One of the very first things I did after we got engaged – after calling people, and immediately ordering a bunch of wedding planning books (yep, I’m a nerd, even about wedding planning), and just enjoying the first few days of our engagement – was start thinking about where our wedding might take place. Since I had spent the year before as a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding, I knew a bit about the planning process – and I knew that the venue is typically the first thing to decide on, because without the venue booked you can’t have a definite idea of the mood, style, and most importantly, the date of the wedding. With that in mind, I knew I wanted to find a venue before I started getting carried away with the other details.
(The day after we got engaged - can you tell that I'm already thinking about the wedding here?)
Of course, as it is for two people in their 20s and 30s who come from different places, the question wasn’t as simple as it is for many people. With my hometown halfway across the U.S., I knew that getting people to actually come to the wedding might be difficult. But although it’s traditional for the wedding to be held in the bride’s hometown, it just wasn’t an option for us. My home now is here in Massachusetts – by the time the wedding rolls around, I will have been here for 2 ½ years, and I will have been away from Minnesota for over 11. I also knew that we wanted to be able to be hands-on in planning, and it just isn’t in the budget for me to fly back and forth every few months. Besides, my friends and family are scattered across the country, so Minnesota wouldn’t really be any more convenient for many people. Massachusetts it was.
Before setting out to find a venue, Brendan and I talked a bit about our general time frame. Keeping in mind the budget (not super high, but definitely high enough that we need time to save up) and our favorite seasons, we decided to go for about 14 months out from our engagement date, which meant some time in the fall of 2013. Living in New England, the fall is definitely the most beautiful time of the year, and we want to make sure that everyone coming to the wedding from far away is treated to something quintessentially New England.
(Our guests are lucky we aren't making them take a wagon!)
Knowing that we were aiming for fall got my mind racing in a zillion different directions. I had a few places bookmarked that I had come across before (what, not everyone looks for wedding venues before getting engaged?!?), and I had a few new ideas to add to the mix, too. We wanted a rustic, fall, New England feel, so we chose places close to our home in Central Mass. We also knew we were getting married in a church (more on that later!), so we were only looking for a reception site. I won’t bore you with ALL of the places we looked, but here are a few of the highlights:
(source: Tower Hill)
Tower Hill Botanic Garden is near to our house and a favorite place for us to go during the summer. They are surrounded by a gorgeous landscape and the grounds are absolutely beautiful. My favorite feature, though, is the Orangerie:
(source: Tower Hill)
It's even more beautiful in person than it is in this picture, especially all lit up at night. It’s because of the Orangerie that I fell in love with this place – it was the first place I bookmarked for the wedding, well before there was even a ring. With the flowers all over this place, I knew it would be beautiful without much work. Unfortunately, though, the site fee was a bit steep, and catering had to be separately arranged. I wanted to be hands-on, but this felt a little too hands-on for me!
(source: Harrington Farm)
Harrington Farm was another early favorite. I knew we wanted rustic, and this place screams “rustic elegance.” How can you not love the exposed beams lined with lights? I had dreams of dancing our first dance in the center of their beautiful barn.
But although it’s beautiful, the space was a bit too big for our wedding – we expect less than 100 people, and that would be a tiny party for the huge barn. If I remember correctly, the site fee was a bit steep here, too – we wanted to spend more on being able to offer our guests better food rather than just on the beautiful space. So on we went!
Zukas is actually the first place we toured, and it was a top contender. The “barn” is actually more of a countryside lodge – there is a huge fireplace and everything is made out of wood. The tent space for dinner was very elegant, and the grounds were gorgeous. I could picture our wedding taking place among their rolling hills. And the coordinator, Alyson, was very welcoming. We thought long and hard about Zukas, but ultimately decided that our wedding was a bit too small for their space, too, and at 45 minutes away from our house, it was a long haul for everyone.
What a fun tent - but too big for our party!
I’ll be back with the place we finally did choose – I promise the wait will be worth it!