When they finally restocked the buffet, they omitted all of the vegetarian items, which was a huge problem as my husband is from a (mostly vegetarian) Hindu family, and I myself am a vegetarian.
During this time, my wedding planner had been standing at the kitchen door, trying to get someone to acknowledge her, to no avail. Finally, fed up watching my guests stand around waiting for any scraps of food to hit the empty buffet, I went to the kitchen and asked to speak to whomever was in charge. Since there was no manager, the staff had to confer among themselves to figure it out before a young man stepped forward. He explained to me that it is “difficult” to feed 200 people all at once. I explained to him that feeding 200 people all at once is exactly what I paid them to do, and for a venue that says it can accommodate up to 400 people, that excuse is not valid.
Realizing there was no point in taking out my frustration on this poor kid who was obviously in way over his head and pay grade, I walked away and cooled off. At that point, what could I do? All of my guests were eventually fed, although our ten item buffet was more like five items. The rest of the night was beautiful, aside from a waitress who took it upon herself to ask me what was wrong after seeing me speaking to the kitchen staff. I told her it was ok, not her fault, and I’d wait to speak to a manager in the morning. She persisted in finding out what the issue was, so I explained my concerns to her. She snapped at me that I was wrong, everything was perfect, then stormed off.
The next day (Sunday) I called the venue to speak with Adam. He was unavailable, so I left him a message and sent him an email. No response. I called again on Monday multiple times. Again, no response, but his staff insisted I leave a message with them. I told them I would rather speak with him directly and please have him call me. It became very obvious that they were playing goalie for him, so I had a friend call, saying she was interested in talking to someone about hosting her wedding there. They told her she could come by between 1 and 4 and Adam would be available to meet with her. So my husband and I went to the venue during that time (this is Tuesday after our Saturday night wedding). Adam was “in a meeting”. We told them we’d wait. After waiting over an hour, we finally left, but asked them to have him call us.
He did not call, but the next day (Wednesday), my husband received an email from Adam asking my husband to tell me to stop trying to contact him, and his attorney would be in contact. He then chastised us for having anything to say to him after the stunt we pulled at our reception. Completely baffled and at a loss for what he could mean, I tried to call him again. This time I persisted until he picked up the phone.
His first words were something along the lines of “I really can’t speak with you, you need to wait to hear from my attorney.” I explained to him that I was baffled as to why that was necessary, to which he responded that I need to stop playing dumb and i knew exactly what happened. He became very abusive to me on the phone. I was in tears (definitely too much post-wedding emotion). I was completely shocked by his behavior. I finally convinced him that I had no clue what he was talking about, but that there were several serious issues during the reception, which I’m sure he was aware of. At that point he said he wouldn’t even hear my issues, but that he expected a call and an apology from my mother, and that he would be pressing charges.
Baffled, I asked him to explain, at which point he finally told me that my mother assaulted a staff member. He said something about her grabbing a server’s arm and pulling her hair when she was upset about the food. At this point he told me he had nothing else to say to me and hung up.
I was VERY shaken by this. My mother is 62 years old, a professional, and DEFINITELY not a brawler. My husband immediately called and emailed Adam to ask for a copy of the police report, since an accusation of assault and threat of legal action is significant enough that surely he filed an incident report.
The next day (Thursday) Adam emailed my husband and said that he would now speak with us. He had spoken with the staff member he claimed my mom assaulted, and it turned out that nobody in my wedding party or his staff was involved in the assault incident, but in fact it occurred in the restaurant part of the venue between two restaurant guests. There was no apology and no further explanation for how a fight between restaurant guests turned into a story about my mother assaulting a staff member, just a note that he would now deign to speak with us.
I wrote Adam back, and copied his father (the venue owner), along with an explanation of the events that had occurred up to this point, and asked for a meeting. His father immediately called me and set up a meeting for the next day.
At the meeting the first thing Adam said to me was, “It’s so unfortunate this misunderstanding happened. I am very protective of my staff and immediately jumped into protective mode when I heard there was a fight.” No “I’m sorry”, no accountability. Just a passive, “Oh, how unfortunate”. I asked him how somebody so protective of his staff waited until five days after the incident to even speak to the staff member to find out what happened, to which he had no response.
I also asked how a fight between guests in a separate part of the building, with no connection to my wedding, turned into an assault accusation against my mother. He told me that, actually, there was no squabble between guests, and that was also a misunderstanding. In fact, one of his staff members WAS assaulted. At 3 am. On the way to her car. FOUR HOURS after my wedding ended and my mother and guests departed. I told him that didn’t explain why he accused my mother. He shrugged his shoulders and just said, “I’m protective.”
When I asked if it was customary for them to hold an event for over 200 people with no management in the building, he said that he hadn’t had a Saturday night off in forever, and that I was so easygoing he thought it would just be smooth sailing so he could finally have a night off. His father was obviously gobsmacked and spend most of the meeting silently fuming.
My husband finally asked Adam to apologize to me (which he still hadn’t done a half hour into the meeting). He offered an apology filled with “but”s, which I apparently didn’t accept graciously enough, because he called me out for not forgiving him immediately, after we had such a great working relationship for a year.
At the end of the day, they reimbursed us for part of the cost of our wedding cake, which represented about 2% of the total bill we paid to the venue. Walking out, I was just thrilled that I never had to step foot in the place again.
Here’s the kicker, though. We chose the venue, partially, because we wanted to be able to go back. It is located on a quiet side street in a busy part of the downtown entertainment district of our city. It’s a gorgeous historic building with a very nice restaurant where we hoped to celebrate anniversaries and other life events. We were going to have a brick inscribed and put into the sidewalk in front of the restaurant (an option they offer couples who get married there), so we could show our kids our brick and say “this is where mom and dad got married”. Instead, we never want to set eyes on the place again, and avoid going anywhere close to it when we can. 1111-13
And the name of this venue is? I hope you also filed a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau, and published reviews on Yahoo and Google, too.