One of the most challenging tasks of planning a budget savvy and winter wedding is selecting the perfect venue. Not only does the venue have to be beautiful, during the winter, Dec. 15, it would need to be warm, easy to drive to and under budget. I didn’t want to pick a site where I had to spend tons of time and money on decorations. This was a tall order.
For those brides in larger cities, I would imagine the options of beautiful indoor spaces that can hold 100 people or so is not too limited. Living in Waitsburg, our town of just 1200 in Eastern Washington, this is a challenge.
My immediate thought was to take advantage of all of the beautiful wineries in our area. Beautiful wine lives in beautiful spaces… right? Unfortunately, most weddings held at wineries in the Walla Walla area take place in the summer. They could certainly accommodate 100 people… outside. There is no way my guests are partying down at night outside in December. I found one beautiful winery that could hold 75 people indoors, but the facility rental gave me sticker shock at $4,000. Plus, I ran into many venues that had 10 p.m. music shut-off times. Because our wedding will be an evening wedding not beginning until 7 p.m., 10 p.m. was too early to stop partying. Some venues were cut from the list because they would be too far for guests to drive on icy roads.
We looked closely at a large, beautiful hotel in Walla Walla. But, my excitement was diffused because the venue had so many rules. 1) We could only have the space for six hours 2) All music had to be turned off at 10 p.m. 3) We had to use their caterer and obey their catering limit that was FAR more than we intended spending on food and drink.
I ended up narrowing the list to three: a community, town hall space in Waitsburg, a ranch surrounded by hills and nature about 40 minutes away and a restored historic hotel 10 minutes from our home.
The community space was nice, large, indoors and CHEAP. However, it was very plain and would need a room makeover with tons of decorations and lighting. The ranch was beautiful, quiet, picturesque and the big barn was Western-themed and fun. My fiancé LOVED it. It was also on the less expensive side. However, the ranch was 40 minutes away and guests driving on icy roads worried me. Plus, being truly built for summer weddings, the access to bathrooms was outdoors across a gravel road and the two pellet stoves may have left the barn a bit chilly.
Now, this historic hotel was love at first sight and I believe it was fate. Just like meeting my husband to be. I was waiting for our weekly paper to be printed at the big daily paper press in Walla Walla and I happened to see a special wedding tab sitting on the floor in the press area. I browsed through it (way before its publication date) and saw an ad for the Weinhard Hotel in Dayton.
My dear friend and I checked it out on a whim one weekend she was visiting. I just wanted to find out how big it was and see what it looked like. The owners showed us around a little and I was in awe. No, it wasn’t large by any means, but it was ornate, colorful, warm, close to our home and had plenty of ambience. It had a feeling that no amount of decorations can provide. I kept the hotel in the back of my mind and when my mom, fiancé and I went looking at these three venues, I knew this one had my heart.
I could already see our wedding ceremony taking place in the main room, luminaries up the stairs leading guests to games and a rooftop terrace to roast marshmallow s’mores. I love the little café area where the food and drinks will be dished out.
And it gets better. The venue rental for the whole day is $2,000. Now, that is much more expensive than a park or family’s backyard. BUT, that $2,000 includes guest rooms for more than 30 overnight guests. So our nearest and dearest and the bridal party will be able to spend the night for free. We’ll get the Honeymoon Suite of course, but we can party until 2 a.m. if we want to and then simply walk upstairs and crash. In the morning, we can even have breakfast with our guests. We don’t have to say goodbye until the weekend is over.
There is no music curfew, we can have whatever caterer we want, we will be warm, we can decorate however we want and this was by far the best choice for us.
Are you a small-town bride or a big city bride? How difficult was it for you to find the perfect venue?
Editor’s note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more pandemic wedding resources here.