There are few things in your (wedding planning) life that are are more important than finding “the one”– your wedding venue, that is. What did you think I meant? Let me explain.

Steve and I had been together for almost six years by the time we got engaged, so the topic of marriage had been a popular one for at least a year prior. Every now and then, Steve would ask me who I would have as bridesmaids (and then name 13 of his friends as groomsmen), what kind of ceremony I’d like and what songs we would need on our reception playlist. Needless to say, we definitely had an idea of what we wanted for our wedding day, including our venue. We based our decision on these four things:

- What time of year we wanted to get married

- How many people we would have on our guest list

- What area would work best for our families AND our budgets

- Whether we wanted an indoor or outdoor ceremony/reception

Neither one of us wanted to wait more than a year to get married, but we also didn’t want to rush things. We wanted to be able to take time to enjoy our engagement (or “The Victory Tour” as Steve called it) with wedding planning on the side. That’s when we decided a 18-month engagement was much more doable than a nine-month engagement, which brought us to settle on June 20, 2015, as our date, but it took more than snapping our fingers for it all to fall into place.

Being just another couple who got engaged over the holidays, we were eager to book a venue ASAP — and I mean weeks after he put a ring on it in order to get what we wanted when we wanted it.

First, we thought about our style and the kind of place we wanted to represent it. In my ideal world, I would be getting married in the middle of the woods with a huge dance floor lit up by only market lights, but it just isn’t realistic. While we were able to find a few places that gave us a similar vision, not all of them could accommodate our guests or our budget.


We chose this historic home as our venue in February. Photo courtesy of Meg
The flowers around our reception tent started to pop up in early April. Photo courtesy of Meg
The gardens around our ceremony were in full bloom exactly a year before “I do!” Photo courtesy of Meg

Once you’re able to identify when you want to get married, guest list numbers, location and budget, the rest is fairly simple. We knew we wanted an outdoor wedding in late spring, we’d have at least 225 people attending, and we did our research as far as reasonable prices for venues in the Philadelphia area. It made more sense for us to look outside the city after hearing from a handful of venues we simply couldn’t afford.

Steve and I absolutely fell in love with our venue just from looking at photos of the place — a historic stone house perfect for our vintage theme, a colorful garden backdrop and a reception tent lit by market lights. We went for a tour when there was eight inches of snow on the ground, and I became a bit discouraged by it. We sat on it for about a week before Steve convinced me that our day would be even more beautiful than the photos on Google. It also helped to know that some of our deposit went to charity!


Steve and Meg touring the ground of their venue. Photo courtesy of MOH, Mandy Douress

So, when it comes to wedding planning checklists, I highly recommend checking off your venue first (after settling on your budget and guest list numbers, because those will determine a lot about your venue). It sets the tone of your entire day. It gives you a visual when it comes to the rest of your wedding planning — from dress shopping to cocktail set-up to all of your money-saving DIY projects! Just be sure to find a place that fits your personalities as a couple and a place where you can see yourselves throwing the first party of your life together!

And one last word of advice for Philly brides: Partyspace is your best friend when looking for your venue! You’ll be able to search by category (outdoors, country club, museum, etc.) and county. Once you find a place that fits your vision, that’s when it becomes really helpful! Each venue will give you its contact information, how many guests it can accommodate, if you can bring in your own food and beverages and it will even tell you if your ideal date is available! The tricky part is that every one of them will make you contact them to get any sense of pricing, which is why I also recommend doing a Google search of each place to see the different photos and reviews before contacting them. I even Googled photos of our venue in June!

How did you go about finding your venue, BABs?

Meg Douress is the pint-sized, freckle-faced, curly-haired Real Bride Blogger for The Broke-Ass Bride. She is a professional writer, amateur photographer and social media fiend who is set to wed her college sweetheart in June 2015. She enjoys obsessing over the lives of celebrities and being a Philadelphia phan. Join her on her thrifty wedding planning adventure on Pinterest and Instagram, and tune in to her sarcastic comments on Twitter: TheRealMegD.
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