Talking with Bank Street Events in Stamford / cool wedding venues in Fairfield County, Connecticut
Bank Street Events, located in downtown Stamford, is one of my favorite wedding venues in Fairfield County. The space is unlike anything else in the state. It’s not a barn or a ballroom but actually a former bank, built in 1914. Most of the architecture has been preserved, including the bank vault which has a door that looks like the entrance to a time machine. The ceiling is amazing, and I love how the space is broken up into two open floors. It has the awesome combination of being unique and customizable, yet everything can be done for you on-site by their planners.
The space is hard to capture in photos, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a unique wedding venue in Connecticut. Even though it has super high ceilings, an open balcony, and marble details, it manages to feel cozy and inviting, like Grand Central station. The space has so much character as-is but it also could be decorated in so many different ways. You could go in a 1920s wedding direction, or offset the vintage architecture with super minimal and modern decor. I could even picture a sort of gothic Halloween wedding here (one can dream, right?). Not only is the space beautiful, the managers and coordinators who run it are awesome. They’re flexible but know exactly what they’re doing. I had the nicest welcome from Maxine, who took the time to talk with me and tell me all about what they do.
So tell me about the history of Bank Street Events
The bank was built in 1914. Originally there was no mezzanine, so it was just the main floor, the open space, and the board room. You can still see the original marble at the bar, and the bank counter that they just pushed back. The first owner, Ted, was trying to keep all the original architecture alive. People like it because it has that old-world elegant feel. Then Ted made it into a restaurant called Bank Street Brewery, but the space was really too big for a restaurant. And breweries weren’t really big in the 90s or as popular as they are now, so he decided to change it to an event space. He did events here for over ten years.
My boss was an event planner in Westport doing events off premise. She looked at the space for her son’s christening, and because she’s a caterer, she contacted Ted and asked if she could bring in her own servers and food. When she was leaving she said if you’re ever interested in selling give me a call… and four years later he called her and asked if she was still interested in buying. I think two weeks later she said yes and signed. My first day with her was actually the day she signed the lease for the business so I’ve been with her from the beginning. We’ve already done so many updates. The chairs were originally big, bulky and wooden with beige covers. We wanted to really make the space more versatile and advertise more for weddings so we bought new reception chairs, and redid the banquettes a gold leather. We wanted to make the furniture match everyone’s themes and colors.
So since the building is so old…do you ever have any reports of hauntings?
The chefs actually have told me some stories but I don’t know if they’re real or if they’re messing with me. The place is so echoey that sometimes I hear a noise and get freaked out and think someone is in the building. One of the chefs told me a story of an old banker who died here and haunted the basement. He said he was once in the basement and heard someone calling his name.
Most old buildings seem to have some sort of ghost story
Yeah and it’s cool, because we don’t actually own the building. The owner originally bought it because his mom used to love the bank so much
What’s your favorite part of having weddings here?
I love how special the space is. It’s not the traditional square ballroom. My favorite part is just the actual wedding day when everything comes together. Sometimes people come in two years before their wedding, so we become very very close to our clients. Some of them still email me. On the wedding day we feel like we’re part of the family, which makes everything go so smoothly. That’s why I got into the hospitality business in the first place, because I like making people happy. I get to work with so many different types of people, and it’s never the same. It’s not a desk job. I sometimes work twelve hours a day seven days a week depending on how busy we are and I still don’t get tired of it.
Do your couples have any characteristics in common?
I do see a lot of similarities, because a couple will see photos from a wedding here and then come here because they love the space. A lot of different things would work well here, like a Great Gatsby themed wedding, or a classic wedding. We’ve had couples who have a completely different look in mind but even if we haven’t done that sort of thing we make it work.
Do you guys take on a planner role?
Yes, we’re a full-service venue. So we do everything from the catering and the bar, to the entire planning from decor, flowers, centerpieces, to invitations. We also have vendors that have worked here before who we’re really close with and who we always recommend, so anything that the couple wants can go through us. It makes it easier. We know what works and what doesn’t work which helps. We’ve never brought in a separate planner, the couples have always chosen us.
That seems like it would make things easier. Do you have set options or is everything customizable?
We can always customize. We do have a booklet with options but we say if there’s something you don’t see on the menu we can do that for you. We’ve even brought in specialty beers, cocktails, and flowers. We use Pinterest to pin stuff, and couples pin stuff and send it to us too.
I love Pinterest. When it first came out I was very anti-Pinterest, but it’s actually a great organizational tool
Yes, it works very well for us because a lot of the initial planning we do is over email. So it’s a nice way for us to send couples pictures. My boss used to make an actual mood board and cut out pictures. So Pinterest just made it easier. We always find new ideas there, and we look there for menu ideas and apps to show to the chefs. We just updated our menu this year and it just keeps growing.
So when we were walking around earlier you were telling me about how you put a lot of thought into planning the flow of a wedding, because of how the space is so uniquely broken up. How do you approach that?
It really depends on the menu. For weddings we always say five hours is the minimum amount of time because four isn’t long enough for every moving part. You never know how long toasts are going to last…
Cocktail hour happens downstairs, and we sneak the couple upstairs so no one sees them. We block off the stairs so if the couple wants to take photos upstairs they can do that without having guests interrupt. Then cocktail hour continues and we invite everyone upstairs to sit. If it’s a seated dinner, we do salads then toasts. People like to stand on the balcony to do toasts. The space is so open that even though you’re a little separated you still feel like everyone’s all together. After dinner guests don’t usually even go back upstairs. The way we get guests downstairs is to start the parent dances–people usually hang out on the railing to watch and then they’ll come down. That’s when the party really gets started.
When we cut the cake we usually pass it instead of plating it because most guests don’t want to go upstairs and sit down. So that usually works out well. We’ve done ceremonies here too. The couple will get married and then the party starts right away, which is kind of nice. The bar opens, the party begins and everyone’s already here. We’ve also done parties that are more untraditional, with just passed apps instead of a sit-down dinner. We had two grooms here who just wanted it to be an all-out party, so we had food on all floors and drinks on all floors and people were everywhere eating and dancing. It really depends on the clients and what their menu is–we create the flow that way.
That’s really cool. I never thought of the food choices determining how everything is organized.
Yeah, because with a sit-down dinner everyone has to be upstairs. With a cocktail style event you want everyone to move around, so we make sure to have food everywhere and drinks everywhere. Some people don’t want to sit. Couples plan for a year or two and then in five hours it’s done. Most people say it goes by so fast, they want people to enjoy the party!
What’s the most interesting wedding you’ve had?
I think the New Year’s eve wedding we had here. We rented a snow machine for the couple’s first dance. It was so loud when we tested it, we were worried. I thought we might have to scratch the whole thing. I called the DJ and he was planning to come early to set up, so I told him we needed to test the snow with the music really loud! It turned out fine. All the beige panels on the wall of the venue are actually sound panels, so the acoustics are really good in here. I was up in the dome operating the machine and I could barely see, so I can’t wait to watch the video. I wish I was down on the dance floor, it was really cool!
When people come in and want to book, what are the steps you go through?
We give them a tour, and sometimes they love it and we do everything right then and there. Other times they’ll go back home and email me the details of what they like and then we create an initial proposal. After that, we customize. They’ll pick a menu and maybe three months into it we’ll have a meeting. Tonight we actually have a tasting and decor meeting for a wedding in July. We normally set it up ourselves depending on what timeline we’re looking at. If a couple books two years ahead we usually wait a year because the couple will probably change their mind if we have the meeting too far in advance. And then it’s a lot of back and forth: let’s cut this, let’s add this. Then we do a mock table so they can see what it will look like. Most of the planning is over email. I’ll email them throughout and say I’m ready for this, I’m ready for that, and then we go from there.
So do people usually book two years out?
Sometimes they do. We’ve also had couples come in a month before. We had a couple whose guest count got too big for their venue so they came to us. We created their whole wedding for them in a month, and it was beautiful. We don’t really have a strict timeline; we’re flexible that way.
What do you guys see happening in the next few years? What are you planning to keep things fresh?
We’re actually looking for another space. It’s nice having the other location with Chelsea Piers (The Loft), because I sometimes get a couple who will come and tour both spaces. The Loft is more of an industrial type of feel, very sleek, very modern, white. So you can really give couples an option. Here, the getting-ready suite that we added is a good example of how we want to make the space better all the time. And we’re always looking for more decor items to add. The space works really well for weddings, and since more couples are looking for unique spaces I only see us booking more in the next few years! I’m already booking for 2018 and 2019. I’ve had a lot of people just walk in, and I’m here every day so I can be available to do tours during the week and the weekends. And it’s nice that we have The Loft so if they don’t want to use this space they can go there. What we’re working toward is becoming an event group with different locations. Kind of like a restaurant group, but with events and catering.
Thank you Maxine for talking with me!
Want to take a look around Bank Street Events? Contact Maxine [email protected] or call (203) 325-2739
Bank Street Events
65 Bank Street Stamford, CT 06901