Kingston Wedding Expert Interview Series: How to Select a Venue for your big day

Often the most important task of planning your wedding day is to choose a venue you love. I thought of the team at Jessup Food & Heritage first. I have been privileged to shoot in their venues. Assistant General Manager Tim Archibald was amazing and very helpful at answering all of my questions – something I highly recommend when picking an event venue specialist to work with. 

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Left: Tim Archibald-Assistant General Manager ~ Right: Ryan Chartrand-General Manager

How long in advance should couples book their preferred venue?

It really depends on how many guests will be invited , if they have a set date in mind, and how much they plan on reserving for the date ie. DJ, wedding planner, officiant etc. I recently worked with a couple who had 45 guests, they were going to play their own music and didn’t care too much about a certain date. We were able to plan their special day in less than 2 months. If you are planning a bigger wedding with over 100 guests it’s always best to give as much notice as possible to allow them to arrange travel plans.  Most couples plan a year in advance.

What are three questions couples should ask the venue before booking other than if the date is available?

1)  Ask “what is included in the venue rental fee.”  Will they provide linen, glassware, speakers, microphone etc.? The last thing you want is to not ask about these and then get hit with unexpected costs and blow your budget.

2) Does the venue come with any decorations at all?  Some venues will decorate according to the season and already look beautiful. Other places may be bare bones and you are going to need to budget for a decorator.

3) Is there a minimum liquor spend? A trend with newer venues is they have a minimum amount you must spend on alcohol or else they charge you a fee.  Make sure you are only going to pay for what you consume.

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What are the Wedding Trends you are seeing a lot of this year?

A number of weddings I have sold lately will have a smaller number of guests for the ceremony, reception, and dinner and then they will invite more of their friends after for the dance and party portion of the wedding.  This is a way to keep your budget lower, create a more intimate ceremony and banquet and then bring in the friends who will be ready to party and dance afterwards.

We have seen a few clients ask to do food stations for their banquets.  A recent couple I worked with came from German and Scottish backgrounds. They had a German station, a seafood station,  a pasta station and a  Scottish  station.  I thought this was a neat way to bring together families of different backgrounds and make them all feel comfortable while serving a great array of cuisines.

How many people can each of your venues accommodate?

Renaissance Event Venue – the oldest standing church in Kingston: The Upper Salon has a maximum occupancy of 200 while the lower salon can hold 150. Denis Leblanc is an owner and operator of Renaissance and meets with each client to go over details before the big day. His attention to detail speaks volumes to our success.DSC09222

The Great Hall upstairs at Sir John’s Public House can hold 100. It is perfect for smaller groups as it has two gas fireplaces and a whisky bar with rolling ladder and 15 draught selections.

Fort Henry has 5 dining rooms that can hold 58 guests in each. As 3 of the dining rooms run parallel together and are connected we often will use one as a dining room, one for the reception and bar and the other as a dance floor. At Fort Henry we can also do tent weddings in the parade square that can hold 200+ guests. We can also work alongside the St. Lawrence Parks Commission and cater their Discovery Centre at Fort Henry.

What is something unique to the Jessup Food & Heritage Wedding experience?

The name of the company really tells the tale of our uniqueness. Our owner, Paul Fortier is a Historian by trade and lover of world food and beverage. Paul really researches the different cuisines from different countries and eras. We offer historically accurate meals at a high level of quality.  If a client wants to do a traditional chicken, salmon, vegetarian option banquet that is not a problem, but we can also switch gears and offer some incredibly unique menu options like Haggis, Tatties and Neeps  or even a  Cornish Pasty Beef Pie . We are lucky that our owner Paul works so closely with our executive chef, Scott Wemp to come up with new and delicious ideas. If we are asked to create a dish we aren’t sure of, we treat it like a challenge and do our research to make our clients happy.

Tell us a little bit about yourself? What is your favorite part of your job?

After graduating from Mount Allison University with a degree in Sociology and Canadian Studies I moved to Kingston and was lucky enough to meet Paul. I started out as a supervisor at Fort Henry while bartending at Sir John’s Public House for a year. After switching careers for a year and a half I was lucky enough to meet back up with our General Manager, Ryan Chartrand for lunch. He discussed the need for more help in the office and a few weeks later I signed back up as the Assistant General Manager with a focus on event sales and venue operations.

Meeting and working with our clients is my favorite part of the job. I enjoy the unique experience that each wedding or event offers. I love seeing the progression of events. From the first phone call where I put a few ideas down on paper, to showing the venues and revising the proposal to the clients wishes, and finally to the operation of their special day. It truly is a rewarding job.

What is the best piece of advice you can give couples to help them choose a wedding venue?

I would recommend finding a venue that has an operations manager so you know everything will be punctual and run smoothly. Find a location and company that you enjoy working with because chances are over the course of planning your wedding you will have them on speed dial. Lastly, find a space that will leave an impression on your guests and one that they associate with your special day. Chances are they will never forget the wedding that took place at the oldest standing church in Kingston, Historical Fort Henry or the law office of Sir John A Macdonald!

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Best of wishes to all of the local brides reading this as you hunt for your perfect place to say “I do” 🙂

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