Marriage and Lisa Marie: The Venue, Part 1

It’s a church ceremony for Lisa Marie and Andrew. But where’s the party?

The venues for the ceremony and reception truly dictate the atmosphere of the wedding, so this is a huge decision that must be made early on in the planning. Religion certainly determines some of the options available for an engaged couple, a fact I found out when I approached my priest. Reading a booklet on Catholic marriage, I quickly discovered that it’s mandated that we host our ceremony in a church. Andrew and I were both raised Catholic, and we wanted a religious ceremony, so the wedding would have to be in a church. But after the ceremony, where’s the party?

Andrew was pretty clear that he wanted to get involved in only some of the wedding-related plans, but the venue was definitely one of his keen interests. Most of our guests will be traveling from out of town, so we wanted to present them with something unique, maybe something that represents Washington, but most important, something that would be worth their travel. As an Internet connoisseur, Andrew began searching for affordable reception sites while I searched the wedding message boards for inspiration.

In my mind, the perfect reception venue is outdoors, but given my personality, an outdoor venue would make me too nervous. I’d go crazy wondering if it was going to rain on our wedding day, and if it did, I would have to settle for an indoor space that wasn’t what we really wanted. So I knew I didn’t want to explore outdoor locations, even though that’s the setting I’ve always pictured for my dream wedding.

Our church is located near Mount Vernon in Alexandria, so we began our venue search in that vicinity. We toured several different options and found many lovely places that fit our budget and guest count. But we found a common thread with all of these options: They focus on the historical elements of the building, the grounds, and the entire environment. Andrew and I consider ourselves modern, and envisioning our reception servers in Colonial garb really didn’t work for us. We wanted something that felt like us, and these historical sites felt like a high-school history class we didn’t want to revisit.

We then began touring country-club ballrooms and wedding-reception halls, thinking that one of them would feel more modern and comfortable for us. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. In the past I’ve heard reception halls described as “wedding factories,” and upon entering some of these places I instantly understood the expression. Everything appeared how a wedding was supposed to be; there weren’t any quirky decorations or surprising menu items—they were all cookie-cutter bland. These places were beautiful, but they lacked character, and if there’s one thing Andrew and I possess, it’s character. I was beginning to get really frustrated with the situation. I felt we had exhausted our options in the area and were going to have to settle for something that didn’t feel perfect. When are we going to find the perfect place?


Lisa Marie, a local bride-to-be, writes every Friday about planning her wedding, which will be in Washington in July. To follow her adventures from the beginning, click here.

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