After: The Venue

7 Nov

Those who have been tuning into The Reflective Bride blog lately have been thoroughly enjoying (I’m sure :P) some “bride’s diary” insights into the week before and day of the wedding. This week we return to the true mission of the blog – how we did our wedding planning and how it turned out – to take a before and after look at the big day preparations. In the final post before the wedding, I talked all things venue: everything from the country and city, to the exact ceremony and reception choices. Now find out how it all went for the Reflective Couple…

Country
Coming from countries in opposite corners of the globe, the first decision my groom and I had to make was where in the world to host the wedding. Before our engagement we had considered hosting festivities in both countries, but after planning began we settled on only doing things in my country – the one half a world away from where we live together. (As such I’ll refer to my fiancé’s country as “here” and my home country as “there”.)

This was definitely the best decision. Two full weddings would have been too stressful, too expensive, and too small in their respective guest numbers to achieve the party atmosphere we wanted. My home city is also very popular for both domestic and international tourists, whereas my fiancé’s country is not as well known and would not have been a great drawcard gor guests abroad. We had 22 guests from my fiancé’s country join us for the wedding (out of 68 guests total)… but if we had hosted the wedding here I estimate that only 10 people would have joined us from my home country – not a great turn-out! Although I was disappointed that “only” 22 guests could join from my fiancé’s country (less than half the number we invited from here), everyone else was bowled over that so many people were traveling so far to join us.

The biggest challenge, though, of planning a wedding from the other side of the world was communicating with suppliers: we could not drop by our reception venue any time we had a concern, we had to rely on others to do our wedding cake tasting, we were not able to visit our decorator to see centerpieces or color themes in person… you gt the picture. Many suppliers told us that these days most client communication is via email anyway… however, when suppliers don’t reply to you for more than a month (true story!) the vast time difference between our two countries made it difficult to chase them by phone.

City
As mentioned in my previous post, once we settled on hosting the wedding in my country, the next debate was the city: with the two logical choices being my hometown, or the state capital where I studied and worked for eight years. A state capital wedding would have put the festivities closer to where most of the wedding guests live, and been closer to the airport for those coming from interstate and abroad. My fiancé, however, was set on my hometown as he was more familiar with it, and we thought that my parents and one bridesmaid being there would make it easier to coordinate our wedding preparations.

My thoughts now? Hosting the wedding in the capital would have given us more options for suppliers, and also more choice for the wedding venue; I would have loved to hold our nuptials in a grand hotel or ballroom. Unfortunately my hometown doesn’t have any wedding locales like that, but we were able to do much with our reception room thanks to our decorator. Now that it’s all over, I think it was indeed best to hold things in my hometown, which is a beach city; it made it an exciting destination wedding not just for the guests coming from abroad, but also from elsewhere in my country. There are only two people who couldn’t come because the wedding was some distance away rather than in the state capital. Not bad, not bad at all!

Ceremony venue

Our ceremony site, all set up!

We were officially married in a grassy lawn just off the shores of the beach – very appropriate for the vibe of my hometown! And also very fitting because it was the beach that my family went to most often growing up, so has a sentimental aspect (as well as being gorgeous!). I am very pleased with our beach setting; it was completely unique for guests coming from my fiancé’s country (where church weddings our standard), and many guests commented on what a beautiful spot it was. It was also a fantastic location for photos, allowing us to take post-ceremony snaps down by the waterline and in the woods nearby. I am very happy that we did not marry in a church; neither my groom nor I is religious, so a church wedding would have felt hypocritical.

However, there were (of course) a few challenges with our ceremony site:

  • Our wedding took place in school vacation… on a long weekend… in a town that’s a popular holiday destination… right by the town’s biggest tourist attraction (the beach). We were worried about traffic and a lack of parking by the shore (and people getting lost trying to find our particular lawn), so hired a mini-bus for guests and wrote welcome letters with super detailed directions. Despite my fears (seriously, this one kept me awake many nights!), no one came late or got lost on the way! We also arranged for the bridal party cars to leave with plenty of time to spare; although there was light traffic and some delays, I still managed to arrive five minutes early. We actually had to drive around to fill in time! The beach location and vacation timing also made us worry about rubber-neckers. There was quite a crowd that stopped to watch me and my bridesmaids get out of our car, but there were no gate-crashers at the ceremony, and our photographer managed to leave out tourists from our shots! That beach is also a popular spot for weddings, but – through sheer, dumb luck – only one other wedding took place at the same time, and some distance away. Phew! (Another sleepless night in vain.)
  • Due to an unfortunate lack of rain, our once lush and green ceremony lawn dried out: the grass was barely green, and the foliage around the site shrunk back and made it less secluded. My groom and I were shocked when we saw the difference 15 months had made to our site, but told ourselves that none of our guests knew how it was supposed to look, and that the browning grass wouldn’t be so obvious once the area was filled with our guests . One prob- lem with drying out is that the area became quite sandy, which made it diffi- cult for my bridesmaids (and no doubt all the female guests) to walk in their heels, and meant that my slightly open shoes filled up with sand as soon as I took my first step. In the Reflective Groom’s country weddings are very formal events, so we knew in advance that a barefoot ceremony would be out of the question, and that we would just have to grin and bear the sand.
  • The third problem was the possible threat of rain on the day! 😦 Although we deliberately scheduled our wedding in the driest month of the year, rain was long forecast for the big day (up until two days before when predictions changed to clear skies and smiling kittens). As such, we made all kinds of last-minute contingency plans: compiling a phone tree for notifying guests and suppliers, buying giant umbrellas, arranging a marquee with our hire company. It was quite stressful! We’d long had a wet-weather back-up venue for the ceremony booked, but it was a far less attractive option and we really didn’t want to use it. I love our outdoor ceremony site, but do regret the time wasted and the stress caused by making a Plan B.
  • The last (tiny) problem was wind. Yes, wind – rain isn’t the only kind of weather you have to worry about on the wedding day! The wind made it a little difficult to hear, and meant I had to ditch my veil as soon as I reached the alter, as it was constantly blowing across my face. It also sent my and the bridesmaids’ hair-dos flying in all directions! (Actually the wind was so strong that even the boys got well and truly mussed up.) We girls spent most of the ceremony pushing hair out of our faces. I had wanted a somewhat loose ‘do as I always wear my hair up, and all the bridesmaids have only chin-length locks, so don’t even have enough hair for an up-do… but if I had a do-over, I would do a tight up-do for me and bucket loads of hairspray for them!

Reception venue

Our reception room!

We are overjoyed with our decision to host the wedd- ing reception in a resort, and a facility that could host so many of our festiv- ities. The resort was the location for our back-up ceremony, cocktail hour, reception, after-party and farewell breakfast, and due to a group discount most of our guests (and the Reflect- ive Couple) stayed there. It made it easy for us as it meant we could finish setting up decorations in the reception hall the evening before the wedding, and then simply walk 30 seconds and be back in our accom- modation to relax the rest of the night. Having it all in one place meant it was easy for everyone to join the after-party (even a grandmother joined in!) and make the tipsy stroll back to their hotel room afterwards, and meant no one had to get up super early after the big night to join our farewell breakfast.

We had been deciding between two resort venues, and eventually settled on one that – while its wedding facilities were slightly less grand – was closer to restaur- ants, shopping and the beach. It was definitely the correct decision! The Reflect- ive Groom was right! The out-of-town (and out-of-country) guests loved being so close to the beach, and several guests complimented us on the modern, casual atmosphere of the hotel and its surrounds. (Oh yeah, and the hotel rooms really were totes awesome.) And despite my concern that the reception room wasn’t as impressive as at the other resort, the decorators did a magnificent job in kicking it up a notch, and we got positive feedback from a few guests on the decorating!

So that’s the full story of our venues and how they turned out! How did your venue decisions go? Were you happy with the outcome?

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