Big Wedding, Small Budget

The Venue Search is over!

Yes, you heard right. We officially have a venue! I took my parents out to see the top contender this past weekend, and once they agreed that it was a great place, I knew it was time to pay the deposit and sign the contract. Whew! I felt excited and anxious all at the same time. It was a little overwhelming, to tell you the truth.

We ultimately picked the place I had talked about on the blog before. It is a little pricey for our budget but the pros ultimately outweighed the cons. To recap:


  • The venue is in the middle of nowhere. It’s a full hour from our house. There is no (or hardly any) cell phone reception, at least on Sprint or T-Mobile. And I’m not sure if there are any hotels anywhere nearby.
  • As I mentioned above, it’s pricey.
  • It’s a mostly-service venue. In that, this will really be a DIY wedding. We’ll be renting the tables and chairs through them, and everything else will be done on our own. So, a little more to coordinate/actually do ourselves.


  • It is absolutely beautiful. Big grassy lawns, gorgeous landscaping, on the water. It will make for great pictures and atmosphere, but more importantly, I won’t have to worry about decorating.
  • There is a ton of space and we have total control over it. The venue will set up tables wherever we want, and we have our choice of ceremony location. There is no shortage of space for lawn games/wandering around. The kids will have plenty of room to play.
  • It comes with a built in sound system equipped for an mp3 player/laptop. One more thing to check off the list.
  • With two days’ notice, we can order an emergency tent. Hopefully, we won’t need to. Fingers crossed!
  • It is an independent family owned (for three generations!) business, and it has character.
  • It 100% fits the atmosphere and vision we have for the wedding. It is perfect for a laid-back, casual picnic.

So! The wedding is actually happening! Wow.

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The Great Venue Search

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?