As an event planner who specializes in raw space weddings, this is a question I often receive from clients and I wish there was an easy yes or no answer to this. With most things event related, it largely depends on the scale of your wedding (or event) in addition to expectations so my official answer to this is “sometimes”. Here are some major factors to consider before deciding on a raw event space vs a full service venue:

Catering & Staffing

Do you want a 3 course seated dinner with full bar, cocktail hour and all the trimmings? Then you can realistically expect to pay a start pricing of $150 per person for catering, staffing, taxes and fees. Keep in mind that this starting price point does not usually include liquor but many caterers allow couples to provide their own alcohol if they wish.

On the flip side, some couples are looking to keep things a bit more casual and would prefer to do a buffet, food trucks, etc. In these instances, I have seen food costs to be as low as $40 per person not inclusive of delivery, taxes, etc. Staffing for a 100 person wedding generally starts at $3500 for waitstaff, bartenders and sanitation. 

Rentals

Most raw space venues are exactly that, raw. They do not come with furniture, chairs, tables, etc. Some do not even come with an equipped kitchen meaning that you have to rent proofers, grills, etc depending on your meal style. Some raw venues do include tables and chairs either at no cost or for a fee. Usually the fee is lower than sourcing through an official rental company. Rentals in NYC are quite expensive largely due to the high overhead rental companies have with their warehouses and also the extensive work their teams have getting your rentals ready. 

My favorite rental company in NYC is hands down Broadway Party Rentals for their extensive rental collection, quality to detail and responsiveness. I have never had a late rental with Broadway Party Rentals and as a planner, that means everything! There are certainly cheaper rental companies that are fairly no frills and will provide the bare essentials but are generally not as reliable or responsive. If you have your eye on ghost chairs, a beautiful farm table, and matte gold flatware (as an example) expect to pay a premium for rentals but if you are flexible on the aesthetics of your wedding, you can certainly save money on rentals.

Planning & Coordination

It should come as no surprise that a raw venue does not provide coordination or planning. Many venues will have a person on site to manage restrooms, deal with AC & heating, and the house sound system while some venues just open the door for you. 

As a planner, my stance on whether or not you should have a planner and/or coordinator is clear. It is nearly impossible to host a successful event without someone managing the event. While some small and informal weddings can get away with having a friend manage the details, the average wedding or event needs a coordinator on site. Having a professional on site to guide all the vendors, liaise between front and back of house, create a timeline and floorplan for your event, set up and breakdown personal items, cue the wedding party and literally 100 other things is a necessity. 

When considering whether or not you have the funds for a month of coordinator, or a planner to provide partial or full service planning, ask yourself the following:

  • What relevant background do I have in planning a large scale event?
  • Do I have a realistic idea of what the wedding market is like in my area?
  • Will I be able to set and stick with a specific and realistic budget?
  • Will I be able to handle sourcing rentals on my own and finding the best company for my needs? 
  • Will I be able to cohesively design my wedding or event? 
  • How will I source my vendors?
  • Will I be able to relax the months prior to my wedding if I do not have professional guidance and support prior to the wedding day?
  • Do I look forward to handling vendor communication, logistics and overall execution, setup and flow on the day of my wedding?*

If the above questions overwhelm you, consider hiring a partial or full service planner if that is within your budget. If you have a firm handle on your wedding or event  or do not have the budget for planning but want someone to take over logistics closer to your wedding, get in touch with local coordinators. In NYC, month of coordination generally averages $3000 for full day coverage depending on numerous factors.

*The last question was a trick. No one realistically looks forward to running around all gussied up and ensuring flowers were delivered, the waitstaff is clearing, dad is in his seat for speeches, or what to do if your mother-in-law has a meltdown. Hire a professional!