I started thinking about planning the wedding about three months after our engagement. Looking back it was nice to have a few months of “hey, let’s just enjoy this”. Well, the first thing we had to plan for was a venue. Some couples are lucky to have family or friends with space that can serve as a venue. Unfortunately we don’t know anyone with space for 100-150 and we knew we would need to find a place before we made any other plans. Why? Many venues start booking up a year in advance, or at least for the popular wedding months: May-September.
Originally we wanted to get married in late summer, September specifically. This has always been one of my favorite months… it’s still warm out, and it has that summer feeling but with the leaves just starting to change and that crisp fresh look that fall brings.
My fiancé Tom and I disagreed on where to get married. Originally we thought about his family’s church but after a death in the family (the funeral took place at the church) he wanted to choose a new place where the memory of our day would be ours alone.
A friend of mine got married in a public park which was really beautiful. Unluckily some teenagers in the area ending up heckling during their vows. I know, but those things can happen. That almost scared me off the idea but I decided to explore a park option anyway. Sometimes it is only a couple hundred dollars to rent a park space for a few hours. I soon realized this option would require separate rentals for EVERYTHING. Tables. Chairs. Dance Floor. Silverware. While a park seems affordable at first all of those little pieces can and will add up. Not to mention the extra time spent coordinating all of those separate pieces. Peace of mind has a cost too.
The first place we really considered was still a public (or government) owned property at a nearby national historic site. There were several buildings there available for event rental, and the were similar in price to a park.
Tables and chairs were included and the management asked that we use vendors off their preferred list. The building was nice but was still missing plenty of extra pieces. I found out there wouldn’t be any staff available to set the space up or switch the rooms. We would be required to pull more of the weight and would need to have the ceremony outside under a large oak tree or by a gazebo. I was considering the idea but Tom wasn’t interested. So we moved on.
The next place was a small pioneer museum about 45 minutes away from us, and about an hour outside Portland. There was definitely a rural feel but it was still close enough for people to travel to without hassle. I really loved this place. They included tables, chairs, linens, and silverware in their rental package. But we would have to get a dance floor through an outside company. We would also need to rent a tent because weather in Oregon is unpredictable, even in typically dry September. I never realized how expensive it is to rent a tent! That piece alone would be at least $500 and I saw some closer to $1,000. The grounds were beautiful and I found the little museum charming. They were willing to open it up for our guests to look at the collections during a reception. The final drawback was that the road, rural but decently well-traveled, was very close to the building. While we were taking our tour we could plainly hear several cars passing by. It was good, but not good enough.
The venue we ended up deciding on was the first one we looked at. The Abernathy Center is a very popular wedding venue in Portland. It’s featured in most of the local wedding guides and bridal magazines. Because of this I thought it would be too expensive. But we discovered the price to rent there varies wildly based on time of year and time of day and week. A Saturday evening in September would be $4,500. Change that to October (the “off-season”) and that price drops to $2,500. Now decide to do a 10am-3pm event and you pay $1,000 flat. This includes dedicated staff, set-up, clean-up, dance floor, linens, tables, chairs, silverware, you name it. The one downside? You have to use their catering. We will only spend $1,000 on our venue but will spend about $3,300 on catering (including tax/gratuity). That wasn’t ideal but it does take the stress of finding a separate caterer off our hands. And their food – one of the highlights of this place! I know because we went to a tasting and it was great. All in all I’m pretty happy with what we’ve found. We will have a morning ceremony in their Veiled Garden, followed by a noontime reception in the Ballroom. I can’t wait!
Image of Ballroom from AbernathyCenter.com
Here's what I've learned from this experience. Think about when you want to get married versus where. If you are flexible about your date, options will open up and places that may have seemed expensive at first won't be. Consider getting married at a non-traditional time of day. Saturday evening is very popular and venues will up the price for this time slot. Think about how many of those extra pieces you are willing to handle to get a bare bones and lower price venue versus one that is more all-inclusive. Do you have the time and energy to do the extra planning involved? Consider what a venue includes in their base rate. This will help you decide which option is best for you!