Venue Decisions…

Since we are having our wedding in Florida, the first thing most people expect is:


Image via Gulf Beach Weddings

A beach wedding.

I always knew I wanted my ceremony to be in a Catholic church, but I never really pictured myself having a beach reception. I am not into shells and sand dollars. I certainly could not swing a “nautical” theme. That’s just not what I was going for. Where was the whimsy? Where could I hang my lights?

When Mr. Squirrel and I started looking for a venue, we were targeting those with a garden type feel to it. (In a perfect world, we would get married in the middle of the woods, but Tampa is a little lacking in the forest department.)

Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg, Florida

Sunken Gardens is absolutely gorgeous! It is a huge botanical garden with lush foliage and a crazy mix of plants, trees, vines, and flowers.


Wedding at Sunken Gardens / Image via Stephanie A Smith Photography


Sunken Gardens / Image via Jason Angelini Photography

I was in love! I could really see our vision coming to life here! Literally anywhere we walked, we would be surrounded by trees and flowers! Imagine the photo-ops…dang.

Unfortunately, things were too good to be true, there were a few issues with this venue:

  1. Location: It was VERY far away from the church we are parishioners at. (It had the potential to take 45 minutes to and hour to get from church to reception thanks to Tampa Bay traffic.)
  2. We required an indoor space as a back-up. Tampa has some crazy summer thunderstorms! We will probably be OK in May, but I needed peace of mind! This venue has an indoor space, but there is absolutely nothing special about it.
  3. AND THE KICKER…to have the reception outside, there was a size limit. Since we anticipate having around 120 guests, we were well over that limit! That meant we could take beautiful pictures outside, but the reception would have to be inside.

No thanks.

Boo, talk about toying with my emotions…

**OK, fine—we could have paid for a very expensive tent to have the reception outside (a requirement for our number of guests), but what’s the point of a tent if we have this beautiful background?**

Then, at the previously mentioned bridal expo, we were talking to man who has a lights company, and when I was describing the wedding vision to him, he highly recommended this next venue.

The Sunset Beach House

As the name describes, it is basically a big house right on the beach.

Tampa Lights: The Sunset Beach House Wedding on Sunset Beach in Treasure Island , FL

A nighttime view so you can get a sense of what the reception would look like / Image via Tampa Lights / Photo by Life Long Studios


The view from the house / Image by Sunset Beach House

I don’t know what came over me. Remember how I said I wasn’t interested in a beach wedding? Then why was I considering a beach wedding? Bridal brain. It was a beautiful venue and our families could have stayed in the beach house for the weekend (or full week). It was a great idea in theory, but just not for us.

This would be an awesome location for someone who is looking for a small destination wedding and wants their guests to have a private place to stay all weekend.

Back to the drawing board…

I scoured the web looking at any venue that wasn’t a hotel. I was driving myself crazy, because I knew what I wanted and I wasn’t going to give up until I found it.

I was in a new city, with no family, a few work friends, and no recommendations for a venue. Blah. All I wanted to do was send out my bridesmaid boxes, but I really wanted to lock in a date (and by default: venue) first.

So what’s a girl to do? Stay tuned and you’ll find out!


Mrs. Squirrel

Tampa, FL
Wedding Date:
May 2013
Why Having a Wedding Planner/Coordinator Is Key
Oh Yeah, a Photographer!
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  1. Member
    RunningLove 14 posts, Newbee @ 10:47 am

    Ugh I totally understand on the venue decision. I agonized over my venue, was super disappointed when my top choice didn’t work out, shed some tears… but ended up with the perfect venue in the end. As I’m sure you will too 🙂

  2. Member
    brooklyn55 743 posts, Busy bee @ 11:25 am

    Surprisingly the venue was the easiest decision I had to make. Of course, getting married in March 30th in North Carolina is tricky. The temperature could be 75 degrees or it could be snowing outside. There is absolutely NO way of knowing. My friend got married April 6th last year here and it was a beautiful outdoor wedding, the week before it was snowing. Yikes. I want my ceremony outside but I want my reception inside (if possible). I found 3 venues that had everything on site (multiple outdoor and indoor areas in one space), but I was like in that sense because I live in the mountains and this is a big resort area so we have a mix of beautiful lodges and old southern mansions. I thought I wanted the southern mansion feel but the second I went to the lodge I fell in love. Waterfall vineyard in the back (where our ceremony will be if no cold weather), big lodge room with fireplace, lots of brick work, vaulted ceilings, glass chandeliers and the best part is our wedding is out of season so I scored the venue HALF of what it cost just a day later (April is considered in season). The In-Season price was so beyond on budget!!

  3. graywolf Bee
    graywolf 725 posts, Busy bee @ 11:39 am

    ugh this sounds like our search. i def had schizophrenic desires!

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    credonna, Guest @ 2:29 pm

    I love your blog. It’s the highlight of my day. I’m so amazed and in awe of you. I love you to pieces and can’t wait to be your mother-in-law!!!

  5. Member
    ChicagoDreamer 509 posts, Busy bee @ 4:52 pm

    I’m excited to see what you picked. The Sunken Gardens looks amazing, but if it didn’t fit your general wedding, then it just won’t work!

  6. mspony Bee
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 5:15 pm

    The Sunken Garden look amazing, it’s no fun to find a place you love but just doesn’t work for your needs! Can’t wait to see your pick!

  7. panda Bee
    Mrs. Panda 1359 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:24 pm

    ooh pretty options. Can’t wait to see what you picked!

  8. Member
    babbot 586 posts, Busy bee @ 2:30 pm

    wow, those are amazing, I can’t wait to see what you chose though! 🙂 we had, uh hum, I mean I had (let’s be honest, it’s mostly the bride doing all of this) spreadsheets with every vendor and categories and I ranked them and it was a hard decisions, but ultimately, this helped us in choosing the right venue for us. It is tough though, getting all the details, calling and emailing and trying to get all of your questions answered while trying to think of what questions to ask.

  9. Member
    Beezysbreezy 540 posts, Busy bee @ 8:58 pm

    We’re actually getting married at Sunken Gardens in June! We’re doing the ceremony and reception there – so it worked well for us. I looked the venue you chose as well, and I know you’ll be happy there. It’s beautiful!

  10. mssquirrel Bee
    mssquirrel 276 posts, Helper bee @ 7:19 am

    @shakira0202: Aww, I still have a very soft spot in my heart for Sunken Gardens. If it was closer to us, I know we could have made it work. I’m sure your wedding will be BEAUTIFUL!

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