The Great Venue Hunt

Venue hunting was definitely the hardest decision we made. We knew we wanted to be in the city, which was great, because that meant there were a LOT of possible wedding venues. It was also hard because”¦there were a LOT of possible wedding venues. Just narrowing down the options was, frankly, pretty exhausting. I didn’t realize until we started searching in earnest that our needs were somewhat weird”¦and most venues we contacted or visited had one or more of these issues:

  • Only one indoor space large enough for our group. Many brides (read: spring and summer) opt for an outdoor ceremony plus indoor reception, so venues cater to that idea. Wanting both indoors make us weird.
  • If we found a cool spot, it was inevitably nowhere near another one. We want to avoid breaking up our wedding with lots of shuttling and transportation time.
  • TOO big. Our guest list will be sub-100, and we wanted to take advantage of our size and have a cozy wedding. Renting out a hotel ballroom or convention space is silly, as we wouldn’t be able to use the space.

  • Too expensive! We’re paying for this shindig ourselves and know we need to keep the pricing within a reasonable range. So the ballroom at the Ritz and some of the swanky Georgetown mansions simply aren’t possible.
  • A little too far off the beaten path. Midway through venue hunting we decided we would rather stick close to the city than lose some of the urban feel by traveling to a suburb or isolated area. After a certain distance from downtown, it stops feeling like a city location. This was probably the hardest decision to make as we did find some great places elsewhere—but the idea of having our wedding plus nightlife and hotels all within walking distance trumped.

So, it was tough not only to meet these criteria, but also to make sure the venue met my “vision.” The problem was”¦I couldn’t really articulate that vision. I kept changing my idea of what our wedding should be depending on what venue we were looking at. I wanted a chic modern wedding”¦or did I want lots of vintage touches? An ornate mansion or a bare gallery? A large open space or lots of rooms to move around in? My ideas were somewhat schizophrenic—there wasn’t just one wedding I was picturing, there were dozens. I had to force myself to step back and think about what I actually wanted. Wolfman thankfully went along with this entire inner struggle and encouraged me to not only really consider those practical bullet points, but also think about exactly what I wanted our venue to do.

Finally, the answer was to incorporate our adopted city. Once I decided that, the choice was easy”¦and somewhat ironically, we went with one of the first venues we visited: the Whittemore House.


(Image via the Woman’s National Democratic Club)

It’s a 19th century mansion with a lot of amazing DC history (more pictures to come!). It actually also functions as the museum for the Woman’s National Democratic Club. Finding a modern space in the city wasn’t impossible, but in the end having our wedding in a house and neighborhood with its own rich history slowly gained more appeal that hosting in a blank gallery space. I mean”¦Eleanor Roosevelt used to give radio talks from there—how much more DC can you get? I also love that it was formerly a home, because we really want to use the combination of our venue, the season, and our wedding size for a cozy, intimate gathering.

What about you? Did you have one wedding vision”¦or a ton, like me?


Mrs. Gray Wolf

Washington DC
Wedding Date:
February 2013
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  1. msarmadillo Member
    msarmadillo 497 posts, Helper bee @ 4:31 pm

    The exterior of your venue is gorgeous! And I love all the historical connections, too. Great choice!

  2. Member
    des1982 47 posts, Newbee @ 8:49 pm

    omg this is totallllly how i feel. i am in the midst of WISHING i could just find our venue already! i actually work in the wedding industry (cake designer) so ive seen prolly 75% of the venues around here before i was engaged. Now i think ive seen cloes to 95% of them. There is one i sort of like and it will do but i would say i still havent found one that i really love and so im afraid i will be settling for price & location… =/
    im so over venue hunting~!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Member
    wubewe 143 posts, Blushing bee @ 3:04 am

    Perhaps I nipped the venue search in the bud before reaching your schizophrenic stage, but for FI and I it was SUPER simple. We had a basic idea of what we were looking for, and the first venue we toured had everything we wanted and more, so everything has just fallen into place around it!

  4. hawk Member
    hawk 1117 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:33 am

    What a beautiful venue!

  5. Member
    blonde17jess 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:59 am

    THANK YOU!!! I am totally wedding schizophrenic, and you just made me feel like I’m not the only one, so now I feel less crazy!

  6. Member
    stephanieelise 239 posts, Helper bee @ 10:54 am

    OMG I love it! We went the opposite, originally wanting to stay in DC, then realizing we had just as many ties to the suburbs, so we expanded our search. But if I could, I would LOVE to use your venue, especially in the fall and winter months.

  7. Member
    jacofblues 1468 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:20 pm

    I love the venue you have chosen! Very Chic!

  8. coyote Member
    coyote 1960 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:28 am

    Ohhh beautiful venue!! As a history nerd I love hearing about your venue’s historical past. Ours also had an interesting history, which I think is part of the reason why I fell in love with it! Congrats on finding the venue — the hardest part is over with! 😀

  9. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 11:32 am

    What a beautiful and unique venue!

  10. Member
    kelannadc 339 posts, Helper bee @ 6:42 am

    That’s gorgeous! When I saw the outside of your venue, I experienced the tiniest pang of venue envy. We’re also having a small wedding (hopefully no more than 60), but we chose the “silly” hotel ballroom route. We have a connection to The Mayflower (LOVE the high tea experience there), and went with two of the smaller rooms that they provide.

    I must admit, I was worried about filling the space. But what can I do? :)

  11. graywolf Member
    graywolf 725 posts, Busy bee @ 6:55 am

    @Blonde17Jess: haha no problem! i literally could have 100 different weddings and be happy i think!

    @KelannaDC: oh man, i’m having venue envy for you! the mayflower is amazing. its much better to have too much room – there’s a lot you can do with lighting and spreading things out to make it seem smaller if you need to.

    @des1982: my advice is just to pick something. once you pick it, don’t let yourself think of the other ones – just start planning for that and you’ll be happy! :)

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