Google+Emily Plans a Wedding: The Venues! - Southern Weddings

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Hello, ladies + gents! You’ve waited patiently enough: I’m back with another wedding planning update! This time I thought I’d tell you about our ceremony and reception locations.

Contrary to popular belief, I was not the girl who had her wedding planned down to the last detail years in advance (I love weddings in general, not my wedding, specifically!). In fact, there were always just two things I knew:

1. I wanted to be married in September.
2. I wanted to be married in Connecticut.

Happily, John enjoys the month of September, as well, and he just so happens to also hail from the fine state of Connecticut.

Though it took weeks of frantic searching to find a reception venue (more on that below), our ceremony spot came together quite easily. We knew we wanted to be married in a church, and we knew we wanted our pastor from North Carolina to be able to lead the service. We ruled out both of our childhood churches fairly quickly (mine doesn’t have a center aisle, his is not the most scenic, and neither of us are that connected to the current pastors), which left one obvious answer: the Memorial Chapel at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London.

A few reasons why we love the CGA Chapel:

1. The Chapel welcomes visiting clergy, meaning there were very few obstacles to the pastor from our church in North Carolina performing the service.
2. It’s in a spot central to many of the reception locations we were considering, and only about 15 minutes away from the location we finally landed on.
3. My Dad is retired Coast Guard and taught at the Academy for 25+ years, so I have very happy memories associated with the base.
4. It is gorgeous!

Love that blue and all that gorgeous light!

With our ceremony spot secured, we put our heads back down and plowed on with the reception venue search. Ready for another list? Here’s what we were looking for:

1. A spot that was scenic, by the water, and able to be tented.
2. A venue without excessive restrictions or requirements (including but not limited to noise ordinances, lists of vendors from which you’re required to choose, and overly restrictive time schedules).
3. Somewhere that was not terribly expensive. Since we planned to tent and knew our “infrastructure” costs would not end with the site fee, we didn’t want to pay excessively for just a pretty spot of land.

WELL. I think it’s safe to say that we looked at most typical venues in southeastern Connecticut, and some atypical ones as well. Harkness, the Branford House, Jonathan Edwards Winery, Saltwater Farm, the Inn at Mystic, Florence Griswold, the Mystic Seaport, Lower Farm… oh yes, we looked at them all and then some, and came up empty, whether because of cost, space, date availability, or a combination thereof. (If you’re planning a wedding in Connecticut and are interested in all the details, you can check out the posts I wrote on my personal blog here + here.)

Yes, friends, we finally got so desperate that John literally sat down and began scrolling along the Connecticut coastline in Google Maps, calling out “Here’s a piece of lawn! Here’s a piece of lawn!” And you know what? It actually worked! One of the pieces of lawn he stumbled upon happened to be the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and that, my dears, is where we will be holding our reception. In their Sunken Garden, to be specific. I had never once considered this venue before John found it, but now I can’t imagined celebrating anywhere else!

Pictures? Of course! Here’s the stone wall of the garden, with water view beyond:

Keep in mind that poor Connecticut suffered serious damage from Ms Irene a week or so before these photos were taken, so hopefully all these trees will have leaves next year!

Below: The view of the garden from one corner. There will be mowed grass and a tent here next September!

Next door to the garden is the porch of the Yellow House, where we might hold cocktail hour (minus the picnic tables, obvs).

Here’s the view from down below, looking back up toward the house and garden.

Stick a softly glowing Sperry tent in there and you’ll have our wedding. Maybe something like this?

So there you have it: our ceremony and reception venues! What do you think?

Tell me: Did you have a hard time finding your spots to celebrate, or was it the easiest part of the whole process?

Up next: I think maybe we should talk about my first two dress shopping trips — what do you think? They were pretty fun!

In case you missed a post…
I introduce the happy couple

All photos personal except final, which is from the Sperry website

emily Written with love by Emily
20 Comments
  1. avatar Whitney reply

    We had too many venues that we liked so we decided to only visit 4 because it became to overwhelming. Two came out as our favorite and then by the end it was what felt more like us as a couple and where can we see ourselves saying “I Do!” and dancing all night long with our family and friends. Your venue is beautiful Emily! Congrats :)

    • avatar Emily reply

      Sounds perfect, Whitney! We actually didn’t visit a single venue in person (though I had been to many of the ones we considered over the course of my life, living in the area). I’m so glad we loved our reception spot once we actually saw it in person! :)

  2. avatar Laurien reply

    Beautiful! Can’t wait to see the rest : )

  3. avatar Madelynne Miller reply

    I spotted the venue we chose online – I was out of town and sent my parents there to check it out. They called me back and said, this is your venue. I put my faith and trust in them and God, and let them sign the contract before I even saw it in person! When I saw it, I knew they were right. An art gallery in an old factory-like building in downtown Birmingham. Check out the link to see a reception there – http://www.elizabethannedesigns.com/blog/2010/03/03/real-weddings-tessa-blake/

  4. avatar Amanda reply

    Congrats on finding your venue! It’s definitely such an exciting time and you realize that, you’re getting married there!! CRAZY! My wedding is next November in Raleigh and the reception venue I picked happen to be because I saw Megan and Steven’s wedding on HERE at the stockroom and fell in LOVE! I wanted the Cotton Room or Bay 7 in Durham but they were a little pricey and as soon as I saw the wedding in April I emailed immediately to find out the pricing even though I wasn’t engaged yet! Luckily I got engaged on July 6th! Whew!

    But as for dress shopping.. don’t get me started. It almost felt like I would never find the one… It was daunting! How do you choose one when you can barely choose what to wear in the morning?! AH! GOOD LUCK and best wishes! I’m sure you’ll be b-e-a-utiful! P.S. Nitsa’s is amazing and Alexia’s in Cary! ;)

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Amanda! SO glad you found the Stockroom through SW!! Megan is actually a good friend of mine, and I know she was very happy with it! Also, have heard great things about Nitsa’s and Alexia’s, and I think my Mom and I will be heading to Nitsa’s next month!

  5. avatar Kelly reply

    Oooh ooh! I love it! Those tents are divine. And the ext. of the church is my favorite!! Good choices! And yes, please tell us about your dress adventures next!!!!!

  6. avatar Emily Plans a Wedding: Our Photographer! « Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] do? :) Who will be photographing your wedding? P.S. In case you missed a post: The main characters Where we’re getting married Something for the bride to wear xo Emily October 19, 2011 | view Emily's blog 10 […]

  7. avatar Emily Plans a Wedding: Bridesmaid Style « Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] price to ask your ‘maids to spend! P.S. In case you missed a post… The main characters Where we’re getting married I go dress shopping We choose a photographer xo Emily November 2, 2011 | view Emily's blog […]

  8. avatar Emily Plans a Wedding: Big Rentals « Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] No, today I wanted to talk about the big blocks – the big rentals. As you may recall from one of my first posts, our reception is being held outdoors. The tent will be in the Sunken Garden of The O’Neill, […]

  9. avatar Lauren reply

    I love the Sperry tent, wow! I’ve been engaged for four months now and I’m beginning to panic over selecting a venue and finally having our date set. My fiancee and I live down in Atlanta, GA and both of our families are up in Michigan, Metro Detroit to be exact. I did go and venue hunt during the holidays, ten sites to be exact and I just feel lost. Not one captures my heart as I had hoped for. Some of the pricing was beyond our means and the other places looked very tired. I’m really leaning towards a tent as well but where to put it is the problem. I’m a bit frightened by the DIY process but it feels like that’s the only way to get exactly what you want in your venue. Am I the only one with this problem? Oh and our guest count is between 275 an 300 :) that can really make things difficult. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Lauren! I’m so sorry to hear about your venue troubles, but if it makes you feel any better, I think a lot of brides are in the same boat! If you’re interested in a nontraditional venue, I think it really helps to be planning in an area you’re very familiar with. In my experience, planning from scratch hasn’t been too difficult; you just have to be very realistic about the additional costs (lighting, generator, rentals, restrooms, tables, chairs, dance floor, etc., etc., etc.). I also thinks it’s almost a necessity to hire a planner to make sure everything is delivered, set up, and runs smoothly. I hope that helps a bit, and that you have a venue breakthrough soon!!

  10. avatar Laura Anne reply

    Would you consider 4 hrs at the reception sight to be too limited? I’ve found the perfect venue, but they limit the actual event to that length of time :-/

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Laura Anne! If 4 hours only includes the reception, and not the cocktail hour or ceremony, then I think that would be enough time! If you’re trying to squeeze in both a cocktail hour AND reception, then that might be a tough squeeze.

  11. avatar Kat reply

    Hi Emily!! I have loved reading all about your wedding :) I remember you wrote this post and came back to re-read because I just recently got engaged (insert a huge smile and a big YAYYY!). My fiance and I would love an outdoor reception and I adore Sperry tents. However, I’m nervous about implement weather. Are you planning your reception under the beautiful tent rain or shine? What if theres a huge thunderstorm? I know the tent will keep guest dry but I’m more worried about potential high wind or lightning. I’m a huge planner and implement weather is definitely a fear of mine. Any suggestions or wisdom you can pass on to a fellow bride-to-be?? Thanks so much :)

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Kat! Thank you so much for your kind words, and congratulations to you! We are planning to hold our reception under the tent rain or shine, which does make me a bit nervous. But one of the great things about Sperrys is that they all come with beautiful side flaps (clear on top, white on bottom), and there is a technician there throughout the reception, so if they need to come down immediately, it’s not an issue. Other than that, there’s not much we can do except pray for good weather! There will always be a certain amount of risk/uncertainty you have to accept if you’re going to use a tent, so it’s important to make sure you’re okay with that before you make the decision. Best of luck to you – I’m sure it will be beautiful either way!!

  12. avatar Emily Plans a Wedding: The Ceremony, Part I – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] next post, too! But let’s start at the beginning! For those of you who weren’t with us back in September, John and I will be saying our vows at the United States Coast Guard Memorial Chapel, on the […]

  13. avatar Emily Plans a Wedding: Reception Style – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] like blackberries and crab apples. For our ceremony, we’re keeping things super simple. Our chapel is absolutely gorgeous, in my opinion, and there’s really no need to dress it up. In fact, we […]

  14. avatar Emily Plans a Wedding: Something for the Bride to Wear – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] The top dress is by Augusta Jones, and the bottom is the “Melina” by Amsale. I don’t think either is “the one,” but they are awfully pretty, aren’t they? Now with two shopping trips under my belt, my Mom is coming down to North Carolina for what will hopefully be a final weekend of dress shopping. We’re hoping to visit Nitsa’s in Winston-Salem (so I can try on my beloved Christos gowns!), as well as somewhere we can see Watters gowns. I also want to make sure we visit David’s Bridal (there’s one Oleg Cassini I think could be beautiful). So what do you think at this point, my friends? Do you have a favorite from the dresses I tried on? I would love to hear from you in the comments! Up next: I think it is time to talk about our PHOTOGRAPHER! P.S. In case you missed a post: The main characters Where we’re getting married […]

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