Friday, June 15, 2012

The Venue: Part 1

No, not a venue. THE venue. We found the venue!

But what kind of Bee just tells you the good without the bad? Or the story without any background? Or the dessert without the veggies?* So for part one of the venue search, I'm talking about what criteria we used to search for venues that we would physically go and tour.

First and foremost, before we even checked prices, we looked at photos. Here's why: We have a budget, of course. But the thing about the budget is that the wedding is in April - still just over six months away. I'm going to stick as close to my budget as possible (and by as close to, I mean UNDER it if at all possible!) but if we really, really want something - we're going to make it happen. So before we even looked at prices, we looked at some photos from previous events to get a feel for what the venue could do well and what their general aesthetic was.

This photo is a great example of what we didn't want:

If this is your taste, then it's beautiful! Go for it! When I look at this photo though, I thought it was too over the top for the rustic, romantic feel we wanted. I didn't like the lighting, the way the room is set up, or the tall, tall centerpieces. Actually, to be really blunt: I hate the centerpieces. Not because they're ugly (they aren't!) but because I want our guests to be able to talk and get to know each other! 

With that in mind, I started seriously looking at venues and considering prices. A huge factor in prices was the catering. We really don't place a high value on the food. Sure, we want to eat something that tastes good and looks nice but honestly? With our budget (and our personal preferences!) a plated reception was not in the cards. Buffet, it is. 

This point in our criteria led to a lot of places getting marked off our list when I saw their catering minimums. I don't want to spend more than $3,500 on food and drink, so when I saw a venue with a catering minimum of $5,000 or $13,000 (and yes - that $13,000 is a real minimum of an actual venue that we considered) they were crossed off our list.

After that, I started sending out inquiries. Asking questions about when we could come in to set up, what their other vendor policies were, what the deposit would be, what our total price would be for X guests, and etc. The majority of responses I got back required no other action on my part, because they were crossed right off the list. Some charged way, way too much for rentals. A couple had guest minimums that we wouldn't meet. One never responded, so they were off the list anyway because if you can't respond to my inquiry, how can I trust you with our wedding!? (<--- Type A, I know.)

After all of the above, we had three venues on our list. One was my dream venue, a gorgeous barn about three hours North of my hometown. The perfect in between for the majority of our guests - mine coming from central Indiana, and Mr. Otter's coming from Michigan. The catch? They had a minimum for both guest list (200) and catering ($7,000) - neither of which I was willing to meet. I kept them on my list for a while because it was my dream venue... but eventually, I took them off too.

We were down to two...

Coming next: the venue we toured and hated! And please, someone else tell me that I'm not the only one who made a list then crossed people off when I saw their minimums? 

*That is a line from one of our favorite movies... can you guess which one? Mr. Otter and I LOVE to repeat this ridiculous line over and over again.

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