A Thousand Threads

Tag: venues

“Vendor Obsession” or “Desperately Seeking a Band”

Photo via Etsy

When it comes to this little thing called wedding planning, occasionally obsession will hit… at least, that’s the way it is for me.  I’ll go along, perfectly happy, ignoring the fact that I still need to find a multitude of vendors and then, snap… obsessed…

And when I say obsessed, I don’t mean an obsession with one specific thing… like one invitation suite or one bouquet… although that definitely happens too, especially with tools like Pinterest (and OMG lover.ly – which I finally received my invitation to this week!) … when I say obsession I mean something a little more like WHY IS THIS WEDDING NOT 100 PERCENT PLANNED NOW printers, bands, caterers need to find decisions make?!

… and yes, I do realize I am still over a year from the actual day.

BUT here’s the thing, we’re getting close to that one year mark and it’s starting to get real… the whole planning thing was all pretty blogs and pin boards up until this point.

I could kind of sit back and not stress on the wayward aspects of my planning process… but not now.  One year is the imaginary line in the sand that I drew for myself months ago… the moment when it all gets serious… and…

Okay, I just checked the calendar and the one year mark is still about a month away.  I don’t know how to justify it, the obsession thing just happens.

So, right now here’s what we have…

Read the rest of this entry »

Glen Echo Park

Here’s another fun venue to add to the east coast list.  I used to live right down the street from Glen Echo Park, so I just love all the weddings I’ve seen there in the past couple of days.

First, this particularly cute one appeared on Style Me Pretty yesterday and while I love every little detail, I think my favorite part is just how happy this couple looks.

Look at them… how cute are they?!

Photos by Sweet Tea Photography

Then, while I was still reeling from all the cuteness, Bree at Capitol Romance posted this today!  Another super happy, adorable, quirky couple… I love this location for a DC area wedding!

The End of the Search

Photo Credit: We Heart Photography via Ever Ours

So we drove to Los Olivos and oh, let me tell you, it was a trip.  I may or may not have been conscious when we left my parents’ house at 3am.

(Let’s just pretend, though, that I’m not an awful person and did not make poor Mark drive alone with a sleeping Laicie in the passenger seat for the first 5 hours.  I did eventually come to and take my turn at the wheel, which makes it a little better, right?  Honestly I’m always torn on this subject, but I have no control over my eyes… they call the shots.)

Once we were both fully conscious, we decided to break up the drive with an amazing pit-stop at Ridge and realized that we have to go back to join the utterly badass ranks of the many folks we saw cycling up that massive hill that leads to their Monte Bello Estate.  We also hunted down some Rubios fish tacos (and yes… the 13 hour drive was worth it just for the tacos — don’t make fun).

Our love of wine and tacos ensured that we came flying into town and up the winding road that leads to Figueroa Mountain Farmhouse just in time for our 6:30pm appointment with the farmhouse’s manager, Gretchen.

Gretchen is wonderful.  There are really not enough people out there praising her on the internet.  She is warm and fun and absolutely easy to work with… I couldn’t have hoped for a better experience than the one we had touring the farmhouse.

And I couldn’t have hoped for a better venue.

In case you can’t tell from the photos, the place is picturesque.  As our car peeked out over the mountain to reveal the farmhouse I told Mark it reminded me of the little house on the top of the waterfall in “Up.”

Mark was an Eagle Scout and we’re both big on adventure, so needless to say, we love the movie… but aside from the movie reference, I’m not sure how anyone could say no to the farmhouse.

The setting is gorgeous and the house is every bit as wonderful inside.  The whole thing was shipped across the country and pieced together from three different sites on the east coast: a 1700’s barn/farmhouse from New Hampshire; a timber home from West Virginia; and a cabin from Tennessee.  The sun room and guest house were added to complete the whole perfect picture.

Over the hill sits a little pond and an ostrich farm — and tell me, what is more fun than sawing open an ostrich egg for Sunday brunch? … honestly I’m a little freaked out by it, but I’m excited to find out.

The house sleeps around 14 and has a large parking area that can be used for camping, which we plan to encourage since we’ll also hold a welcome BBQ on Friday night.  There are multiple fireplaces and loads of options for fun side trips to Los Olivos, Buellton, and Solvang nearby.

Mark and I not only fell in love with the farmhouse, we fell in love with the Santa Ynez Valley.  We’ve always loved wine country, but there is something about this particular area that is so laid back and different from the rest… and now we’ll always have a good excuse to go back!

Farmhouse photos by Aaron Delesie.

The Search Continues

Photo found on Pinterest.

So, yes, the search went on for about six months.  I needed something to do while I was waiting for him to propose!

Haha okay… I’m crazy.  But the fun part is that while I was searching, I really appreciated being able to look through and read about others’ experiences.  It’s hard to come up with a list of places that fit, and often even those you think are perfect turn out to be duds.  Reading about the ups and downs of the hunt for a venue from awesome women like Allison and Kathryn not only helped me to come up with new ideas, but it helped me to get over the massive hump of frustration that threatened to eat me alive every time a new idea fell through.  Hopefully, now I can take what I’ve learned and offer my own little bit of insight, and maybe it will help a few brides out there like myself to get over that hump.

So here we go, down to the serious stuff…

In the beginning we were torn between having only a few people and somewhere in the neighborhood of 50, but eventually we settled on the larger option.  It just felt like more of a celebration that way, and you know what?  This feels like a pretty celebratory moment to me.  We never considered a larger, 100-200 person event.  For Mark and I, an event of that size felt too impersonal.  We wanted to celebrate with only those family and friends we really know and love, those who we have shared our relationship with us up to this point and who we feel are a truly important part of our lives, not necessarily those we haven’t seen or spoken to in years.  For others the number might be more, but for us, it comes out to about 50.

With our number in place, size (as it should) began to dictate our choice of venue in many ways.  In the beginning I was very excited about the idea of a Frank Lloyd Wright house.  It had seemed like the perfect connection in Arkansas (Mark LOVES him).  I was particularly inspired by this couple’s backyard feast, all the charm of a wedding at home with the added bonus that the home in question just happens to be designed by Wright and set in a kickass woodsy location!

Palmer House in Michigan.  Photo by by Heather Saunders Photography.

And who knew?  There are actually quite a few Wright houses for rent around the country.

Of course, now we were running into the same problem as Arkansas.  We just don’t have a connection to any of these places.  The Duncan House was a real possibility, since it is close by in Pennsylvania, not to mention the amazing barn at Fallingwater nearby.  There is also a Wright house for rent in DC, but it sits on a larger plantation that could easily overshadow the whole “at home” feel I was going for.  The Hagan House at Kentuck Knob made its way to the forefront at one point, but I had a hard time contacting the folks who rent it out and, honestly, this speaks to the fickle nature of most brides… I just didn’t want to have to push or search to try to get ahold of someone, especially if I wasn’t 100 percent sold on the venue.  If I didn’t get through, it sent me packing 9 out of 10 times and will probably continue to do so in my search for wedding vendors.  The Hagan and Pope-Leighy homes were also not overnight rentals, which began to feel important as the idea of a backyard/but not our backyard fête began to take shape.

I looked at wineries in Virginia and in Maryland, where we live, but felt like a winery wedding just wouldn’t be right without the west coast.  Some of our most amazing trips together have involved gorgeous drives and incredible tastings in the Willamette and Napa/Sonoma Valleys.

Sharp Rock Vineyards in Virginia.  Photo by Anne Robert.

So, I started to gravitate toward the west coast.

Mark says I’m a west coast snob, and I’d hate to think this had anything to do with my ultimate decision, because all of the places I’ve already mentioned are amazing in their own right… but it might have.

When I really thought about what I wanted on my wedding day, I kept coming back to this wedding.  The gorgeous location that needs so little, the long farm tables… ugh, and that dress.  I am still dreaming about that dress.

Vineyard in Healdsburg.  Photo by Tanja Lippert.

Full disclosure: Mark and I actually called Off the Beaten Path Weddings and set up a meeting with Mary to see another of their locations, Twisted Willow Farm in Napa.  Despite multiple phone calls and messages, Mary never showed.  She also never called to apologize.  She was sweet in our early interaction and I know things come up, but we never heard from her again.

Of course, we took a little look around the farm anyway and, despite its undeniable cuteness, it’s pretty close to a busy road.  Our guests would have been able to hear cars whizzing by as we said our vows.

There were two locations that I was absolutely certain would be the one.

First, this gorgeous home in Calistoga.

The Aerie.  Photo by Sasha Gulish.

The Aerie is a gorgeous vacation rental, but I get the distinct impression that the owner is not fond of holding events.  When I asked to visit I was told carefully that the price for a wedding was very expensive, due to the permits the owner would have to acquire, and that I should consider “whether it was really the best place” and “in my budget” before I request the manager take “take time out of his schedule.”  He suggested I take a few days to “look around and compare other prices in the area” before confirming my appointment.

I really don’t mean to sound bitter here.  I don’t.  I’m sure that both the owner and manager of the Aerie are very nice men, but ultimately, when I did take a look around at other prices in the area, $6-8k for a less-than-enthusiastic owner offering no linens, tables, chairs, or other services (besides permits) just didn’t seem as appealing.  Honestly, had Laurence, the manager, not essentially talked me out of renting, I might have considered it.

The second location was really first all along.  When I think of those trips through the Willamette Valley, the one we took to this winery was one of the most special.  I honestly think it may have marked one of our first real discussions about marriage and the possibility of us… getting married.  It was a little over a year into our relationship, one of our first trips home to Oregon together, and the place was inspiring.  Mark mentioned that it would be an incredible place to get married, and it would.

How could we not consider it?!

The location was Vista Hills, perched high on the Dundee Hills in Dayton, amidst some of the best wineries in the Willamette Valley.

I wasn’t sure how much Mark liked the location at first, so it didn’t immediately make it to the top of the list.

(and I know there is a whole lot of “me, me, me” in this post, but I have to stress to you just how important it was that Mark also love the location.  I spent a lot of time worrying that he would go along along with a place just because it was my favorite, but not really his.  He is unbelievably considerate this way and it drives me crazy.)

Both Kat and Sarah, who work with Powers Oregon, the company that rents the facility, are amazing.  Hands down amazing.  They are sweet and responsive and helped me with every question I had, waiting patiently while we worked out our indecision.  On top of being wonderful, they provide loads of amenities and services for your wedding day at Vista Hills, including an on-site coordinator, bartender, firewood for the two large fireplaces, tables and chairs, and even a webcam!

But, and this is a really big but… the timeline allowed for weddings at Vista Hills is very short.  And when I say very short, I mean very.  Although the rental is technically available from 3-11, the earliest ceremony start time is 6, and events have to wrap up at 10.

The event we really want, including a sit-down, family style dinner and a feeling that is more like a backyard BBQ than an intricately-timed function at a “venue,” would not have been possible in four hours.

I am so sad to say that what I truly thought was the perfect location (actually, all along) just wouldn’t have worked.

So, I started looking again… and by some chance, found myself in Oregon right about the time I realized I had no clue where to look.

Since we were there and didn’t know when we would be back, things really got serious.  We considered a couple of very beautiful barns, including this big red one and this more rustic version.

We considered this beautiful winery near Healdsburg, which is super cool and has super great wine, but only does receptions.

Quivira Vineyards and Winery.  Photo by Dirt Hill Photography.

We considered my parents’ house, complete with an idyllic hilltop location, private pond, and big red barn (but lacking many options in the way of catering and hotels).

We looked high, we looked low, and ultimately, we decided to take a very long trip a little out of our way to visit what could be the perfect location, if I dare believe in one again.

(to be continued…)

The Search: Away Edition

After Arkansas, I started to compile a list (it may have gotten a little out of control).

For a while we seriously considered going overseas — or at least as far as Hawaii. It could be a small ceremony, just a few of our closest friends and family… or even just us. The idea of a romantic little ceremony really appealed to us, so I started thinking about places that were sentimental. Where have we been? Where did we want to go?

The Eolo Hotel sits about 30 minutes outside of El Calafate on the way to Perito Moreno Glacier and looks incredible. We’ve always wanted to go to Patagonia, but on the other hand, it’s Patagonia. The likelihood of many of our friends and family making it all the way out to the Eolo was pretty slim.

So… Greece?

When I was a little girl I always said I would get married in Greece, and for some reason, I’ve always envisioned my wedding to Mark on the top of a mountain. Mark combined the two (and threw in a gorgeous lake for good measure) when he discovered Drakolimni Lake in northwestern Greece. Again, it looks like a dream… it might also be a 5 hour hike from the nearest town.

Okay, so it’s possible that the two of us tend to gravitate toward the middle of nowhere. This wasn’t really a realistic option.

… but it’s gorgeous, right?!

I considered the south of France based on sheer beauty…

Photo Credit: Andrea & Marcus

… and Hawaii, for a million reasons.

Photo Credit: Sarah Rhoads

But ultimately, the big far-away trip just wouldn’t have allowed us to celebrate with the people we love, and the planning could have become a nightmare. It was unlikely, because of budget, that we would have been able to visit the place where we planned to marry and would have had to rely on pictures and word of mouth for almost everything… and I’m not saying that would have driven me crazy, but… yes, I would have had a meltdown.

So in the end, we decided to narrow the geography of our list. And by narrow, I mean the continental United States.

Okay, no… not really. Because Arkansas had already come into consideration we knew that we wanted to be a little closer to one of our homes, so we at least had to narrow this thing down to one of the coasts.

The Search

Since we’ve finally (and I use the word finally very loosely here) found our venue, I thought I’d take a couple of days to highlight some of the major contenders that didn’t ultimately make the cut.  The process was a long one, since, as I mentioned, I may have started a lot little early.

In retrospect, the first venue I fell in love with might seem a little crazy… after all, it is in Arkansas.  Hear me out, though.  Mark and I are from opposite coasts.  Our family live everywhere from upstate New York to Louisiana to Oregon.  When it came to choosing a location, one particular place just didn’t scream, “pick me!”  In fact, we almost felt like, rather than choosing sides, a neutral, interesting location might be a better fit… everyone would get to take a mini-vacation somewhere new.

Enter Thorncrown Chapel.

Photo Credit: Hudson Photography via Style Me Pretty

The gorgeous chapel was built by E. Fay Jones, a former apprentice of Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright.  It sits outside one of the cutest little towns you’ve ever seen, Eureka Springs, buried deep within the mountains and woods of the Ozarks.  Between Mark’s love of Frank Lloyd Wright and our combined love of the outdoors, it felt like the perfect place.

It didn’t take me long to start dreaming of the ideal underground reception location with the best bluegrass band, mason jars, loads of southern charm… maybe we could get Joe Purdy to come!!

Photo Credit: Hudson Photography via Style Me Pretty

Of course, ultimately, it just didn’t feel right.  The closest I’ve been to Arkansas is New Orleans.  I wouldn’t even know what to expect, and Mark is no different.  The whole thing started to feel a little contrived, two kids from the coast celebrating their love with southern charm?

Yes, I grew up on a horse and am only partially ashamed to admit that I love country music, but I am not southern.  In the end, Thorncrown just wasn’t the right choice.

… although, Joe, if you really would play our wedding, I could be persuaded to change my mind… so, let me know.


The Venue

After visiting, I can say with certainty that there is just no more perfect, more charming, more laid back, unbelievably picturesque and amazing place than the Figueroa Mountain Farmhouse.