“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Steven Covey
Day 493: I’m engaged. You’re engaged. What a wonderful time to be alive and in love! In the moment Joe proposed to me, I started planning our big day (in my head… and later on Pinterest).
I was in bliss. Like all newly engaged couples, I assumed I could have everything I had ever dreamed of, all the while coming in under budget and avoiding that infamous “Bridezilla” period. I soon realized that was definitely not going to happen unless I wanted to start my married life up to my eyeballs in debt.
So we decided to set priorities.
My fiancé, Joe, wants a live band to play at our reception. I would like a decent photographer and videographer. We both want an open bar. All of these priorities are fine and good, but they would not exist without a ceremony and reception venue.
And a date. You really should set a date.
As much as I wanted to spend time on searching for our initial priorities, I discovered the true priority is actually setting a date. To do that, you need to really speak with your officiant and book a reception venue.
But how can you book a reception venue without knowing the guest count?!
Working backwards from what I thought were my most important priorities, I realized the true priority is drafting a guest list! This guest list doesn’t need to be perfect, just open an Excel spreadsheet and make a list of all your family, his family and your friends who you’d like to come. Next, I suggest you run this by your parents. They’re bound to add some of their friends to the list.
When you have a ballpark range, then you can start looking at venues. If you are not adamant about getting married in a church, you have so many beautiful options to choose from. Joe and I are both Catholic and after some debate we (I) decided we should get married in my childhood church. Joe is very flexible and has expressed he just wants a big party and to (obviously) be married to me. Good man.
Talking to the Catholic priest about your wedding ceremony is not as scary as it sounds!!
You weren’t nervous to begin with? Well…
I was. And it was such a relief after we admitted to Father Kevin that we normally did not attend church. He was sympathetic and just told us we should really consider going to mass more if we’re going to get married and raise our children Catholic. Joe and I are slated to attend pre cana classes six months before the wedding and attend a weekend get away. Father Kevin explained that we would take a psychological test to see where our relationship is strong and where it may be weakened down the road. He also told us we would be hearing advice and stories from young and old married couples. He marked us down in his book and we were set to be wed.
June 30, 2018. 493 days away.
After deciding on the church, I tried to picture my wedding day at various types of reception venues – dinner in a rustic barn and later dancing under a tent filled with lights; a romantic dinner in the grand hall of the old county courthouse with flowers garnishing the tables and walls; or a traditional large room with a comfortable atmosphere and delicious authentic food.
I reached out to several venues requesting more information on services and pricing. My mother, friends and I took a chance and went to a few bridal shows, something that was surprisingly fun. Joe and I have about 200 people on our guest list so the reception dinner is expected to be a little pricey. We entertained the idea of just serving hors d’oeuvres but I wanted something a little more traditional.
We started an Excel spreadsheet to compare reception venue prices. Some of the venues were dirt cheap, but the catering was what broke the bank. Others had an affordable venue and catering, but we had to gather tables, chairs, a tent, and alcohol ourselves. I contacted about eight venues through theknot.com and met one at a bridal show.
We toured a few and decided to go with the all-inclusive venue supplying the food, alcohol and ballroom for $55/ person. The hall is beautiful with a long bar and big dance floor. The event organizer was easy-going and made us feel so comfortable while touring the venue. He was willing to work with us so we were able to haggle with him to get the price lowered a few hundred dollars.
I put a lot of time and effort into finding the perfect venue for our style and price range. Now that our guest list is drafted and our date is set, we can focus on the details.
✔ Your Checklist
- Draft a guest list – Know which halls can fit all your guests
- Research ceremony and reception venues – Find a venue that meets your style and budget
- Meet with venue organizers – Ask about availability and any other inquiries
- Book the venues – The moment you put money down, your date is set!