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

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Q & A: Finding the Right Wedding Venue

Reader Question: My big question is how did you not spend a lot of money on the venue? We also want a place that fits all the guests and townies so they can get to know each other.

From the very beginning, Matt and I knew that we wanted all of our friends and family to stay in the same place if possible. We wanted to wake up and eat a leisurely breakfast with them. We wanted to pass by them and say hello. If we were going to bring all of our nearest and dearest to the same place for a weekend, we wanted it to feel more like a reunion than a wedding.

When we sent out our electronic Save-the-Dates, we asked guests to complete a survey that gave us information about whether they thought they would be able to make it or not (100% likely, 75% likely, 50% likely, or 0% likely). This information gave us a more accurate idea of how many people to expect.

I hoped that if we found a B&B that fit our guests exactly, we would be able to rent out the entire place and use the facilities for free. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the perfect-sized place. We either found places that were too big or too small.

Simultaneously, we found out that Matt's family wanted to stay at a place that was a little less rustic.

In the end, we decided to book a place that could accommodate almost all of our friends on site, while our families stayed at B&Bs down the road (we spent lots of time with our families in the days leading up to and after the wedding).

Luckily, we found an inexpensive place, which wasn't easy to do. We intentionally had to look outside the city to find something reasonable. (Estes Park, CO, is a mecca of expensive weddings.)

To find the "perfect place," we had to make compromises. For one, the B&B was situated on a somewhat busy road, which wasn't ideal. Also, the cabins were rustic. However, the innkeepers were absolutely amazing and the price was right. We certainly compromised some on the aesthetics of our wedding, but we realized that community, connection, and fun were more important to us than the aesthetics.

So, we were able to rent out the entire place for $750 a night. We then came up with a price per night for our friends that seemed fair: $25 for a bed in a dormitory situation and $35 for a bed in a cabin. Since we weren't sure how many people were going to come and who would want to stay on site with us, we came up with a price that would at least ensure we had enough money to pay the B&B.

In the end, we were able to completely fill the place and have money left over that we used to pay the innkeepers to help us during the reception. We paid them $50 an hour to heat up the food, set it out, refill it as necessary, and clean up.

Even with that expense, we still had $60 left that went toward our general wedding budget.

And over Christmas, we received a card from a friend with a check for $50 ($25/night for two nights). That means we actually came in under our $2,000 budget (as opposed to $12 over, like we origionally thought).

If we had had more money to spend on our wedding, we wouldn't have put that money toward centerpieces or a fancier cake; we would have completely paid for our guests' accomodations.

Good luck with your search! Securing the right location was one of the most stressful pieces of our entire process.

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Anonymous said...

Did your out-of-town guests have to rent cars to get to the reception site? My partner and I would love to host the wedding in a small town outside of where we actually live, but that means our flying guests would also have to drive an extra hour and a half. (Even if they're carpooling, that's a lot of traveling to ask of people.)

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Paige: Yeah, the out-of-town guests (which was pretty much the majority of our guest list) had to rent cars to get to the reception site (it was 1.5 hours from the airport). We set up a carpooling page on our website to help people coordinate rides with each other, but you're right about the fact that it was a lot to ask of people (not to mention that it's not very eco-friendly!). In the end, it seemed to work out really well because people turned it into a vacation in the mountains of Colorado. It also helped us keep our guest list smaller and more intimate so we would have real time to spend with people. Definitely let me know if you have more questions...

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