Saying "I do" to Your Wedding Venue
Before you say "I do" to each other, you have to say "I do" to your venue. I have known for some time this was a topic I want to address in regards to booking a venue. Many factors go into making that choice, but one you can't find on paper is trust. When I received a compelling message from one of our brides this week, I knew it was time to cover this particular topic. It is something no venue will talk about on a tour, nor is it a discussion you will commonly hear on a wedding blog. After all, who wants to rain on the parade of a newly engaged couple by bringing up anything as unpleasant as an illegal, unpermitted wedding venue? Most everything about planning a wedding is super fun. Nonetheless, I write now with the hope that it will protect couples from falling into a trap. A trap in which the outcome is losing their venue because they didn’t realize it was unpermitted. But I digress; here is the message I received from one of our brides:
“I am busy right now helping a close friend with her wedding. She booked it with a venue that it turns out has been in the process of being closed by the city for not being permitted. They have been having weddings illegally for nearly a decade! My friend ended up losing the venue, as well as all the money they had paid them. They were only notified two weeks ago. Their wedding is this coming week! Needless to say, with everything that has been going on, we are so thankful to be having our wedding at a venue like Maravilla Gardens.”
Stories like these are unfortunate; still they happen every year. While that particular venue is not in our immediate area, it is disturbing that there are too many people in this industry who prey on engaged couples. These days there is an endless surplus of couples ready to spend significant money, and people eager to take it from them in return for nothing. The only defense I can offer is to educate engaged couples.
What many don’t understand is though businesses like ours operate on private property, we are required to have proper permitting, just like any business. For special events venues these permits are called a Conditional Use Permit, or CUP, and obtained through a city or county. In Ventura County they last 5-10 years, depending on each businesses track record, and then must be renewed before they expire. Based on the proposed business and the nature of the property, the CUP imposes conditions to protect the health, safety and welfare of surrounding neighbors, event guests, and workers. It ensures traffic, noise, sanitation, building safety and fire safety access impacts are mitigated. Currently, in our county there are 15 venues operating under CUPs. If any venues are unable to remain in compliance of their CUP conditions, they take the risk of being shut down. We take our CUP very seriously. In my four years of touring Maravilla Gardens (that is over 800 tours), I have never once been asked if we are legally permitted. Nope! Not even once! Most vendors who work here and at other venues don’t realize a permit is required. Frequently, people do open venues and proceed to operate without going through the permitting process to attain a CUP, which at this time takes about two years. Though it could take months or years of illegal operation, these venues are eventually shut down, to the surprise and dismay of their clients. Another option for an illegal unpermitted venue is to cancel all scheduled events for a year, or likely two, while entering into the permit process.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this topic. In it, I will offer practical tips on how to avoid finding yourself in the unfortunate situation of having said "I do" to an illegal unpermitted wedding venue.