Alright, so you have our love story and you now know how we got engaged...that just means that we have already started planning since, well, I'm in the biz ;)
Luckily for us we had these types of discussions before when we started dating so we already knew we wanted craft beer at our wedding, we knew that we didn't want chicken or steak like everyone else; we actually wanted Cuban, Puerto Rican and Mexican food since 1) We love it! We had it all the time when I lived in Miami, and 2) I'm Hispanic. So it was kind of a no brainer for us ;) We also knew that his dad's band had to play and that we had to have our friends who are house DJ's play. We knew we wanted a venue that stood out and would 'wow!' everyone. So believe it or not, that narrowed down our choices by A LOT! We also did a preliminary guest list to see how many people we could potentially be inviting which came to about 250, so that narrowed it down even more!
So you guessed it, first step in wedding planning that you should take is choosing your venue. It sets the theme of your wedding, it tells you what date you are going to get married - unless you're set on a date then that may narrow down your choices even more depending on the time of season you're looking/booking - what kind of decor you're going to have, what type of dress you'll be looking for (we'll chat more about this in another post), it tells you everything!
People book early, and I knew that! Long story short, I always wanted a winter wedding because of how pretty it is outside (plus, it's cheaper). However, with the Minnesota winters lately you can't guarantee snow on the ground on your wedding day; it might be brown outside for all you know. I mean it's been in the high 60's this past week! The fiance talked me out of it and said he wanted fall. Why? Because it is football season and with us being engaged at the stadium and us being huge fans of the Vikings (SKOL!), he just had a connection with that season. Plus, he wanted the changing leaves in our photos. Cute, right? He's actually involved with the wedding planning ;) Okay, back on track.
It was August and he wanted fall 2017. I was thinking, "Oh wow, everything is going to be booked already!" Being in the venue management side of things for a year, I knew how far out the weddings were getting booked. If you want fall, which is the new summer wedding, you better start looking early...no later than June! Scary, I know, but if you really want a fall wedding...the early bird gets the worm. But there's always a positive in a negative; the earlier you book, the longer you can spread out the planning and not be stressed due to a time crunch ;) So with him wanting a fall wedding, that narrowed down our choices as well.
One more discussion we had about the venue and what we wanted, was high ceilings and texture. It was that part of the 'wow!' we wanted. So once we knew what we wanted, we jumped online and started looking. I looked at farms (as a home decorator for another part of my business, my whole house is very rustic so of course I had to look at barns), historic buildings, and any other building that we had a bond with. By that I mean that since I was in the arts industry as a Director of Events in Miami, I looked at art galleries, museums, anything that screamed art. We also wanted to look at sport venues as well since we are sport fanatics. So another tip: to help you narrow down your choices, think of things that would relate to you and your significant other. We have some friends that met when they started working in politics and now they're getting married this weekend at the old government center in Downtown Minneapolis. It's little things like that that makes a love story and your big day even more great and exciting! Plus, it's another way to help narrow down your choices.
So overall, before you start looking at five million venues, you forget about one and regret not going to see it, or even before you start getting overwhelmed with wedding planning when it's just the beginning (trust me, you'll get overwhelmed because there's so many venues out there), talk with each other and write down what's important to you both.
After we wrote down everything that was important to us we picked out the BIGGEST thing that if we couldn't have we would die and that was the food. I had to have Hispanic food! I know of a caterer that I enjoy working with and he is Hispanic so I looked at his preferred venue list first whether we went with him or not - he had venues on his list where they accepted outside caterers so we know we'd be okay either way. There were a few I really liked; they had the high ceilings, had texture, looked like it had it all. Once I reached out to see if they had a fall date, accepted bands and DJ's (yes, some places are very strict with this), and the cost, a lot of them ended up not working out. What did we end up with? Only FIVE venues to choose from! I put it in my mind that we had to choose from those five and that's it - kind of helped with decision making and plus I knew I wasn't going to get overwhelmed.
So how did we get to our venue? Here was elimination process: We found a barn that only allowed one DJ company since they were preferred. So that one was out. Another barn we came across didn't allow bands. So that one was out. We went to a few venues and one of them the room for the bands would have sounded terrible, because it was an art gallery (hint: it will echo with live music). It also ended up being about $20k after the venue manager went over all the nitty gritty fees, so that was way too expensive for us. One had the texture and everything, but the ceilings were a little low and their wasn't an outside area for people to get away so in the long run, everyone would be stuck in that room for the night; it just felt too confining for us. One venue could have two weddings going on which you could see the other wedding the day of if you really wanted to and we felt kind of uncomfortable with that. Some of them had a small bridal suite (side note: This wasn't crucial for me as a bride, because I knew that we would probably get ready at a nearby hotel and then I would get ready at the venue as the bride goes last when getting hair and makeup done so it's more fresh for the pictures. However, I still wanted a space where the girls could do a first look with me). The sports venues we looked at were just a tad corporate-like, not wedding-like what so ever, so unfortunately those were out. But in the long run, our venue was the first venue we went and saw that ended up being "the one." And it's crazy, that happens more so than not. We walked into that venue and the moment we saw it, it had that 'wow!' factor that we were looking for. Wanna know what it is? Landmark Center in Downtown St. Paul!! It is historic, has high ceilings, great texture and architecture, the view from the second level looking down when they would be flipping the room (short story: we decided that we wanted the ceremony and reception in the same location since I have a lot of people coming from across the country and most of the venues where we could do the ceremony, it wasn't the right setting for us to actually get married in that exact spot. The backdrop of the ceremony was either odd, not pretty, the flow of how the bride comes out to walk down the aisle wouldn't work, my list could go on) was g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s! It's weird to think that you get that feeling when you see YOUR venue as "the one", but you do get it. You'll just know.
Funny thing was that we had two dates on hold before we even knew it was officially our venue, November 2017 and October 2017. But of course we really wanted October, but there were two people ahead of us that also had it on hold. My fiance and I talked throughout the three weeks we shopped around at venues that if we were meant to have October, we were meant to have it. We weren't too stressed about it as we were okay with November. However, the colors though!!! So we waited and waited and finally we got that call saying that the October date opened up. It was kind of a sign for us, it just worked out perfectly! A lot of people don't have the luck we did, but just know that everything happens for a reason. If you don't get the date you really want, then it's not meant to be. It's hard to tell yourself that, but you have to. Like I'll mention below, you have to prepare yourself that you aren't going to get everything you want.
So once all of this happened and we knew it was the place we wanted to say our "I do's", we drove around to see the potential photos we could take (another tip to write down). Not only was the river right there with a bunch of trees (again, we were going to get married in the fall = changing colors), but we went over the Smith Ave bridge. That sold me. I could see myself walking towards my husband-to-be the day of to do our first look. So we signed the agreement and sent in the deposit. We got the high ceilings, the texture we wanted, know caterers that do Hispanic food that is allowed to go there, we could get craft beer (for a price though = bummer), great location for out of stater's (especially since this will be their first time to Minne). It was perfect for us!
" 10/2017. Landmark Center. It's going down! ;) "
So let's do a little recap shall we? 1) Find out what's important to you and does the venue allow it, including do they have your date you want or season availability? 2) Does location matter? 3) When it comes to the ceremony, do you want it in the same space? Is that space everything and more? 4) How easy is the flip of the room if you do have the ceremony and reception in the same space? 5) How does it work when you're getting ready? Do they have a bridal suite or will you have to go to a nearby hotel? How important is the bridal suite to you? There are a lot of things you have to take in mind, but you know what? What do you want for your big day? Is the food a big factor? Is the location? The theme? The booze? Pick your most important and feed off of that, but really take a moment and think about it; what would you die without on your big day - can you tell that I am really stressing this part? ;) The rest of the things will fall into place. One big thing though, is mentally prepare yourself that you may not get EVERYTHING you want, like I mentioned. There's always a solution to a problem however. Sit and relax and think about different options to overcome that obstacle. For us? It was the craft beer, it's $425 per keg. It's going to be expensive, but we'll just cut costs in another area to make up for it, because that is one thing that's important to us.
Well, there you have it. The first step in your wedding planning: the venue! What's next? You'll have to wait until my next post. Follow us on social media (links found in upper right corner of this website) to see when that post will be ;) Until next time readers.
Want more advice about what to ask for when searching for your venue? Not only do we offer full and partial wedding planning as well as day of coordinating, but we also offer consulting. Perfect for people that just want to pick our brains to help them get through an obstacle. Contact us at MHeventproductions.com/contact