Friday, December 7, 2012

choosing our venue

I’ve officially dubbed venue selection the hardest part of our planning process. We did everything I would tell my clients: we came up with a list of our priorities together, explored all available options and judged the contenders against our “must-have” criteria.

This is what we deemed most important:

1.      It could not be a place that I’ve worked before. No matter how much I love my clients and my career, it’s just better to separate work from personal life, so the first challenge was to eliminate my long list of go-to venues and still have a list of great possibilities.
2.      It had to be in the city – in the heart of Richmond. We love the RVA more than words.
3.      I had to be able to bring in my own caterer (fellow wedding planners will understand why this is simply non-negotiable).
4.      *It had to be an inside space. When you’re choosing your wedding venue, you have to know yourself, and I know that I’m not the kind of person who can be okay with Plan B. No one likes the gray interiors of banquet halls or the wrinkled walls of last-minute rain-plan tents.

*Of course, as often happens, we fell in love with an “almost perfect” space: Carillon at Byrd Park. Our caterer recommended it as a very unique space (note to brides: caterers often know all the secret spots!) and most people don’t even know that there is an event space under the memorial.  The main thing we loved was the rooftop terrace, which would mean hosting part of our event outdoors, so we made a compromise on #4 and took the leap with Carillon.

Note that on our must-have list, we weren’t stuck on any particular date. I figured that calling Parks and Rec to secure the space would be the easy part. We would just choose our date based on their availability. It’s a really good thing we were flexible, however, as they only had TWO dates open: February 23 and September 28. Phil’s inclination was to choose the September date when the weather was most likely to be nice. Of course it was. Several of my wise clients had the same idea, and September 28 would put our wedding squarely in the midst of wedding season.

At first I wasn’t sure at all that February 23 would be a viable date. We made a list of pros and cons, talked it over with family and agonized over the decision for weeks. Finally, we decided that the pros outweighed the cons and we settled on a February wedding.

And then…we FELL IN LOVE with the idea of a February wedding! From a design perspective, we have so many unique options that you don’t see at local weddings every week, and we truly want an event that is totally our own. Besides, having an outdoor winter wedding in Richmond, Virginia in February confirms what we already knew about ourselves: that we are certifiably insane (and crazy in love!).

If there is any lesson for other brides in our venue search, it is that you have to know yourselves really well. Make a list of your priorities, and make smart choices. If you sense that you’re choosing something that you actually cannot make you happy, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment on the wedding day. There are enough factors that you can’t control (nature, for one, and in some extreme cases your crazy relatives) that it makes sense to manage the ones you can.

Be flexible, though, when there is room in your vision for something new. You might just discover the perfect space is a place you never considered, or learn that a winter wedding makes you wild with excitement.

Next up? Our amazing save-the-dates, working with a custom designer and (insert ominous music here): the registry.

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