Picking your wedding venue will be one of the largest and most anxious decisions you make when it comes to your planning and budget. One of the most popular choices are great restaurants for their fantastic food, experienced staff and often great environment.
Below is the transcript from my interview with Selena from Reef Restaurant at Terrigal Haven on the Central Coast – the premiere restaurant for Central Coast weddings. If you’d rather see my interview about everything you need to know about booking a venue or restaurant for your wedding on the Central Coast, Newcastle or the Hunter Valley, head over to this page.
Great Wedding Food, Great Wedding Restaurant
Andrew: So I’m with Selena from Reef Restaurant today. I just want to say thanks for having me in.
Selena: You’re welcome.
Andrew: Thank you, I know this is like one of the most awesome places for a wedding. But I just want to give brides a bit of an idea of what’s involved in booking the Reef and even organizing the reception part of the wedding.
Andrew: So whereabouts, say, you guys situated exactly for people who don’t know?
Selena: Well we’re in Terrigal, which is a beautiful holiday destination. We’re at the Haven, right on the waterfront.
Andrew: And you’re literary looking out the windows and you can see the beach, and the water lapping and the sand right below it.
Selena: And you can actually hear the ocean when all the windows are open, it’s really beautiful.
Andrew: Fantastic. So when brides think about having their receptions, say, with you guys, or any reception, I guess you’re one of the first businesses that they book?
Selena: Pretty much. They get engaged and then they start thinking about where they’re going to have their wedding. So it depends I guess on how many guests they’re inviting and most brides are always looking for that gorgeous, stunning ‘wow’ factor location.
Andrew: Sure. So what sort of things do they have to have in mind before they make that booking? I guess that’s numbers?
Selena: Their numbers, obviously the date, there are some months of the year where you know, it’s very popular and they book out well in advance but the date would be the important thing.
Andrew: Okay, so date, numbers, how many people can you sit here per wedding comfortably?
Selena: Up to 150. With a dense space though, probably 120, comfortably.
Andrew: Okay, sure.
Selena: Still have room for dancing.
Andrew: Okay. And why would people, say, pick a restaurant destination or location for a venue, rather than, say, a reception hall?
Selena: I guess what we pride ourselves on is our quality of food and service. We are not a function centre and every wedding that we do, we cater for individually. And offer that really beautiful food and standard of service.
Andrew: Sure. I know when couples tell me they’re having their wedding at the Reef, I look forward to it because I know I’m going to get a meal as well. I know that’s one of the best meals on the Coast. So when they come in for that first appointment, is that 12 months before the wedding? Or..
Selena: Most of the time, it is. And you know, it’s always possible to do it with a shorter period of time as well. We have a team that can help organize a wedding with as little as 6 months notice. But most of the time, they book 12 months in advance. We take a $500 deposit from them at the time they book.
Andrew: So that’s the initial call, I guess, is that if you’re talking about numbers, dates and budget? And so if that’s all okay and that fits in with them, and you guys is, what is the actual appointment for, say, selecting food, organizing and having a nice meal run, when does all that happen?
Selena: Because our function menus, our wedding menus are created by our a la carte menu, we generally don’t do the menu choice until a month out from the wedding. So they’ve certainly got an idea whether they would like entrée, main, dessert or whether they like a wandering canapé entrée and then main, and then their wedding cake for dessert. We’ve already established that, but the actual items on their wedding day are created from our a la carte menu. So about a month out, we get them to come in for a tasting. It’s really beautiful opportunity for them to just sit and relax and have a lovely dinner together. Because on their actual wedding day, I think it all just goes very quickly so it’s nice for them to come in and do that tasting.
Andrew: Sure. So who comes to that tasting? Is that..
Selena: Generally just the bride and groom. And it’s a really lovely thing. But I mean often their Mums and Dads can come as well, but we offer the tasting complimentary for the bride and groom.
Andrew: Okay. So they can bring other people with them an pay, sure. So when they first call up and they book that date, is that when you’re discussing with them about entrée, main, dessert, whether they’re going to have their wedding cake for dessert, is that what happens in that first conversation?
Selena: Pretty much that happens probably, the first thing that we do is book their date and the $500 locks in that date. 6 months out, we normally turn around and get another further payment and so we definitely decide on the menu price and lock it in.
Andrew: Okay so Selena you were just saying then that there’s a $10,000 booking fee for the room. Does that include anything else, or is that just the room?
Selena: So there isn’t a room hire charge as such. $10,000 is the minimum charge, and the food and beverage can be included in that. So that’s what we require you to spend to have the exclusive use of the Reef Restaurant.
Andrew: So if you’re having 60 people or a 100 people, you’re up for $10,000. But then your inclusion will change and you might add more if you’re having 100?
Selena: Absolutely. So you choose a menu that you like, you choose a beverage package that you like, or you give us an amount of beverage tab you’d like to spend, and that’s what makes up the final bill as such.
Andrew: Okay so when does all that get worked out? So I guess the brides want to know that pretty early on, so is that that first phone call or is that when they come in to meet you guys?
Selena: They come in, sit down. I usually like to have 4 meetings with them throughout. So the first one to lock the date in and get all their details. The seconds one, 6 months out, to lock the menu price and talk about the structure of what they like. And then 2 further meetings after that, where we just discuss the running of the day, the timing of everything, any extra things that they like, whether they’re having decorators come in to the venue..
Andrew: So what’s the most common sort of scenario? Is it entrée, does is start with canapés or entrees?
Selena: I think because it’s such a beautiful view and you know, it’s by the water. It’s really lovely to do a wandering entrée that way, all the guests can actually stand with the windows open, appreciate the view and whilst the bride and groom are having photos taken, then the bride and groom, they’ll sit down and the bride and groom arrive shortly after that.
Andrew: Okay. That’s great. So they walk around, chatting, mingling, having that entrée. Okay. And then sit down. And I know with you guys, it’s a little bit different to a lot of, say, function centres, but the guests actually choose their meals.
Selena: There is the option of doing that. That’s our daring menu option. Obviously the turn of service has worked really beautifully when they’re talking about a large group of people because the wait staff don’t have to be intrusive and everybody’s there having a chat. But there is the option of having an order taken and everyone choosing what they’d like.
Andrew: That’s pretty special. You don’t see that at a lot of weddings.
Selena: No. It really is beautiful. I guess it just depends on what the bride and groom actually want and we pride ourselves in that. We sort of organize every wedding around their needs. Their dream day.
Andrew: Yeah, which it is.
Selena: Yeah, absolutely. You only do it once, it has to be done properly.
Andrew: Exactly. And I know that with you guys, here at the Reef, when the night’s running, there’s so many staff here, there’s people looking after everyone. It’s not like, some of the venues I go, there’s minimum staff, waiting to get served and looking around for some of the servers..
Selena: We have a great team. And I think we all take a great deal of pride in the fact that yes, we are a restaurant. But it’s really special for us and when you get a hundred or more guests, it’s lovely to, it’s a special occasion so everyone’s happy, it’s lovely working here as well.
Andrew: And you mentioned the decorators before. So they, I mean your restaurant looks fantastic as it is. So what normally happens with the decorator? What are they contributing?
Selena: I guess that’s the beauty of this venue. It’s very neutral so you can do as little as you like, leaving it very plain with just the linen or you can get decorators in, they often do backdrops with fairy lights, chair covers, it just depends on the individual needs and scheme.
Andrew: And the decorators just come in the day of the wedding? And they just work around with you guys?
Selena: Yeah, that’s right.
Andrew: Okay, fantastic. I know that a big part of the wedding night is the drinks, as well as the food. And we’ve talked about your spectacular food. But how do the drinks work? Is it normally a beer and wine package? Or..
Selena: It can be, or it can be a tab, it just depends. We do have some own labeled wine, which is really beautiful to have the Reef label on the wines. Alternatively, they can look at our extensive wine list and choose their own wines to have served. So generally we suggest that they pick a sparkling , 2 whites and 2 reds.
Andrew: And does that all happen at that tasting day?
Selena: Yes it can. Actually probably the wines are decided before the tasting day but it is a nice way to come in, have dinner and just double check that you’re really happy with the selection of wine as well.
Andrew: Alright and they can run a dollar value on the tab?
Selena: Absolutely, that’s right. Or a guest can pay for their own spirits if they wish to. So if the bride and groom just wanted to cover the soft drinks and wine, then guests can pay for their own spirits.
Andrew: Okay sure. And I know that you guys, it’s a great dance floor here as well. So you’re obviously accommodating with DJs and musicians, I’ve photographed weddings here with both.
Selena: And it is a lovely venue for live music. It’s also a lovely venue for DJs and the louder music later on in the evening.
Andrew: And just quickly back to the meals, I know that when you guys do dessert here, there’s a couple of different options isn’t there with the dessert? Do you do a buffet-style dessert?
Selena: No. I think we really like to concentrate on the service so it’s really lovely to give everyone an individual plate and dessert. However, it’s very popular with a lot of brides to actually have their wedding cake served for dessert. So, we’re seeing more of that, cupcakes and those sorts of things and we’re happy to plate that with a beautiful berry compote and cream with things like that.
Andrew: Sure. So if they have their wedding cake as a dessert, does that reduce the cost, the overall cost?
Selena: It can do.
Andrew: It depends what they do?
Selena: Certainly, it all depends on their final numbers and their budget.
Andrew: Okay. And I know also that often when I’m heading off to do photos for the couple around The Haven, when we come back, we see a lot of guests down at the Cove, which is straight underneath you guys.
Selena: That’s correct.
Andrew: How does that work?
Selena: So it is an option if you wanted to start a little bit earlier. So if you’ve had a gorgeous outdoor ceremony, this venue is only available from 6:30pm. So often people say ‘oh there’s too much time between the ceremony.’ So we allow them to hire the Cove for an hour and start down there at 5:30pm. It’s casual and beautiful, same outlook directly downstairs. It’s a great place to have the canapés, especially if their numbers are a little bit larger upstairs and there’s less room for everybody to mingle around. It also allows the bride to get here and the venue upstairs is virtually untouched by guests.
Andrew: That’s a pretty special moment, isn’t it?
Selena: It’s beautiful, when she walks in, so it’s really lovely. I mean the Cove is available for very casual canapé-style weddings as well. It’s more rustic, it has some, as I said the same views and everything, it just has little corners…
Andrew: More like a wine bar sort of set up, isn’t it?
Selena: It is. But it is lovely for canapé- or cocktail-style weddings as well.
Andrew: Sure. And I know you guys have won some pretty major awards, one recently.
Selena: We have, yeah. We’re members of ‘Restaurant and Catering.’ So locally, we took out 8 awards in 2011, but the big one that we’re most proud of, and I’m very proud of our team, is we won National Caterer in 2011.
Andrew: Great, that’s awesome isn’t it?
Selena: Yeah, it’s lovely. Very rewarded for that.
Andrew: And I know also as far as photography is concerned, a lot of couples have their ceremony on the beach right below you guys, or up at the headland.
Selena: There are some beautiful spots for photographs.
Andrew: So you can have your ceremonies here, you can have your location shoot here and you don’t really need hire cars, if you have your wedding at the Reef.
Selena: Not necessarily, no. And a great thing for a lot of bride and grooms is that Terrigal offers a cross range accommodation. So for their whole family, it’s really easy to book accommodation.
Andrew: Great, because you’ve got Star of the Sea Apartments, you’ve got Crowne Plaza.
Selena: And there’s lots of little boutique places, as well, B&B’s and things like that.
Andrew: Beautiful. Fantastic. So with restaurant meals and so many guests, I imagine you guys would be able to deal with people’s dietary requirements.
Selena: Absolutely. We’re always happy, chef is always happy to cater for dietary needs. That’s something that we usually organize within the last couple of weeks when the final numbers come through and the bride just lets us know and we have to take care of it, they map them on their table plan and we go and see that individual guest.
Andrew: So it gets marked out beforehand?
Selena: Yeah, absolutely and chef’s very accommodating. He and his team will have all sorts of dietary needs and their requirements.
Andrew: Okay. Alright. I was going to ask you if, say, someone is watching this, say a bride who could be overseas or another state, and she wants to book a restaurant for her wedding, and they can’t have the Reef because you’re too far away, they’re not coming to Terrigal, what sort of things do they have to look out for before they book their restaurant? What should they check before they go in and make a booking?
Selena: I guess you really need to have confidence in the person that you’ve met with. And I guess making sure that they’re willing to make sure that it’s your special day, rather than them telling you how it works. It’s very important that the client be able to have what they’d like.
Andrew: So you’re happy to go, if someone says ‘we want to do it this way,’ would you change the order of something.
Selena: Sure. I mean we’ve done degustation menus which is individual little tastings of 6 or more courses for weddings with them.
Andrew: Okay. So you don’t see that in many places.
Selena: No, no, not at all. But we’re happy to cater for their individual needs.
Andrew: And I guess they should always try the food, before they book a venue.
Selena: I think so and that’s the beauty of this venue, is that we’re a restaurant and they can come in anytime and try it and they often do. They might be sitting down at dinner and actually ask for a wedding package. You know, because they’ve loved their meal and loved the outlook, really happy with their service and that’s when they’ll ask for a wedding package.
Andrew: Sure and I know in winter time. I know it gets dark early and so it’s dark when the reception starts, but there’s actually big flood lights here, which still light up the Haven, isn’t there?
Selena: It’s really beautiful, they shine down on the water. It’s a lovely touch actually, the whole water shimmers and a beautiful photo opportunity.
Andrew: I often see big stingrays right here on the shoreline.
Selena: Yeah, probably. From up here you can see them clearly.
Andrew: Which is great. Okay. Thanks Selena, it’s been unreal.
Selena: Absolutely. You’re welcome.