The Wedding Venue

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

via Swank Productions

via Swank Productions

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

Castle Hill Estate

Castle Hill 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

Boston Public Library

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

Boston Harbor Hotel

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

Langham Hotel

Langham Hotel

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

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

The Liberty Hotel

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

Le Salon du Mistral

Le Salon du Mistral

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?



Filed under Venue

11 responses to “The Wedding Venue

  1. Norah

    Hi Abby!

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a month now, and I really enjoy it!

    I, too, am recently engaged in Boston, and we have been considering Mistral for a small reception. I have yet to contact the restaurant, but was wondering if it would be possible to have the maximum number of guests and still have dancing.

    What are your plans for the space? I can’t wait to find out!

  2. @eggplant11- I’m glad you are enjoying Peaches By Plums!
    Mistral is such a wonderful venue for the unique reception. The maximum for the private dining room is 60 people (6 banquet round tables of 10). This is without a dance area. I suggest that if you do want a small area for dancing to have a max of 40 people. The room is set in a “L” shape.

    I envision a very Rustic, Vintage, Provence-Inspired Room. I am looking to put planters full of herbs and lavender with mason jars used as the candle holders all over the room. The soft glow of candle light is key for this room. I plan on placing a vintage bike for guests to pick up their bouquets of lavender place cards when they enter to make the room feel more natural.

    Let me know if you need any help designing the room! I’m starting my own event/floral design company 🙂


  3. Hi Abby –

    What a nice blog. You’ve certainly explored some of Boston’s most beautiful venues. I noticed that you’re missing music from your research. Please check our BPM can really rock a reception (but we do much more than rock, of course 😉

    Hope that your plans are clicking along well.
    Best wishes,
    Allison Caplin

  4. Anita


    I just stumbled upon your blog (what a gem) during my 1,787,392,739 attempt to find a suitable venue for my wedding in September 2010 in Boston. Looking to have roughly 200 guests I can’t seem to find a non-traditional venue (by that I mean non-hotel) that is within my budget and can accomodate the number of guest I need.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated…

    Bride in need of help!

  5. @Anita: My word of advice…have fun with it. I know how stressful it can be to find the perfect venue. Have you tried the local museums and colleges? They are so beautifully decorated (which will save on decor!) and unique.

    Also, when you are looking at venues, I would be upfront and honest with them about your budget. This will save time and energy in negotiations. Most people will work with you in creating something that works for you.

  6. Josie Jones

    Hi Abby,
    Bless your heart! You have done so much leg work so we don’t have too!
    I too am recently engaged and am also having a hard time finding something to fit budget and taste. My taste certainly exceeds my budget:) Your insight has been helpful! Good luck and be blessed!

  7. Hello!!

    I was just doing some searches on Weddings at the Boston Public Library and came across your blog. I just wanted to send a quick note to correct the information posted here. The Boston Public Library lifted years ago the 3-4 weddings per year rule although it is still very much out there. The Catered Affair is now the Exclusive Caterer and operate all event planning – We host and book Weddings year round now…and are slated to do over 100 in 2011. Clients do make mention they still read this online and wanted to reach out to you as I see this now here. Our website is being updated and our weddings and marketing will be seen in all the top magazines this winter. Thank you! Please let me know if you have any questions at all.

  8. Sarah Green

    Hi Abby,
    We are considering Mistral for our Fall, 2011 wedding as well. Can I ask where you are doing your ceremony – at the restaurant or offsite somewhere?


  9. wedding venue beside the beach is i think the best and looks very romantic :~-

  10. Great blog! I just photographed a wedding in the private room at Mistral and it was absolutely beautiful. The food was outstanding and the Mistral team were beyond amazing. One small note – the ceiling is a dark gray which can be a little challenging for the wedding photographer (a lot of photographers will bounce their flash off the ceiling) so worth mentioning this to photographers you’re meeting with to make sure they’re aware they’ll need to get creative with off-camera lighting etc

  11. 5th Ask to see the images from the wedding (start
    to finish). Other locations such as churches or halls that
    can be rented often request a monetary donation or to
    apply for a certificate. However, you are on a budget and don’t have a lot of money to spend for a professional wedding photographer.

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