Monday, February 21, 2011

Varied Venues: How to not find a perfect wedding venue

On Saturday, M and I woke up bright, early, and excited to check out our first venues.  I didn't have high hopes that we would find "the one" that day, but it was the first step on our road to finding the venue.

 Why wasn't I hopeful?  In my mind, I'm still picturing a rustic, semi-formal reception with an outdoor ceremony at the same location.  None of the three sites we saw on Saturday matched that description.  But we knew they were some of our best options if we wanted to stay in the DC Metro Area, rather than venturing into the Shenandoah Valley region.  Plus, one of the venues was very reasonably priced and we wanted to see what we could get for the least amount of money.

  Our first visit was to the Grand Atrium in Tysons Corner.  Since they have their pricing online, I don't mind telling you that this place was downright cheap compared to a lot of the other venues I'd gotten pricing from - especially wineries.  Still, we could tell from the photos online that the hall colors probably weren't going to be to our liking or fit in with our wedding colors.  This was confirmed almost immediately, as the entire place is decorated in hunter green and burghandy.  Not bad colors in and of themselves, but at this venue they were very overbearing and made the whole hall look dated.

A view of the bar and cocktail lounge, from website
The other problem we had is the split level style of the banquet hall.  Cocktail hour was downstairs, dinner was upstairs, dancing and cake cutting were back downstairs.  We had a feeling that some guests would want to mingle at the very comfy couches downstairs, while others would stay at their tables upstairs - leaving M and I to run up and down stairs all night trying to talk to all our guests.  Overall, we thought this venue would probably work much better for a business holiday party or meeting.  It would have been great for our budget, but we didn't want to sacrifice our style, our wedding colors (which have particular significance to us, I'll talk about this later) or our poor legs to do it!

Next up was Hidden Creek County Club in Reston, only a few minutes away from our house.  The nice part about this venue is that it is very close to the Reston Town Center, which has a ton of hotel and dining options.  It would have been so convenient to have our friends and family stay in a hotel just a few blocks away and be able to shuttle to the wedding/reception site.  Not to mention, going out for drinks or dancing after the reception would be a cinch.  Price-wise, they have several wedding packages and they were very flexible about working with us to make sure we stayed in budget.  The coordinator we had was super friendly and a delight to talk to.  No problems there.
The general flow was much better here - the ceremony would be on a deck with a nice veiw of the golf course, then our guests would move to a covered patio for cocktails while the new Mister and I take a golf cart out for some pictures (M was very excited about this!):

Covered Patio

Carting around to take pictures!
(I have personal photos of all these venues, but forgot my camera at home.  So you'll have to rely on what I could find online.  These are nicer though, since it's of an actual summer wedding, whereas all of ours look dead and wintery!)

Then we'd move into an inside reception area connected to the patio for dinner and and dancing.  It was all very nice, but...  In the end the place just didn't have the right "feel".  The reception room felt a little too crowded, the dance floor was oddly positioned, and again, there were hunter green accents everywhere (what's with these places and hunter green??).  We checked it off as a "....maybe" and moved on.

The third place was our best bet out of the three.  Fairfax Country Club was a little pricier than Hidden Creek, but we were hoping we could get a deal, because not only is M's granddad a member - he used to be president!  Honestly, when that name got dropped, I saw our coordinators eyebrows raise sky high.  I felt like I was marrying a Kennedy!

M - Is that you?

We also found out that M's parents had their reception here, which made it a place of Great Interest to us.  Despite the fact that it wasn't our ideal location, we were optimistic!  M had been to the club before, but they had recently remodeled the ballroom, so it was new to both of us.  It was lovely looking, and done in a very neutral palette with gold accents.  Happily, with purple and gold as our wedding colors, we'd only have to add in some purple to make it match completely.  The ballroom was spacious, the dance floor was huge and well positioned (not splitting the room in two, nor tucked away so people can't see it).  The coordinator was very nice to work with, the catering was reasonable, and there was a small patio outside that our guests could access.
Overall, it was a great location, and with a generous discount from being sponsored by M's granddad, totally within our budget.  So why wasn't I in love with it?  Maybe I still have my heart set on that vintage winery wedding, or maybe it all felt a little too stuffy (let's just say no one in my family is even a member of a country club!).  Either way, something felt off.  Thankfully M agreed with me, so we decided to continue the search.  It's nice to know the Fairfax Club is still there if we can't find anything better, but also nice to know we still have plenty of time and don't have to settle.

This weekend I'll be checking out a few more locations, and I have a list of probably eleventy-hundred more if those don't work out.  We're still getting a good head start so I'm not worried about a place not being available for our (very flexible) summer 2012 dates.  At this point it's just about scoping things out and figuring out what works for us and our guests.


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