Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Please Meet My Venue!

Apologies again for the absence, between the computer and not having much wedding stuff to do until the last few weeks, there hasn't been much to report or a way to report it!

Anywhoo-it's about high time I introduced our venue! As many of us are quite familiar with, all the good [insert wedding vendor here] usually get snapped up pretty quick. Booking a year or more in advance seems to be recommended especially in DC, and especially for the months of September and October. Can't remember where, but I definitely read somewhere that those are the two most popular months for Washington area weddings. Between our small budget and being a general worrier, I had our venue booked in April '08. Yes, that's 3 months after we got engaged and 18 months before the wedding! What can I say, I'm a do-er.

I was sprucing up the wedding planning notebook the other night and found my list of potential venues. Boy was it long! I think I had every available space in Northern Virginia listed on there.
So how did we narrow it down? LOTS of Internet research to start with.

I used TheKnot, WeddingWire, and blogs like DCNearlyweds just to come up with places. I also bought a few local bridal mags--I remember buying Virginia Bride because it featured a real wedding at a location I liked in our same wedding colors. So after I came up with this huge list, I started to get down to the nitty gritty. How much is the rental fee? Is it cheaper on Fridays? Sundays? Can we use our own caterer? Was it pretty? (yes this was a criteria!). I eventually narrowed the list to five locations to actually visit and made appointments across several weekends. Mr. Fairfax and I traipsed from one side of Nova to the other visiting venues along with the very knowledgeable Big Sister and her husband. In fact, I recall the first two places we visited I essentially walked around in stunned silence, while she asked all the questions! Thank goodness someone was there to ask the questions!

A lot of bridal resources recommend selecting between three and five vendors to meet with (or in this case venues), any more than that and it gets confusing. I whole-heartedly agree! Even the five we visited had me a bit overwhelmed. My main worry was that we wouldn't find a place we both liked that fell comfortably in out budget. We had plans to buy a house in 2008 (which we did! Closed on it back in October!) so the wedding was really coming second and we needed to be very careful with our spending. I promise I'm not bride-zilla, but visiting venues I definitely had a few feeling sorry for myself bad moods because I felt we didn't have the budget to get exactly what I wanted. One visit I was so down, it actually prompted to the Big Sister to blurt our her wedding gift to us: Our cake! Which we'd previously decided to forgo for pies to save money.

So what happened in the end...well, as many wedding dress shopping stories end, we went with the very first one! The Hendry House at Fort C.F. Smith.

From 2007wife's Bio

I first found the Hendry House on the DC Knottie Review Board in 2007wife's Knottie Bio. I initially dismissed it as too small, but since it's right in our neighborhood we decided to take a look anyway. When I e-mailed the county (it's an Arlington County Park) to set up an appointment, they told me it was the last weekend they were showing the house ALL SPRING AND SUMMER due to event bookings. So if I wanted to see it, I better be there tomorrow at 10:30 am sharp.

It was a chilly March morning when we showed up to take a look. I wasn't initially swept off my feet, but I liked it, and equally important, Mr. Fairfax did too.

After a few successive weekends of looking at places and a few tearful conversations about how to stretch our budget to get what we wanted, we realized the Hendry House really was the best place for us. We'd get a discount as country residents, we'd could keep the guest list small and have good reason for it and thus have the little intimate wedding we really wanted. Plus, it was right in our neighborhood (we ruled out a destination wedding early on because of the the challenges of planning from afar). We ended up booking the house by the end of the April.

Finding the venue was by far the most stressful part of the wedding planning so far for me. Trying to find a place that fit our needs (right place, right size, right location) especially on our small budget (we allotted a maximum of $3,000 for venue rental) was HARD. And as I'm sure many of your know. Until you have the venue nailed down, you can't really make too many other decisions! Needless to say I was glad when it was over!

What were your criteria for your venue? What challenges did you come across in finding and booking the right place? What sold you on the place you eventually booked?

PS--if anyone is interested in where else we looked, just e-mail me, I'm happy to share!

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Blogger Miss Keswick said...

I completely empathize with your venue search. We looked at five in person and countless more online (spreadsheets upon spreadsheets) and we also went with the first one. We knew it was the one, but I insisted we do our due diligence and look at others. We wanted both good indoor AND outdoor options that did not require us to rent a tent. That didn't leave us with many options. But the perfect place did AND we didn't have to pay a rental fee or meet an F&B minimum because we went for a Sunday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 8:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you posted about The Hendry House as I was considering it for my venue. Please keep us posted on your experience!

So you mean they wont show the house anymore until the fall??? Oh no!

We live in Arlington and having a wedding in Arlington is important to us since most of our courtship was done here. Do you know of any other wedding friendly venues in Arlington?


Thursday, December 11, 2008 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger AmyJean {Relentless BrideĀ®} said...

Love the venue! how awesome is that place!

Thursday, December 11, 2008 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Miss Fairfax said...

The particular weekend we went to look was the last weekend that they didn't have a show, re-enactment, wedding, or some other event going on. Sharon Casey is the County representative who you'll contact to set up an appointment and she is more than happy to show it to you almost any week day, but they stay pretty busy when the weather is nice. If an event is open to the public you can stop by and since it's a park you can stop by anytime you want and see the grounds and peek in the windows (I do this frequently myself!).

Thursday, December 11, 2008 5:10:00 PM  
Blogger Miss Fairfax said...

oh and I have heard wonderful things about top of the town,, also located in Arlington. It is definitely a bit pricier, but they also have full-on catering, etc. It looks pretty awesome! http://www.topofthetown.net/main.asp

Thursday, December 11, 2008 5:33:00 PM  
Blogger Miss Cleveland Park said...

I looked at Top of Town too. I found out they have a noise restiction past a certain time, and I believe they don't allow drums in a band. That didn't work for me, but if I had gotten a DJ, I totally would have done it.

Friday, December 12, 2008 2:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another issue with Top of the Town that one of my wedding industry friends alerted me to was that caterers/light designers/ people with big objects hate working there because of the narrow, one elevator system they have there.

I also looked at Hendry House, and it was my top choice, but my guest list got to big for me to be able to fit everyone under a tent there :-(

Sunday, December 14, 2008 8:05:00 PM  

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