This is a part of a series of blog posts about my wedding and the planning process, called Tell Me About Your Wedding (TMAYW) – to catch up, view all of the posts here.
Personally, I think that the venue is a pretty key part to a wedding. Your venue will give off a certain vibe to your guests, and sets the mood. If that’s important to you, like it was to us, then you’ll want to put a lot of thought into where you get married.
For us, once we settled on the location, everything really started to fall into place. I can’t tell you how many venues I considered, but I’m fairly sure I came across just about every wedding venue in DC and Virginia (and even Maryland) during my search! I used WeddingWire, The Knot, Facebook, Instagram, numerous wedding blogs, and even plain old Google to look for wedding venues. I typed up lists, made a binder, and scratched out overview pages on every venue we were seriously considering. I sent tons of inquiry emails, got freaked out over prices, and in the end, only visited about four wedding sites. The tours were exciting, since they let us imagine all of the possibilities of each unique site, but I definitely felt the pressure of expectations from some of the event managers. Not to say we felt pressured into making any rash decisions, but they all clearly have deadlines and want to book their sites up as quickly and smoothly as possible. As it turned out, we had what was considered a short timeline for planning, mostly due to the time of year we got married (August) and the in-demand location (DC area). I mean really though – a year is a short timeline?! The wedding industry has a bit of a skewed point of view, but more on that later…
Whitehall also has a day-of event captain who takes care of pretty much everything that has to do with the catering and rentals like tables and chairs. He was just as pleasant to work with as Douglas, and had a great handle on all of the details of the day. Everything was set up perfectly! While most of my day-of activities consisted of getting my makeup done, putting my dress on, and getting my emotions together, Ben worked with the event captain to figure out the outdoor chair set-up, and my bridal party worked with his team to set up all of the decorations smoothly. The staff at Whitehall were beyond fantastic, bringing Ben & I snacks and drinks throughout the whole day, and always checking in on us. They even set aside a plate of appetizers for us to eat during dinner since we were busy taking portraits during the cocktail hour – it was so nice to be able to try them all since we spent so much time choosing them! The staff at Whitehall were absolutely fantastic.
One reason why I think the staff were all so fabulous was because, as Douglas explained, the staff are paid well. So well, in fact, that there wasn’t an extra service charge in our contract, and they don’t expect tips (they were amazing though, so we did tip them). Most other venues I looked at had big service charges tacked on to the end of their price sheets that honestly made some of the venues unaffordable. Many of Douglas’ staff have even been with him since he started in the business years ago – Douglas is certainly doing something right as a manager. It was definitely a perk to know that the staff were being treated and compensated well for all of their hard work.
On top of all of this wonderful weddingness, the price was right. While not cheap, for a venue in the DC/VA area, we got so much bang for our many bucks. We got married on a Sunday, which helped cut the costs, and Douglas knew how to keep the budget relatively low while giving us the wedding we wanted. We never felt like he pushed upgrades on us, and made it a point to understand our budget. We saw many drafts of our contract, and numerous itemized cost sheets. It’s helpful and important to be able to see where your money is going. I can imagine that it would be pretty easy for venues to sneak in hidden costs and end up blowing your budget on the venue and rentals alone. Whitehall included all of the following in a simple, straight-forward service proposal: round and rectangular tables, Chiavari chairs, table linens, place settings, table numbers, cake cutting (no charge), corkage (again, no fee!), non-alcoholic drinks, waiters and bartenders, outdoor chairs, a gazebo, rooms for the bride, groom, and attendants to get ready in, ample parking, and alllllll of the food! Oh, and a BEAUTIFUL, well-maintained space.
We were so lucky to find Whitehall, and that our date was available! The venue search was a long and confusing one, but we are so happy with the results.
Ro sum it all up, here are some of the basic things that I think are important to look for and keep in mind during your venue research:
- Location – do you like the way it looks? Is it convenient to get to? If the weather is bad, is there a backup plan?
- Staff – do you have a dedicated point of contact at the venue? Do they remember your specific details? Service on the day of your wedding can make or break the guest experience, and yours as well!
- Flexibility – you can never predict what last minute changes you will need to make.
- Price – does it fit within your budget? What’s included? Will you need to account to any extra service charges or random rentals?
- FEELINGS – when you’re walking around or looking at their pictures, how does the venue make you feel? Can you picture your unique, special wedding happening in that space? Are you comfortable with the venue and its staff?
All photo credit goes to the amazing Two Spoons Photography!
Thanks for reading! ~Margaret