Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wedding Planning: Venue Reviews

Sunset Ranch
Sunset Ranch
 This was one of the first sites we visited.  Sunset Ranch is located on the North Shore at the very end of Pupukea Road.  The view from this place was incredible!  It's also quite secluded and feels very private on the ranch which was nice. The woman who gave us the tour was very helpful (I can't remember her name) and answered a lot of our questions.
Pros:
  • The rental fees were for an all-day rental (10am-10pm) and gave full use of the facilities.  They don't book more than one event per day.
  • Location!  The view here was amazing, and overall the property looked great (despite the storm from the previous week).   Unique location that not many people know about.
  • Allowed outside catering.
  • Outdoor and indoor space (they had a barn that you could hold the reception in), or you had the option of setting up tents on the lawn.
  • Guest suites were included in the cost.  You can use these for the day to get ready in and they included en suite bathrooms too.
  • Free parking on-site.
Cons:
  • Price!  For a party of our size (about 80 people) it was $3,000 for the site.  This was the most expensive place we saw.  They were willing to offer a Kamaaina discount, and had a Facebook promotion that would take $250 off, but even than it was still out of our budget.
  • Bathrooms, although included in the guest rooms were only for brides and close family to use.  Other guests were to use the portable AC restroom trailer.   It actually looked pretty nice, but I could see a line forming easily (only one mens and one womans bathroom).  The concept was interesting, but I guess I would prefer something indoors.
  • The site was quite big, and I think almost too big for under a party our size.  Also, since it's on the North Shore it's a long drive for a lot of our friends and relatives.
  • No smoking allowed on property.  Not that I smoke, but a lot of friends and relatives do, so that would be a problem.
While this place was amazing, and it did meet a lot of our requirements, it was out of our budget and a little too big, which is why we chose to keep looking.  

Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch Moili Gardens
Kualoa Ranch was the second venue we visited, and this one was much more reasonable than Sunset Ranch.  They had several different sites that we could chose from, and the views were great!  The tour was very through and we got to see all the sites.  Kristi who did our tour was really helpful.
Pros:
  • Price was reasonable.  For up to 150 guests, an all day rental was $1500, half the price of Sunset Ranch.  For certain sites like Secret Island, it cost more and there were time restrictions, but for the most part, the sites were reasonably priced.
  • Choice of different sites within the venue.
  • Allowed outside catering (at an additional cost)
  • Great outdoor spaces with nice views.  Each site also had a covered pavilion area which would make a nice reception area.  Good size for our party.
  • Free parking on-site.
Cons:
  • Catering fee was something like $2.50 per person if we chose to use outside catering. 
  • Location was a little far, and through it is secluded some of the rental sites felt very touristy and felt a little dated.
  • They don't really provide an on-site room to get ready in. 
Overall they offered a competitive price, but I wasn't too keen about paying extra for the catering.

Hawaii State Art Museum
Hawaii State Art Museum Courtyard
This place was right in the middle of Downtown Honolulu.  I didn't even know the building existed, let alone rented the facility out for events.  The building looks nice from the outside, very European.  They had several rental options.  We didn't actually take a tour of this place, we just went there one day to look around.  I did email them for some information though.
Pros:
  • Location is right in downtown Honolulu, so it's pretty central and convenient.  
  • Rental options included the lawn in front of the museum, or the courtyard upstairs.  I loved the courtyard and it would have made a nice and intimate setting for the reception.  There is also a nice open garden downstairs too.
  • Allows outside catering.
Cons:
  • Prices quoted are only good for a rental period of 5 hours maximum.  I would prefer an all day rental so there isn't as much time constraint.  I don't plan on the wedding going all day, but it's always nice to have some flexibility.
  • Overall it's quite expensive.  Not as bad as Sunset Ranch, but considering it's only 5 hours it's not such a great deal.  For the courtyard option it would be $2400 for the 5 hour period.  
  • It's only available Tuesday through Saturday after 4pm, which wouldn't work for us since we wanted a day reception.
  • Because it is a museum, there are a lot of rules to follow in regards to decorations etc.  
I really liked the look and feel of this place, but for the price I think it's a little out of our budget.

Queen Emma Summer Palace
  This was actually one of the last places we looked at.  I started to feel like we were running out of options especially for our budget, so I was really happy when we found this place.  I actually heard about it from a co-worker who said he had been to a wedding here once.  Queen Emma Summer Palace is located right near Oahu Country Club on Pali Highway.  It's actually a historical site, but can be rented out for events.  
Pros:
  • Very reasonable and budget friendly!  They actually have 2 sites you can rent: Prince Albert Terrace which is $400 for all day rental, as well as Emmalani Hale which for a party our size would be about $400, also for all day rental.  At a combined total of about $800 this is by far the cheapest place we found!
  • The site is really nice.  Small and intimate so I think it would be the prefect size. I think this would also be a unique place to get married, since it is a historical site.
  • Indoor and outdoor space.  Although the indoor space seems a little small, they also allow tents which would be nice for additional covered outdoor space.
  • Allows outside catering.
Cons:
  • Parking might be an issue.  With a party of 50 or more they do require a valet service, so that would be an additional cost.  
  • Since this is a historical site, the palace hours will coincide with our actual wedding.  This place can get a bit crowded, at least it was the day we went there.
  • Weather could be a problem.  It's located on the Pali so there definitely is a chance of rain.  
So after going to look at this place and talking to some of the staff there, we decided on Queen Emma Summer Palace for our wedding.  There are some downsides, but the cost is definitely what sealed the deal.  It's incredible affordable and the place itself is really nice.  I think it would be prefect for a group our size.  We are hopefully meeting with someone on Monday to pay the booking fee, and that would secure the date!

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