Don't Plan a wedding at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival
without first reading this!
A review by Randy Constan, author, 'Peter Pan's Home Page Website
We had a wonderful wedding day at the bay area Renaissance Festival, mainly due to our friends, the tireless efforts of my fiancee, and the many actors and musicians who went the extra mile for us. But having publicized Our Wedding on line, and being somewhat well known in terms of internet notoriety, we would be remiss if we did not explain that the fair management did an absolutely horrendous job. So not wanting others to unknowingly risk the same treatment, I'm taking this opportunity to publicly give a sober warning to anyone thinking of a wedding or similar event with the Michigan based company that runs this fair. Simply put, you really might want to re-consider!
First of all the amount of mis-information given us at every step of the planning was staggering. Any single item or even a few, on their own, might be considered a minor nuisance or forgivable oversight. But all tolled the issues we experienced would make one wonder whether they had ever hosted anything like a wedding before. Sadly, they have! Having had occasion afterward to speak to others who held similar events there, we know our case is far from unique. Secondly, beyond incompetence, we could have taken at least one of those issues to legal prosecution, because it involved outright theft. Below are of the problems we dealt with. Again on their own some of these items might be considered silly to fuss over. But imagine planning a wedding and experiencing all the below, and more!
We made it clear to management from the beginning that a particular band and at least one particular actor were key parts of our decision to hold our wedding at the fair. Having already verified and spoken to those performers and agreed on both a ceremony and reception time, we raised concern whether our timing would interfere with the other obligations these entertainers were scheduled for. But after speaking to several in management, we were assured this was not a problem. In fact we spoke to the woman who everyone recognized as the single person in charge of everything expressing this concern, in order to ensure there was no misunderstanding. These were, after all, the main musicians and officiator for our actual wedding ceremony, and not some ancillary entertainment. The timing was important too, as guests were coming from far away and only had a limited number of hours at the fair. But again we were assured by this "top" manager that there would be NO problems, further stating that they would change the schedule of the desired performers to accommodate us, and that they would be as flexible as necessary to do so. But then, just weeks before the event, we got to speak to the "entertainment director", whose tone was both rude and obnoxious. She outright contradicted her own manager saying that those musicians and actors are "under contract with US!", and very rudely insisted that there would be no flexibility in the entertainer's schedules. Can you believe that? You'd almost have to suspect that there was some personal vendetta going on, but that was not the case at all. Other entertainers privately told me that she is generally rude and difficult with everyone. I concur. This "entertainment director" was rude enough to my fiancee, to make you wonder if they appreciated anyone's business at all. Fortunately in the end, the musicians and actors all basically did us personal favors and everything worked out. But no thanks at all to the fair management (Names provided on request).
Every little bit of information given us concerning decorations of any kind, even details such as table linens at the reception area proved to be completely bogus. Promised "center pieces" on tables, the colors of the tablecloths, decorations in the reception area, even the details about the wedding cake and topper. The list goes on and on and on and scarcely a single detail turned out to be true! For some things we had a few weeks warning, but only because we were beginning to ask the same questions over and over, noting that the answers would usually change each time. Two weeks out we had the extra tasks of such things as finding and purchasing our own cake topper, and hand making all of our own decorations. Not terrible tasks, mind you, if such things weren't planned and paid for! We tried to make our decorations match the colors of the tablecloths, because they told us that wouldn't change. But on the wedding day, and this should come as no surprise, there was no worry about matching anything because there simply were no tablecloths at all.
The cake itself, incidentally, was another big source of mis-information. We paid hundreds of dollars for a supposedly fantastic "Castle Cake", which needed no topper. We became suspicious when no one could offer a photo of such a cake, nor tell us where and how we might find out some of the details. Again, just weeks before the event (and after payment was given), it turned out they only had these specialty cakes in Michigan. We were given a substitute, with no substitute price or compensation, and had to scurry at the last minute to find a themed cake topper from another supplier, paying extra to ensure it would be there in time.
Probably the biggest outrage, and one that will not be ignored should we peruse a legal remedy, was the fact that they were directly responsible for the theft of alcohol we purchased. Watch out for this! We purposely purchased substantially more wine than we needed, having been directly assured that in accordance with Florida law, all unopened bottles would be available for us to take away afterward. Well there was indeed plenty left over after our reception, and so we asked to take it home then and there. Initially we were denied the chance to do so, with a company representative stating that none of it could be removed until they did their inventory. Fair enough. But when we returned during the following week to pick up all our belongings, we were told that they had inventoried the wine, and that we had used it all. When we insisted otherwise, we were simply told "sorry". OK, as we have direct evidence along with photos and witnesses to the contrary, we may choose to see to it that they have to answer for this. But in the mean time, should you work a similar agreement with them for any event, you may want to call the police to observe and write a report of what they see left over. Sound like a lousy way to end a wedding? Well yes... maybe a good reason to take your business elsewhere??!
Now we were pretty lucky. As I mentioned earlier, there were many fair workers and quite a number of actors and musicians who did go the extra mile for us, and we have given them recognition and thanks on our wedding pages. But speaking of thanks, do not expect a single word of thanks from any of the fair management for your business! This despite the fact that the total cost of a wedding at the fair is no cheaper than for a comparable outdoor wedding at many actual event venues! Had that not been the case, someone could say we were expecting a bit much from a Renaissance fair. But in truth, their monetary expectations are sufficiently high to make anyone expect much more professionalism. All we expected, after all, was accurate and correct information, people following through on promises, and certainly not having to deal with theft of our purchased property. In other words, what you would expect from any business that depends on word of mouth recommendations.
Once again and for the record, we have indeed spoken to other couples that held similar events at this fair under the same management, and their stories are remarkably similar. Perhaps the management feels some immunity, knowing it unlikely for anyone who holds such an event to get a chance to warn anyone else, and repeat business is unlikely anyway. But if nothing else, we have the web, where anyone can share information with the entire planet. It is my purpose in writing this to do just that, and help prevent this from happening to someone else. We'd also like to hear from you if you had similar experiences with this company. Forewarned is forearmed.
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