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Monday, February 16, 2015

Announcing Our Wedding Venue: Watermark 920!

Announcing Our Wedding Venue: 
Watermark 920!

The decision has honestly been under wraps since a few days after the engagement, which was such a whirlwind of excitement for us! Watermark 920 is a homebase for me--somewhere I've enjoyed being a part of so many events (Like the Thrift Trick Fashion Show and the annual Lumber Baron's Ball)--and it also is swanky, industrial and a million miles away from the Pinterest-y shabby chic barn weddings that seem to have all but consumed the wedding industry over the last few years.


It also happens to be that the President, Sarah Sass, and General Manager, Laurel Sass, are two of the coolest chicks ever.

All personal preference aside, Watermark 920 has been rocking events on the Lakeshore like nobody's business. Their sophisticated, customizable space is perfect for so many applications, and the team is absolutely amazing. My first consultation with Laurel and Sarah made me realize what an serious breath of relief it is to have support from professionals when you are planning a wedding.

Everyone knows how thrifty I am--and always will be. The interesting aspect to going "DIY" mad when you put together your own wedding from the ground up is how much you can actually end up spending on odds and ends--from linens to chair rentals. Anyone with a fairly decent sized guest list can attest to this fact.

For this reason (and for matters of mental health), I can't even begin to say how thrilled I am to work with the awesome staff of Watermark, and to relinquish some control over our special day. I know I'm passing the torch to very capable (and professional) hands.

I thought it would be great to hear from Watermark 920 on a few topics--from how they got started, to where they are headed.

Watermark 920 Interview

with Sarah Sass 

President of Watermark 920 and

recipient of Grand Rapid's Business Journal's "40 under 40" Award 2011

and Laurel Sass
General Manager of Watermark 920 and
member of the Muskegon Lakeshore and Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce 


Q. How did Watermark 920 come about?

Sarah: The space that houses Watermark 920 is a former loading dock for the Shaw Walker Furniture Factory. When we built the Watermark lofts, our original thought was that this space would have a commercial or retail use. We kept getting asked if we had meeting and event space available and realized that there was a huge need in the community for another event center and the vision for 920 came about.
We wanted to create a space that was wide-open and had a neutral palette so every color would look good in the center. We also didn’t want our brides to feel like they had to cover the chairs so we invested in gorgeous, black Chiavari chairs. We wanted to create and felt that Muskegon needed a space where the only limitations were our clients’ imaginations and 920 was born!

Q. You’ve hosted a big variety of events in the past—did your vision for Watermark always contain a lot of diversity?

Sarah: When we first started 920 we honestly weren’t sure what to expect and there wasn’t  really anything locally to compare 920 to. Our vision was just of say a busy center, but what became even more apparent was that we all loved events and everything about them from concept to completion.
Because we have such a diverse team behind the Watermark we had a group of people bringing ideas and contacts to the table. We were having so much fun with the space that we decided to create an event and promotions arm of our company to promote and produce events both on and off-site. What started as just a way for us to have some fun has turned in to a very viable part of our company and a huge component of our success. We started by producing in – house concerts and now we even design and create events for private and public companies and individuals, from weddings to fundraisers. But I think that is where the diversity comes from. We like to show off our space and show how it can be used. I also feel that because it is so minimalistic, modern and wide open that you can make the atmosphere feel like a huge party or very intimate. I think all of these factors have created the diverse nature of what you see happening in the space.

Q. You’re a female-fronted business, which is totally awesome. How has that impacted the trajectory of Watermark? Have you encountered any roadblocks as female entrepreneurs?

Sarah: We are actually all family and friends around here which has created more of a unique dynamic, I think. Both Laurel and I come from a background that has small, family-owned businesses so we have been a part of that entrepreneurial spirit and I think that has shown us how to work hard and I think the fact that we are family and friends around here gives Watermark a genuine feel. I guess personally, I have never felt like just because we are women Watermark is successful but more because we are good human beings and we care about what we do that other people care and support us too.
We are also all born and raised Muskegonites. We love our hometown and feel like being from here comes with some responsibility like giving back. I think the relationships we all have with each other more than our business being female-fronted has had more of an impact. There is one thing we know about the community here and it’s that we have to support it and I think that has impacted our trajectory the most.
 I personally haven’t ever encountered any roadblocks based on my gender but I started working in my field at 19 – and have had a few problems in my career because of my age more than anything. But that is a whole other topic of discussion!

Q. What is your favorite aspect of hosting weddings and receptions? Can you tell me about a few events that have stood out from the rest in a good way, and why?

Sarah: We love everything about weddings! In the past few years since we have been hosting them we have become complete and total linen junkies. We have unhealthy obsessions with the Pantone Colors of the year and the shabby chic trend was a lot of fun.  I guess my favorite part is that planning events really is fun and each one is as unique as each bride is.
I think for me what stands out most are all of the clever little ideas we see from candy tables to guest books. Just when we think we have seen it all a bride will pop up with the coolest little centerpiece and we will all be in awe.  The weddings that stood out for me are the ones where the guests and the hosts all are having a good time. I like seeing people have a good time and I don’t think you have to have the fanciest wedding, the most expensive or the most unique to achieve that.  When planning your wedding put some thought in to your guests and what they will be doing all night. 

Laurel: I love being able to work with all kinds of people and the overwhelming gratitude from brides, mother-of-brides, wedding guests, etc. It gives you a special sense of enjoyment that I could make their day a little bit more special. 

Q. What is your least favorite aspect of hosting weddings? Is there anything that you wish your clients wouldn’t do, or any golden nuggets that you wish they knew before they started planning a wedding at a venue like Watermark?

Sarah: For me, I think I don’t have a least favorite aspect so much as I think sometimes that guests and brides forget the reason why everyone is celebrating. There is nothing worse than a Bridezilla or a rude guest who spends the entire evening on their phone or iPad and not engaged in what is happening. Also, overindulgence has a way of wrecking things too and I have seen both wedding couples and guests ruin a beautiful night.
If I were planning a wedding I would absolutely hire an event planner. A professional planner can do as little or as much as you want them to do. Don’t put the burden of setting up all of your decorations and linens off on your friends and family…as well as the tear down. Ask your venue about their policies and what services they offer. One of the things we see all of the time is bride’s trying to save money in all of the wrong ways. For example, asking about our linen prices, then buying directly from a company online because it is cheaper. Included in our pricing we will press and set all of your linens as well as tear them down and they are guaranteed to look good. We see brides all of the time that buy online and then spend all day trying to press their linens and by the time they get them on the table there is no time to set up the rest of the event….and then what do you do with 30 – 72” linens after the event?
Event Managers – we do this all the time, we know what works. We have better resources we can do it faster and create a hassle – free event for you. We can also suggest ways to maximize your budget and have the biggest impact. 

Laurel: I wish more brides would let us do their decorating! The events that we have pulled the décor together for look phenomenal and really doesn’t cost a fortune like most people assume. The stress of setting up on their big day is taken care of; I wish more people would understand that. 

Q. What do you suggest as a timeline for recently engaged couples in terms of booking an event at Watermark?

Sarah: I don’t think a year is unusual but we have pulled them off in a couple of weeks before too! Many venues book out a year in advance – we are already booking in to 2016!

Q. What’s next for Watermark 920?

Sarah:  The sky is the limit and the only way is up! 

Thanks so much to Sarah and Laurel for taking the time to answer my questions. I can't wait to share more wedding details with you in blogs to come!

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