Where you’re staring down the barrel of a 2 year (or more!) engagement, it’s tough to make any absolute plans at the beginning. Not that that stops any of us from looking for inspiration, right? And as much as I love to fill in all those Who, What, When, and Where questions*, the big one is How.
The Who is easy: Bride & Groom. An officiant. Everyone else is technically optional, but we know it’s more than that; having an idea of the size of your guest list is a good idea right now, but the details aren’t absolutely necessary just yet.
The What? Simply put, a wedding. Another blank filled in. (Though if you have a theme or something, this would be a good place to put it.)
The When? With a long engagement, you almost have your pick of dates unless you’re in a major metro area where venues book up to 2 years in advance anyway. Still, have a goal date in mind and your first and second pick for time of day. When = done.
The Where could be broad–a city or country preference–or specific to a location. What I keep finding though, is that the where has a lot to do with the How.
I, at times, can be the most optimistic person on the planet. We all have those rather Pollyanna moments, I think, looking at a situation and thinking, ‘hmmm, I could make this work, it could fabulous!’ even if it’s not what I was really looking for.
Turns out, doing this with men is not such a great idea. Doing it with venues? Could be, indeed, fabulous!
Especially in the early stages of planning, it’s great to keep an open mind on the details but have some priorities. For instance, our priorities looked like this:
- Great food and drinks
- Pretty location that can do ceremony and reception
- Just the people we really want there
With those 3 things in mind, each location presented various opportunities.
A semi-local (within 30 minutes for most of us) event hall would give us plenty of space to have an outdoor ceremony with a seated supper complete with centerpieces and seating cards and twinkle-lights aplenty.
On the other hand, a set of lake houses we considered renting for the long weekend could become an extended, low-key affair where we could host our out of town guests for a couple of days and have more of a house-party style cocktail reception that lasts until the last one drops.
Finally, a local garden spot would give us an opportunity to do a whole-group processional and recessional, 2nd line-style, as we traveled from the pre-ceremony mix and mingle to the ceremony site and back for the swanky reception.
And each of these scenarios had a certain charm. Sure, there would be concessions made for one location over another, but looking at the day through rose-colored glasses meant I could envision the best possible outcome for each.
After checking out 4 locations, we still hadn’t decided on a where, which meant my How was still very much up in the air, too! And, oh, the possibilities are still swirling around my head.
Some things, however, are non-negotiable, no matter how tinted the glasses or bubbly the libation in your toasting flute. These stark realities include:
- Capacity: If you’re preliminary guest list is 300, why are you even looking at a courtyard that will barely hold 50? On the other hand, a hall for 500 would feel very empty if you’re having an intimate wedding of 20.
- Facilities: Renting or borrowing a house to have your way with makes for a lovely venue, but if you’ve only got 1 bathroom for 100 people, you’ll need to add the dreaded port-o-lets to avoid trouble. Not to mention what kind of kitchen facilities there might be and, oh yes, parking.
- Budget: Yes, yes, I know it’s not a fun thought but if the venue you’re perusing is 90% of your budget, why torture yourself? Posted rates are not always carved in stone but there’s haggling for a discount and haggling for a hand-out. Let’s keep our dignity, here, shall we?
We went round and round but eventually settled on Honey Lake Plantation for all of the reasons in our original ‘pro’ column. For a while it and the Garden Center were running neck and neck, but when I started searching for caterers I found that it blew our budget all to hell over going with an all-in-one location. It also meant giving up my initial dream of a sunset ceremony followed by a tantalizing tapas reception in favor of a late-morning ceremony followed by brunch. But we’re just as fond of breakfast any time of the day as we are of sampling lots of different foods, so it wasn’t too hard to get used to the idea.
After all, breakfast means bacon, right?
(*of course, the why is the simplest of all: because you love each other)
What came first for you, the where or the how?