Wedding Wednesday: Finding a Venue

***Check out the previous post in this series: Setting the Date


If you’ve nailed down the when of this whole wedding thing — that is, the date — you now need to figure out the where.  Of course, if you haven’t figured out the exact date, that’s okay too — in case your favorite venue has no availability on your date.  However, at least be specific enough to have a month picked out, especially if you’re getting married in January, February, or March, since you can ask for those lovely off-season prices!

For some people, the ceremony is a no-brainer — they just have it in their home church or synanogue or whatever other house of worship they attend; It’s the reception that they need to plan for.  However, in our case, Josh and I wanted to have everything all in one place, so we sought a venue that was big enough to function as both.   Keep this in mind when hunting: are you looking for a one stop shop or are you ok with multiple venues?

My best advice for finding a venue — or at least getting your mind thinking about finding a venue — is to go get some bridal magazines, specifically the ones in your area.  One of my personal favorites is The Knot because it has a different publication for each city or region and it has features, as wells as ads, from different venues in your area.

I know bridal magazines can be a bit, well… superficial and materialistic.  Often they turn what should be a beautiful day and a fun party into a competitive sport.  Knowing this, I still recommend flipping through as many magazines as you can get your hands on in order to get as many ideas as possible (many ideas means many choices which can often be parlayed into monetary savings).   But, know that it is easy to get sucked into the vortex that says you must have nothing but orchids and designer dresses and monogrammed M&M’s.  Relax.  You only have to have what you want to have — and what you can afford.  More on that later.

Using magazines is a starting place, but there are also numerous online resources all about venues.  Here are two of my faves:

Wedding Wire Vendor Search Engine

The Knot Ultimate Wedding Venue Directory

But before you look at venues, it might be important to consider what kind of style or themes or colors you want for your wedding.  Maybe this isn’t as important to you, so you can just dive into venue hunting and go with the best deal, figuring out the rest after the fact.  However, Josh and I wanted a blank slate because we didn’t want to be hindered by the pre-existing decor of a ballroom or antebellum mansion, and we found most country clubs to be a bit too traditional in their decor.  We knew we wanted something contemporary, but not cold.  A blank slate, but not a barren, open room.  (And we  definitely didnt want an outdoor wedding, since it was going to be in January.)

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, we picked the Foundry at Puritan Mill, a renovated soap factory featuring gorgeous exposed beams, a glazed concrete floor, brick walls, and a gi-normous wooden door (that ended up being part of our altar area).

jkDallas Photography

And wouldn’t you know — we first heard of the Foundry through a wedding magazine.  I remember flipping through, seeing a pic of it, and thinking that if money were no object, that would be exactly where I would want to get married.  However, I assumed it was too expensive and moved on to the next page (this is when I was still looking at a September or October wedding date — yeah, these months are just as expensive as summer, in case you’re wondering).  I visited a dozen different venues, half of which I knew I wouldn’t like in the first place, but I figured they were good deals or someone else covinced me that I’d like them if I just visited (mom).  It’s not that I hated these other venues, they just didn’t have quite what I was looking for:

  • Big open room or two smaller rooms that could serve as a locale for both the ceremony and reception
  • Contemporary, but not cold
  •  A blank canvas, but not a barren warehouse
  • An affordable price!

Finally I caved and visited the Foundry’s website, ready to have my heart broken, but still needing to know for sure.  Well, sure enough they had their prices listed (womp womp), which were… well, what you’d expect from a fancy downtown Atlanta venue.  But then I saw the off season prices (getting warmer…), then noticed the even more reasonable Sunday prices (even warmer…), then the Sunday morning prices (hot!), and then… I probably did a happy dance and sang a high note, I don’t remember exactly.  But I do know that I called them right away and scheduled an appointment for the next day (I was serious times).  And the rest is history…

Aside from the venue being lovely in all the right ways, it had these beautiful floor-to-ceiling sheer drapes that could be tied in the middle (very pretty) or could be left open, creating a sort of translucent wall wherever they were needed — which is exactly how we used them.

jkDallas Photography

For the ceremony, we placed all of the chairs that the guests would use smack dab in the middle of the 12,000 sq. ft. room.  On either side of the chairs, we used the drapes as walls, so the room didn’t feel unnecessarily expansive., i.e., stark.  After the ceremony, the guests were briefly ushered into the lobby while the curtains were tied in the middle and the chairs were moved to either side of the room where the round tables had been pre-set, as well as the buffet tables.

jk Dallas Photography

With the chairs removed from the middle, we had a dance floor separate from the eating area on either side.  Hooray!

jk Dallas Photography

(me and my dad)

I don’t tell you all of this to merely sell the Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta (though, if you’re in the area, you should check it out); rather, I’m telling you all of this because I believe all it takes is a little creativity with your particular venue (or venues) to get exactly what you’re wanting (and a little DIY decor doesn’t hurt — future post, of course).

jk Dallas Photography

And needless to say, none of this would have been possible had we not picked a Sunday morning in January.  And since we’re talking about Sunday morning, and some of you may still be scratching your heads in wonderment at how I arrived at such a non-traditional day and hour, here’s my thought process:

  • It was the cheapest option to get the venue I wanted (duh)
  • Having it on a Sunday morning interferes with some people’s church plans, I realized, but I figured that (to me, at least) a wedding ceremony is a religious ceremony, first and foremost, so it’s a win win, right?  (And for those out there that view a wedding as a vow to the state or just before your friends and fam — they probably wouldn’t care about the Sunday morning difference anyway).
  • Since Sunday was by far the most cost-effective day (that wasn’t a weekday — I never even considered anything Monday through Friday), we had to decide between morning, afternoon, or evening.  Morning won out because I figured if we had out of town guests (and I had them by the truckload), they would have to spend the night whether it was a Saturday night, Sunday night, or Sunday morning.  Since Saturday was out, I figured Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening should be out as well, since it wouldn’t be the most ideal arrangement for driving back home to be at work the next day.  From what I understand, most of our out-of-town folks drove in on Saturday, spent the night, then drove (or flew) back on Sunday with daylight to spare.
  • Afternoon weddings tend to require heavy hors d’oevres (if not full meals) and evening weddings definitely require meals.  Obviously, we wanted to feed our guests, but had to be reasonable with our budget since we were inviting about 250 (and P.S.- About 245 people showed up).  The added bonus of a morning wedding was that we were able to use one of the recommended vendors and get a full scale (and delicious) brunch (more on that later).  And it turns out that some of Josh and my favorite foods are breakfast foods, so… another win-win.  Of course, we never got a chance to eat any of it (it was our wedding day after all, but I heard it was very good — we still have friends and family talk about the bacon.  :)

jk Dallas Photography

So, yeah… Sunday morning in January.  Sounds wacky, but it really worked, and I had quite a few people tell me how they thought that getting married on a Sunday morning was “really cool.”  (That’s a direct quote from one friend.  See how I bring out the profound in people?)

How about you?  Are you a January/Sunday/morning convert yet, wedding planning people?  And if you’re reading this as an already married person, when did you get married?  And has anyone out there been to a wedding that was on a weekday?  (I’m still not quite buying this one.)  Comments, questions — send ’em my way!

Previous Posts in this Series:

Wedding Series Preview

Setting the Date