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September 03, 2008

"No Thank you... NEXT!!!!!"

That phrase has been a phrase that I've repeated many times on my search for the "perfect" venue. {Note, that perfect is a word used often in this industry as the day is supposed to be "perfect" and the bride should look "perfect" and every little last detail will be "perfect"... so when in Rome!}

In order for me us to find the "perfect" venue on a budget... well, let me give you a little bit of a background first. As indicated in the first post that officially started my blogging about my our wedding, I came to the realization that the only way to truly cut costs at a wedding is to some how cut the price of food and drinks. I came to this after playing math...

250 people at 100 per person for food/soda/wine/cake = 25,000
x 22% service fee = 5500
x 7.75% tax = 1937.50 (if held in OC and not LA)
For a grand total of 32437.50

For me, paying over 30k for just part of the reception is really not my idea of a budget... keeping in mind that this does not include the full open bar tab, decorations and much more...

So my our "perfect" venue would not include venues that provided its own caterer. I needed to find a place that would allow me to BYO caterer. Usually this also means BYO alcohol and (most of the time) bonded bartender. Another drastic cut in costs if you BYO alcohol, the perks keeping rolling in... And really in all of southern California, how hard could it be to find a venue that I we like that can accommodate my our needs. Well, apparently... it's pretty dang hard!!!

Here are my our criteria for my our "perfect" venue...
1. Accommodate a party of about 200-250
2. Allows outside caterers
3. Allows alcohol
4. Allows Saturday evening weddings to go past 9pm, even if the music has to be turned down a little.
5. Has separate space for each part of wedding - ceremony, cocktail hour and reception areas
6. Reasonable priced
7. Reasonably policies

My initial search led me to my Alma mater. I went to Scripps Women's College and it is known to have one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. There are a few sites to hold the ceremony and reception at Scripps. But the one i wanted was the Bowling Green Lawn with the 'Ms. America' steps that would make a beautiful backdrop...BUT, they don't allow for a dance floor to be put down on the lawn. So that was a policy that was not reasonable for my "perfect" venue, even if not an unreasonable policy in an of itself.

After scouring the Internet for over a month, I decided that with the help of Paola (My WC) that my 7/4 visit would include a day set aside to see some sites in person. Let me tell you how important it is to see venues in person. And the luxury of really just looking around while Paola asked all the questions really helped me focus on things I did or didn't like. After spending one WHOLE day (9:30 am until 6:pm) looking at venues (Click here to read that post), we were exhausted and I was a little frustrated. I was able to cross a few places straight off my list and walked away the Camarillo Ranch and LA Rivers Garden Center as my two best options for what I wanted... but I wasn't completely happy. I absolutely loved Camarillo Ranch - but it was in Camarillo which is not the geographical area i wanted. So I was still on the prowl.

The hardest thing about my search besides the limited amount of venues that are open to a BYO caterer without additional fees was that my party size was too big. Of the long list of venues i had on my radar, most didn't allow for more than 150 people. There are so many nice sites with that capacity limit, which was so frustrating. And yet again, my party size was an issue. However, the party size was something that couldn't be changed (as is, we cut it down to 250... huge improvement)... so I'm still looking, with one venue in mind as probably the "perfect" venue for me but for now they won't let me book until I'm only 12 months out... (I feel like I'm getting punished for wanting to plan ahead).

So whereas my one friend who's in the researching phase has gotten a very good idea of a few narrowed down choices, Ms. BBQ having her venue picked with the Puerta Vallerta destination wedding, and another good friend who got engaged less than a month ago finding their venue site last week... I'm we're 5 months into my our engagement (tomorrow) with no concrete decisions made... and I feel like no other planning can really occur until i we get my venue set...and the frustration is starting to sink in!
Any one else out there having venue finding problems? What factors make up your "perfect" wedding venue? What are your deal breakers (Port o potty's, no bride's room, early end times, no dance floor)? Any suggestions for a venue blocked bride like myself?


  1. i suggest you get married in vegas.

  2. Not surprisingly, we did think about Vegas... However, aside from my mom not being too thrilled with the idea, it really wasn't any cheaper unless we were actually eloping. One wedding we did attend at the Bellagio was gorgeous and amazing... so i def love Vegas weddings!!

  3. This might help you out a little: Wedding Spreadsheet and you can add to it if you like. Some spots that I have found that are budget and do BYO and allow more than 150 people are Clarke Estate (that is where we booked), Craven Estate, Bell Tower, Rancho Sol Del Pacifico, PMCA, Pasadena Museum of History, Gusti, and some others. If you want some more information, send me some more details on what you are looking for because I have looked at almost every single place in LA. Good Luck!

  4. Girl, I had a hard time here too. It took us 7 months of hunting up and down the coast as far as Monterey and Mexico to find the "perfect place". On our budget and with our "wants" it was really a long search, but in the end - you'll find the PERFECT place! The minute I stopped looking, it fell into our lap.

    That said, I can help if you want... I have been around the block, so let me know if you want some info :)
    Good luck!

  5. We had a hard time finding our venue too in Dallas. We don't have a teeny budget but it's not big either. I just wanted a simple outdoor ceremony and reception that was affordable and low-hassle. But noooo, you wouldn't imagine the cost on a garden venue and all the restrictions, no rain alternatives at most, the list goes on. We finally settled on a historic home that was so accomodating. It normally wouldn't have been my first pick and was slightly over our budget but all my requirements were there and antique home was definitely our style and i love the staff. So you never know, something on the bottom of your list may come together to be the one, so don't count anything out! I think I'm also opposite of you in that halfway through our search i realized that an all-inclusive place would be about the same cost and more stress-free than a place that was not. Paying for and coordinating all the necessary rentals would be very difficult. Keep that in mind and check on rental pricing on that stuff too!

  6. we had the opposite, i found an all-inclusive site and booked on the spot. What made this easy? Having it on off-season date and day - Nov and on a Sunday AND having a smaller guestlist.

    Trip your guest list + be flexible on the day.


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