The Wedding Diaries: Picking Our Venue

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sorry for the lack of updates, I will try to do a little catching up.  In the past month, I bought my dress and booked my venue!  "Firsts" seem to be the trend.  I'm marrying my first boyfriend, bought the first dress I tried on, and booked the first venue I visited.  It's not that I just settled for anything that came along, I took my time, and did my research.  I know what I want :)

It was so overwhelming once I started looking for a wedding venue. I was only focusing on NJ venues too. After browsing a couple dozen online, they all started to look the same with their grand ballrooms and gazebo and arch ceremonies. I wish I went about it more organized. At first I was just glancing to get an idea, then I tried to make a spreadsheet, but it was all too much for me by then, and I started to get confused at what I had seen already, and reasons why I liked or disliked a place. I had started to casually research in October..and then seriously looking in late December. I want my wedding in May 2015, so I thought I still have plenty of time even if i booked mid year. But my potential photographer friend told me she already had a date booked for May 2015! So that's I went to visit my first venue in late January.  Before you start looking up venues, have in mind what kind of wedding you want, so you can filter out ones that won't fit your requirements.  I knew I wanted an outdoor wedding ceremony and a nice impressive ballroom that'll be fun for dancing.  It should also have a nice indoor ceremony alternative in case it rains.  I want nice grounds for pictures.  And of course, good food.

Seasons Catering 

Photo from Seasons Facebook Page

The second venue I visited was located in Washington Township, NJ.  It was a typical grand venue with a big cocktail hour.  We have a small wedding, so we would get the smaller upstairs ballroom, which required a 125 minimum.  The ballroom would be where the ceremony takes place.  The outdoor waterfall ceremony is reserved for the downstair ballroom.  That was a big bummer.  After the ceremony, you go down the hallway to the cocktail room.  They offer a big cocktail display if you have 125 minimum.  There's also the option of a smaller cocktail of hor d'oeuvre only if you have a smaller wedding of 100 people.  With the difference in menu, it's definitely more worth it trying to get the 125 guests.

Friday evening: $115pp/$130
Sunday evening: $105/$115
Saturday evening: $125/$150

As much as we are impressed with the food and pricing at Seasons, the venue just isn't what we are looking for.

The Mill

Photo from a Mill wedding

The third and final appointment we made was at Spring Lakes, NJ.  This place just about had everything we wanted.  The ballroom was the best part.  It is ceiling to floor windows, with a view of the beautiful lake outside.  Giving lots of sunlight and charm to the place.  The outdoor ceremony was great too.  Right next to the lake on a stone floor with gazebo.  It's really serene and beautiful.  The backup ceremony would be in their ballroom or atrium.  The atrium was also entirely windows and where the cocktail hour would be.  The thing with this place is that the downstairs is their restaurant.  The entire party would be on the second floor.  At least it is only 1 wedding at a time.  But that is basically the only spot your party will have, there is also no outdoor grounds for pictures besides the ceremony spot.  We would have to drive a few minutes to a nearby park, which is not too bad.  This place definitely looks a bit cleaner and fancier than our First Venue.  I know my family members would have preferred this over my other choice.  The guests would definitely be impressed with the location, but that would probably lasts like 5 minutes.  We just thought the food lacked a bit in comparison.  The menu wasn't bad but it wasn't impressive either.  Like typical american wedding food.  It seemed to offer a little less with slightly higher price (Deluxe Menu).  We thought it over for dayssss... nearly on the verge of going with it.  But we decided to go with the First Venue.

Menu and Pricing can be found on their website.

For Deluxe Menu (does not offer more food, but just more/better options to select from, plus a raw bar)
Friday Evening: 125min/$122pp
Saturday Evening: 150min/$137pp
Sunday Evening: 100min/$112pp

Perona Farms

And here is my First Choice.  They are located an hour away from here in Andover, NJ.  I stumbled upon this venue in my initial search.  At first, I didn't think much about it because it was a farm.  I didn't think that was the feel I was going for in my dream wedding.  I always love looking at rustic weddings pictures but I didn't think I could pull it off.  But as wedding costs sunk in and my ever-growing Pinterest board ideas, I knew my wedding vision was changing and I needed a venue that matched it.  I want to decorate my ceremony aisles, hang things on trees, have sparklers, cute DIY place cards, centerpieces, and cake toppers etc.  And Perona Farms was perfect for that.  My ideas would not look out of place, but rather bring out the rustic charm of the location.  As weddings will become more abundant in the next few years among my friends, I didn't want my wedding to be like everyone else's.  I want to be able to put my personality into my wedding and make it one to remember.  I still want my wedding to be full of booze and dancing all night long. Their Florentine Ballroom still give that nice reception touch.  This place had a lot of pros, but also a lot of cons.  Here goes:

-rustic location
-can apply all my DIY ideas
-soooo many beautiful outdoor spots for ceremony and pictures
-offers a grand ballroom which is intimate enough for my 100 guests
-unique cocktail hour food and outdoor spot
-they recently had renovations to the ceilings and carpeting
-still has my wedding date available (the other venues did not. And also charged more for holiday weekends)

-no nice alternative if it rains (it would be indoors in their low ceiling lobby in front of the grand staircase)
-the ballroom ceilings are low
-My favorite ceremony location is the orchards, which also tends to have a lot of deer/geese droppings; basically, dirtier place; and also have to pay extra $4/per chair rental

Basically, I feel screwed if it rains on my wedding day.  But with the frustration of looking for more venues that don't meet my expectations, and this feeling that I can't let go of Perona, I decided to go with my gut feeling and take the risk.  So let's pray it is a beautiful day on, Sunday, May 24, 2015!

100 guests minimum for Sunday, Florentine Room - $95pp (Friday - $100, Saturday - $125).  I was able to negotiate a little, but they wouldn't budge on including anything extra or any type of haggling like switching stations, offering a 3rd entree choice, champagne upon arrival to guests.  I feel like these are small matters that wouldn't make much of a difference to them.  So that was a little disappointing.

Pictures from January.  It'll be a lot nicer in spring :)

unimpressive indoor cocktail alternative for the Venetian ballroom

the smaller ballroom I did not pick

Venetian room dance floor

The cocktail hour if you pick the Barn reception
Barn reception, is pretty cool, but not for me.

Barns bridal room. very woodsy and bare.

Grand Staircase for alternative indoor ceremony at Florentine Room
Roomy bathroom for Florentine room
Bridal suite for Florentine ballroom. It's small but cute
Outdoor location Cocktail hour
Florentine Ballroom

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  1. First of all, congratulations on your wedding! I'm glad you were able to check different potential venues, services, and even cost. That means you were able to get your money's worth from your wedding. While weddings are usually extravagant affairs, it doesn't mean that you have to get the most flashy and premium services out there, no matter what the price. Anyway, I hope you guys were able to sort out and choose the best options available. Good luck!

    Jeremy Barker @ Chiavari Chairs of Michigan

    1. Thank you! My thoughts exactly, you don't need to spend a lot to make a beautiful wedding :)

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