Be proud: we stuck very close to the plan. So without further ado, here are the venues we visited (WHICH COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER!), in a few words and a few pictures each.
FIRST VENUE: ECLECTIC, AKA THE FUNKY MUSEUM
Our first stop was a modern art museum, which had three possible spaces - turns out only one of which might be viable for us, since two of them are for functions of 75 people or fewer, and we're pretty sure we'll have more than 75 people on hand for the big day (we ARE thinking relatively small, but relatives alone = more than 75 people). This museum was badly damaged in Hurricane Katrina; construction is still ongoing, but what is already finished is beautiful and interesting, with lots of natural light.
- The Oh, Yes Factors: We both loved the look and feel of the place; there's an entire separate structure included for "bridal party prep"; the location is accessible and scenic; windows everywhere = amazing outdoor feel, indoors; the rates are reasonable; we can bring in our own catering and bar, with no venue-imposed rules.
- The Big Red Flag(s): As a museum and not an event-driven venue, there are no "extras" included; we'd have to do all our own set up, rental of tables/linens, and handle all arrangements with outside vendors. Woof.
- The Pictures:
|Nice view, huh? Also the venue is nice ;-)|
|One end of the room we would be in|
|The other end of the room we would be in|
|The center quad in the museum campus. Fiance provides scale.|
|LOVE this exterior staircase!|
|Exterior Party Courtyard, adjacent to the interior space we'd use.|
SECOND VENUE: EFFICIENT, AKA THE DEDICATED WEDDING HALL
We picked up D's parents, then headed to the second venue. I was a little nervous about this one-- only because D had mentioned it to his best friend, who said "Oh man, I went to a wedding there once. Total crap hole." Luckily, turns out this friend was thinking of a different place (he drinks a lot at weddings). This place was really lovely and impeccably kept, and all they do is weddings. It's a big hall with a stage and a dance floor, plus a gorgeous covered courtyard with a pretty fountain. Here, weddings are their business, and business seems to be good.
- The Oh, Yes Factors: For one fee, this place covers just about everything: the space, the tables, the chairs, the linens, the A/V set up - you can even order the catering and bar through them, if you choose (although those are separate fees). Lots of light. Huge space. Very professional.
- The Big Red Flag(s): This was the most expensive venue we viewed. It's also sort of off the beaten path, and while the space itself is great and very functional, there's nothing around it... like, at all.
- The Pictures:
|Pretty Fleur de Lis wall decorations|
|Outdoor Patio. Clearly where The Smokers hang.|
|One end of the courtyard. No, dude wasn't peeing in the fountain.|
|FOG scopes out the interior space|
INTERMISSION: LUNCH & BREWERY TOUR
Having already made it through a three hour drive and two venue tours, it was high time for lunch. And a brewery tour because, hey, they stopped tours after 2:30.
The brewery was small, but the tour guide was enthusiastic, and it was nice to have a brief and 100% stress-free intermission.
THIRD VENUE: THE HOTEL ELVIS LOVED
We had to look at one hotel, right? There are plenty of pros to utilizing a venue set up not only to host, but also to house. We chose to explore this one, which was a little off the beaten path but adjacent to a golf course and set in a beautiful, tree-filled residential neighborhood - and, its real claim to fame? Elvis vacationed at this hotel, every summer, for seven years. There's even a Love Me Tender suite. Yep.
- The Oh, Yes Factors: The staff at this place was awesome; very friendly, very knowledgeable. The hotel rooms were small but nice, and the rate for wedding guests is awesome - and they throw in a free room for the bride and groom, the night of the wedding. The ballroom had one side for dining, and one side for dancing, the huge bonus being you could do both at once. They do all set up and breakdown, security is included, custodial is included. Pretty much as efficient as the last place!
- The Big Red Flag(s): The space was all-interior, and pretty dark, not necessarily in a good way - no natural light whatsoever. It's also sort of retro, not in the best of ways. But the biggest red flag (other than Elvis freaks showing up): in addition to their fees, the hotel requires all beer/wine/liquor be purchased through them, and while the fees weren't crazy, the limited selection was. Like, it'd be a Bud / Bud Light / Bud Lime Wedding.
- The Pictures:
|Front-side view of guest room wing. Also, kind of a rear view.|
|Our great tour guide, plus the dance floor|
|Dance floor / Dining floor (Yeah... that carpet...)|
|Dining Hall with chairs/tables (included - another bonus)|
|Oh, yeah! Other YES factors: Giant Lobby Bell... AND ELVIS.|
The final venue we visited was on recommendation from the FOG.* It was a little further out, but just off the highway. Unfortunately, we couldn't get inside to see the interior, but weren't too concerned - FOG has a relationship with the owner and should be able to score us some pictures. Meanwhile, as you'll see, the exterior was gorgeous Southern charm.
- The Oh, Yes Factors: Beautiful and full of Southern charm - you can just imagine the gorgeous photographs this setting yields. FOG's existing familiarity with the owner and the space is also a bonus.
- The Big Red Flag(s): This space is the second most expensive - without including the set-up, tables, linens, and everything the hotel or dedicated wedding venue offers for comparable pricing.
- The Pictures:
|Walkway to the front of the venue.|
|Walkway to the back of the venue. Also awwww.|
None would be a bad choice. And at the end of the day, whatever one we choose is just backdrop. The real point is, we will wind up good and married, wherever it happens.
So. After finishing the Venue Visits, next step was supposed to be Vodka.
It wound up being homemade mandarin orange margaritas, made by my future in-laws.
And speaking of win, now for the fun guessing game: weighing cost vs. convenience, look vs. logistics, and so on... any guesses as to which venue we're seriously contemplating?!
*I'm going to create a glossary soon, to reiterate/permanently record all acronyms used here: FOG = Father Of Groom, and so on.