Big Wedding, Small Budget

The Great Venue Search

on January 26, 2012

Finding a venue that accommodates 250 people, doesn’t cost a ton, and fits the picnic atmosphere we are hoping for has been difficult. I’ve been researching several different kinds of options.

Hotel: Hotels are attractive because they are more inclusive than other venues. Tables and linens are usually included and sometimes so is catering, lighting, etc. Right now, when I’m looking at doing a lot of DIY, this seems amazing! Also, with so many out of town guests, it would be really convenient to get a block of rooms at the same place as the reception. But. Hotels are way more formal. I mean, it’s hard to have a picnic in a ballroom. I don’t think they would be as flexible with our offbeat wedding as we would like. So, it seems that the hotel idea is out.

Social Halls/Civic Centers: There are a few of these around Orlando that I’ve been looking at. They are way less expensive than hotels, and sometimes, tables and chairs are included. You can usually use whatever caterer you want and there will be a kitchen for the food. Some of them are really nice looking, too. Also, with an indoor reception space, we wouldn’t need a rain plan. The downside? I’m not really interested in decorating very much, which I would need to do at a social hall. Not being crafty AT ALL means that I would probably end up spending quite a lot on decorations. Plus, we don’t really want an indoor reception. I want a breezy, sunny picnic with kids running around everywhere. So, social halls have been moved down the list, although they haven’t been eliminated completely.

Parks: There are a ton of parks around. At first, I thought this was the perfect option! I mean, parks are pretty, so we wouldn’t need lots of decorations. They are super cheap. And what fits a picnic atmosphere better than a park? Done and done. And then, we looked at some parks. A lot of parks. Most don’t have pavilions with picnic tables that can seat so many people. They have a lot of open, empty space. That means we’d really have to do everything from scratch. Rent tables and chairs, set them up, break them down. Do the same with linens, decorations, etc. Find a caterer who can serve food for 250 people without any kind of kitchen. So, no hot food because it will get cold and no cold food because it can’t be refrigerated. And, what would we do if it rained? Hmm. The only park we found that would surmount these obstacles doesn’t seem to allow alcohol. That’s not going to work for us. So, I’m feeling discouraged with the park option right now, although I haven’t given up.

The best of all worlds(?): We went to see a venue that I really had my heart set on. It’s a wedding space on a farm. They do outdoor weddings, all kinds. When we saw it, we both really liked it. It’s beautiful. It has open lawns with lots of trees (shade!) and great landscaping. It’s on the water. It has a house on the property for restrooms and getting ready that was built by the owner’s father. We would have to rent tables, chairs, and linens, but we wouldn’t be responsible for the set up or break down. And if it looks like it will rain (it better not!), we can get an emergency tent. The downside? It is a little rustic, and in the middle of nowhere. It took us an hour to get there, and neither of us had cell service. It’s a little on the expensive side, and we have to use an official caterer, instead of my mom’s friend who does some catering. So that could get expensive. I think we could probably make it work, but we’re not totally committed yet.

Finding a wedding venue is really a lot like buying a house. Nothing will be perfect and you will always be settling for something. The dream venue doesn’t exist. But you can find something you feel good about and make it into your dream venue. I think the right way to do it is to be educated about the options, crunch all the numbers, and then, at the end of the day, go with your gut. After all, I think the key is to find a place that we feel good in. I want to feel at home at our wedding, and I want that for all of our guests, too.

Any other ideas for venues that I might have overlooked?


9 responses to “The Great Venue Search

  1. Sarah says:

    I don’t know if this will be helpful or not, but one of the nicest weddings I’ve been to was my brother and his wife got married outdoors in a park in NW Portland for 120+ people in 2005. Food was entirely potluck, including the “wedding cake” (someone made baklava). Local people – of which there were many – brought all their outdoor seating, and there were table/benches at the park. The ceremony only lasted about 10 minutes – so, no seating except for those who couldn’t stand. Decorations were Mexican cutouts (I don’t know what else to call them) strung between trees. It took an army of friends to pull off … but it was a lovely event. I offer this for whatever ideas it might spur for you.

  2. Hannah says:

    Lake Mary Events Center!!!

  3. dreemwhrld says:

    We’re looking at Cafe DaVinci in DeLand. Their ourtoor patio/courtyard can seat 150 people easily (I’m not sure what their capacity is, you’d have to double check, but that’s what I got before I stopped counting). There’s a covered place to put food outside, a kitchen inside with a bar and bar staff, and if it does rain there’s the inside of the bar.

    • Barbra says:

      You know what’s so funny…we were looking at Wild Acres Villa in Paisley last weekend and stopped at Cafe DaVinci randomly on our way back. Are you bringing in outside catering?

  4. Grace says:

    I was going to suggest Wild Acres! Have you checked out Skyline Ranch? I honestly don’t know what their capacity is, but it seems to fit some of your needs, though it’s pretty far out from Orlando as well. 😦

    Hope this helps.

  5. Stacey Hayward says:

    Jody says let’s go to Vegas like my mum & dad did 😉


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