Monday, March 14, 2011

The Venue Hunt, Part II

Now that Mr. C and I were more serious minded about our venue hunt, we started with an intense Google search for venues in the area of my parents house.

We were looking for venues that had some of the following characteristics:

  • Not a hotel
  • A more rustic vibe, we're not generally into more contemporary styles
  • Enough space for up to 175 people
  • Minimums small enough if we decided to have under 100 guests
  • About 40 minutes from my parents' house
  • Somewhere that guests who were in for the entire weekend would have activities or things to see or visit to keep them entertained
After much intense Google searching, we created a Google Docs Excel sheet to organize information we had gathered from websites, as well as from emailing some of the coordinators

There were about 13 venues on there, so after making this spreadsheet and sharing it with both our mothers, we just sort of sat on it for a few days and then contacted the venues that we were interested in seeing in person.  I scheduled three appointments to see while visiting my family's house with my mom.  Mr. C was busy with studying and test taking, so it was my mom and I checking these places out.

The first place we went was the Renaissance Golf Club in Haverhill, MA.  The Renaissance Golf Club was a newer venue, and had a large ballroom for the dinner and dancing and a cozy, comfy space for our cocktail hour.

Photo sent to Mr. C and I from the Renaissance Golf Club.   Photo credit Boston Uplights.
The Renaissance allowed us to select our wedding package that provided a number of different options, including the amount of hors d'oeuvres, cake options, wine service, and more.

The Renaissance also included a lot of extras in their package.  As it is a Golf Club, the Club Rooms were made available to the bride and groom, as well as some guests.  So after your ceremony, you had no further to go than upstairs to collapse into your bed.  They also provided access to the golf course, which would be a great way to spend the Friday afternoon before the wedding (provided you like to golf!)  The woman we spoke with through the Renaissance was super responsive and helpful, and was quick to respond to emails and questions.  We knew if that we went with the Renaissance, the staff was definitely going to be there for Mr. C and I and whatever we may need.

A con for the Renaissance was its location.  Haverhill is about 35-40 minutes from my parents house, putting the travel time from the church location around 30-35 minutes.  And although there were Club Rooms provided, they certainly would not be sufficient to satisfy our lodging needs for all our out of town guests.  Therefore, we would need to send people to the hotel in the center of Haverhill, about a 10 minute ride from the Golf Club.  It was also a little tough to find.  My mom and I, although not super familiar with Haverhill (ok, I don't think I had ever been there, but my Mom had been there to visit family members before), got lost, even though it was the middle of the day and light out.  So that was definitely a concern for us.

The next place we visited was The Barn at Gibbet Hill.  Having snuck in the building a few weekends before, it was nice to be able to tour The Barn with someone who worked with The Barn and had been involved in a number of weddings and other events at The Barn.  While we were there, since it was a rainy day, the staff was actually working hard to set up a ceremony space inside the barn, as a couple getting married there that day had planned to have their ceremony outdoors.  It was nice to see, although hectic, that the staff was definitely going to take care of us if for some reason we had to go with a contingency or backup plan.

The interior of the barn.  Photo credit Eric Limon Photography.

The main area in the barn (that includes an upstairs loft area) would be used for dinner and dancing, and the porch overlooking the hills and the farm would be used for the cocktail hour, provided the weather is warm enough.  Even if the weather is chilly, Gibbet Hill provides screens to pull down and heaters that can warm the porch 20 degrees.  So provided it's not (literally) freezing outside, we would be able to utilize the outside space. 

Location was also another problem at Gibbet Hill.  Although it isn't far from my family's house and the church ceremony, the best hotel options would be back near the church, so our guests would be doing a lot of driving that weekend.  The roads to and from are also dark, windy back roads, typical for this area, but I was concerned about any guests getting lost or drinking and driving after the reception.

Cost was another big deterrence.  The cost of Gibbet Hill was much higher than Mr. C and I anticipated, and there were certain requirements regarding minimum spent on food and beverage, and number of guests.  Timing was also limited, as Gibbet Hill often hosts two events in one day, and Mr. C and I would prefer to have the evening time.  There was an added fee if you book the venue for the entire day.

There weren't as many extras at Gibbet Hill, but everything I had read online prior to our visit had raved and raved about the food.  Gibbet Hill is a functioning farm, and focuses their catering on local, seasonal and fresh food, something that is important to Mr. C and I.

Next, Mom and I traveled up to New Hampshire and visited the Bedford Village Inn in Bedford, NH.  The BVI is, obviously, an Inn.  The BVI has both a beautiful exterior and interior.

Here's the main room.  Google for some better images that shows you the full length of the room.  Source.
The rooms in the inn over look the below into the main dining room.  While Mom and I were there, they were setting up for an event, and some guests were even starting to trickle in after someone's wedding.  We had the opportunity to explore some of the other rooms other than the main room, which had huge comfy looking chairs, fire places, and just made me want to snuggle up with a book and a cup of tea.

The grounds of the BVI were beautiful, too.  On the complex, there were other buildings including a restaurant, a shop, and other rooms and houses available to rent.  The main room was beautiful, with the giant window (which you can see in the photo above) overlooking those grounds.  It was a bit of a tight squeeze, fitting enough tables in there and leaving space for a dance floor.

Another part of booking BVI was that to hold your wedding in that main room, it was a requirement that you rent out all of the rooms within the main building of the inn, because as they are directly overlooking the main room, it would be loud and bothersome if other guests weren't part of our event.  The location (again!) wasn't ideal, about 45 minutes away from the church ceremony, but hopefully all of our guests would be staying on site, which would mean the only time that guests would have to drive would be after the church ceremony.  Price was also a concern here.  The rooms were pricier than we were planning on, especially with so many of our guests staying here, but also if not all the inner rooms were booked, Mr. C and I would be responsible for those costs.

But it was such a beautiful space, and the packages available provided a wide range of options for extras, food, and beverage options that Mr. C and I really liked.

After looking at each of these places in person, taking plenty of personal photos (which I can't seem to find anywhere to share with you!  So weird!) and talking with Mr. C, I was really torn between two of the venues.  Mr. C and I made a spread sheet with all the information we had gathered from each of the venues, comparing prices for certain dishes, minimum number of guests, cost of bar packages, and any extras that were included.  We attempted to figure out approximate costs, including fees and gratuity.

Stay tuned to find out which venue we went with, and what sold us on it.

...which is sort of a silly thing to say, since I've made it clear on here before where we are holding our venue, but just pretend that you are anxiously awaiting to find out!


  1. I am indeed anxiously awaiting the verdict! I want to know what the tipping point was.

  2. I'm so glad you found a place! They all sound wonderful but I have NOOOO idea which one you picked ;).

  3. Haha - you guys are good sports :)