Choosing a location for our wedding and reception was certainly an evolution. This most likely places us in the majority category, as most do not find there venue on the very first try. I imagine this has a lot to do with "getting the feeling" and has very little to do with anything else. This is not to say that money and logistics do not play a role in the decision. In fact, our choice was based on influences from all three. Yet if you don't have the feeling of "this is it" then it's a lot harder to make a choice.
Even before we were officially engaged, Nate and I had picked out exactly where we wanted to say our vows and celebrate with family and friends. Nate is from a town called Asheville in western North Carolina. It's a very popular vacation city for people from all over the country. The mountain climate is so perfect for outdoor activities in the spring and fall. A fairly liberal minded town set in the very much republican south, Asheville is known for its amazing non-chain restuarants, numerous art galleries, drum circles and birkenstock wearing residents (don't believe me? look it up). Asheville is also very well known because of this place:
Nicknamed "America's Largest Home" the 250 room Biltmore Estate was built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt as a relaxing country home for entertaining and activities out on the grounds. He and his wife Cornelia, hosted guests from all around the world for weeks at a time. Nate was the lucky duck who actually had his prom at Biltmore, and although I was not bestowed that privelege ;) I have been there many times over the years and see something new everytime I go. Today, the estate grounds include a winery, extensive gardens, shopping and restaurants located in the old stable yard, and a world class Inn boasting beautiful vistas of the Appalachian mountains. This brings us to Venue choice #1.
The Inn at Biltmore
hmm, when I think Inn I don't exactly think something like this sprawling french style chateau of a gem. Isn't it picturesque though? On a trip to Asheville following my college graduation, Nate and I made a stop at the inn because we heard it was really a great addition to the other attractions at the estate. Both of us had seen the main house many times before, so we thought it would be great to see something new. The decor on the inside was so similar to that of the house and had some beautiful ball rooms for events. There was plenty of light pouring in through all the windows and there was even a wedding going on in one of the rooms when we arrived. Not wanting to crash a wedding, we slipped out the side door and worked out way around to the back patio area.
The wide staircase on the back patio area was flanked by stacked stone pillars, which really made for a grand descent. The back of the Inn wasn't all that pretty, but it sure was big! I need to clarify that, at this moment, neither of us were looking at anything with wedding goggles (similar to beer goggles, but without the awkward hookup at the end of the night). In our minds, we were still far away from venue hunting and talk of weddings. Then we turned around and saw this.
Um, wow. . .Can't you just imagine it? The altar right in the middle with the breathtaking view of the mountains as the backdrop? The guest craning their heads to see as the bride descends the steps and makes her way through the grass. The soft breeze that carries with it smell of the mountains: laurel, moss, and pine. We didn't say a word to each other; we just looked at each other and new exactly what the other was thinking. This was the place that we wanted to commit to each other and pledge our love. How could it get any better? We both had connections to the mountains and to Biltmore and an outdoor wedding would be so so us.
As you can probably guess, with a name like Biltmore comes a price tag to match. It only took a few hours of preliminary research to discover that this mountain vista location was going to be far beyond our budget constraints. This was in the days before we had even established a budget, so when I say the price tag was high, I mean sitting on a cloud with the angels high.
The other big thing I noticed: I saw five brides the day we were there, FIVE, in one day. Several were out on the main lawn in front of the house getting their portraits taken. It was obvious they could see one another. This may be something that would not bother another bride in the slightest, but I came to the quick conclusion that I would be so upset if I saw another bride on my wedding day.
I was actually quite surprised to see the brides in the same place. You could see the planner standing in the wings for both of them. It was curious as to why the planner wasn't trying to keep the brides from seeing one another. Maybe no big deal for them? For me, it chips away at that glowing thought that the day is all about you and your new husband. I know that ultimately if this did happen, I would get over it, but I'll avoid the situation if possible. The idea of not seeing another bride on your wedding day can be a tall order in popular venues such as hotels and yes, even Biltmore. Sadly, for both reasons of budget and a desire for bridal monopoly, the dream of a wedding at Biltmore got shelved.
Not to be discouraged, the hunt continued! I have to give pause and credit to this moment of seeing this grassy lawn, because thinking back on it, this was when the desire to plan our wedding truly began.
Up next: moving the venue choices a little closer to home.
*Personal photos unless otherwise noted