A Historic Riverside Wedding Venue Lead by a Life Long Event Industry Expert!
- Riverside Receptions, Wedding Venue Stories: Riverside Receptions is located in Geneva, Illinois, on the western side of the Chicago suburbs. Illinois ranks 7th in the states providing the most weddings each year. On average over 70,000 engaged couples get married in Illinois annually! That is a lot of love, joy, laughter and celebrations!
- The historic building and gorgeous view create a peaceful and tranquil place for any event and especially weddings. The quaint décor is warm and welcoming, thrilling guests with its comfortable yet rustic feel. Natural stone walls, rustic brick, and floor-to-ceiling windows that capture all that Mother Nature has to offer, creating the perfect backdrop for your own unique style to shine through.
- Riverside Receptions owner Tina Drzonek shares her wedding venue story with us, shedding some light on what it’s like to run a wedding venue near Chicago! Chicago has such a rich history, celebrities, cuisine, legends and romance. It’s even home to the Twinkie, invented by Jimmy Dewar in 1930. I think that is noteworthy since A. its a dessert and B. micro weddings are now in high demand. So, its only a matter of time before a Twinkie wedding cakes shows up! Tina has a her a background in entertainment, service and the event industry. She is a career service industry expert. And that means she truly understands hard work and placing a priority on providing an incredible experience to every client! I love sharing these stories and sincerely hope you enjoy reading them and learning about our incredible wedding venue owners.
- Why did you decide to start a wedding venue? How did you get into the business of weddings?
- “I started when I was 15 and worked at our local public country club in the kitchen making salads. As I pursued different career paths, I always came back to hospitality.”
How long have you been operating a venue?
“As a general manger, 20 years. I was in management positions for 10 years, before that.”
Please share the story behind your venue name or how you came up with the name.
“Our story is fairly simple, we sit on the Fox River and it made perfect sense.”
What do you like best about being a venue owner/mgr?
“Though, it can be a long day with many challenges, it never feels like work. I love when I read the reviews that we get and am very proud of my staff. I have many families who work here, and also their children.”
Please share your experience about how much effort & cost goes into running a venue. Things that couples and start up venues may not be aware of. (heating, cooling, adv, landscaping, staff, insurance, etc…).
“The costs are endless and no one realizes what it takes to put an entrée in front of them. From cleaning and office supplies, to light bulbs and knife sharpening, there are many expenses. There are annual inspections for things like fire extinguishers to elevators. Licenses to be a restaurant and to serve liquor. Training costs for staff to serve food safely and to tend bar, uniforms and payroll. Liability insurance is very high, accounting fees, technology and advertising all need to be sufficient and up to date. You have to keep your place up, maintenance fees for AC, plumbing and heating, exterior issues as roofing and parking lots, garbage and grease pick-up, gardens and landscaping all chip away at your bottom line.”
Do you have any tips on cutting costs on daily operations or any smart solutions you have for saving money (website, venue expenses, staff, adv, etc..)?
“We try to evaluate every purchase as a necessity or a luxury. A luxury purchase would be one that would not bring in more clients or change their experience here, but, might make a staff members life a little easier. A necessary purchase directly effects the ability to operate and our to complete task or functions while exceeding our guests expectations. Most luxury items are passed on, but we can keep dreaming.”
Do you have any time saving tips that are worth the investment, like paying for landscaping crews or investing in someone to manage day of events or cleaning crew to flp the venue.
“The best investment is in your staff. If you respect your staff and pay fairly, you can keep them happy for a long time and loyal employees are more likely to have a personal stake in the success of the business. We have many employees that are happy to be flexible and do jobs that they were not hired for, such as cleaning, or helping a dishwasher. Turnover of staff is very expensive, not only in training costs and unemployment insurance rates, but in the potential mistakes that new employees can make. Keeping clients happy with well trained employees is your best advertisement and ROR.”
Do you have special regulations or hours for your event rental parties? Any policies that you have to enforce that a traditional wedding venue may not?
“We are a unique location, but still in a commercial zone. Our hours are not restricted.”
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How many weddings do you host each year? “About 175-200”
What is your main source of lead generation?
“We do rely heavily on the online wedding sites and search engines.”
Tips on providing great venue tours for potential clients? What materials do you provide on tours?
“We try to always have the tables clothed with some small floral centerpieces or décor and rooms comfortable temperature wise with nice music playing. Providing our clients with information other than just what we can do for them, like local places for rehearsal dinners, tired and true vendors and attractions that can help their event to be more like a destination wedding rather than a banquet. We schedule a full hour between tours to ensure that they do not feel rushed and we can supply them with all the information that they need to make a solid choice.”
What do you think your couples love most about your venue? Any venue assets/features that help you book clients?
“We are truly excited for them and love our jobs and they see that and can feel safe that we will try our best to make them happy. Word of mouth is our best endorsement and those usually come the couples from trusted sources, such as family, coworkers. Our most valued asset is our view of the Fox River. We have invested in floor to ceiling windows on both floors to give everyone this fabulous backdrop for their event.”
Do you do your own advertising & marketing? If so please share any tips on best practices that help you get your business in front of more potential clients, get more leads, etc…
“We do our own marketing, and keep it simple. Website, wedding sites and review based sources. We have the location, location, location, so we focus on pictures, pictures and more pictures.”
Please share any costly errors or regrets you may have learned from.
“Our most recent realization of keeping the space updated was a year ago. We have been in this location for 30+ years and have always made very minor changes to the décor. Once we decided to update and freshen up the paint, decor and new carpet, we saw a surge in business. This is something I would urge everyone to do, have someone other than an employee come in and tour your facility and look for areas of concern. From dusty air vents to worn carpet, we don’t always see things when we see them every day.”
Do you have any tips on contract development, any wording or clauses that help you the most?
“Again we keep the contract simple as a date, room and time. We point out any liability issues and clear payment requirements. We also attach additional information with commonly asked questions to help them understand just what they can expect from us, as well as a schedule of appointments that need to be made throughout the planning process.”
Do you have a great website? Tips on website design or features that help you attract, book clients?
“Over the years I have found that a pretty website can bring the couple into our space virtually and they can visualize themselves here. Pictures that show emotions are just as important as room shots. Just have the information that they need, too much information and they will move on to the next site.”
Building client relationships – how do you build up your client relationships? Any customer service tips or practices you can share?
“Our staff is very friendly and approachable. Professional as well as casual lets couples relax and feel like they can ask us anything. This goes a long way at the end of the day when considering where to host their wedding.”
Any hard challenges you would like to share with venue owners and how you overcame that challenge?
“Think logically not with emotions and don’t take anything personally. Take a deep breath and head right into the issue. Think about what the worst outcome could be and then prepare yourself for that, and usually it is never that bad and it can be handled beautifully.”
Do you have any stories of chaos you can share, something unexpected that happened during a wedding or event and the solution you came up with or how things were resolved?
“I was working at a very old exclusive private club in Lake Forrest and had a couple who wanted to bring in a very large expensive cake from a bakery in Chicago. I suggested to them that the cake from the local bakery was so highly rated and would provide them a gorgeous and delicious cake, but they insisted on bringing in the cake. When it arrived their cake was stunning. As the general manager was meeting with the staff to brief them about this very important couple, the cake behind him began lean back and smashed onto the floor. I noticed the filling was a very thick layer of strawberry jelly and the tubes holding up the cake were hollow cardboard that soaked up the liquid and collapsed. As I was cleaning up the floor, the train of limousines where pulling up through the yard. I immediately closed the dining room doors and called the local bakery to bring in one of their display cakes to place on the cake table. The display cake was not edible, but I was able to use the bottom layer of cake to serve all the guests, since they had made such a large cake for the look of opulence. So, the old stand by baker that was poo pooed, actually saved the day. I love stories like that.”
Do you have any tips you would like to share with other venue owners?
“Be fair and honest, treat each couple like you would want your own children treated.”
Do you have any thoughts or solutions to share regarding Covid19? Or maybe just share how Covid is impacting your business.
“Covid has been a challenge like we have not had since 9/11. We spend many hours just listening to our couples and being thoughtful to their need to discuss, sometimes weekly, how they feel and talk them down off the ledge. In the end, we have had to move many brides and some opted to cancel their event. Everything was handled without issue and we took care of each couple individually. Best advise here is to not spend the deposits from the couples until the date of their event. It may be tempting, but when you have something like this happen, you will be able to do what needs to be done to compensate the couples.”
Any advice to anyone thinking of starting a venue?
“If you have not worked in one for a period of years, you should. Plan to work long hours and put your heart and soul into it. You will be relying on your employees for everything, make sure you consider them your highest priority and invest the time in training and ensuring they share your vision.”
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What are your couples top ten Fav parts/characteristics of your venue?
“View, Food, staff, décor, location, outdoor gardens and courtyard, flexibility, pricing, local flavor and bar next door for after hours.”
What are the top spots for shots around the venue?
“Fabyan Forest Preserve, our courtyard gardens, native prairie garden adjacent to our property, the riverfront, our stone walls, our courtyard gardens.”
Most popular foods at your weddings?
“Fillet Mignon and Chicken with artichoke cream sauce and Lobster Bisque soup.”
What is the biggest challenge you have in managing weddings?
“Empowering my staff to make decisions and letting go of complete control.”
What are the couples who come to your venue looking for in their wedding? What seems to be the priorities that come up most often?
“The venue has to speak to them and they need to feel comfortable with the coordinators and trust we can do what we promise, then price would probably be the deciding factor.”
Can you share 10 to 15 great vendors you have enjoyed working with.
“Town & Country Gardens, Floral Wonders, Wallflower Designs, Flour and Flowers, Kio Creations, Marie Pauly Wild Orchid, You Name it Events, Music by Design, Aaron Ehinger Photography, Tom Nicole Photography, Herrington Inn and Spa, Joy Lyn Photography, Exceptional Events by Shuki Moran, Montage Salon, Invitations by Design, just to name a few. I hate to list because you cant help to leave someone out unintentionally.”
RUMOR HAS IT…these Chicago area vendors are amazing!
Most unique wedding – wedding themes? “Star Wars themed and everyone was in costume.”
How do vendors load in to your venue?
“We have a service entrance in the back of the building.”
How is parking handled? “Free Public parking across the street.”
What is the most popular type of music played at weddings at your venue?
“It seems the dance music never changes, always the music from 60’s, 70s and 80’s, tried and true dance songs.”
Wedding Crashers – ever have one (critters included)?
One summer we had a couple who cashed a couple of times. We never caught them, but were told about them by the couples after the fact. We did see them on video and when they came in again we busted them out and have not seen them again. We do get an occasional chipmunk, but they are fairly easy to catch and return them outside.
“I am not fond of people wanting to decorate the whole ceiling with fabric and lights… also the ones that want the tables covered in candles, candles and more candles.”
How do you handle clean up at your venue?
“Our staff is very good at taking care of all after event duties. Couple need to take their items home that night and our staff will help pack things up and help to take them to their vehicles.”
What time to does your day begin and end on a wedding day?
“We have staff here at 9:00 in the morning and they will walk out as late as 2:00AM the following morning. With a cleaning crew in at 3:00AM until about 9:00AM. We try to split the time up, but weddings require detailed set ups, and they make a big mess and a tremendous amount of work goes into cleaning the entire building for the next day. How exhausting is the average wedding? Mentally and physically very exhausting.”
What has changed at your venue since you hosted the first wedding to the weddings you host today?
“Most things are the same. I say the same thing over a thousand times over. Now, more brides are in charge of their weddings, back in the day, mothers took care of everything. Grooms seem to get more involved then years past. But, the trends go around, go out and come back in again.”
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How have you changed as a venue owner from the time you hosted your first wedding?
“As a manager, I have learned not to take anything personally and do not get upset about much. You cant worry about things that you can’t do anything about or things that may happen, it takes away from the joy of the job.”
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