Belle Mer (www.bellemernewport.com)
Belle Mer is gorgeous. We fell in-love as soon as we saw it. It’s modern, chic and has a great view. We got married at the Island House and it was perfect for our small party.
There were a few little things that I didn’t like though. The restrooms at the Island House were tiny and looked like gas station restrooms (e.g. imagine tiny sinks), except cleaner. The lounges at the side of the ceremony area that you think are automatically set up when a wedding is going on, weren’t set up at our wedding. The forecast didn’t say it was gonna rain that day, just cloudy, so I don’t know why they never set it up. They also used a hanging rack for “coat check” and hid it behind a wooden divider (that did not fit the decor) placed at the entrance of the Island House. I didn’t request for a coat check and it was an eyesore.
Belle Mer staff did a great job with the food. The guests loved the food, even though the food at our tasting tasted better. Our guests were impressed with the service. Everything was well coordinated from serving food to retrieving empty dinnerware. The wait staff was eager to accommodate everybody’s food requests.
I love how I get a bridal attendant who waited on me hand and foot. I wasn’t used to having an attendant so I tried to do everything myself, until my bridal attendant told me to use her. At the cocktail hour, two of the wait staff were assigned to serve us (John and I) food while we do our photos which we appreciated very much. I think they were assigned to serve us during the reception too. One was able to get the kitchen staff to cook extra scallops that John missed at the cocktail hour. But they were delayed in serving us the courses. There were a couple of times we were served last, the guests started eating their food and we were still waiting.
The Belle Mer event coordinator assigned to us was very helpful. And she seemed like she really cared about our wedding. She was quick to respond, sometimes even in the middle of the night! She did forget about a few details, like the number of chairs at the ceremony site. She was the one who suggested doubling the number of chairs. But came wedding day, there weren’t enough chairs for my guests. The place setting was set up differently from what we discussed, but it wasn’t a big deal coz it was still beautiful.
A lot of brides complained about the planning stages with Belle Mer. I think it depends a lot on the event coordinator. A good event coordinator can make the planning go smoothly. Our event coordinator made the planning less stressful for me. This does not mean that the planning wasn’t stressful at all. Belle Mer was actually a big stress on our wallets. Our event coordinator did help us and eased some of that money-related stress.
Instead of minimum number of guests or food and beverage minimum, Belle Mer has what’s called “event minimum.” Unlike the food and beverage minimum that only includes cost of food and beverage, the event minimum includes everything from site fees to food to third party vendors hired through Belle Mer.
I prefer the event minimum over minimum number of guests coz we didn’t have many guests. All of our guests were from out of town, so I wasn’t sure of the number of guests that would be able to attend. With the event minimum, I was able to use the rentals, my DJ fee, and farewell goodie bags to meet the minimum. If Belle Mer had to enforce a minimum number of guests, I would have had to pay for people that weren’t there. Thankfully Belle Mer had event minimum instead.
Belle Mer (Longwood Events) consider themselves a ”full-service event company” They can help you plan your event from catering to hiring your photographer. Tell them what you envision on your wedding day, and they can find and hire the vendors that will implement your vision. This is great for brides who would want everything in one place, but also have the money for it.
Belle Mer added 30% to the vendors’ prices they procured. In addition to that, Belle Mer’s administrative charge (18%) and taxes were applied to those prices as well. Belle Mer may tip and feed the vendors free of charge, but I don’t think it’s worth the extra charges they tack on. I will not pay a wedding planner 30% (Belle Mer’s upcharge) + 18% (Belle Mer’s administrative charge) to hire a vendor for me, would you? That’s an additional 53.4%! But if I were to hire the vendor myself, Belle Mer would have charged a vendor fee of $500 per vendor. Again, the 18% administrative fee applies to this $500 vendor fee, then taxes (8% total) are applied to the vendor fee plus the administrative fee. I am not sure if they still charge vendor fees, but this was based on a contract created December 2008.
Take note that Belle Mer does not charge service charge unlike other venues, but they charge 18% administrative charge. Most venues charge less than 8% for administrative charge. And remember that taxes (7% State of RI tax and 1% City of Newport tax) are applied to that 18% administrative charge.
Belle Mer’s employees are not tipped employees. The administrative charge does not represent a tip, gratuity, or service charge for wait staff employees, service employees, or service bartenders. However, the administrative charge may be used, in whole or in part and subject to the Belle Mer’s sole discretion, to pay regular wages, overtime compensation, and/or incentive compensation to various staff members engaged in the production and execution of Client’s event.
I hope I did not scare you with the costs. If planned well, the cost can be minimized. So yes, I would still recommend Belle Mer. Overall, they did a great job and everybody including my husband and I enjoyed the wedding.
- Hire the vendor yourself if the vendor’s fee is higher than $1047. If less than that, ask Belle Mer to hire the vendor for you, unless your event coordinator is willing to waive the vendor fee ($500).
- Don’t be afraid to ask your event coordinator if he/she can waive vendor fees if any.
- If you’re meticulous about details, make sure you tell your event coordinator every little detail. Don’t leave out anything from decor to coat racks to timelines.