Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Q & A: Wedding Reception Venue

Reader Question: Let me start by congratulating you not only on your marriage, but for doing it your way. Joe and I are looking to do the same thing. The hardest thing for us so far is the location. How did you find your beautiful spot? Was there a rental fee other than the individual rooms? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Ever since I started envisioning my wedding (maybe in my early twenties?), I had the idea that we (whoever the "we" would turn out to be) would rent out an entire place, so that all our friends and family could stay together in one spot. What can I say? I love community, connection, relaxed atmospheres, comfy/coziness, and slumber parties.

When the "we" turned out to be Matt and I, and we decided to set a strict budget of $2,000, renting out an entire facility in exchange for free run of the place turned out to be the most strategic way to stick to our budget.

Even though we got married near Estes Park, Colorado (one of our country's Wedding Meccas), we stayed off the beaten path and were therefore able to find an amazing deal. The story of how we found it is much too long to tell in this forum, but it will definitely be included in my book. It basically boils down to searching, searching, searching, and settling for a less-than-perfect option.

If we had gone to a "wedding factory," I don't think we could have pulled it off. Even if we filled up the whole place, I imagine we would have still had to pay a rental fee. Because we went with a more independent, low-key venue, we were able to quickly build an amazing relationship with the owners and rent out the entire place for $750 (which we recouped by charging our friends and family $25 or $35 a night for lodging + free breakfast).

Of course the option we went with wasn't as beautiful as a wedding factory. There are stuffed moose everywhere (the toy kind, not the taxidermy kind). It's adjacent to a major highway. The furniture is outdated.

But we loved it! The owners were truly amazing, and the atmosphere was relaxed and fun, just like summer camp. We had full reign of the kitchen (including all their pots, pans, dishes, etc.), and they let us borrow a ton of stuff (like white Christmas lights, coolers, grills, etc.).

In summary, my advice is:
  1. Search for venues off the beaten path (by using terms like "family reunion" and "lodge").
  2. Factor your potential relationship with the owners/managers into your decision. Relationships matter!
  3. Be willing to settle for less-than-perfect. It might end up being better than you ever could have imagined.
Happy Searching!

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SH said...

We're renting part of a summer camp and with the rental of five cabins, we get the lodge for $100/day, which is totally in our budget. In addition to Sara's search terms, search summer camp rental and retreat center. That's how we found ours!

SH said...

It was funny also-- I read wedding blogs and when we got engaged, I started looking for a venue immediately as it had been drilled in my head to reserve ASAP!!! because everything will be taken. We saw the camp and reserved for next May, about 15 months ahead. They were like... uh, we don't even have a calendar that far out, so no worries, we'll put you down. Little surprises like that are nice when you don't get married at a 'wedding factory.'

Stephanie said...

My fiance and I went on vrbo.com (vacation rentals by owner) and just started emailing everyone that had a house that would sleep large amounts of people asking if we could get married at their home. We wanted our wedding to feel like more than 6 hours at a country club, we wanted it to be an experience in a special place.

We found a couple that is letting us have about 100 people at their house for the day and they are not charging us anything extra but the normal price of a night's stay. People are camping on the property too. It is a large cabin (with it's own saloon!) and right on a little lake. I think it will be great.

It may end up being more work than if we went to a "normal" wedding venue but I feel like this will be much more personal. My fiance's friend is cooking all our food. My sister is baking our cake. My fiance and I were photo majors in college and we are having one of our college friends shoot the wedding. I just liked this because there will not be strangers (like caterers, etc) at the wedding. Everyone that is there is there for us, not for a paycheck.

I think a lot of finding the right place is just luck!

megan said...

Book?! i was just thinking that it would be great if you were to put all of this in a book. You have the great knack of getting the word out there, too, so hopefully it's as successful as the site!

btw, i baked the 1-2-3-4 cake and it turnd out so light and spongey. i can't tell you how it tastes yet, because it's being iced and eaten tomorrow, but it looks good so far!

Stephanie said...

We also found a spot on VRBO. We rented a large house with 50 acres for a week and turned it into a vacation for all out of town guests instead of a one night affair. People were camping, sleeping in the basement, it was a total blast! Everyone who came and stayed said they felt really connected to the event because they were able to stay on site.

Best of all, the house was incredibly equipped to host people. We were able to use all the dishes, serving trays, grills, etc. to cut down on costs and make everything a bit more personal.

Autumn said...

My advice: don't forget to check out your local, state and national parks! We got married at an amazing park in the middle of nowhere, and that decision was key to keeping us on (actually under!) budget. The park we chose had banquet facilities and a hotel (as well as cabins, lodges and other options) which worked really well for us. We had just under 200 guests and as much as we would have loved to DIY our food, it just wasn't practical. Even though we paid the park to take care of the food and some logistics, the prices were low, we spent way less than we would have at a comparable facility in the city where we live. We also introduced our guests to a beautiful natural wonder only an hour from most of their homes and had such a wonderful, relaxing time there. Good luck!

paperhouse said...

This is some great advice. It continues to amaze me how great the bloggers are that blog and comment on others' blogs. So helpful and awesome. Thanks for all this advice on finding a great venue that's community-centric and not too wedding-y. Can't wait for the book!

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