Hello future Brides & Grooms!
Today Josh and I want to talk about how we chose our wedding venue to hopefully give you some ideas in your own search. When Josh and I first got engaged we weren’t sure if we wanted to have a big wedding or not. And when I say big I’m not referring to the number of guests, we already knew we wanted to keep it relatively small with family and close friends. What I mean is we didn’t know if we wanted to do the ceremony, the dinner and the party because truth be told a wedding is really hard work and also very expensive! Don’t let anyone else fool you otherwise!
But the more we talked about it the more we knew we wanted to celebrate our special day in a special way with the people we love! Once we made up our minds the next step was to decide when and where we would get married. Deciding what time of year was actually the easy part because we both wanted to get married outside and so we knew right off the bat that we would get married in December.
The main reason we choose December was because Josh is a teacher and the time off during winter break would be perfect! The second most important reason was due to the fact that we live in South Florida and the summers down here are painfully hot and humid! What bride and groom wants to look like they just stepped out of a pool? Also we wouldn’t want our guests to melt away either! December is definitely the high season in South Florida for weddings and almost anything else, so we knew the cost would be higher but we felt strongly that it would be worth it. In hindsight we made the perfect choice, the weather was gorgeous and we both had some time off of work to handle all of the preparations and relax a little afterwards. Once we figured out when we moved on to where???
Since we wanted to get married outside we knew we would not be getting married in a church. So that left hotels, parks/historical sites, the beach, our backyard or even renting a mansion. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each:
- Hotels have a lot of advantages including the ability to handle everything on site, as well as providing rooms for out of town guests. The down side is that for a nice hotel the packages can get very costly. In the end we chose this option and I’ll tell you why in a bit.
- Parks and historical sites are beautiful and provide a natural setting for gorgeous pictures and the cost is relatively low. On the other hand most have lots of restrictions that can cause complications and you have to also choose a second location for the dinner and party. There was a park in our final list of options but we decided against it.
- The beach is a very popular choice and can be an amazing venue but there can be some complications with the sand (particularly for ladies wearing heals) and just as with parks you would have to also choose a second location for dinner. Since I love shoes and definitely wanted to wear a beautiful pair of heels we decided against this option.
- Getting married in a backyard has grown in popularity due to the low cost and ease it offers, but if you want to do it right you will probably want to make some upgrades to the yard so that it looks perfect and those can get costly and time consuming depending on your time frame. We did the research on what we would want done in our backyard and decided it was going to be too costly so this option was eliminated.
- Renting a mansion is sort of the backyard option on steroids and we found several places that were offering rental packages to host both the wedding and the honeymoon. But there was only one that fit in our budget and I can’t wait to tell you how that turned out!
So those are the main possibilities that we found for outdoor weddings and we were able to narrow the list down to a park, a couple of hotels and a mansion.
We really liked the idea of renting a mansion because we felt it would enable us to also have a nice relaxing honeymoon hanging out at the pool of the mansion. But the best mansions, including Vizcaya and the Zen House in Coral Gables, were all very expensive and over our budget. We did find one that we fell in love with online while looking at the numerous pictures…so we decided to schedule a visit.
Unfortunately, as is often the case on the internet, the truth was far from what was in the pictures. When we arrived the owner told us he currently had some guests in the house but we could walk around the outside and pool area while he spoke to them. We thought this was a little strange, what if he did this while we were staying here? But we decided to look around and it was a mess! The landscaping was out of control, there were leaves everywhere and in the pool and the beautiful pond we saw online was overgrown with weeds and lily pads to the point that you could not even see the water.
We had already decided it was a big NO but we wanted to be polite to the owner when he came out and told us we could go in, so we went in…and we were greeted by a very strong odor! We both gave each other an OMG look! It was quite the scene and to top it off my mother had come with us to see the place! You should have seen her jaw drop! So we quickly looked around and said thanks but no thanks!
So next we moved on to parks and historical sites. The best one we found was the Deering Estate at Cutler but the Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami was a close second. Unfortunately, we had to rule out Fairchild Tropical Gardens because of the high cost. The Deering Estate has the added benefit of giving you access to the first floor of the main house, so you could also host the dinner there. But because it is a historical site there are many rules and regulations. Also, we were a little worried about the main parking lot being so far from the ceremony location, we had a few guests that have trouble walking and we did not want to inconvenience them. In the end this one almost made the cut but we felt we had a much better option for a very similar price at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne!
The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne is not what you would think of when you are doing a wedding on a budget but for what we wanted it turned out to be perfect. Josh first took me there for my birthday a few years ago and we loved the experience. We enjoyed it so much that when Josh was deciding where he wanted to pop the question he felt this was the perfect spot. There is a section of the property where there was a gazebo and he proposed to me in front of it near the ocean, it was so gorgeous and perfect. But then we found out that they were going to tear down the gazebo! Nobody could tell us why but we felt special that we were possibly the last people ever to get engaged there.
But we were so impressed by the way the staff handled the evening of our engagement we felt that we could really rely on them to make our wedding perfect. We really thought we had no chance though because the main list of fees for their wedding services are very very high because they include the use of the main lawn as well as a ballroom for the dinner. But we decided to ask anyways and sure enough they offer a package for small wedding parties that includes a ceremony in front of the ocean and a sit down dinner! We were so excited because the price for the ceremony area was under $3,000 and the dinner was reasonably priced under $100 per plate. We also knew from our engagement experience and other dinners at the Ritz-Carlton’s Cioppino Restaurant that the dinner would be exceptional. And to top it off we knew that we could stay at the hotel for another couple days after the wedding for a mini-honeymoon. When we did the math and discussed everything we knew that this was going to give us the wedding of our dreams and stay within our budget!
In the end everything turned out 98% perfect, there were a couple of little issues that we will discuss in a later post about Planning the Day of Your Wedding that will give you some great tips but overall we couldn’t have been happier with our decision. Our advice to you is to do a lot of research and go with your heart because this will be a day you will remember forever. Don’t be afraid to ask about something that you are afraid may be out of your price range, you never know what they might do for you! We wish you all the luck in the world in your search and if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below and we will do our best to help.
Mr. and Mrs. Reich