Friday, April 8, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty - How we Decided on Our Venue

I can't believe it's been over a month since I first hinted about our wedding location to you.  Moreover, I can't believe it too us that long to come to a decision and sign a contract with our venue.  For some reason I thought we'd see the perfect site and sign within a week.  Well, we knew within moments of seeing the site that "this was it", but like M and I's relationship in general, we waited an appropriate amount of time to get serious.*

To be honest, I love our location, as you could probably tell from my last post, but I think it's worth talking about the process of deciding and how we became sure that Old House Vineyards was the right place for us.

Our first visit to the venue was on the same cold, rainy day we visited Bristow Manor.  While I was planning out our day, I noticed we'd only be about 30 minutes from a venue I'd seen online and dreamed about, and since we didn't make it that far south very often, I jumped on the opportunity.  So our first impression of the venue was this:

Rainy, wet, gloomy, and yet still gorgeous.
We couldn't even make it out to see the island or reception pavilion that day, it was raining too hard!  But we did meet with the owner and liked her right away, and and got to taste their wines (yum!).

My favorite - Rosie's Red
We had our misgivings about how far out from Northern Virginia the vineyard was, and of course, the price tag.  The rates she quoted us were nearly double our venue budget, and we even though we knew it was the most unique and beautiful location we'd seen so far, I didn't really think we could afford it.  But I couldn't give up just yet.  Since the Vineyard didn't have an in-house caterer, I started looking up catering costs in Culpeper, and found that it was significantly cheaper than all the venues we'd seen so far.  My budget was based on spending $50pp on food (a reasonable rate at the country clubs and historic manors we'd visited so far), but in this small town, catering could be had for closer to $20-$30 a head (and at some places for just $15!).  I re-ran the numbers and figured out that if we pinched our budget a little, we could afford this gorgeous location.

But even with that settled, I started to worry that we were crazy for putting this place on the top of our list.  It was expensive and we hadn't even been to the reception location or the island.  Another trip was scheduled only two weeks after the first, this time with FMIL Toshella to give her stamp of approval.  She loved it, the site was even more lovely up close, we got a detailed tour, and had figured out we could afford it.  Old House Vineyard could be ours!

But... was it worth it?  Requiring our OOT friends and family to rent a car and travel an extra hour away from the airport?  Asking all of our local friends to rent a room for the night since it was too far away to drive home?  We deliberated, and began asking friends and family what they thought.  Much to our relief, our friends were excited about the vineyard wedding and were completely willing to stay the night in Culpeper to party with us.  My mom and cousin reassured me that most of our family would rent cars or caravan down, and an extra hour of driving wasn't a huge deal.  We breathed a huge sigh of relief.

M had one more requirement before we signed - find 3 caterers in our price range.  He wanted to be sure that we had options if one or two caterers didn't work out or if we didn't like the food.  It took some creative budget finagling, but I was able to come up with three reasonably priced options that would give us the wedding food we wanted - more on that another day.

With all systems a go, we contacted the owner and told her we were ready to sign.  This began another three weeks of emails back and forth about the contract terms , where we considered just driving back down to Culpeper to sign in person (this got veto-ed when Matt's schedule changed unexpectedly).  The owner was really nice to work with though, and took my crazy emails in stride.  She was willing to change the contract to specify some of the things she'd said she could change in person (like the ending time for the reception), and finally we were comfortable mailing her our signed contract and deposit.

Assuming there are no more bumps along the road (cross your fingers for us!) we are locked in at our venue and date, and couldn't be happier!  Standing on the island where we're going to be married with Matt was one of my favorite moments in this journey so far, and I can't wait until 1 year, 6 weeks, and 5 days** from now when we're standing there for real.  :)

Okay, mostly we just look tired, but I promise, we're happy!

* Okay, not really.  We moved in together only 3 months after we started dating, and if it were up to me, we'd have been engaged about a month in. 

** Thank you, wedding countdown ticker!

All personal photos.

1 comment:

  1. Matt and I went to a wedding in November that was 4 1/2 hours away in Conneticut, and we still ended up driving home that night. Googlemaps says that it's an 1 1/2, which means that people will certainly be able to make it home that night if they want. Or if they want a hotel room, the rates in Culpepper seemed pretty affordable. Speaking of which, you might want to start looking at hotels soon to get a group price. It looks like there's a nice Best Western or Holiday Inn in Culpepper. Or maybe you can find a cute B&B. I can't wait to see you so we can go over these things in person!