Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Budget ReCap -o- Rama: The Reception Venue

You guys know that I was totally in love with our reception venue, Mere Bulles from the moment we stepped inside. The brown walls and ivory crown molding are accented by amazing artwork all over what was once the grand manor house of Maryland Farms (horse breeding country, back in the day). Right when you walk in, there's a killer spiral staircase with a gorgeous chandelier. The main dining room has a gorgeous old mantle and fireplace. There are built in bookshelves all over the house and it's just so damn inviting.

This feeling was extended to us by the fabulousness of one Carlin McQuiddy, their kick-ass events coordinator. I mean, she fed us their famous Charleston She-Crab Bisque the second we came in for our appointment. I mean, damn. She'd never even met The Candyman and she knew the way to his heart - straight through his stomach!

I have nothing but good things to say about Carlin and the fine people over at Mere Bulles. They took care of us. The treated us with respect and were attentive and responsive to every single thing we requested. We made one mistake though. Ooooops. Here it is:

WEDDING TIP #2: It's possible to get too distracted by the details. Don't forget to double check your budget. You might be really far UNDER.

Yes, UNDER. Here's what happened. Again, I can only really blame only myself for this. Carlin said she should take a little of the blame, so I'll give her some too. If you have a band or DJ at Mere Bulles, you have to do a whole house buy out because it's a house and you can hear the music throughout. At our first meeting when Carlin told us the price of a whole house buy out, I put my spoon down (remember, she was feeding us) and was about to bolt. She quickly informed us that a whole house buy out on a Sunday was HALF THE PRICE of a Friday or Saturday. I picked my spoon back up and said, "Carlin, please tell me more." The Candyman was oblivious to this. There was food.

You can also bring your own wine into Mere Bulles even though you have to pay a cork fee. I knew I could get budget savvy with the booze so opted for this as well.

Here's where I fucked it all up:

See, I had this AMAZING spreadsheet, y'all. Seriously. Formulas and links and all that crap. I love Excel spreadsheets. Like, love them. My dad is the Master of Things Excel and I call him all the time for advanced workshops via the phone. Anyway, I had this kick-ass spreadsheet that linked the booze tally page to the Mere Bulles tally page, that all linked up to the total page. Sweet, right? Right.

One day at work, I found this other formula and format that I thought was uber-bitchin' so I did that during my lunch hour. I sent the spreadsheet home to myself and did a little copy and paste into the Master of All Mack-Daddy Spreadsheets. Yeah. When I put the new format into one of the worksheets, I erased the link that went from the booze tally to the Mere Bulles tally and NEVER fucking noticed. NEVER.

As the RSVPs came in, I updated both worksheets and the totals went down on their SEPARATE pages. However, I didn't really look at those pages individually because I had already set up all the functions, so all I had to do was update the number of people. The overall total was going down but not by NEARLY enough. And again, I NEVER fucking noticed. Yes, there are a lot of "fucks" in this particular blog. You'd drop the F-bomb a lot too if you were $1000 UNDER the house buy-out.

Here's what this means. I started out with a total of 88 people and 21 kids invited to the wedding. I allotted total food and alcohol for that many people, erring on the high side for booze. As the numbers went down, the food and liquor pages went down, as did the total, but it was only pulling from the food tally. I basically had budgeted that 66 adults would drink 200 beers and six cases of wine. Yeah, sure. Maybe if those 66 adults were 21 years old at a freakin' South Padre Spring Break wet t-shirt contest. WTF?

I want to know when exactly I got so stupid. Was it the diamond on my finger? Was I constantly distracted by the shiny things? Or just constantly distracted? Oh, who knows. So here's what happened....

I come cruising into Mere Bulles (gushing, mind you because everything looked so damn pretty), the DJ is announcing us and I see people standing around with cocktails. Not cocktails in the generic, I'm-offering-beer-and-wine, but like scotch on the rocks and martinis. Lots of them. Um, what? I can't see THIS many people ponying up for cocktails when there's FREE beer and wine. I desperately make eye contact with Tabitha and she pulls me directly over and starts talking. Fast.

Tabitha: Don't freak. You're under budget. The manager opened the bar.

Me: WHAT?!?

Tabitha: Dude, you're UNDER budget. The manager ran the numbers and he says that every person in this room can have 6 drinks and you will still be UNDER budget. He opened the bar.

Me: WHAT?!? No. That can't be right. I ran the numbers too (and I did, just not the way I thought I had)! No. No. No.

Tabitha: Yes. I swear it's OK.

In my head: Do NOT let this freak you out. Do NOT let this freak you out. Trust the manager. Trust Tabitha. Let it go.

Me: OK, fine. But I swear, if we go over budget because the bar is open.....

Tabitha: You won't.

Me: OK. I need a drink.

And guess what? We were still WAY under budget. I could have served prime rib. I didn't have to buy all my wine and worry about having good wine and not going over budget. I didn't have to mess with all of that.

The thing is, I am so okay with everything. People enjoyed the food. People enjoyed the drinks. Everyone had what they wanted and that was perfect. I still don't care about prime rib because I think it's disgusting. Our wine was yummy. And I could return the unopened portion, which off-set the $1000 under budget by $300+.

And here's the BEST part. Mere Bulles did not have to open the bar. I had a signed contract that stated wine, which would be provided by me and beer, provided by them. They, by all legal accounts, did NOT have to open the bar. And they did. Because they are cool. Because they are fair and because they are a classy establishment who cares about their clients. Period. They were going to get paid regardless of what they served and they went above what was legally and contractually required. How often do you hear about THAT in the WIC (Wedding Industry Complex)?

On top of it, Carlin sent us some gift certificates that we can use at Mere Bulles. Again, she didn't have to do that. It was a super-nice perk.

Here's some other fabulous things about Mere Bulles:

1. The staff was top-notch. People commented frequently to me that the service was great.
2. The food was top notch. I heard "best wedding food" several times.
3. The staff participated in an impromptu group dance during the reception. Fun!
4. The staff loaded all the presents for me into my parent's car.
5. The staff had all of our chargers and bud vases cleaned and cleared and packed up and ready for us to pick up the next day.
6. Carlin's immediate responses to any and all of my inquiries.
7. They were concerned that my cake plates were a little wobbly. The cut all the cakes so people could just pick up a piece and enjoy! Nice. No stupid cake cutting fee (clearly the dumbest up-charge in the world).

Thanks to everyone at Mere Bulles for a wonderful reception! Regardless of where I came in, it was the most perfect evening ever and worth every penny, spent or not!

I'm sure there will be more pictures to come. I pulled these of Mere Bulles from their website gallery.


  1. wow, hooray for being under budget! i could just imagine the thoughts that were racing through your head. and another hooray for an awesome venue w/ great staff and food :)

  2. From one obsessive excel nerd to another - thanks for that tip. I'm bound to get charmed enough by my brilliant formulas that I miss something major on the feed-in links. I can only hope that it benefits us as nicely as your snafu. Sounds like you had a real winner of a location.

  3. Wow, what great service! That's what it's all about. Cake charges are totally stupid. We balanced ours out by forgoing their dessert and bringing our own cake.
    I originally thought we would be under but our alcohol put us way over. Man, I would have totally regretted not ordering fancy food if I were you. You sound like you had an awesome experience though!

  4. It was, indeed, beautiful and wonderful. And the staff group dance rocked. And have I mentioned the chargers? They really made the place settings. Awesome!

  5. Sounds like you went above and beyond to have a beautiful event!!

  6. Great to know! I think we'll be having my bridal luncheon there.

  7. loved that place! So having din din there again soon. Wanna take me? : )

  8. Do not for one minute regret your food choices. My tilapia was superb. I was one of those voting yours the best wedding food ever. The setting was beautiful. I can't pick out one thing that put your receoption over the top, but your table design rocked. And I loved the staff dance.

  9. I just LOVE this, so great to hear of fantastic service like this. Mere Bulles is "The Place" for sure.

  10. I love excel too! When looking at the places we were considering I created an excel sheet with formulas too, so we could compare places, it made it a lot easier. I also have one for the wedding budget that has a lot of links & formulas & it's cross referanced but not linked to another excel that has the details, I did this so I could make sure they reconciled & there was a time they didn't & it turned out one of my formulas was not updated. love love your blog! Your wedding was beautiful! I left you something on my blog today :-)

  11. Thanks for sharing this information on wedding reception venues. Last week, I arranged my brother’s ring ceremony at one of amazing San Francisco venues. Booked the venue online and got a great discount.