Monday, April 27, 2009


The Biltmore Hotel

First of all, I grew up dreaming about getting married at The Biltmore Hotel. However, as I got older and realized how much things cost, a Biltmore wedding seemed less and less likely. When I started my initial search, I requested information and the minimum was $25,000 and plates started at $200. Needless to say, I decided not to pursue this location.

But as luck would have it, a new Sr. Catering Manager (Stephanie) started and contacted me. I politely replied stating that my fiancé and I had decided we needed to stay under $100/pp. She responded to say that if I was flexible with my date and would consider having a Friday or Sunday wedding, she could work within those parameters. Now, I must say, I had heard this before, only to waste my time on a site visit to find out later, the price wasn’t as flexible as they said, so I was skeptical. However, within an hour she returned with a revised scaled down menu that was within our budget, and the minimum lowered to $12,500. I immediately scheduled a site visit for the following day.

The Biltmore was everything I thought it would be and more. There are two ballrooms in the main building that will accommodate the number of our guests (approximately 150), The Granada & The Alhambra. While both SBR & I prefer the Alhambra a little more, the Granada comes with the center terrace for cocktail hour, and more importantly, the back lawn for the ceremony.

After 2 additional visits and countless emails, Stephanie and I were able to work out the specifics of our menu and contract. We are now confirmed to be married at The Biltmore Hotel on October 10, 2010!

One check down….a lot more to go!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And The Search Continues...

So, in my previous post, I gave you a list of all the location only venues. Now I will go over the hotels that I visited. My preference was to not go with a hotel, because I really want to choose my own caterer. However, there are some fantastic hotels in Miami, and many had exactly what we were looking for.


1. Doubletree Grand Hotel – Biscayne Bay
Published package rates start at $73/pp
If price is a major concern, this hotel is a great option. The hotel is a little outdated in my opinion, but the view from the terrace and ballroom all but make up for it. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t like the terrace for the ceremony, so this hotel was quickly eliminated. The ballroom is plain, but leaves a lot of room for adding your own touch. The only thing that really bothered me was the difference in heights of the ceiling.

2. Sonesta Hotel - Coconut Grove
Published package rates start at $89/pp
Again, this hotel is a great option if you are only looking for a reception venue at a good price. The package starts at $89/pp for 5 hours and includes pretty much everything. But once again, the terrace for the ceremony was too plain and is surrounded by buildings. Yes, there is a great water view, but it is off in the distance. The location could work with A LOT of décor, but then again, that defeats the purpose when you are trying to save money. On the positive side, I have only heard great reviews about this hotel as a venue, including comments about how great the food is.

3. Jungle Island
Published package rates start at $103/pp
Yes, I know this is not a hotel, but it is a full service location, which is why I included it here. Honestly, I liked this location a lot more than I thought I would. There are several options to have your ceremony outdoors, as well as your reception if you choose. However, I’ve been to several corporate events here, including 2 company holiday parties, so for me it wasn’t special enough. But there is something fun about getting married next to flamingos.


4. Miami Beach Resort & Spa
Published package rates start at $110/pp
Originally SBR & I wanted to get married on the beach. However, after visiting this resort, we quickly had to rethink that. Walking in sand when you are not wearing flip flops….not easy. Asking a 78 year-old man with a walker (my father) to walk on the sand…near impossible. But with that said, the scenery when you get out there is breathtaking. My friend had her reception here back in 1998 when it was the Westin (I think). Now, The Miami Beach Resort & Spa it has not changed much. There are 2 main ballrooms, The Rotunda & the Starlight Room, my favorite being the second. There is also a smaller ballroom that is used as a back-up venue for the ceremony in case of rain. All in all, the location is great, and prices are reasonable for Miami Beach, but the $22,000 minimum on Saturdays is a lot more than we want to spend. The only way we could consider is to have a Sunday wedding when the minimum is lower.

5. The Palms Hotel
Published package rates start at $140/pp
Based on the package starting price, I knew from the start this place was out of my price range. However, the catering manager insisted that she could work within my budget (I told her $90-$100/pp). I instantly fell in love with everything about this location. The Gazebo for the ceremony is gorgeous; the ballrooms are clean & white and are a clean palate for any décor. The only downside was the back-up space for the ceremony was a terrace that left something to be desired. But I was anxious to see how they could work with my budget….well, they didn’t. After removing a large portion of the menu offerings (i.e. 2 courses, 2 hors d’ouerves, 1 hour of open bar & a lot more), they came down to $130/pp. WOW! A whole $10!!! Not only was I disappointed, but I was pissed off they wasted my time. Oh well, next venue!

6. The National Hotel
Published package rates start at $165/pp
Again, I knew this place was out of my budget per person, however, they don’t have the large minimum requirement that many of the larger hotels have. I knew that coming down to below $100/pp would be near impossible; Jamie (the catering manager) stated that all menus are customizable. Now, if you are looking for a true South Beach location, look no further than The National. It’s a boutique hotel and has a very modern feel for a wedding ceremony and reception. It’s already been featured on Platinum Weddings and they recently filmed another episode there. Not to mention the staff is outstanding! From the moment I walked in, I was attended to. Jamie is awesome as well. She listened to everything that I was saying and did not try to sell hotel. She is also great at responding. At the end of the day though, we would have had to cut our guest list more than we wanted to have our wedding at The National. This is not to say that Jaime didn’t try. She was able to customize the menu down to a more affordable rate.

7. The Epic Hotel
Published package rates start at $125/pp
The Epic is a brand new hotel in downtown Miami that opened in December 2008. I originally hadn’t considered the location, but went to one of their Bridal Showcases in March. All I can say is WOW. If you want a modern feel to your reception, then check this place out. The only downside for us was that The Lawn is not completed yet, so we weren’t able to see where the ceremony would take place. In the end, the package prices were pretty much set in stone, so it was out of our budget. But if it’s in yours, put this hotel on your list to must see and if you have the opportunity, visit their next Bridal Showcase on May 14th.

8. The Mayfair Resort & Spa
Published package rates start at $110/pp
Surprisingly enough, I had never been to the Mayfair before despite having passed by it hundreds of times. Ulla was very helpful in showing me the space and working within our budget. The ceremony would take place on the Palm Terrace, an inside space with a glass ceiling. The only downside to this space (and the deciding factor for SBR) was that it is surrounded by the hotel rooms. Personally, this didn’t bother me, as I was assured by Ulla that the staff tries to keep the space clear throughout the ceremony. The Ballroom is also very nice and neutral with a spectacular chandelier in the center. I’ve seen numerous pictures of this ballroom and it is extremely versatile. We liked this space so much, that we did ask to hold the date while we made our decision, but in the end, we chose….


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Want A Free Wedding???

Well if you do, the Today Show started accepting applications today for their "Today Show Throws A Wedding Series". You just have to agree to accept whatever America chooses, which includes, the rings, the cake, the gown & even the honeymoon. Not a bad deal if you consider how much all these things cost.

For more information and the complete application, CLICK HERE But don't delay, applications will only be accepted until May 15, 2009.

The Search For A Venue Begins!

SBR proposed on Valentine’s Day 2009. It was a complete surprise, so I had not even begun to think about wedding plans. The following day, we chatted about when we would want to get married and I always wanted a long engagement, so we decided on a fall 2010 wedding….plenty of time, or so we thought.

I left on the 16th for a 2 week business trip, and at the airport bought my first bridal magazine as a bride-to-be. Then, while sitting alone in my hotel room one night, I decided to start looking at potential venues and prices to get an idea of what we were looking at….and there the avalanche began.

As it turns out, taking 20 months to plan a wedding isn’t that unheard of and several venues already had dates booked for fall 2010. As more and more packages came in, I felt the urgency to start determining what we could afford and start doing site visits ASAP.

Here are our criteria, to try and book a venue that can hold both the ceremony & reception, preferably an outside ceremony on or near the ocean.

So here we go, the good, the bad & and the we can’t afford

Let’s start with location only venues, meaning you rent the space and bring in everything else.

Coral Gables Woman’s Club
Price: Sat. $2800, Fri. $2000, Sun. $1400

This was the first venue we looked at. SBR and I had both been to weddings here, but were now seeing it in a different light. There are 2 buildings, so it is possible that 2 wedding receptions could happen at the same time. I also only liked the South building (formerly the Juniors Woman’s Club), which meant no place to hold the ceremony. If someone is having a wedding in a church in Coral Gables and needs a reception location, this is a great space…just not for us.

Coco Plum Woman’s Club
Price: $2340 Fri-Sun; Must use their in-house caterer
SBR really liked this place. I did as well, but I didn’t like the restrictions on using a caterer. The packages they offered were $100/pp and included pretty much everything, but didn’t give us the freedom to pick our own photographer, dj, etc. You could, of course, go with someone else (with the exception of the caterer), but the discounts they give you off the pp rate were minimal. On that basis alone, I put it on our “B” list.

Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove
Price: Sat. $1800, Sun. $1000; Must use their in-house caterer
This is a beautiful space, and like Coco Plum, you must use their exclusive caterer, Bill Hansen’s (who is well-known in Miami). However, their rates were much more economical and more customizable. Unfortunately, 1. There was no space for the ceremony & 2. Its capacity is about 100 guests (we are expecting a minimum of 120. However, for anyone who is looking for a space for a small reception, take a look at this location. The rental fee is economical and the space is gorgeous.

Douglas Entrance
Price: $3000 - $6000 depending on date
We never really considered this space, as we didn’t like the fountain area for the ceremony. However, we did attend a bridal show here and the space is gorgeous. I’ve also been to 2 weddings here and the space was really created for weddings. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for just a reception space in Coral Gables.

Deering Estate
Price: $4600 for 125 guests (plus tax)
Honestly, I was convinced this was going to be the place before we got there. All of the pictures I have seen are simply breathtaking, and the ceremony location is just that. However, I didn’t like that dinner is in the courtyard and the dancing is in the Stone House. For my guests, we really want the dance floor to be the center of everything. That combined with the fee and no guarantee that it won’t rain, ruled it out for us. But for anyone who does select this venue, you will be sure to have gorgeous pictures.

The Shane Center
Price: Sat. $2600, Sun $2400
When I first drove up to this space, I thought, “oh no”. It’s a plain white building on a busy street and is very industrial looking. However, once I walked inside, I thought “WOW”. The space is very clean and modern and gives you the option to do whatever you want. And the view at Sunset is amazing. Our only concern was where to hold the ceremony. The terrace was nice, but overlooks the parking lot and Indian Creek Dr on one side. The though here would be to rental greenery and encompass the entire terrace like a garden. Another thought would be to hold the ceremony inside and use the terrace for cocktail hour. Either way, this was our top contender at this point. On a side note, the manager Rosie is a doll!

Other venues worth mentioning:
Fairchild Tropical Garden - Price: $6,000 for 100 people, $20 each additional person

Because of the large fee, we didn’t consider this location, but I’ve heard it’s a beautiful location for a wedding
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens - Price: $12,500… dream location, but it’s price tag is a tough pill to swallow. Beautiful if money is not object
Miami Beach Botancial Garden Price: $4500 for entire garden, $2500 for Great Lawn, $850 for Banyan Room

Price was reasonable, but after driving by the location, I ruled it out. It’s across the street from the Miami Beach Convention Center. If there’s a big convention in town, your guest can forget parking.

Well, that’s it for now. In my next post, I will give some reviews on my hotel visits.

The Love Of My Life

My fiancé’s name is Ray. We met in college back in 1995, dated on and off from 2000-2002, and then got back together in late 2007. A lot happened in between that time, I moved to New York (and eventually moved back), he changed careers, etc, etc. But no matter what happened in our personal lives, we always had a connection. I must say that our relationship now is completely different than when we first dated. I think it has to do with being older and, hopefully, more mature.

Now, for purposes of this blog, I will not use his real name. Instead I will refer to a nickname I’ve given him which is “Sweet Baby Ray”. Now before you gag from the cheesiness, I came up with this nickname based on the barbeque sauce of the same name. I saw it in Publix one day, and the name stuck. So for the remainder of this blog, I will refer to my fiancé as SBR.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Amsale “Do Your Friends a Favor” Contest

So I started this blog, posted twice and then nothing. Well, the reason is, I entered a contest called “Do Your Friends a Favor” sponsored by Amsale & One of the main criteria for winning is public support (i.e. votes), so I have spent all my free time trying to generate support for my entry.

The winner of the contest will win a $2500 shopping spree at Amsale and the opportunity to meet the designer in New York. How amazing is that?! I have always LOVED Amsale gowns and what an amazing chance to consult with one of the top wedding gown designers in the industry today.

The voting ends April 13, 2009 and winners will be announced in May. I’m attaching a link, so if you have a moment, please cast a vote for me. You can also vote every 8 hours.

In the meantime, I am working on a post regarding my search for the perfect venue and Part I should be posted by the weekend.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Naming of a Blog

One of my favorite TV shows is “Platinum Weddings”. I always loved watching these gorgeous productions being put together from start to finish. I’m amazed how someone will have a floral budget that is more than what I paid for my apartment…AND FLOWERS DIE. But it’s still fun to watch these dream weddings come together.

Now as I begin to plan my own wedding, I watch the show with a new eye. It’s no longer an escape from reality or a fantasy for 30 minutes, its homework! The assignment: How can I create my own “Platinum Wedding” on a silver budget?

Think about it, to the undiscerning eye, platinum and silver look a lot alike. Both are white colored metals and most people would not know the difference from afar. Platinum is, of course, a dense and heavy metal. It is long wearing, which is why it has become increasingly more popular for engagement rings and wedding bands. Silver on the other hand is a softer metal and is prone to oxidization. But with the right cleaner, can be made to look new again.

So that is the reason for the name of this blog. I cannot afford a platinum wedding and will not risk my financial wellbeing to even attempt it. My goal now is have a wedding with some “platinum” elements. So I will continue to watch my favorite show, but now with the thought, “How can I do that on my budget?”