Get ready, this is going to be a long one…
One of the hardest decisions in planning a wedding is selecting your wedding venue. Even if you did grow up dreaming of that perfect place, how do you find it? Where do you find it? How do you make it within your budget?
You never think of those small details when you’re 7 years old dreaming about the place you are going to get married.
The search has not been easy. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania where most of my family still lives while my fiance is from Ireland with family scattered all over Europe. After school in Pennsylvania, we moved to San Francisco then after a year we decided that Boston was the next city for us. Just moving to Boston, we weren’t too familiar with the city and all of the unique venues. Luckily, being in the wedding industry, I was invited to events and able to see first hand how adaptable and creative the local hotels/restaurants/museums/etc could be.
Some key things that we had to keep in mind when choosing the right venue:
1.) LOCATION- the venue had to be accessible for both sides of our family- This includes a place that our guests would not have to drive to as many won’t be renting cars.
2.) DESIGN/LOOK- the venue needed to have the feel and ambiance that I looked for. It needed to feel intimate yet rich with creativity and wonderful lighting.
3.) COST- the venue couldn’t cost me more than $15,000- even that is pushing it. Yes, I do realize that I’m getting married in Boston.
So without further ado…the list of venues we considered:
1.) Oheka Castle
What an amazing (amazingly expensive) estate!
When I first started looking at venues, the sky was the limit. I was checking out everywhere and everything. When I found out the cost per person was between $350-450 I quickly ruled the Oheka Castle out. Maybe one day I will inherit lots of money and buy this New York heaven. Until then…Au revoir.
2.) Angel Orensanz Museum
I held onto this dream for roughly 5 months (before and after I was engaged.) I thought that this was THE place. I had done multiple inspiration boards on this museum as well as had over 200 photos of events that had taken place here. On a weekend trip to NYC we decided to check it out.
First off, we weren’t thrilled about the area. The “Bargain District” just doesn’t scream wedding to me. When we got there we had an appointment with the owner. After waiting around, we decided to call to see what was going on. Apparently, the owner was going to be gone for over an hour. We weren’t prepared to wait so we decided to peak into the room. Granted, we knew it wasn’t going to be nearly as dressed up as it was in these photos I coveted, but still…nothing to write home about. It was a bit tattered and creaky. With the rental fee of over $10,000 plus fees, the amount of money that we were going to have to put into just decorating this place was going to cost us thousands and thousands.
I still dream about the day that I can just go in to the Angel Orensanz Museum and just design something that is magical.
3.) The Crane Estate
There she was…my answer for my love of estates and rolling greens but on a more manageable scale! It had everything I wanted, outdoor space for a ceremony and room for a beautiful pristine white tent. I spoke to a lovely woman at the Castle Hill Estate but quickly found it that it was going to be more hassle than I wanted to deal with.
I would need to deal with an outside caterer, rent a tent, pay a rental fee and use only their vendors. I don’t think so. Plus, Castle Hill is located in beautiful Ipswich, MA. It would be a wonderful place for our out of town guests to visit but the closets hotels were 30 minutes away and how would they get there? Good bye Castle Hill.
4.) The Boston Public Library
What a gem in Boston! The escalated pillars, unique architecture, and outdoor courtyard. Wow! I heard that the Boston Public Library only holds 1-3 weddings a year so I was on the phone very quickly. I left a message around Thanksgiving time and to this day, I have yet to hear back. Damn.
I spoke to a Bride a month ago and she too was looking into the Boston Public Library. They quoted her over a $200 per person price plus rental…yadda yadda yadda.
5.) The Boston Harbor Hotel
I admit, I was completely against using hotels. I had been in too many, worked in hotels and to be honest, the magic behind having a wedding a hotel was gone for me. After I came to my senses to focus my search to more of the Boston area, I decided to first begin with The Boston Harbor Hotel.
This luxury property was beautiful. It offered waterfront views, excellent service and a reputation to wonderful quality of food. Maybe this wasn’t like all of the typical hotels I had been to before.
After meeting with one of the catering managers and talking to her about some of the things we were looking for, she was able to quote a $200 per person price which also included an open hosted bar for the entire evening. This was huge for us especially since my fiance’s family is from Ireland- no explanation needed.
The catering manager sent some amazing photos of weddings that they had had there and I feel in love. I quickly became engrossed in the idea of hosting our wedding there.
If we had 100 guests or so, that would still be around $20,000 ++ just for the food. I tried thinking of ways that I could skim down on the budget. I contacted them how much it would be if we did only beer and wine instead of a full bar. From here I found out that I had a total new contact person and that they actually can’t do a hosted bar per person price and that the $200 per person is just an approximate range. Knowing that the bar would be busy all night, this was not going to cut it. That was the breaking point for me. Soon I realized that every photo they sent me was with all rented chairs, linens, tables, decor, etc. This was going to cost me an arm and a leg to recreate that look. No thank you. Boston Harbor was off the list.
6.) The Langham Hotel Boston
This has been by far the most flexible in prices out of all the hotels we looked at. The catering managers were great and always there to help. My fiance loved this place which I was very surprised about.
Before visiting the Langham Boston, I saw the photo pictured above and envisioned floor to celing windows, modern lines, and crisp citrus colors. My advice to everyone is to try not to fall in love with a venue before you see it.
When we went to visit the ballrooms, it was not what I pictured. Every ballroom had a different look and didn’t have a consistent flow. I went back to visit when they were set up for a wedding to see if the look came together but atlas, no luck.
They just opened the new BOND bar. If I could’ve had my wedding in the bar/restaurant, I would’ve signed a contract that day. Bond had red crushed velvet curtains, crystal clear chandeliers and high ceilings. It wasn’t too classic or too modern. I asked about renting it out but I guess they don’t allow it. Too bad.
7.) Hotel Marlowe
Hotel Marlowe is located in Cambridge but still very easy for our guests to get to. I had high hopes for this hotel. After speaking to the Catering Manager and looking at the package, I thought it was a home run. This boutique hotel had style, charm but still very intimate. I loved everything from the lobby, the rooms, the food and the foyer…except for the ballroom. It lacked in character and felt very convention like. The ceiling height was much lower than I pictured and the lighting wasn’t the best. I must say, the food & beverage minimum for this hotel was the lowest ($12,000-$20,000.)
8.) The Liberty Hotel
Boy do I love this hotel. I was here once for an event when I first moved to Boston. I fell in love with the Asian influenced lobby and the open feel. Yes, it used to be a jail but that didn’t turn me off. They have an outside courtyard and one ballroom space. It was the same story as the Hotel Marlow. Everything was perfect but the ballroom. The colors in the ballroom were a orange/yellow tone with dark brown wood beams. It just wasn’t my style, plus being a luxury property, the price just didn’t fit in my budget.
I would definitely stay here or would have guests stay here!
By this time, I was feeling pretty defeated. Where else could I possibly look? I needed a place that had the ambiance, had the look I wanted and was located in the city yet was within my budget. Then it came to me. What about having a wedding reception in a restaurant?? Could I go nontraditional? Yes, I can!
9.) Mistral Restaurant
This is it! Although we haven’t signed a contract as of yet, Mistral was the one. There is a private dining room, Le Salon du Mistral. It has its own private entrance, floor to ceiling windows, a very French-Provence look and there was no rental fees and no food & beverage minimum. It only seats 60 guests but that will definitely help with scaling down the guest list and making it a more intimate night with exquiste food.
I have some big ideas for Le Salon du Mistral and can’t wait to share them with you.
How long did it take you and what were the key factors in selecting your perfect venue?