Rhoad to the Altar: Picking a wedding venue

Courtesy of Flickr.com
How fancy or low-key do you want your wedding to be?

They say you should never buy the first car you test drive. Or the first house you look at. Or the first dress you try on. Shop around, get familiar with several different styles and models.

This is probably why Christian and I felt so weird when we fell in love with the first wedding venue we saw.

When picking a venue, decide what you and your fiance want your celebration to look and feel like and what kind of budget you’re working with. Do you want the ceremony and reception at the same location? I’ve always wanted something outside, and I knew neither of us wanted the traditional “banquet-style” wedding reception. Now, the big question was, how to pull that off and stay within our (very small) budget.

By the numbers
One of the most important things in determining a location is your guest list. It sounds obvious, but make sure you have enough room to accommodate everyone comfortably. Just because you can cram 200 people in the space, doesn’t mean you should. Make sure guests have enough elbow room and space move around. Also ask the venue if they can show you sample seating arrangements to get ideas of what the space looks like set up. And check to see if they have decorations you can use.

Courtesy of Abby Rhoad
Dream wedding view overlooking the Susquehanna River at Lauxmont Farms Rotunda.

The first location we looked at was Lauxmont Farms’ Rotunda. We drove up to the top of a hill in the middle of the York County and got out of the car. The view overlooking the Susquehanna was amazing. This is it. This is perfect. … This is about 3 times more than we can spend. Dang.

We checked out the other three locations at Lauxmont Farms: the Sunken Gardens, the Japanese Gardens and the Cobblestone Courtyard. Each venue was beautiful and definitely had its own style and appeal.

Courtesy of Abby Rhoad
We ended up going with the Cobblestone Courtyard at Lauxmont Farms. It’s totally our style and within our budget.

The last location we looked at was the Cobblestone Courtyard. The ceremony is held in a courtyard between two old farm building, with the reception held in the bottom floor of an old white barn. White lights strung over the courtyard give it an ambiance similar to that of a cafe in Paris. It’s indoors and outdoors and a little bit rustic, but it’s also got some whimsy. It’s within our budget. And I love it!

Ask away
When viewing potential locations, don’t be afraid to ask a ton of questions. If you’re like me, you’ve never planned a massive celebration, let alone had to worry about what could potentially be a contract for thousands of dollars. Get specifics on what is included in your rental fee: set up/tear down, parking, tables and chairs, linens and china, bridal room or a place to get dressed (something I never thought of), day-of wedding planner, etc.


Courtesy of Flickr.com
Finding a place that lets you bring your own alcohol can save you a lot of money.

Also, be sure to find out what kind of restrictions on vendors there is. Must you use an in-house catering company or provide your own. Can you bring your own alcohol (saving a lot of money). “Today” Weddings had a great list of questions to ask on what kind of restrictions your venue might have. Be sure you’re clear on what time everything must be out of the building. If your contract says you must be out by midnight, this doesn’t mean the party ends at midnight. Make sure you have time to clean up and gathering centerpieces, leftover food, etc.

Over the next week, I checked out a couple of other venues. Weddingwire.com was a big help in finding popular wedding venues in the York area. The Carlisle Ribbon Mill was awesome and completely what we were looking for, but it didn’t have the outside aspect that I wanted so badly. We also would have had to find another venue for the ceremony because of space. The Stone Mill Inn also was a beautiful location and had the indoor and outdoor aspect, but it was a little out of our budget.


Courtesy of Flickr.com
Clearly read and understand the contract for your wedding view. Understand what the nonrefundable deposit is or whether you will be charged extra if you have to change your wedding date. Also ask a lot of questions and know what extras you might be charged for. Everything adds up.

By the end of the week, we couldn’t stop talking about the Cobblestone Courtyard and decided to book it for what I’m describing as our “classic, vintage, rustic” celebration. When signing your contract, make sure you read everything closely, and again ask questions. What is the nonrefundable security deposit? If you need to change your date, will you be charged more? And it never hurts to negotiate. Some venues offer discounts if the amount is paid in full. Also be sure to go over extra charges or costs. That huge tent sure looks nice, but it’s probably not free. Some venues also have an extra charge for the ceremony in addition to the reception.

How did you find your wedding venue? Word of mouth? Google searches? Or was it a traditional location in your area?



Other resources:
Find more great questions to ask when looking at wedding venues ranging from potential extra costs to whether open flames are allowed.



The Knot

Shawn Rabideau Events

Learn who we are in my proposal blog post.

Watch the infamous newsroom proposal.

Coming up: Picking a date doesn’t necessarily mean getting the date you want.

Other resources:

Find more great questions to ask when looking at wedding venues ranging from potential extra costs to whether open flames are allowed.


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10 Responses

  1. James Tanner says:

    It’s ok that you “fell in love at first sight” of the wedding venue you choose. You looked at others, which was above your budget. And I like your choice, it is simple yet elegant.

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