As we discussed in my last post, venue-searching was generally a pretty fun process.
So let's review the Heather-and-Jon-perfect-venue checklist:
- Lots of natural light/nice scenery/plants (conservatory preferred)
- Not a church or banquet hall (except maybe one with really big windows and a nice view)
- Back-up plan in case of rain
- Personality (really. Venues can have personality. This is why I didn't want a banquet hall; no personality)
- Ceremony and reception in one place
- Flexibility in the space
- Value-added extras
And guess what? We've found all that and more!
The venue we've selected (which is, I might add, owned by the park district!) includes a beautiful wildflower garden for the reception. The garden offers vine-covered archways and brick walkways throughout, including a larger archway where we will stand during the ceremony. There is also a permanent tent to protect us from bright sun (I burn easily!) or rain, and it fits almost exactly the right number of people, so it won't appear to be overcrowded or empty. Rental of this facility includes set up of all of the chairs and everything for the ceremony, as well as our own engraved brick! This will save us a lot of money in rental fees and in stress. As an awesome bonus, the area even has a tiny conservatory where we can take pictures after the ceremony, giving us a plethora of different photo ops in one convenient location!
After the ceremony has concluded, guests have only to walk a few hundred feet to the reception site, which is an elegant historic mansion-turned-venue. Before we visited the venue, I was concerned about the mansion setting because, with a Victorian-style venue, I was concerned that there would be a lot of dark wood, antique furniture, and closed-off rooms. This, however, was not at all the case. The mansion has been fully modernized, which means that most of the space is painted a cheery yellow with white crown molding and lots of windows. The French doors that might once have existed between rooms have been removed, thus opening up the space. This allows the floor plan to remain fairly open while still enabling us to put different themes in each room.
As a side note, we visited this venue in late October of last year, and the whole place was decorated for a Halloween-themed wedding. While it was clear that the bride and groom had done a lot of their own decorating for the event, they did a fantastic [and budget-savvy] job! They were inviting more than 200 guests. Each room had its own theme, including a Phantom of the Opera room, a Mardi Gras room, and Venetian Nights. Each of these rooms included feather masks and Mardi Gras-style beads, which later became favors for their guests.
I love this venue because, in addition to is initial “wow factor,” it has a ton of flexibility. This is important for our quirky plans, as we want to have a lot of different activities for our guests to do at different times, and it helps that those activities can take place in differently themed rooms. The park district owns a variety of different tables and chairs (banquet tables, “high boys,” cafe tables, banquet tables, etc.), which allows us to set everything up the way we'd like.
Speaking of different rooms, it is especially cool that the mansion has a built-in sound system. This means that not only do we have to hire a DJ to bring in a lot of expensive equipment, but also that we can play different types of music in each room! Different music means different moods, which means different vignettes, which means catering to different people's interests. Win!
The wedding coordinator was really nice, and I definitely get the impression that she is on top of her stuff. Unlike some of the other people we encountered on our search, she seems like the type of person I would really enjoy working with and who would do a really good job of putting us at ease. She is someone I am comfortable working with, which makes me more comfortable with the whole process overall.
On top of it all, the place is also in a beautiful area and pretty centrally located for everyone who would be coming from Chicagoland, so that is a ‘plus’ as well. We have found our location!