So, funny thing. When we were a little less than a year away from the wedding, we decided to sign our contract for our rehearsal dinner venue. Why so early, you might ask?
I knew our rehearsal dinner venue before I even knew we were getting engaged. It wasn’t even a question for me, so when we were engaged, I asked Sparky if he was on board and he was.
Farestart Restaurant—good food, great charity via Seattle Dining
There is a local restaurant that serves great food, has a wonderful atmosphere, and, amazingly enough, is a charity. I love to go to the restaurant for lunch when I can, and every Thursday night they have a guest chef night. The reason I love this place so much is that they use the money they make to do something I am very passionate about: help people.
Heading home from our trip to Honey Lake Plantation, we decided to add a second, unofficial site visit to the day and pulled into an empty parking lot just across from the back of Monticello Opera House, one of the other venues I’d scoped out online.
It’s hard to miss, if you’re looking for it, as it’s smack in the middle of town, catty-corner to the courthouse. Imposing red brick, great wood, and a convenient gazebo in the back would make for quite a doable location for us in that same, tucked-out-of-the-way feeling.
Since we didn’t have an appointment—it really was just a spur of the moment thing—we contented ourselves with the public-access areas: the backyard and what we could see from the sidewalks.
Having checked out their rates online, I knew that the rental fee for the ballroom was nominal compared to some, and on par with the location fees of HLP; and it came with adequate tables and chairs as well. We could bring in our own catering, alcohol, and pretty much everything else.
They’d recently had an event (or were just about to have one), so looking in the big windows out onto the street and sidewalk we could see the space set up with banquet rounds. There was certainly enough space for our little group and then some, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
The gazebo in the back was what I was truly concerned with, as I’d only found one picture of it online and that’s just not enough to base a plan on—at least not if you’re me! The back is almost totally paved, there are old-fashioned street lamps circling the patio, and the gazebo is nice and roomy with more than enough space for 50 chairs, give or take.
A view from the side street—pardon the rain-drops, it was a little drizzly.
Let the games begin!
Or something like that.
Wedding planning is sort of like reindeer games, in that there are a lot of hoops to jump through and options to try out, and it’s like you’re at the beginning of the obstacle course with the venue as your first challenge.
The first venue that really piqued our curiosity was Honey Lake Plantation in Greenville, Florida.
Taken from the tour bus from the vantage point of the chapel (all photos personal)
What made it stand out on paper?
Wedding blogs are filled to the brim with gorgeous locations just brimming with all sorts of sprawling oak trees, majestic staircases, rustic barns, and glorious vistas.
It’s no wonder that when we start to actually look for places to host our own events, we might be a little disappointed.
Last February I started sending out requests for information, filling out web forms, and constructing a spreadsheet to house the results. I was casting a fairly wide net, looking both locally and up to four hours away just so I wouldn’t miss that potentially-perfect-for-us spot.
Turns out, the problem wasn’t finding potential locations, it was getting responses.
But more about that later.
When it came time to decide on our venue, we had two front-runners. They were vastly different in a lot of ways and yet similar, too.
Our second-choice venue was Hollywood Schoolhouse. The space was beautiful, it had a place for indoor and outdoor ceremonies (though we probably would have just gone with an indoor ceremony to be safe), and it just had a wonderful feel about it. The price was great, too.
Hollywood Schoolhouse—so cute! / Image via History Link by Phil Dougherty
But there were some things that didn’t work for us. One was that we weren’t able to taste the food before booking—a big deal to us since we both really care about food.
Another important factor for us was that the venue was in Woodinville and there is exactly one hotel really close by and it is EXPENSIVE. The hotel is great but wouldn’t be something we’d really want to suggest for our guests. The closest hotels beyond that one are in Redmond and Bellevue, both relatively close but not THAT close. Plus since a lot of our guests are coming from out of town, proximity to Seattle proper is important for people playing tourist.
In my last post I told you about all the venues we did check out. Before I tell you which one we chose I want to talk a little bit about venues we loved that we didn’t visit.
First up: Court in the Square.
Image via Kristen Honeycutt
We both love the way Court in the Square looks. We love how it feels. But we didn’t even visit it. Why? Because the wedding coordinator has been documented as a flake. As in, doesn’t return phone calls in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Knowing myself well, I knew this would stress me out to no end. So we skipped it.
The next “could have been” was the Clise Mansion.
Like many of you out there who have planned a wedding or are planning one, one of the first things we did after getting engaged was to schedule appointments to look at venues. (The night of our engagement, I thought about colors. The next day I thought about venues.) We had a vague idea that we were going to shoot for September 2013. It never occurred to me to wait until closer to the wedding to look. I was excited and I wanted to start right away!
Full disclosure: I have to admit that I went into the venue search having done a bunch of research already. After 4.5 years, I was ready for Sparky to pop the question. (I know I’m not alone in this, but I do feel a little embarrassed!) After we got engaged, I ran my suggestions by him and we got started.
The first place we checked out ( a week after getting engaged) was Melrose Market Studios. They had just opened and I thought that they looked pretty awesome.
They had a lot of great features, including the midnight-to-midnight rental time and low price, but they were a bit too blank slate for us.
It was bound to happen—the first time we get our hearts set on something, the both of us, of course it’s not going to work out.
Sure, we were able to make several decisions—at least the broad strokes—pretty early on and with minimal drama (when to get married, the basic guest list, that sort of thing). But many bits of the wedding hinged on one very important factor: Where.
Once we had the theme in mind, a wine-themed wedding held at an actual winery seemed like just the ticket, and we knew the perfect one: Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards in Clermont, Florida, just outside of Orlando. Sure, it would mean everyone would have to travel—but for our out-of-towners, flying into a major city would be so much simpler for them. Plus, my brother just bought a house about half an hour away from the site of our dreams, so we had the perfect crash pad for planning visits and the fam would have a home base for the actual event.
To the internet I went, searching to see if weddings had been done there before (since their website didn’t say anything about them specifically). Turns out that some gorgeous weddings had been held there, judging by the photographers’ portfolios I found, and it might actually be an affordable location. *swoon*
My venue is beautiful and I love it. The hall is why I booked the venue, and the hall is absolutely worth the horror that lurks behind two doors…
All photos personal
Before a lot of wedding details can fall into place, the subject of where it’s all going to happen usually needs to be dealt with.
Traditionally, brides returned to their hometown to be married. After all, that’s where the parents (and, therefore, the money) were and all those childhood friends and extended family. Of course, these days our personal worlds are much more global, but many first-time brides still choose their hometown or somewhere familiar for their nuptials.
Getting married in a city other than where you live makes finding a venue difficult. Fortunately, there are a lot of websites with pictures and reviews to help give me an idea of whether or not each place is even worth contacting.
Mr. B and I planned a long weekend in Savannah, and I set up meetings with a lot of venues. I had one main requirement—I did not want to have our wedding in a hotel ballroom. Don’t get me wrong, I think that can work and be beautiful. If we were going to have our wedding in Savannah, though, I wanted to show off some of its charm more than a hotel ballroom could. Luckily there are a number of event spaces, homes, and restaurants to choose from. Here are some we looked at, in no particular order.
Charles H. Morris Center
This venue was gorgeous on the inside and out. It had a lot of exposed brick, a full kitchen, and an amazing sound system, and was pretty much a blank slate. That blank slate thing was part of the problem—we would need to get everything: tables, chairs, napkins, forks, etc. Although I loved the idea of being able to make all these decisions myself, the thought of actually doing all that didn’t sound fun. This venue was also a bit farther away from the church than we wanted, which didn’t work with our “walk everywhere” desires.
Last time we left off on the venue discussion, we outlined the criteria that was important for us. Now, let’s get into the various venues that we looked at and how they stacked up against one another.
Location 1: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library
At the time that we went to look at the venue, the library was in the midst of firing their old caterer and hiring a new one. Being a person who has sat through a company re-org, I know how that things can get “lost in the shuffle.” I was not willing to allow our wedding to be that “item.” Nor was I that in love with the venue to deal with the headache and stress of trying to make my wedding a priority to someone. Don’t get me wrong, these are all assumptions on my behalf. But the icing on the cake was that the beau was not sold. So if both of us couldn’t agree, we wouldn’t be selecting that location. With that review, I would still suggest this venue to any bride searching. The caterer that they are bringing in will bring with them various menu options to reach each price point (high/medium/low). A saving grace is that we could have had a bar in one of those “ask librarian” booths! How cool would that have been?
I didn’t know that when you get engaged there is a typical list of questions from people:
I will address questions 1 & 3 in a later post, but I want to share with you a little bit about our venue. I thought that finding a compromise for my beau and me would be difficult. If you know me, then you know that I am not a “super traditional” person; my beau, on the other hand, is fairly traditional. So before we went to look at a venue, we set some parameters that we could both agree on.
This was our criteria:
WARNING: Pic heavy. I am Miss Camera, right?
As soon as we got engaged, I knew I wanted to get married in Charleston, South Carolina. I’d only been there once, for Valentine’s Day two years ago. Cam took me on a surprise trip. (Which I thought would involve a ring. Why else would you go on a surprise trip? Not even a little bit close. I still had to wait almost two years.) The minute I got out of the car, I fell in love.
If you’ve been to Charleston, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a magical mix of old and new, historical and modern, slow and fast at the same time.
The Battery / Image via TripAdvisor / Photo by Charleston Visitor’s Bureau
How can you not think that’s gorgeous?
Naturally, I decided on the spot that’s where we were going to get married. If we ever got engaged.
Answer: in da CLUB. The country club.
Our venue search was fairly short. We decided early on we wanted a country club wedding, since Mr. Plane is in the industry and we both love golfing. Plus, it would be an easy one-stop shop where we wouldn’t need to provide the food or the alcohol. (While this is a great and cost-efficient plan for lots of brides, I felt much more comfortable going all-inclusive.) Once we had a rough guest list and an idea of what we wanted, we started doing our online research.
We looked at a couple places that were nice, but just too small for a 200-person wedding. (I just couldn’t imagine all of our guests scrunched onto a 10 x 10 dance floor!) For a while we toyed with the idea of having the reception at the club where Mr. Plane works, but decided that venue would be better suited for other wedding functions (more on that later).
Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center was, I believe, the third place we visited. I immediately fell in love with all of the windows overlooking the golf course as well as the long corridor leading into the ballroom. (I imagined a little forest of white branches and twinkly lights as guests arrived.) Most of all, I felt very comfortable here, largely in part due to the event coordinator, Alexis. From the moment I sent in my first inquiry, she was helpful and accommodating, answering even my most idiotic new-bride questions.
Photo from Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center
Bees, I have a confession to make. I have venue regret. Well, kind of.