Tip of the Day #71: A Real Bride’s Advice on How to Plan a Wedding in a Raw Space

Today’s modern, savvy bride has instant access to a wide array of planning tools including Pinterest, wedding blogs, wedding magazines and books.  A trend that has continued to grow in popularity is hosting weddings in raw spaces.  Although a raw space seems like the perfect solution to create a custom wedding and save on costs, there are many more planning details that must be considered when selecting a raw space.  Portable potties, anyone?

My dear friend, Katie Przybysz (now Katie Winter!) was kind enough to share her raw space wedding planning chronicles and touch on some of the benefits and drawbacks of choosing a raw space for her wedding.

Why did you initially decide on choosing a wedding reception venue that is a completely raw space?
Although I do not self identify as a hipster or typical “artsy” person, I do have a decent eye for design and loved the idea of starting from scratch with a space.  Blank spaces don’t scare me, but rather felt like a puzzle to figure out and put all of the pieces together.  The second we started thinking about planning our wedding I knew I wanted a space that would provide some creative challenges (in a good way!)  Our runner up venue was Salvage One, another fantastic raw space that doesn’t need much more than the right lighting and minimal décor.
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What were the biggest challenges you faced while planning the design of a raw space?
I’m quite obsessed with anything and everything rustic so when we walked in the large empty room and saw the wood beam ceilings, old wood floors and exposed brick walls, I was sold.  I could tell by the layout of the room and the natural elements of the space that it didn’t need much to transform the space into my vision.

For someone who is not used to “envisioning” your dream look, I imagine this type of space would be challenging.  I have the privilege of working in events at an old University that is filled with history and has a “Harry Potter-esque” look.  There have been countless times that I’ve witnessed old dark rooms transformed into bright, modern spaces with the right lighting, topiary plants and chair coverings.  It truly is amazing what the right design can do to transform a space.
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What are some of the planning details you had to troubleshoot but didn’t think about prior to selecting your venue?
Convincing the mothers.  Hands down.  Neither one of them had ever attended a wedding in a raw space, so the idea of starting from scratch was a bit overwhelming. But luckily, they trusted us, and in the end, they both loved it the day of the wedding.

What do you think the biggest perks and drawbacks were of choosing a raw space?
We chose to host our wedding reception at  Gallery 1028 in Chicago, partly because it is owned by a catering company so we were able to get the ambiance and food experience we wanted.  It was a win-win.

As for drawbacks, I’d say the freedom to choose another caterer or bring in your own beer/liquor could be challenging.  Although, we did make sure Nanny {my husband’s grandmother} had her preferred box wine.  Ian and I also originally wanted to have a seasonal pumpkin beer since we got married in the peak of fall.  If we had brought in outside liquor, it would have been another added cost and we would have incurred corkage fees.  After the 15th invoice, bill, down payment you make, you get really sick of handing over money for additional wedding elements.

The last drawback I would note is the dance floor space.  The natural floor of the venue was an old wood floor and we didn’t want people taking off their shoes and walking around barefoot, exposing themselves to potential splinters and cuts so we had the added cost of bringing in a splinter-free dance floor.  I also ordered flip flops for all the ladies (and men), but, I wish the dance floor had extended 10 feet in every direction.  Our friends are dancing fools and that dance floor was hopping all night – I just wish it would have been a bigger space!

What costs did you incur that you wouldn’t have had to tackle with a fully designed reception space?
The cost was slightly cheaper than other comparable venues around the city, but that’s to be expected with the bare space.  It suits a certain type of clientele and if you are interested in getting creative and not being afraid to step outside the box, a raw space may be perfect for you.

One cost that I wish we had sprung for was a set of portable potties.  The venue we chose only had 3 bathrooms and we had about 200 guests at our wedding.  I really hated that people had to wait in line to use the restroom, and having been through it once, I would recommend getting portable potties to any couple wanting to hold a reception over 150 people.  Had we chosen a reception venue in a hotel, conference center, or restaurant, we probably would have not had that issue.

Was it difficult to narrow down your décor style and details since you had a completely blank slate to work with and design any way you wanted to?
We were lucky with our particular venue because the management works with a preferred event designer who does all the installation and design for 95% of their events.  The designer knew everything about every beam, brick and wood slate in that building.  Anything we threw his way, he could manage and make our vision a reality.  My favorite design element of the reception was our DIY seating chart that we put on old windowpanes that suspended from the ceiling of the first room guests walked in to.

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What design aspects, do you believe, helped to transform the space?
The main room has a natural ledge that runs around ¾ of the room. The venue coordinators suggest to everyone to utilize the ledge for tea candles.  The candles helped to transform the space and set the mood for the evening.

I believe this was crucial element to the natural “glow” of the room.  We got many comments about how beautiful the room looked and I think that can be attributed to the natural tones in our decor (everything was gold, off white or dark brown), and the natural candle light that accentuated the natural elements of the room.

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Do you think a wedding at a raw space demands a longer planning period?  Why or why not?
Honestly, I think it depends on the person and the venue.  For me, when we decided on the space, I knew that we would not have to think much further than candles, branches and lighting.  I’m not big on flowers, so I knew that whole decision process of “which flower, which color, which combination, etc.” was all eliminated when I said to our designer, “I like branches and I like candles.”  He came up with the idea to have 3 different centerpiece “looks:” The first being a tall clear vase with 5’ tall branches with tea candles hanging off the branches.  The second being a variety of pillar candles at various heights, and the third being a low suspended gold chandelier.  The guy was a genius.  That meeting could have lasted 5 minutes if we wanted it to.  I think he and I spoke the same design language, but I would imagine that this may not be the case in all raw venues.

The proof is in the photos!  Take a peek at the versatility of raw space Gallery 1028.  Pure wedding magic!

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Photo by Amanda Hein Photography}

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{Photo by Georgestreet Photography: Lee Hickman and Nathanael Filbert}

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{Photo by Glen Abog Photography}

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{Photo by Tim Tabailloux}

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{Photo by Elena Bazini}

WedInsider’s Top 5 Tips and Takeaways for Planning Weddings in a Raw Venue
1. Make sure to budget for unexpected items like portable potties, heaters/air conditioning, building/parking permits and catering, which may include having to create a temporary kitchen on site.

2. If you aren’t the creative type, hire an event designer to take care of the lighting, decor and overall design of your wedding.

3. Think outside the box when looking for venues.  Check out art galleries, yoga studios, gymnasiums and exhibit hall spaces to find your perfect fit.

4. Be prepared to take on the task of hand selecting all (or most) of your vendors.  Raw spaces are not designed for the one-stop-shop bride.  If you get stressed easily, hire a wedding planner to recommend and manage all of your vendors.

5. Do your homework!  Make sure to read reviews about the space before committing.  Does the venue have a rodent problem?  Is load-in/load-out a nightmare for vendors?  Does the venue have strict rules on noise violations and closing times?  The more research you do, the less surprises you will most likely incur.