I’ve never been one of those girls who dreamed of a fairytale wedding from an early age. But one thing I always assumed is that the process of picking a wedding date and venue would be a pretty simple one. I was so wrong. I got engaged back in October (on what turned out to be a fairytale trip to Charleston, SC), and two months later my fiancé and I are still struggling to nail down the when and where of our big day. We’ve considered a destination wedding in Napa, a farm wedding in the Virginia hills, a hometown wedding in West Virginia, a romantic dock wedding in Charleston, an estate wedding on the North Shore, and a City Hall ceremony in Boston, among other options. With family and friends spread all over the country and a desire to not spend our entire life savings on the occasion, we’ve explored every option, with visions of our day constantly changing.
Throughout our search for a venue, I’ve found the blogs of other brides-to-be a big help. There are plenty blogs of the sort out there already, but I thought it would be fun (and hopefully helpful) to share a few of my own favorite places found during our search. We’ve crossed almost all of them off our list for one reason or another (mostly budget), but they’re still fun to dream about.
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
The one setting that kept coming to mind when I did start thinking of our wedding day was a rustic, romantic farm with great style. Early in our search, I discovered Pippin Hill, near Charlottesville, VA, in a post on the blog Delight by Design. Bingo. Bullseye. This was it. I was ready to sign on the dotted line. But once the high of finding my dream spot in just a couple days’ time wore off and we started crunching numbers via email with one of their very helpful sales staffers, it became clear that Pippin Hill just wasn’t within reach. Still, I’m going to make it my mission to get there for a farm dinner on a long weekend some summer or fall.
Early Mountain Vineyards
Photo via Early Mountain Vineyards
Once we discovered (and ruled out) Pippin Hill, we continued our search in the Charlottesville area, enamored of its green, misty mountains and low-key vibe, as well as its somewhat convenient location for family members. We soon found Early Mountain Vineyards, whose Event Hall is a gorgeous, simple space complete with a working fireplace and tall windows. Early Mountain’s sales staff were very responsive and helpful, which we found a big plus. Sigh. Another spot to visit on a romantic weekend getaway down the road.
Boone Hall Plantation
Photo via Clay Austin Photography
Oh, Charleston. What else can I say? By now, everyone knows about my deep and blinding love for this town. And after getting engaged there in October, it made sense to include this little Southern utopia in our search. What I learned: Even if you’re 100% certain that you’re going to get married in Charleston, your search for a venue is likely to be overwhelming. There are just that many gorgeous spots to choose from. But for me, Boone Hall Plantation in nearby Mount Pleasant is the spot I kept coming back to. And I’m not alone in my love for it. Turns out, Boone Hall is a pretty hot spot for Southern belle brides and their grooms, but it’s also enjoyed more time in the spotlight lately thanks to a certain couple of A-list stunners who were recently married there. The property is replete with willowy live Oak trees dripping with Spanish moss (I think I’d be satisfied having just one photo of us walking through the plantation’s famous Avenue of Oaks), and just oozes rustic romance in the golden evening light. Weddings —and places —don’t get much more gorgeous than that. Sadly for us, we were lacking the movie star budget we soon felt we’d need to have our wedding there.
Over time, we realized that, living in Boston, we had a wealth of wedding venues to consider right here in our own backyard. A friend who’s also a wedding photographer suggested we look into Glen Magna Farms, a historic mansion located in Danvers, a short drive north of the city. One cold, ugly, drizzly day in November, we met with a coordinator and toured the property. Even on that raw and dismal day, we could feel the mansion’s warmth and we could picture an intimate and elegant but homey event with our family and friends. The mansion was in the process of getting a total interior makeover primarily in a palette of gold, cream, and gray (my favorite), which only sweetened the pot. We would have our ceremony in the beautiful garden behind the house, and our family and friends would be able to move around freely inside the house, in its gardens, and on its lawn, for the fun that would happen afterward. We went so far as to put a hold on a date at Glen Magna but ultimately decided it was more than we wanted to spend. If you’re planning a Boston-area wedding and money’s no issue, do yourself a favor and check out Glen Magna.
Graceland Inn, Davis & Elkins College
Photo via Davis & Elkins College
I grew up in a beautiful mountain town in West Virginia, and I always love my visits there. It’s a quiet, pretty place, and it will always be my home. Naturally, we put it on our list, zeroing in on the Graceland Inn, a historic mansion on the campus of Davis & Elkins College. The thought of getting married in my hometown, a place my fiancé also loves, appealed early on, but its location made us loath to put it atop our list. The nearest major airport is in Pittsburgh, PA, and is a three-hour drive away. We weren’t sure how we felt about inviting guests to a hometown wedding that required not only a flight for most of them, but also a car rental and a three-hour drive each way. We knew that if we went this route, we’d be risking a really small turnout. Which would have been okay – but we’ve been excited to use our wedding as an opportunity to gather our families and closest friends in the same place at the same time, and we didn’t want to jeopardize that. And, it has to be said, it’s been difficult at best to get anyone there to reply to our requests for information. That didn’t help the case for a hometown event. I imagine one of the highlights of a wedding there would be drinking champagne and laughing with our guests on the mansion’s porch, which offers some pretty amazing views.
Photo via Davis & Elkins College
While the verdict isn’t totally in on this hometown spot, for now I have my sights — and heart — set on one remaining venue, but I’ll wait before sharing more on that lest I somehow jinx us. All I’ll say is that it’s local, and it’s totally different from the rustic farm wedding I pictured at the beginning of our search. The only saving grace amid the frustration of our search has been keeping an open mind and not getting too set on any one idea. We quickly learned that doing that would only lead to disappointment when options started falling through. Hopefully, we’ll have good news —and a date — to share soon.