Finding a Venue

Gracious, that was a longer than anticipated hiatus! House/petsitting has kept me away from the wedding blog; it was nearly a full time job caring for 28 exotic birds, two cats, two goats, and a sometimes-cranky dog, but that’s over and done with, and all the creatures (and I) came up none the worse for wear. Now back to my semi-regularly-scheduled wedding blogging!

Next up: Finding a Venue

When Jam proposed, we figured we’d have a long engagement. While I would’ve loved to get married in fall 2009, out of respect for J, it would not have been great timing. He had the respect to wait to propose to me until I was nearly done with grad scho

ol (this annoyed me til he proposed and I realized how distracted I was!) so it was only right to wait to get married until after he finished school. He was on track to complete his MBA in September 2009. People said “Just get married then, right after he graduates.” Uh no. He was super-stressed in the final months of his program, he would NOT have wanted to think about seating charts, playlists and whether we should have fondant or buttercream on our cake. Heck no. Plus we’d need to figure out where to live, move, etc. I think it only took a few days post-engagement to decide to get married in October 2010.

Honestly, I don’t know what motivated me to choose October. I’ve been to beautiful May and June and August weddings. Something about October just “felt” right. We tossed around 10/10/10 jokingly, but when we realized this would be Columbus Day weekend, we became serious about the date. Why not get married on 10/10/10? It’s catchy! We decided we’d aim for that weekend….and the search began.

Whenever newly engaged friends ask me for planning advice, I usually give them a list of wedding blogs I like to read and tell them to “google, google, google.” Yup, google is your friend. Because Jam’s friends and family are mostly traveling from the NYC area, and because my guests are traveling from the Boston area, we wanted to try and get married between the two cities. This way we equalized travel time –  everyone had to travel. Plus friends tight on cash could make the journey to wedding and back in one day, we could avoid both city areas and hopefully keep down cost, and we could avoid the issue of family members/other guests crashing at our parents’ homes.

So I got to googlin.’ I googled “midway between NYC and Boston” and came up with Middletown, Connecticut. Who knew that this was (kind of oddly) one of the wedding reception capitals of Connecticut, home to Pavilion Catering. I looked at a number of venues first, and then finally stumbled upon the one: The Barns at Wesleyan Hills.

Oh my stars.

One of the first images I saw of the barn was this one, found on their blog and in their wedding brochure:

Source

The Barns embodied the perfect combination of rustic and elegant. I fell in love with it right away. While I’ve been to many lovely country club/hotel weddings, I knew I wanted something different. Jam seemed somewhat indifferent to our venue – that is as long as HE liked it as well. I showed him the brochure, which included these pictures as well:

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Source

Plus the menu selections sounded great, the price was right, the location was smack dab between New York City and Boston – how could we go wrong? I sort of had my heart set on it, but waited until Jam and I could visit in person to make the final decision.

My parents are great at recon missions. Heck, they saw Smith before I did and knew I’d fall absolutely in love with it. They happened to be in Connecticut one random weekend and took a ride to The Barns. They met some of the staff and remarked how nice everyone treated them, even as the parents of a prospective bride! My parents roamed the property and thought it was truly a beautiful location. Would I be able to convince Jam??

In January 2009, Pavilion Catering had a bridal show. Now was my chance! Jam and I spent the weekend together in NYC, then made the journey to Connecticut. First, we visited the Barns; it was freezing there! No heat, and sparsely decorated. I could tell Jam was underwhelmed. Argh. I could feel victory slipping from my hands! We headed over to another property, also owned by Pavilion, for the actual bridal show. We tasted the food (yum) had some drinks, and even talked with a couple who had recently married at the Barns. When we started talking to Pavilion staff, I began to realize that I had to convince Jam that it was the right choice. Everyone was so nice and easygoing! It was one of the most affordable venues we had found in Connecticut – especially since we were looking for something low-maintenance, that came with liquor, meals, linens, etc, as I could not imagine dealing with all those vendors across state lines.

Victory WAS mine when we sat down with Traci, one of the managers, to look at dates. Jam and I asked about 10/10/10, a Sunday. “Well,” said Traci, “that’s booked, but 10/09/10 is open….though your are the fifth couple to inquire about that date…think about it!” she said, as she walked away, not pressuring us in the slightest. “What do you think?” I asked Jam, expecting a “we’ll see…” He looked me straight in the eye, made a fist, and said, through clenched teeth “I WANT 10/09/10. TRACI!!!” Wha??? All he wanted this whole time was a little competition? Too funny. Traci jumped a mile when she heard Jam yelling her name across the hall and hurried over. “We’d like to book!” said Jam. I must’ve looked like the damn Chesire Cat, that’s how big of a grin I had on my face. We finally had a venue!

This past January, we went for a second look, because I insanely felt the need to measure the dimensions of the Barns. This time around, I got to take a lot more pictures. Granted it was quite snowy and kind of a gray day, but here it is (all personal photos):

Here’s the exterior from the parking lot. It is a little misleading from the outside, as it does not look like a “traditional” barn.

More outside views.

This is a view of the grounds. OK, it’s all white and snowy now, but in the fall, the pond will be thawed and the foliage ablaze. GORGEOUS!

Here’s the interior, with Jam trying to put on his best “I’m interested” face, lol. Of course the decorations cost extra. Initially I planned on having my family decorate it themselves the morning of the wedding – ok I actually wanted to do it, but was told I’d be banned from visiting the venue the morning of, grr – but when we found out we wouldn’t have access to the building til 9AM the morning of, and when I measured the height of the balcony and realized that my dad would need at least a 16′ ladder, I seriously rethought all those self-decorating visions. Jam and I mentally reworked the budget to figure out how to swing paying for decorations, because neither one of us love the idea of any of our guests climbing ladders and such the morning of the wedding. Just too much risk…

The view from the balcony. I was worried about this view/part of the venue. Our guest list is big enough to need to utilize the balcony, and my plan is to put the able-bodied young folks who will spend a majority of the night socializing and dancing up in the balcony, but I wanted to make sure that their view of the festivities below was not blocked in anyway. After spending some time “upstairs,” I think we’ll be find using the balcony for seating. Jam had suggested putting the DJ up there, but I wasn’t sure that a DJ would like hauling all his stuff up stairs, and I don’t want to feel like I’m in a club while I’m eating dinner, with the music falling down on me.

There’s still a lot of work to do when it comes to the venue. I have centerpieces and all kinds of decorations to pull together, but the ladies at Pavilion told me that a few days before the wedding, we all meet to go over the details, everything from centerpieces and decorating to the placement of the escort cards. This way, friends and family can still provide the necessary decorating/setup help, but have a “professional” overseeing them. Love it!

I’m so happy we found the Barns, I think it’s the perfect fit, and I can’t wait to work with the staff more and talk about all the gritty details as the wedding day draws closer!

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