Bride On A Budget: The Venue!

Week 2 of Bride On A Budget.  This week, our whimsical and flustered bride-to-be tackles wedding venue–not an easy feat when the groom’s immediate family come to 140 peeps and both bride and groom have sweat issues….

Bride On A Budget searching for a venue–but first, a martini!


Venue shopping is not what it’s cracked up to be.

I love shopping. I love shopping for clothes. Shoes. Groceries. Toilet paper. So I thought I would love shopping for a wedding venue. I was wrong.

It started out fun. We looked at a million places online to decide what we liked and didn’t like. We live in Raleigh, and we wanted to get married at the beach which is 2 hours east.  One of the biggest concerns in choosing a venue was space. This is because I’m marrying into a wonderfully large family; to put it into perspective, his family, including immediate aunts, uncles, and first cousins, come in at roughly 140 people. Mine is a solid 25. This number doesn’t include our large social circles.

Another concern was what month to have the wedding. June, July, and August are brutal here in the south. Walking from the car to the office involves sweating through clothing. L (future hubby) and I are hard-core sweaters, and while we have accepted that about ourselves it makes it impossible to get married in the summer in the south. So May and late September were our first choices. We did thorough research, contacted 20 venues, and ended up making appointments to check out our top ten.

Venue shopping is tiring. L and his mom were troopers though and stuck to the tight schedule I made. It was nice to have a 3rd party involved (in this case, my future MIL) to offer advice and sanity during the process. After two Saturdays of venue shopping, here are the things I realized:

1. I should have budgeted for chairs.
Of all the venues we saw, only one place had chairs we’d consider using. The others had either a) no chairs or b) the most hideously colored chairs you’ve ever seen in your life. Do yourself a favor and throw chairs into your budget. Don’t be surprised like I was. (Oh and btw, chairs rentals range from $3-$10 each, unless you want to rent a folding metal chair for $1…)

Seriously, this is the kind of stuff we saw.

2. Event coordinators at venues will say anything so that you choose their venue.
At one of the venue visits, we found out that the dining room can only hold 75 people–even though in our research it claimed to hold more guests. The event coordinator’s solution – have guests eat in sittings. WHAT? I am imagining announcements like “Group 1, please report to the dining room and have your dinner tickets ready.” Just because a venue says it has space for a 200 person sit down reception doesn’t actually mean they do. It means they will squish 200 people like sardines into a room.

3. We had to be willing to be flexible on our date.
A lot of people plan their wedding waaaayyyyy in advance. And they take all the good dates – i.e. every Saturday in non-humid months are not available until like 2017. After finding this out, L and I thought, heck, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to get married in early June, because maybe there’s a slight chance that it won’t be humid by then.  And we were pretty convinced until the MIL reminded us about our sweat situation.

The happy couple looking good!

4. Nothing is perfect.
I went into this thinking we’d walk into a place and be like, THIS IS IT. That never happened. Instead, we checked out places and said, ‘I wish this place would have a baby with that other place and be located in this part of town, and then it would be perfect.’

So instead of walking into a venue and imagining the string quartet here and the swan ice sculpture there and the chocolate fountain over yonder, while the sun sets over the ocean and unicorns frolick around the champagne bar–we ended up using a scientific method to decide.  We quit dreaming of the perfect place, and instead looked at our short list of venues, considered the pros and cons of each, checked our budget-and made our decision based on that.

As I mentioned, I love shopping. What I didn’t mention is that I’m more of a window shopper. When it comes to making a decision to buy, it’s hard for me to pull the trigger. I’ll peruse the gourmet cheese section at the grocery store for an hour to pick a nice cheese. I’ll carry it around the store with me. I’ll think about the price. I’ll think about Kraft cheese and how I could save $10 if I buy that instead. An hour and a half and four cheese exchanges later, I’ll walk out with 2 blocks of Kraft because it was on sale 2 for $5. What can I say, I like deals.

Who needs camembert when you can have monterey jack??

The hardest part about the venue shopping is that there weren’t any deals. The price to rent the space is about the same across the board. A wedding is expensive.  When I finally realized this I PMS-y cried 4 times in 24 hours. Poor L.

Finally–a decision!
After setting a 24-hour deadline to make a decision– and lots of tears– we had decided. We chose the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher because it had enough space for our guests, it’s a unique venue, and the ambiance is great. Not to mention we can save money on decorations (I mean, there are fish swimming around you while you eat – what other decoration do you need???) The alcohol policy at the aquarium is also saving us money – they only allow beer, wine, and champagne – no liquor. And liquor can be a big expense, for both the liquor itself and the number of bartenders you need to serve it.

Now that we have our date (May 4, 2013) and our ceremony and reception space, we’re ready to tackle the photographer, caterer, and DJ!


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