Mr. C and I have family scattered across the country. I actually grew up in Georgia, but after my parents divorced in 1996, my dad moved out to California and 10 years later my mom relocated to Illinois with my stepfather. My mom’s side of the family is from New York and my dad’s side of the family lives much farther south around Brunswick, Georgia. Mr. C’s family is from Michigan and Ohio. Luckily I still have my brother in Atlanta and Mr. C has his sister and brother-in-law who live about 45 minutes away from us. Without them we would be practically on our own here!
When it came time to decide where to hold the wedding, it made the most sense to have it in Georgia, which would be a neutral territory for all family members involved. Both of our families are split by divorce (this requires its own super special entry), and so it was important that everyone feel that they have an equal role in the wedding. Plus, with our busy schedules, we had no desire to plan a wedding from across the country. Destination brides, you have my most humble respect!
We also knew that we wanted to have our wedding close by; I didn’t want to be driving all around Atlanta or North Georgia searching for the perfect wedding venue. And let’s be real—interviewing vendors or checking out venues is a serious time commitment. So in order to preserve our sanity I wanted us to create a somewhat narrow list of possibilities, investigate them, and make a choice.
These are a few of the “non-negotiables” that we were looking for in a wedding venue:
- no more than one hour from our house (preferably less than 30 minutes away)
- a relaxing, natural, non-pretentious atmosphere
- beautiful gardens, fields, and/or trees
- the ability to choose our own vendors
- the ability to serve our own alcohol
- ability to have the ceremony and reception on the same site
The last two requirements on our list immediately cut down our number of options. A lot of the fancier venues in our area are full-service venues or require that you use their in-house caterer or in-house florist. Since we want to DIY the flowers, use my brother as our DJ, and serve our own alcohol, choosing a venue that allowed us total freedom in vendor choice was definitely the right move. Serving our own alcohol was especially crucial because it is the most cost effective way to offer an open bar, something that was very important for us to offer our guests.
My first instinct was to turn to the internet to research venues. I checked all the usual places (blogs, search engines), but I didn’t see much that interested me. That’s when I started to ask around in person. I spoke to photographers, caterers, friends, and coworkers. The wife of one of our coworkers gave us some great suggestions as well as a caterer that we were interviewing. In fact, all of my favorite venues came through word of mouth, not the internet, so keep that in mind if you are still in the planning stages of your own wedding. Don’t trust the internet: ASK AROUND!
Soon we had narrowed down our list to four or five different venues in our area (three are listed in the photos above). All but one of them were either stately homes or bed and breakfasts. The last was a beautifully restored barn out in the country that ended up becoming our top choice, especially after we had a chance to visit it in person. Unfortunately, things weren’t going to be so easy for us in the venue department. Find out more about our venue drama in the next post!
How did you narrow down your venue search? Did you have certain “non-negotiables” when looking for a venue?