"Not that I didn't have a wonderful time and the wedding wasn't utterly wonderful. I did, and it was. It's just that the venue let us down so spectacularly, behaved in such a shitty way to us, our friends and our families that when I think of the wedding those wonderful memories that include moments where I was happier than I could ever have imagined I would be are competing with memories that make me really, really fucking angry."
I'm obsessed with backwards-planning. When anyone sits down to plan an event, for example, they should think, "What do I want to think and feel when the event is over?" After you have the end vision in mind, then you backwards-plan all the smaller details that align with the end vision.
No one wants to say that their venue let them down "so spectacularly" and "behaved in such a shitty way."
So how do you prevent this? What choices can you make during the wedding planning process to create a different outcome?
It's hard to say. I guess we'll have to see what caused the problem before we can pinpoint a definitive answer.
Venues are tricky business. It's difficult because you typically have to secure the venue at the beginning of the process, before you've had a whole lot of time to think about what kind of wedding you want to have.
On top of that, the venue you choose is like the first domino that starts a chain reaction. For example, your venue may dictate that you can't have an outside caterer or that you can't bring in outside alcohol. In a way, you start to get locked into making other choices because of the initial choice.
Matt and I had a very difficult time selecting our wedding venue. The mountains of Colorado are a hugely popular wedding destination (especially in the summer), which drives up costs everywhere. Our budget kept us out of the more traditional wedding venues in the area, as well as our design to avoid the "wedding factory" feel. We didn't want to be "just another wedding on the wedding docket."
We had additional difficulties because Matt's family had a different vision of what would make a good venue. Even though we were paying for the whole thing ourselves, we still wanted to invite them to participate in the process. We wanted to avoid any tension, while simultaneously planning a wedding that represented our tastes and preferences, not our families' tastes and preferences.
We also knew that we wanted to be able to rent out an entire place because we wanted all of our friends and family to stay together. Even if they went off in their own directions during the day (e.g., golfing, white-water rafting, hammock-laying, hiking, etc.), we wanted everyone to come together for breakfasts and the Welcome Picnic and reception in the evenings.
By the time we started planning our wedding in late December, there weren't a lot of weekends left that had full availability of the entire site. Argh!
Then there was the beauty piece. We wanted a placed that was aesthetically pleasing. And we wanted our guests to be comfortable. And we wanted it to be affordable for them (since they were already paying for plane tickets and rental cars).
In the end, it came down to two choices (which, ironically, had opposite names: Sunshine Mountain Lodge and Shadow Mountain Ranch). Shadow was more beautiful. The cabins were cuter and the property seem more situated in the mountains. But, the owner wasn't as great as the Cathy and Cory, the owners at Sunshine Mountain Lodge.
Cathy and Cory were so kind, welcoming, and helpful. We decided that it was better to go with the less aesthetically-pleasing place because relationships matter more to us than photographs or guests' first impressions.
Originally, we wanted our ceremony and reception at the same site because it's more environmentally-friendly. But we couldn't figure out how to make it work at Sunshine. Then we came up with the idea of having the ceremony at a B&B up the road (which we could also use for overflow guests). We managed to find a lovely lake with picnic tables already there. No need to rent chairs! All of the dominoes started to fall in exactly the right way because the initial domino was the right one.
One of the smartest things we did during the wedding planning process was make decisions based on relationships. Cathy and Cory went out of their way to help us create the exact wedding we wanted. Every time we asked them for something, they delivered. They let us use their white Christmas lights, composting bins, dog rope, packing tape, iron and ironing board, tablecloths, tables, flowers, chairs (and I think they went out of their way to borrow chairs from another B&B), cake server, cooking pots and pans, and cumin. They dressed up for the wedding reception, gave us a wedding present, and Cathy even joined us on the dance floor.
Not only were they the best wedding vendors ever; they are now our friends.
We did our best to cultivate a relationship with them during our planning process. We helped them in their garden, and they took us out to lunch. We tried to clearly communicate our desires and plans to them and asked for their feedback and suggestions. We occasionally sent them postcards (and they responded with pictures of their Halloween costumed-selves).
By the time the wedding rolled around and we pulled up to the Sunshine Mountain Lodge to unload our stuff for the wedding weekend, it felt like we were coming home. Seriously.
And we just got an e-mail from them two days ago asking how it's going.
I'm so glad we went for the less beautiful, more rustic, seemingly less desirable option in favor of a solid relationship with the innkeepers. In the end, it made all the difference.