Rainbows and Puppies: The Venue Search

Alternate title: Add it to the list of stuff I didn’t know before I got engaged.

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while (um… 6 months… but whatever). Our venue search? Sucked. No need to mince words.

Before I got engaged I thought that every part of wedding planning would be OMG-SO-MUCH-FUN. (I was dumb). I think I actually said something to B during our trip that an additional awesome element of him proposing… aside from the wanting to spend his life with me thing of course… was that I got to PLAN now. And I LOVE planning. SO MUCH FUN. (anyone who is engaged or married is now laughing at me).

My very first thought was the Franklin Park Conservatory. It has the best of both worlds: an outdoor wedding, indoors! Beautiful plants and flowers without spending a cent on decorations, and no need to be concerned about rain, wind, or snow. Yea… they charge for that kind of awesome. Way, way more than we could afford. Goodbye, beautiful botanical gardens.

Disappointing but I really wasn’t that surprised. So I moved on in the search. Our requirements weren’t (in my humble opinion) outrageous:

1) comfortably fits around 100 people
2) able to have both ceremony and reception in one location
3) all indoors (we were thinking fall or winter, then decided on winter)
4) not a banquet hall
5) About $5,000 or less including food, drink (beer and wine only), rentals, tax, gratuities, etc.

I quickly learned that I could find the first four items on my list without too much trouble (although indoor non-church ceremony in the winter was a bit challenging)… but that last one? Impossible.

To me, it SEEMED reasonable. $5,000 is a LOT of money and this would just be for the venue/food/drink… not even the decorations or wardrobe or rings or honeymoon! This was before I discovered the one undeniable rule of wedding planning. For any given element of the wedding:

reasonable price x 3 = actual cost for wedding

Sigh. We looked at a LOT of venues. If you count the ones I looked at online, probably over 100. In person we saw about ten. And we had the same experience every time. I would speak to the person on the phone and tell them my five requirements. I would ask, specifically, “Our budget is $5,000 for (all the stuff listed above), CAN YOU WORK WITHIN THAT BUDGET?”

The answer? Always yes.

Then we would get there and talk about the actual cost, and it was NOT possible to work in our budget. At all.

Plus, I really wanted non-traditional wedding food (i.e. not chicken, potato, and veg on a plate). And no place really seemed willing to work with us.

We had had ongoing budget talks. It was time for another. We sat down and talked again, what is REALLY important to us? Well… getting married in a venue we were excited about was really important to us.

So we redid the budget. Suddenly our $10,000 wedding was an $18,000 wedding (and then a $19,000 wedding).* And as frustrating as it was, we decided to be okay with it. And to restart the venue search.

The very next venue on the list I had VERY high hopes for. It was a newer venue, recently converted from some kind of warehouse or factory. It was most definitely “different,” not your typical ballroom. Plus, it was owned by a caterer and it was right downtown….

Up next: A tour of our venue! (hint, it was the the one!)

*A lot of people are funny about talking money/budgets. I’m not. Maybe I would be if I was spending more than average (or even average!) amounts on the wedding? But the crazy thing is that my wedding is still considered “low budget” (INSANE). My hope is that I’ll pull off an above average wedding on a below average budget, and document just how that happened so maybe someone else can get a few tips!


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