If you are like most couples wanting to marry in DC, MD or VA then I’m sure you’ve had troubles with the venue. Everything from not knowing where to start to being overwhelmed by the number of available locations. There are many wedding venues in the DC region to fit every style, budget and size wedding. If you are on the hunt, you’ll find a friend in Liz. Liz is one of our bride readers. She contacted us just before beginning her venue search and very kindly offered to share her venue search experiences with us. And, you know us, we always like to throw in some helpful advice, so she did that too! Be sure to check back later this afternoon for part two, because this is only part one. Take it away, Liz:
Photo Credits: Vicki Grafton Photography
The search for a venue that feels like home
When it comes to planning our wedding, the venue has become the most important piece in our puzzle. We want a place where we can relax, where there are no built in time lines and we can create a day that is unique to us. We want it to be fun, personal, warm, casual, and feel like hanging out at home… just hanging out in a home that fits 150 of our nearest and dearest.
In addition to knowing how we want the wedding to feel, we also know we want to get married outside in the country, we want the ceremony and reception to be at the same location, and the venue needs to be within an easy drive of DC. With this criteria in mind, I spent countless hours scouring the internet for venues, my fiance and I toured a few to get an idea of what we liked, my mom booked a flight from Washington State, I took several days off work, and I set up appointments to tour the venues that fit our “homey” wedding style. Seven appointments to be exact.
And, now that its all said and done, here’s what we learned during this crazy-venue-tour-bonanza:
Look at venues that aren’t just for weddings
If you don’t want a “wedding in a box” you’ve got to start thinking outside the banquet hall. Try searching the websites of:
- The Tourism Bureau. (I used this website for Loudoun County.)
- Bed & Breakfast Association (This website is great for Loudoun VA.)
- Nearby summer camps using this site.
- Wineries (A good local resource is this website.)
- Retreat centers using this site.
- Parks & Recreation Centers (Both Fairfax County and Anne Arundel County have some of my favorite park venues, and the prices can’t be beat!)
I also found many great venues by reading about real weddings on the blogs of local wedding planners, photographers, and florists. Other brides have already been through this search, so take advantage of their wisdom.
The people are as important as the place
Don’t work with vendors who are unhelpful, unresponsive or any “un.” With so many lovely and enthusiastic people working in the wedding industry, there is no need to work with those who are not. If you don’t hear back within 48 hours or just don’t feel like you will work well together, skip it.
Go see it!
Pictures can be deceiving, and in this case I found that the venues we toured were even better in person. Ask to see all of the areas that are available for rent, and don’t be shy about exploring (with permission, of course). When I asked what was behind one mysterious door, we discovered another room with a museum exhibit that could be used for the buffet area or extra seating. Just because another bride hadn’t used it before, doesn’t mean you can’t!
Stop while you are ahead
We had seven appointments scheduled at seven different venues. On the first day we saw three venues near Leesburg, VA and by the end of the day we were completely smitten with all three! They were each unique and “homey” in their own way and any one of them would be a great place to get married. So, instead of confusing the issue more than it already was, we decided to cancel the other appointments and spend the rest of the trip dining, shopping and reflecting on our three great choices.
Most of all make sure the process is FUN! This is often easier said than done. It can be really stressful to try to find the exact perfect place, especially when everyone you know has been asking you “when and where?” since an hour after you got engaged. But, if you make a concerted effort to get all the facts, focus on a few options and work with people you like, it can be a really rewarding and exciting experience.
Thanks so much, Liz!! And, she is right, come back in a bit because we’ll share the second part where she goes into more detail about the actual venues. In the meantime, be sure to look through our vendor guide for venues, or browse our virtual venue tours for more help with your DC-area wedding venue search.