Planning a Wedding- Venue Search and Tours

I knew when I got engaged, or let’s be honest as a little girl, I wanted to have a high level of control over my wedding.  I am fortunate enough to have great parents who wanted us to have our dream wedding (realistically speaking… they are retired teachers after all).  I am a deal hunter so I did a LOT to save money throughout the process, from “crafting” to spending hours (and hours, and hours…) shopping around for vendors, gifts, and items for the ceremony and reception.

The wedding posts will be coming weekly will go through different aspects, starting with planning, through rehearsal, wedding and honeymoon and everything in between.

The Venue:

Kyle and I knew we wanted to get married in the Fall (my favorite time of year) and didn’t want to wait over a year to be husband and wife.  We started shopping for venues in January, which in a popular area like Charlotte, is a bit late to be getting in the game, especially if you want a wedding on a Saturday evening.

I emailed countless places within a 50 mile radius that appealed to me (and Kyle).  We didn’t want to have anything too cookie-cutter or traditional. We liked unique, but wanted something that could be used to having important events (like weddings) so we could avoid confusion and things could go as smoothly as possible. I read review upon review on The Knot, Wedding Wire, Google, Yelp, etc. to ensure that we would have the best experience possible. 

Due to limited availability, we narrowed our choices to three places:


Separk Mansion

While this was near the top of my list, Kyle was a little less enthused about Separk Mansion.  I loved the unique floors and fixtures of this venue in Gastonia (about a half hour from Charlotte’s city center). I have a strong feeling that fate intervened to prevent us from actually touring this location.  Our initial tour had to be cancelled due to my mother in law’s mom passing away unexpectedly.  We rescheduled to tour after we went to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.  Kyle and I ended up going to see the Mansion before our other tour just to look at the outside.  I knew I wanted the option of an outdoor ceremony.  While this location offered it, looking at the outside, I couldn’t imagine it for myself.  It was more like a yard than a true ceremony site, and it left me overwhelmed.  The parking lot also seemed small.  Since we are relatively isolated from our friends and family (primarily in NJ, MD, and FL), we knew we needed more room for cars to safely park off the street.  I still clung to the beautiful images and glowing reviews so were still planning to tour after we finished at the Gardens (especially since they had some great dates available)…


Alexander Homestead-

Looking at pictures, I couldn’t put them all together to “understand” Alexander Homestead until we saw it in person.  Was it a house? Barn? Garden? This Charlotte venue was elegantly charming.  I loved the old house, garden ceremony site, and barn reception area.  They were reasonable price-wise, all-inclusive, and willing to accommodate my vision.  We really loved this venue.  There were a couple little things that nagged us when we were trying to make a final decision.  We kept saying “we like it, but…” which isn’t necessarily what you want for your dream wedding.  Our hang-ups included- rain contingency plan was cramped for the number of people we were expecting and the chance for rain and unpredictable temperatures, the reception site was a beautiful barn (which wasn’t really what we had in mind for our “theme”), beer/wine only (I come from a large Irish family… need I say more? Lol), we wouldn’t necessarily be able to try the menu for the food (that was a big one), and lastly, while the offer to customize was there, most of what we would have would have been picked out from a binder (centerpieces, bouquets, etc.) and I wanted more than that.  I would recommend this to anyone looking at venues in the Charlotte area, though!  It is so lovely and it would be perfect for the right wedding!

Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens-

Christi Falls Photography
We have quite the story with the DSBG.  I emailed them and was told to schedule a tour for the location in Belmont (a little over a half hour from Charlotte’s center) and that would be in about three weeks.  I was warned that there was only one Saturday evening available for the venue (though they had daytime slots available- which happens while the gardens are open to the public) on October 15.  Kyle and I talked it over, but I knew that I really needed to see the place in person before I made a decision about booking.  We felt that if it was meant to be, it would still be available when we toured.  Less than four days later, we got an email that the date was gone.  They only had Friday evenings left for the entire fall season. We talked it over and decided to still go tour the gardens.  The day of our tour came and we absolutely loved it.  They had various special areas that could be used for ceremony, reception, cocktail hour, etc. and plenty of options to customize.  With the exception of catering and equipment rentals (which I will get to soon), we could pick our own vendors for everything from flowers to photographers.  We knew that this would be the perfect place for us to get married.  We asked about potential date availability and got the best news.  Our guide informed us that the person who booked October 15 had cancelled due to a music festival taking place at the gardens which would push any wedding that day back a half hour. We JUMPED on it and had our date and venue!

All three places were different and would be great for anyone planning weddings that might not be the traditional church, hotel ballroom, etc.  We are so glad we got to see a mansion, home/country, and garden setting to make the best decision for us.

 My advice? Ask questions both to your spouse and of the venues! Do you want extra options for unpredictable weather? Do you want to be more hands on or hands off? Do you want to have an all inclusive venue or a la carte? What kind of menu (food and bar) options are available for the space? Do they have specific vendors that must be used? Does this fit our vision? Can we see ourselves getting married here? Is there enough room for everyone we want to include? Are there accommodations nearby for out of town guests? Do you want your ceremony and reception in the same place?

These are just a few questions to think about and ask when touring potential spaces. 


I was not compensated for this post in any way.  All opinions are completely my own.


Where did you get married?

How did you decide on a venue?

Did you get a venue based on your vision or get a vision based on your venue?


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