Venue Part 2: Reception | The Budget Savvy Bride
The Budget Savvy Bride

So far, the reception venue has been the most problematic/stressful part of my planning process. When I first started my venue search, I found that there are actually a lot of nice venues around here. Like most southern cities, there are old antebellum southern mansions that have been turned into Bed and Breakfasts that are a popular place to have a wedding. Also, with the rustic barn weddings that are so popular now, there are new barn venues popping up in all the small country towns that surround Greensboro.

Photo courtesy of Belmont Estate, Reidsville, NC

Photo courtesy of Starlight Meadow, Burlington, NC

But when I started pricing these places, I came to the realization that it is just not possible with our budget and guest list. Most of the venues are all-inclusive (tables/chairs, linens, food, etc) which can sometimes be a good thing, but when the cost amounts to 75% or more of my budget, I had to realize that the all-inclusive route was not for us.

The church where we are getting married is kind of out in the middle of nowhere, so it has been very difficult for us to find some place for the reception that is 1) in our budget and 2) less than 30 minutes away from the church. My first thought was to have the reception in the church Fellowship Hall, but when I took a look at it, I realized that it just wasn’t big enough for our 125 person guest list (but I wasn’t too torn up about it, it was UG-ly!).

So then I started looking at anything else in the area that might work, the local state park, community centers, other church Fellowship Halls. Finally, I found something that could work. A church about 25 minutes away had a large, relatively new Fellowship Hall that I could rent out. After searching for 3 weeks, I jumped at the chance. But the more I thought about it, the more uneasy I started to feel. Yes, it was nice, everyone could fit, it was within my budget, but it wasn’t what I had always wanted.

This is what I had always had in mind:

Photo courtesy of Southern Weddings

An outdoor reception with a tent set up and tables and chairs underneath. That’s the kind of reception that I always wanted, but I didn’t think it would be possible with my budget. However, after a pep-talk with my Mom and Geoff, I finally came to this conclusion: this is only going to happen once, now is not the time to settle. I didn’t settle with my man, I shouldn’t have to settle with my wedding. So we’re looking at having a tent set up on the lawn behind the church. Now, everything isn’t completely squared away yet, I’m still not sure that the lawn will be big enough for the size tent that we need, so we might have to look elsewhere for a space where we can set up a tent. But ever since I decided that this is what we were going to do, I have felt such a sense of relief.

Although on one hand I am very relieved, I am also well aware that this will in all likelihood put me over budget, which I was trying so hard not to do. I am going to try my best to make sure that it doesn’t go too far over budget and I am willing to skimp in other areas to help cover this cost.

The most important thing I have learned so far in this planning process: it’s all about compromise. Finding out where you are willing to compromise and where you aren’t. And this was just one of those areas where I wasn’t willing to compromise.


Laura is a DIY bride who is planning an autumn wedding in North Carolina. She has 6 months to plan with a budget of $7,500. She has a love of all things southern and homemade and can't wait for the day when she gets to marry her best friend.

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    • Sarah
    • June 11th, 2012

    That picture of your “dream reception” is gorgeous! I’m also having an outdoor, tented reception and I wish I had seen that photo earlier. I might have followed it more closely!

      • Laura
      • June 11th, 2012

      Thanks Sarah! When I first saw this picture I was like “Yes! That’s exactly what I want!” Our reception won’t be quite like that (regular folding chairs instead of the fancy wooden ones, maybe not quite as many flowers) but I’m going to try and get it as close as possible!

    • 39bride
    • June 11th, 2012

    “The most important thing I have learned so far in this planning process: it’s all about compromise. Finding out where you are willing to compromise and where you aren’t. And this was just one of those areas where I wasn’t willing to compromise.”

    That is SOOOO true. On a budget, most-everything is a compromise. Having a few things that aren’t can really help you feel that you’re getting the wedding you really want, even if it’s not EVERYTHING you want.

      • Laura
      • June 11th, 2012

      Thanks for the validation! I really struggled with spending more money and I’m glad you think it will be worth it. I do too!

    • Shalonda
    • June 13th, 2012

    Way to put in the effort to find what you really want and yet stay conscious of your budget!

    We’re 4 months & 7 days from our wedding date and still no venue. I just can’t bring myself to spend way more than I can afford. Yet, I don’t want to lose all the things that would make me happy for the sake of not pushing the budget.

    In the end I figure I’ll still get married. And if I don’t have a grand venue in which to do so*, I’ll have plenty of money saved up to spend on the rest of our lives. :)

    *Now if I’m 2 months out without a venue I sure hope I still think this way.

      • Laura
      • June 14th, 2012

      I understand! Even when I thought we were going to have the reception at that other place, I kept telling myself “but the most important part is that we’re getting married.” Good luck with finding a place!

  1. OK, I LOVE the idea of the outdoor, tent reception! There is so much we can do with that! Remember, you have a dream team coming in to help with set up! :) We ARE going to make your dream wedding happen!

    • Christian
    • August 25th, 2013

    Laura- This may be an inappropriate question, but what was the pricing at the Starlight Meadow?

  1. June 15th, 2012