Choosing Our Venue (and freebies!)

Hello Brides!

Having been engaged since February 2013 and not holding the wedding until May the following year gives my fiancé and I more time to plan details and save for the wedding. I know our $20K budget doesn’t seem like that much of a bargain to some (I myself cringe when I think of the number, that’s the most I’ve ever spent on ANYTHING before, besides when I bought my house or my car!) But, we’re very thrifty people, and I don’t believe in purchasing anything if you can’t pay for it right away (besides a house or a car). We agreed from the beginning we would not take on any debt for our day, and made a list early on of what were our absolute musts, and began estimating what these would costs. We knew location was the most important to us, and knew a large portion of our budget would go towards it.

Having both grown up attending the same church, we knew it would be special to us to hold our ceremony there (Funny little tid bit- even though we attended the same church, we didn’t know each other! The five year age gap between us was just enough that we were in different youth classes).

We also wanted to keep driving from the church to the reception location at a minimum for our guests. Being from a smaller town, this limited our choices.  Luckily though, we live in the heart of West Michigan’s wine country and a beautiful reception hall which boasts being Michigan’s oldest winery is only 5 miles away.

After getting engaged, we immediately began looking at dates to hold the wedding, knowing the venue we wanted can be booked over a year in advanced. We chose to be selfish when settling on Memorial Weekend, understand holding our wedding over a holiday weekend may deter some guests from changing their annual plans, but the thought of always have a three day weekend for our anniversary was too appealing for us.  At first we tried to schedule Saturday, but the hall was already booked. The hall coordinator offered us either that Friday or Sunday instead since those dates had yet to be filled.  After thinking it over for a day, we choose Sunday. My immediate reaction did not want a Sunday wedding, but after thinking it though, I feel it may end up being a better option for many of the guests who will be coming from out of town as it gives them an extra day of travel. Also, when we hold our rehearsal the day before the wedding the bridal party won’t have to worry about taking an extra day off from work.

One of the requirements of using the reception hall we chose was to use their caterer, so this saved us time shopping around and tasting multiple vendors. Luck was in our favor when we reserved the hall in early March because caterer was holding their annual tasting for all prospective couples the same week. During this event, the caterer provided samples and plates of all the different dishes they offer. While it wasn’t a one-on-one consultation, I did like this because instead of picking two or three options ahead of time to have a caterer prepare, we were able to try everything at once and witness how the serving process would go with such large crowd in attendance.  We also noted which dishes others liked, and which ones seemed to be past over the most. While we consider ourselves foodies, and will try anything and everything, we know not all of our guests will be as adventurous (One of our favorite things to do is visit Man Vs. Food stops while on road trips – our DREAM wedding with an unlimited budget would be to be able to bring in our favorite eats from across the country. But, that’s just dreaming…unless you read this Adam Richmond and could make Katz’s Deli, Sonny Bryan’s BBQ, and Obrycki’s seafood happens for us! Can’t hurt to ask, right? 😉 ).

Another perk of this reception hall is that it pretty much comes pre-decorated! I’m planning on adding some details here and there, but the majority of the work is already done for me. We are given the choice between black or white table clothes to use, and hurricane light center pieces for the tables are also included, with our choice of candle colors.  The hall also has lots of decorative lighting, and cobblestone walls.

As an engineer, I love spreadsheet and already have several devoted to wedding costs and scenarios. We've already made our preliminary guest list and plan on inviting roughly 150 guests, including children. While I haven’t yet asked the caterer if there are discounts for children, here is a highest cost scenario if all 150 guests attend, and all children are charged full price:

Note: if we want to serve alcohol at the reception, we have to reserve the Club House area separately. We are allowed to bring in our own alcohol and our own licensed bartenders which will save us compared to liquor costs at other venues (These costs are not included here). The rental hall charges a flat rate of $3.50 per person for use of the china and glassware – this includes settings for dinner, cake/dessert, and coffee, water & bar ware glasses. Beverages include lemonade, iced tea, and water service.

So, the next question is, how are we going to come up with $20K to pay for all of this and still live day to day without debt? We’re very blessed to be two full time working professionals.  I sold my house this past May and moved in with my fiancé, who also owned a home (so we’re down to one set of living expenses on two salaries). But, as I said previously, I love couponing and freebies. Bargain hunting for a good deal on something you’re going to need to buy anyways like groceries and toiletries can open up a large amount of cash flow for potential savings to be used elsewhere.

In my first post, I shared with you I scored quite a few free deals so far towards my wedding and wedding planning, including a totally free Bridal Guide Magazine subscription.  Unfortunately, the yearly subscription offer I had snagged ended this summer. ValueMags is again offering a complementary issue to Bridal Guide! This is the same website I had gotten my subscription though and from time to time they also offer different magazines (I’ve received Us Weekly, Martha Stewart Living, Good Housekeeping, and a few others).

Here’s the link to sign up at  ValueMags. 

No credit card is required, so once you get your free copy, that’s it! (Of course they’ll have your address for junk mail, but that doesn't bother me).

One of the free subscription copies of Bridal Guide Magazine that I received last week!

Considering this magazine has a cover price of $6.00, that’s an extra $6 saved towards your wedding fund!

Happy Planning!

Until next week,


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