After Sam and I got engaged, we immediately started getting “so, have you set a date yet?” from everyone we talked to. Seriously — I’d been engaged for less than 24 hours before I got asked that question and it never stopped!
So after basking in the post-engagement glow for about a week, I got down to business. I knew I wanted an outdoor ceremony, and preferably both the wedding and reception would be at the same location, with no travelling needed (all the better to drink to, my dear!). I used TheKnot.comand WeddingWire.com to quickly view my options online, and my mom did her usual Google-Sleuth maneuver to come up with some ideas too.
We also discussed dates with both families and it turned out we had a narrower window than I thought: we needed sometime in May (but not the first weekend) or June (either the first weekend or the last). Which might sound like a decent number of Saturdays to choose from… except in the world of weddings.
As I attempted to make appointments to visit some of my favorite venues, it became clear that I was committing a wedding cardinal sin: planning a wedding in less than one full year. Seriously, let me paint you a picture:
Me: “Hi, I’m calling to make an appointment to visit your venue for a wedding.”
Venue: “Okay great! When is your wedding?”
Me: “I’m thinking sometime in May or June.”
Venue: “May or June 2015, that’s perfect! We still have some availability left, let me just tell you your options…”
Me: “Oh no, I’m sorry; May or June of next year, 2014.”
DEAD FUCKING SILENCE.
Venue: “Did you say next year? As in, less than 12 months from now?! I’m sorry, we can’t help you. Unless you’d consider a Monday morning?”
Absolute insanity, I tell you; the wedding industry is totally out of control! So after a few of those types of calls, I girded my loins and narrowed my list. Sam and I visited three places: a botanical garden, a banquet hall and an old estate (in that order).
The botanical gardens were very pretty, but the layout options weren’t ideal; the spaces seemed kind of small (and we’re planning a fairly small wedding!) and had a decent number of stairs, which wasn’t great for our elderly grandparents.
The banquet hall was actually built specifically for weddings, so I thought it was nicer than just a typical hall. Plus it was a more “all-inclusive” type of deal, which I was very intrigued by. For the venue itself, I loved the entryway and the reception space was really nice. But the ceremony space was underwhelming. It looked pretty in the pictures, but I just couldn’t quite picture it for myself.
The old estate is kind of in the middle of nowhere, and not the easiest place to find. But I was sold the minute we pulled up: it has a wrought iron gate, with a long drive lined with trees. The building itself was an estate built by a very wealthly man, and features two main rooms with floor to ceiling windows that look out over a stone terrace and a beautiful river, which is where the ceremony would be held.
The original owner was a man who made his fortune in property development building skyscrapers, and I’m sure it didn’t hurt when he married into the Firestone family (you know, Firestone Tire and Rubber). In his spare time he enjoyed sports: racing Thoroughbreds, as well as owning the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. Now, his old estate has display cases of old memorabilia: Kentucky Derby Trophies, Baseball World Series Trophies, etc. Sam, who is a big baseball fan, and I spent probably the first 20 minutes of our tour in awe of the history there – we literally could not have designed a better venue ourselves!
Of course, they didn’t have much availability, but we ended up making it work and our venue is booked, and our date set! But you’ll just have to wait until our Save the Dates go out to find out THAT information.