James and I are WAY behind schedule in this whole wedding planning ordeal. According to the wedding planning gods, we should have had a venue locked down last month. We aren't even close to that yet. And it looks as if our wedding month is pushed up to September 30. That's fine by me. I made a list of about 10 places for James to call. He came through with one place, and here's what happened:
Our first stop on the venue "go-see" list I put together was the Potomac Point Winery in Stafford. It's only 5.1 miles from my house and would be super convenient, right? Well, unfortunately, we did not think it was the best spot to hold our wedding. Esthetically speaking, the winery is amazing, so photos aren't the issue. The outdoor ceremony location is not ideal to walk to in heels, and a beautiful outfit. They don't have any hard flooring down. You have to walk in the grass. Not only that, but the ceremony space is on grass too. There was no platform or cement patio on which to stand.
But before I jump into the outcome of our tour, let me tell you a bit about our experience. We drove up on a cool wet Sunday afternoon. I decided to broadcast from Periscope. (Our handle is J_Shaahn if you ever want to catch a broadcast.) James was being a ham as usual. He started singing about going to the chapel to get married. I shouted that we were not on our way to get married just yet! It was fun.
When we arrived at the winery:
First, we were greeted at the check-in area. The staff is friendly. You pass a bar where they hold wine tastings. We were invited by a staff member to stick around after the wedding tour to indulge in a wine tasting session. We smiled and made our way to the meeting area.
The tour began at 1:15 so we made sure we were there at 1. The tour began in the great Richland Ballroom which was beautiful. Spacious, elegant and full of light, both James and I fell in love with this space. There was a small bar right there in the ballroom and our guide and wedding coordinator, Chelsea, told us to choose a glass of cucumber-infused mineral water or white wine. James chose wine. I chose water. We looked around and noticed nine or ten other couples seated at several round tables in the room. Chelsea handed us a survey card and an informational packet that included a brochure, a catering price list and a copy of the Bride & Groom edition of the Washingtonian. (SWEET)
|Just a peek at the gorgeous bridal salon|
We then made our way to the basement and into the wine cellar or barrel room, as its more appropriately called. There were no windows down there and it smelled like wine barrels and wine. It wasn't an off-putting smell, but it wasn't exactly welcoming either. James said, "This is going downhill fast." I told him to chill out.
As the rest of the group trickled into the area, our guide extended her arm toward what looked to me like a cage of sorts. It was a room made up of iron bars. Yes, the door and the "walls" were made from bars. It reminded me of a book cage you sometimes see in public libraries. There was a large conference table in the middle of this room, which took up most of its space. Since there were no true walls (all the walls were made from bars) the room had no mirror. I was thinking, this couldn't be the changing room for the groom. So, I asked. "Is this the room for the groom?" The guide nodded, "Yes." I said, "There's no mirror, and its small and dark in there."
|The Barrel room where James is supposed to dress. Do you see those arches behind the barrels on the right? That's where he gets changed. There are bars everywhere. Sorry that I don't have a better picture. But you get the jist!|
She explained that most times, the men come partially dressed and don't need as much as the bride does. She said that there was a full bathroom next to the men's changing area with a full shower and everything. James looked at me. He mouthed "Going downhill..."
We were then shown a small conference area where small ceremonies and rehearsal dinners are often held. They had this cute Coyote Cave that I really liked. James didn't like it very much. But it was nice to me. The coyote cave got its name because of the pawprints a wayward coyote family left in the drying concrete when the winery foundations were first laid in 2007. I would totally have a dinner or party there!
The coyote cave had big wooden doors that opened out onto the vineyard. From our vantage point, we could see the winery and the grassy area where the outdoor weddings are performed. I immediately disliked it. I knew it wouldn't be the place for James and me to be married. For starters, the entire area was grassy. The walk from the Coyote Cave to the ceremony spot was too far to walk in heels on grass. James asked about putting down something to walk on and the tour guide told us they could put down a runner. That wouldn't do it for me. I would like something more firm to walk on. It's about a 150-yard trek. Maybe more than that. That's part of the reason we aren't getting married at James' parents' house! The grassy hilly terrain. It was almost the same at the winery! A hill of grass. Then the distance from the winery to the ceremony area was too far for our parents to walk. The winery does have a golf cart on hand for people with mobility issues, but at that point, James and I decided to just pass on Potomac Point.
|Too far to walk in grass in heels for me|
As we finished the tour up, it began to drizzle. We were ushered inside and ended up back at our starting point -- the great ballroom. We took our seats and listened to the final words of the coordinator. Although we had pretty much made our minds up, we decided to ask a few questions just to be sure the winery would not make our cut. You see, on the pricelist we were given earlier, there was a section for the price of a ceremony only wedding, which is what we were looking for. The breakdown stated that a reception is mandatory. My question was "What does that mean exactly?"
We had a to wait a few minutes to ask because the wedding coordinator went to each table to chat with everyone individually. James and I just made small talk with our neighbors while we waited. At one point, James pulled me into his lap. I told him I had a perfectly good chair to sit on, but he laughed and waved it off. He kissed me and said, "Oh Sha'ahn, everyone here is in love! It's okay to show it here." I looked around. He was right! Even the couple at our table would sneak and kiss each other here and there. I told him he was right and everyone was indeed in love in that room.
The wedding coordinator, Chelsea, sat next to us. We asked her about the date September 30. It was open! (Yay!) But no dates were available in October at all. (Boo!) I gave James my "I told you we should have started this process earlier" look. He gave me the, "Okay, you win" look. I smiled to myself. I asked about the reception-only caveat and she told me that we simply had to order some type of food service. Cocktails counted. That was cool. We planned on having a cocktail hour anyway.
After all questions were answered, we began to prepare to leave. The wedding coordinator stops us and says, "I almost forgot that we have a gift for you all," as she pointed to some gift bags that lined the back wall of the ballroom. I had noticed the bags when we arrived and thought we may be getting swag, but since she didn't say anything I figured maybe they were reserved for a different event. Good to know that we were getting swag. James walked over to retrieve a gift bag. He brought the bag over for us to look inside together. There was a blue box inside. The coordinator says right at the moment we are looking into the bag, "These are a gift from The Icing. Enjoy!" The Icing Cakes is the premier bakery in my small town. Everyone uses them for their wedding cake. I don't plan to have a cake. I prefer cupcakes or cakepops. But The Icing makes those things too.
We took a quick peek inside our box and found a lemon cupcake seated neatly next to a chocolate cupcake. We giggled and closed the box as we exited the winery. We were gonna tear that lemon cupcake up later!
We got into James' SUV. We sat there for a moment, both of us thinking the same thing. "Not the place for us." I spoke out loud first. "But I would have liked this to be the place, babe! It's so close to the house." James said he knows that was what I wanted but it just didn't suit us, picturesque though it was. And to be honest, it was too expensive not to have a better space for him to get ready. He really was not happy with that changing room. LOL We also agreed that we would arrange more than one go-see a day. We learned that it doesn't take longer than an hour to tour a facility and we need to get the party started!
James told me that he agrees a golf course may be our best bet. He had a couple contacts that he would check with during the week. We both were hungry, so we stopped at a local diner to eat and continue planning our wedding. James grabbed a notebook and asked me to jot down the list for him to take care of. His list included talking to his POCs about venues. We are toying around with getting married at Howard University too. He has some contacts there that may work for us. While at the diner, I decided to give our chocolate cupcake to the waitress
She did and ended up sharing it with some other staff members. It was a HUGE cupcake, definitely enough to go around.
Oh, and speaking of things going around, we are still looking at about 125-150 guests.
Im not sure where James plans on getting the money but I already contributed my portion for our ORIGINAL plans to have a SMALL ceremony. He's gonna have to come up with the difference!
After eating our food and solidifying tasks for the coming week, James and I felt really good. He is going to ask his sister to help us pull our day off. I have already gotten a professional wedding planner for the day of, but it's good to have a much free help as possible! Oh, I should mention that I showed James the colors I liked and he agreed they were fine. Here are the two finalists in my color palette decision. Maybe you can help us decide which one makes the cut. Im thinking of combining the two. So it would be Eggplant, dusty blues and grays with the pink and beige accents.
|Cranberry, dusty gray and blue, and beige|
|Eggplant, dusty blue pink and off-white (ignore that green and substitute the blue)|
I set up engagement photos for May 22. Hope to use them for Save the Dates. My goal is to have those sent out by June 15 and then the actual invites sent out by July 15. I know thats awfully close. I will try to push it up to April. I have a couple photos I can use for the save the date. Or maybe I could do an Evite... Ughhhh I need a place, but I also need a more solid headcount. I think I will make some Save the dates out of a pic we already have. That way we can get a better headcount. I'll ask James for the addresses this weekend. That will help us out a lot.
All for now! Thanks for reading. If you have suggestions, please comment below.