2/12 Real Bride Shannon: My Venue Saved My Engagement!

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*Confession* At just under eight months to go until we say our vows, we’ve already been engaged for just over eight months. It took us a while to get the ball rolling.

We knew from the beginning that neither of our parents were in financial positions to pay for large percentages of our big day and that anything we spent would have to be saved. It got intimidating, so for a while, there was a lot more talking than doing.

We threw lots of ideas around and did a fair amount of research, but with every price quote came the discouraging feeling that this was all out of our reach. Woody and I had similar visions, which can be a blessing and a curse. While we were on the same page about the look and feel we wanted to create for our wedding day, neither of us were there to serve as the often-needed voice of reason. 

The majority of our family lives near Fort Worth, so we wanted to stay as local as possible. We both strongly leaned toward a one-stop-shop type venue where our guests weren’t having to travel from ceremony to reception. I learned from my sister’s wedding that the less stuff you have to rent (dishes, tables, linens, etc.), the easier your life was going to be, so we were taking that into consideration with our venues. Dallas/Fort Worth has plenty of all-inclusive venues, but good grief, do they get expensive.

Our whole wedding planning experience was taking on a rather desperate air, and was beginning to get peppered with a lot of arguments we had previously promised never to have. I was growing weary of telling people, “No, we still haven’t set a date yet,” and the looks of judgment, pity and concern were getting under my skin. It was getting tense and taking a lot of the fun out of being engaged.

Then one beautiful day, I got a message from my betrothed with a link. I followed it, and it was like a light shown from Heaven right onto my screen. There it was: this gothic-inspired chapel and reception hall, just south of downtown Fort Worth and it was affordable!Real Bride Shannon: My Venue Saved My Engagement!

After clicking around the website, I found out that the Belltower Chapel and Gardens was owned by a charity. A CHARITY, Y’ALL! It was donated to ACH Child and Family Services — a non-profit that serves abused and neglected women and children in a nine-county area around North Texas. They opened the chapel as a wedding and events venue, and the money raised through rentals goes to things like counseling, crisis management, and housing. How special is that?!

Real Bride Shannon: My Venue Saved My Engagement! Photo by Melissa Shook at shookphoto.com

Permission to use graciously granted by Melissa Shook at shookphoto.com

The morning of my 30th birthday, Woody and I met my mom and sister for a tour. It was even better in person. Bridget, the chapel manager, ran us through, pointing out details like the gorgeous stained glass and convenient amenities. The venue is BYOB (a HUGE money saver) and accepts outside catering, which was crucial for us because Woody’s father happens to be an award-winning chef who had already offered to cater for us (which is just one of those really, incredibly fortunate budget boosters). There was no poker face, no “We’re going to weigh our options.” We checked the available dates in September, which we had tentatively pegged as the perfect time for a Texas wedding and booked the last Friday.

Most budget-savvy brides know off-peak is cheaper, on average, to book. We saved $1,000 by opting for Friday night versus a Saturday. For $2,800, we got exclusive use of the chapel, indoor and outdoor reception area for the day, six hours of event time, a day-of coordinator with up to two hours of planning prior to our date, table and chair rentals, staff set-up and break down — essentially everything that we wanted for a price we could afford. Super-cute bonus: It’s called Belltower Chapel because they have a working bell tower. After your ceremony, we get to go outside and ring our own wedding bell!

Another perk of the venue is that they don’t have a pay schedule. A 50% deposit is required to book and you have to be paid in full eight weeks before your wedding, but in the mean time, you can pay any amount when you want to.

So much of your budget can get blown on decorations: flowers, banners, ceremony backdrops — it adds up. Even though the wedding will be in the evening, the venue lights the stained glass windows from the outside, casting a rainbow of color into the hall. Hello, built in mood lighting!. We’ll decorate with some flowers and centerpieces, but this place is stand-alone gorgeous!

Real Bride Shannon: My Venue Saved My Engagement!

Even empty, the reception hall was gorgeous!

Maybe it’s a little dramatic to say the venue saved my engagement, but the peace of mind from having a date and location are making everything a lot more fun!

What about you, BABs? Did you have any big things that were starting to get a little too urgent for comfort? How did you find the solution? Tell us in the comments below!