Friday, March 25, 2011

Varied Venues: On the right track

Our venue search is dwindling down now that M and I have all but signed the contract on our dream location.  On our way to this point though, we stopped and viewed two other possible wedding locations, both of which had promise.

Bristow Manor:
It was a dark and stormy day when we arrived, sopping wet, at Bristow Manor for their Bridal Show.  I'd seen the golf club online and admired the historic building (much like Stoneleigh Golf Club), proximity to airports and hotels, and affordable price.  I found out they were having a Bridal Show through the Knot and figured it would be a good time to check out the venue and see some local vendors.  One of my college friends was visiting that weekend and she was a good sport to come along with M and I and take pictures for us!
The entrance to Bristow was open and welcoming, despite the monsoon-like rain
The Bridal Show was fun - we got complimentary mimosas and bellinis, tastes of cake and appetizers, and oh right, info about the site.  Our first stop was upstairs to see the ceremony location - held on the front lawn, the best view is from the upper balcony:

 We were a little... underwhelmed.  While ceremony pictures looked lovely between the majestic columns, we weren't loving the whole "turn around and walk toward... a hedge? A street?" right after we were married.  In addition, the hedge didn't really block traffic noise or sights (though in all fairness, it wasn't a particularly busy road).  Still, we didn't rule it out immediately, we wanted to see the rest of the manor first.

It really is a lot nicer from this angle!  [source]
We moved on to the reception hall, which is connected to the main building by a covered walkway to the left of the entrance (you can see the windows in the above picture).  It was a little perilous crossing the stone porch in the rain, but the reception pavilion was cozy and dry. 

Actually, it was a little too cozy.  With vendor stands lining every wall and about 6 tables in the middle, the reception hall felt packed!  We had a hard time imagining 12 ten-top tables plus buffet lines, dance floor, etc in the space.  I can easily imagine a smaller wedding (maybe under 100) held here, but it felt a little cramped for our 125 person wedding. We did like the brick patio off the front of the pavillion (not pictured) and had it not been raining that could have relieved the tight-space issue.  But every bride needs a rain plan, and being inside Bristow during that torrential downpour made us realize that space would be really tight if it we had the "good luck" of rain on our wedding day.

*All pictures are personal photos unless otherwise stated

The Inn at Kelly's Ford

We stumbled across the Inn at Kelly's Ford almost by accident.  It was recommended to us as a B&B to stay in on our wedding night by the owner of the venue we chose.  As I was searching their website, I noticed they also did wedding, and since we were still open to looking, we decided to check out their wedding package as well as their accommodations.  I don't have any personal pictures because my camera died (always bring extra batteries!) but they have a lot of pictures on their website.

The Inn has two reception sites, Ripley Hall and the Area.  The Area, which holds about 400 guests, was much too big for our wedding and already booked for the date we wanted:
This place was huge!
Ripley Hall holds about 150 and was much better suited for our party, plus, not booked yet!  We liked the warm oak to match with our gold color scheme, open floor plan, and amenities like a slideshow projector (for that embarrassing video of our childhood pictures that I know my parents are already planning...).

Also, the very back corner of the room had a fireplace and cozy chairs, which was a nice touch for any bride who has been bitten by the "lounge-furniture" bug.  Too cool, right?

The Inn at Kelly's Ford is an equestrian center, so the entire site was full of rolling hills, pastures, and views of the Rappahannock River.  We could have our ceremony in one of several picturesque locations, from a fountain outside the reception hall to a gazebo overlooking the river:

Ripley Hall (left) and the Area (peak and right wing) with fountain in front
They have a lot of different catering options and tons of cool add-ons, like a horse drawn carriage or vintage car to drive you around the campus for pictures.  I could see our reception getting pricey really quickly once we started adding on features, even though their base package was within our budget.

The Inn has 6 cottages which would be perfect for the bridal party to get ready, or for the bride and groom to stay in on the wedding night.  Their honeymoon suite, The Silo, was modern and unique (a two story suite housed in, yes, an old Silo) but I wondered about navigating the spiral staircase in a wedding dress.

Top floor of the Silo
Honestly, the Inn would have been a very good option for us.  We were slightly deterred by the connected reception halls, though the event manager we spoke too assured us that there were never any problems with parties running into each other.  Had we seen this place first we might have chosen it, even though it didn't meet all the criteria I'd originally dreamed about.  We're still considering renting one of the cottages for our wedding night though, so it's not completely out of the picture!

Did you start seeing closer matches to your "dream venue" as your venue search continued?  Was it a tough choice between two venues at the end, or were you completely sold on a location?

Varied Venues: See all Posts

Varied Venues: The search continues...
Varied Venues: How to not find a perfect wedding venue


  1. ohh I love that little lounge area...Finding a venue is the hardest...but it is so important you can't help over analyzing them!

  2. I went to a wedding at the Bristow Manor. It was beautiful but no AC and it was a little tight in the reception area. The no AC was a huge problem because it was the hottest day of the summer.

  3. @Ms. Lemon Puppy Good to know! It was ch-ch-chilly when we went so I wouldn't have known about the A/C issue. That's a really good question to ask if you're planning a summer wedding!