(Wedding photos by Sweetmint Photography)
Last Friday, I posted my first of this mini-series of blog posts on how to have a beautiful wedding on a budget. We started out by talking about setting a budget. You can read that post here. Today let's talk about choosing a wedding venue, the guest list and the invitations.
It's been a week and a half since our youngest daughter's wedding. Unlike her two older sisters, the wedding venue was not a given. When our two older daughters were married, my husband was pastoring a church that had a large sanctuary and a separate space for a reception, and since they were the pastor's daughters they were able to use the church for free, which was a huge boost to the wedding budget. Currently, we are pastoring a church that is in a more non-traditional setting, a retrofitted business space. While the sanctuary space would have been adequate, the reception space was not. So we considered the following options-
-Skip a traditional wedding and have a destination wedding with just close family.
-Have the wedding at our church and the reception elsewhere.
-Have the wedding at the groom's parents church.
-Have the wedding at the groom's parent's property in the country.
-Find a venue at which to have both the wedding and reception.
Here's how the process of elimination worked for us to come to our final decision.
While our daughter liked the idea of a destination wedding, the groom is an only child, so, while we had experienced the whole traditional wedding twice already with our older girls, it was important to the groom that his parents get to have this experience as well.
My daughter kept in mind the possibility of having the wedding ceremony at our church and the reception elsewhere, but having everything in one location was the bride's preference.
The groom's parents church was an option that the bride and groom kept in mind while looking at other venue options.
When considering having a wedding at the groom's parent's property in the country, the beauty of the surroundings was a huge plus, but wondering where all of the guests would park their cars was a problem. Also, since the wedding date was in May in northwest Oregon, the possibility of rain had to be considered. We were surprised to find out that the cost of renting tents, tables and chairs would be as much as, if not more than, some of the all inclusive wedding venues we found.
Thus started our search for a venue. We started out by looking up wedding venues online in Portland and the surrounding area. We were able to eliminate some venues just on cost alone and some were eliminated because they were already booked up for the month of May.
Here's where the "meant to be" part of the story comes in. When our daughter was still just dating our son-in-law, while out on a hike with a friend from church, I saw a beautiful lodge with a covered deck overlooking a lake located about a half hour northeast of Portland. Off handedly I wondered if they rented it out for weddings and mentioned that it looked like a lovely place for a wedding. After looking at a couple of venues and being disappointed in their appearance, my daughter and I decided to make an appointment to look at the lodge, and it was love at first sight. My daughter wanted to have the ceremony on the grassy lawn overlooking the lake, but there was also a large covered deck on the lake that we could use in case of rain. The large reception space had doors opening to the deck with windows overlooking the lake and a beautiful fireplace at one end. We reserved the lodge that day. The price was $1000 for seven hours of use, complete use of all of the facilities including the full kitchen, and use of all of the tables and chairs. There was also a $500 refundable security deposit, which we received back within four days of the wedding being over, once they checked that it had been properly cleaned up and that we had not damaged it in any way.
(photo credit here)
Now that we had had our wedding venue and wedding date penned down, it was time to make our guest list. The venue was limited to 150 guests, which was just right in our daughter's eyes, because she wanted a "smallish" wedding. But when you start adding up two sets of extended family, the bride's friends and the groom's friends, close friends of both sets of parents, people from our church, the church the bride and groom attend, and the groom's parents church, 150 isn't all that many people. With that in mind, we all tried to limit our lists the best we knew how.
With the hopes of saving money, my daughter bought a groupon for an online printing company. Our plan was to design and make our own invitations and have them printed. A decade and a half ago, when our older girls were getting married, it was still done the old fashioned way. You went to a printing company where you looked through books of invitation examples, chose your wording, and had them printed up, along with thank you cards and matching napkins that had the bride and groom's name and wedding date printed on them. (I still have leftover invitations and napkins from my wedding almost thirty nine years ago, stored away along with my wedding gown!) It was much more expensive doing it that way. Now printing is much more do it yourself. The groom is very artistic, so he drew a design for the border of the invitation. He scanned it and sent it to me, and my daughter and I edited it on my photo editing program, changing the color of the design border from black and white to a champagne beige, adding the words, and adding a coral colored border around the edge to go along with the wedding colors. Then we sent it off to be printed. After two tries and it still not being right, we decided to just count the cost of the groupon as a good lesson learned, and took our job in person to a local print shop where they did a fabulous job of printing the invitations, as well as small enclosure cards that we had made with directions to the venue. The total cost was under $50.
At the bottom of the invitation we printed the following, Dinner reception following. Please RSVP at....and included an email address that the bride and groom made just for that purpose. Since the wedding was on Memorial Day weekend, we thought that chances were that some people may not be able to attend due to out of town plans. Now, remember, we had a wedding venue with seating for 150. Approximately 120 people RSVP'd. So we set up all 150 chairs and expected all to be well. Except about 160-170 people ended up coming! Thank God we had more than enough food. The only drawback was that a few people stood in the back during the ceremony, and during the reception some people simply took their plates of food and found spots to sit on the wall surrounding the deck. No one seemed put out in the least, and from the feedback we've gotten, a good time was had by all.
-Sometimes what sounds like the least expensive thing to do really isn't. For example a backyard wedding may not be the least expensive way to go if you have to rent tents, tables, chairs, etc.
-Hidden costs add up quickly. Be aware that some venues charge for the use of tables, chairs, kitchen use, sound equipment, etc.
-Time is money. The longer you rent a space the more it costs you. We had seven hours to set up and decorate, have a wedding and reception, and tear down and clean up. We could never have managed to do this without a lot of well thought out planning ahead of time and a lot of helpful volunteers.
-You may need to be flexible on your wedding date. In our case, the only date available at the lodge in May was on our oldest daughter's 17th wedding anniversary. So, our youngest daughter, with her big sister's blessing, changed her initial wedding date choice from May 30th, to May 23rd and got married on her oldest sister's anniversary.
-You may take a loss in order to be happy with what you get in the end. I'm so happy we just counted the groupon as a loss and had the invitations reprinted locally. I love how they turned out in the end, and would have regretted just sending out the poorly printed ones.
-Be flexible. It rained all morning the day of the wedding. We were pretty sure that the wedding was going to have to be on the covered deck, instead of on the lawn, which was where my daughter wanted it. We were ready for each possibility. And though that afternoon the skies were gray, it did not rain, and the temperature was cool, but not cold or windy.
A few more people showed up than expected? So what! There was plenty of food, and a whole outdoor space to overflow into.
I'm enjoying reliving these memories of the preparations for our daughter's wedding day, and hope that you are enjoying some of these tips and finding them useful.
It's almost Friday!
Have a HAPPY, HAPPY Friday
and a safe and BLESSED weekend!