I feel like a big, fat fraud writing this because I’m fairly certain I only found my wedding venue by chance. Xavier and I have been engaged for one year, and we’re just now setting a date because it took forever to get our butts in gear (one more item off of my 101 in 1001 list!). Planning a Tampa, Florida wedding from Denver, Colorado was daunting, to say the least, but with the help of family and friends (I love you!), we’re making it happen.
Do as much as you can online
I knew I would need to book my venue sight unseen. Terrifying, right? First thing I did was hit up my BFF, The Internet, to do a little recon.
Venues are often guarded when it comes to sharing prices openly online, many vendors will adjust pricing based on the size of the guest list or time of year, but you never know what you’ll find until you look. Many of the community centers, garden clubs and women’s clubs I looked at had rates sheets online. When you search venues on The Knot, you can narrow down your results by dollar sign ($ least expensive, $$$$ most expensive) and that can help point you in the right direction.
Pricing aside, you can find at least dozens of pictures and reviews. The forums at Weddingbee were incredibly helpful. When I did a basic search of “Tampa” I found other budget brides seeking the same info I was after.
Pinterest has been an endless source of inspiration for decor, color schemes and the like, but venue searching? Not so much. Instead, I used Pinterest to keep myself organized by creating boards for everything from Tampa Venues to Bridesmaids Gifts.
Broaden your search
There’s so much information out there, it’s intimidating. I started at The Knot, not knowing that there are a BAJILLION (yes, precisely one bajillion) other resources. Wedding Wire has been hands down my favorite site, super easy to navigate and their budget tool was easy to work with. I ultimately built my own budget spreadsheet in Numbers because I like to have ultimate control (surprise?), but it was a great place to start.
The profile of the venue I chose on The Knot paled in comparison to their profile on Wedding Wire, which is covered in dozen and dozens of photographs, so it doesn’t hurt to look in more than one place.
Get on the phone
I felt like some of the venue coordinators didn’t take my request seriously because I was planning long-distance. Either that, or they didn’t want to be bothered with an out-of-state bride. Either way, I had a very difficult time getting some people to return my requests via email, so talking to a real person helped me get the info I needed a LOT faster. Time is money.
Ask your friends
This is how I finally found my venue! On Facebook I saw a friend posted some photos of her ceremony at Seminole Heights Garden Club, and I recognized it from my research on Wedding Wire. I sent her a message and got the details, and while I was at it I got the scoop on her Ybor reception venue as well. I’m quite happy I did, because the 1930 Grande Room in Ybor City is where I’ll have my ceremony AND reception. BOOM.
Enlist friends and family
Did I mention it was terrifying to book my wedding venue without ever seeing it in person? Because it was. Luckily, my Aunt Alison and cousin Grace were amazing, superfantabulous rockstars and did the legwork for me. The was one hotel I was considering as a moderately priced ceremony option, but one call from them set me straight.
Alison: “Hey, we wanted to tell you what we thought of the venue. I’ll let Grace go first.”
And that was that!
After I spoke with the 1930 Grande Room on the phone and worked out a few different quotes, my mom, my Aunt and Grace checked it out in person and gave me their stamp of approval. Phew!
Now that that’s over, I can just kick back for the next 10 months and relax, right? RIGHT? NO?! Oh. Damn. Oh well, looks like you’ll just have to suffer with me. Look forward to more wedding planning adventures!