Finding the Perfect Venue [And How to Transform a Venue into a Perfect Fit]

A couple of months ago two separate lovely Instagram followers (thank you @lexsturdy and @feliciaams21) asked me a couple of really wonderful questions about wedding venues, and it boiled down to this two-part question: "How do we find the perfect venue for us, and if we can't find one that is 'perfect' how do transform a venue to fit our vision?" And so today this blog post is devoted to covering the topic of "Finding the Perfect Venue" in totality, and how to transform a venue that might need some finessing to fit your vision!

 Carly Michelle Photography, The Wequassett Resort

Carly Michelle Photography, The Wequassett Resort

Perhaps the most daunting wedding planning task is finding the perfect venue for your wedding day. As a planner, I help my couples find their venue within one to two months of booking with Always Yours Events and I see firsthand how stressful it can be when there is so much emphasis on finding the perfect venue that checks everything on your list. Some of my brides have described it feeling as though you're sprinting towards a finish line, and you must find your venue with your ideal date and within your agreed upon budget range before another couple does. It can also be a little challenging to envision how your wedding will look in an empty space! But, with a few tips, a little creativity and visualization tricks that I have outlined here, you can find the perfect venue for your wedding day without the stress!

 Carly Michelle Photography, The Wequassett Resort

Carly Michelle Photography, The Wequassett Resort

A little side note -- For couples who are hosting at a private estate or home in a tent (as Sean and I are doing this September), you might be able to go ahead and skip through the next section of this blog post. However, take a peek at the second section entitled "Transforming a Venue Into a Perfect Fit."

Finding the Perfect Venue

I tell my clients the same thing at the beginning of the venue selection process: Set parameters, do your research, listen to your intuition and visit only 2-3 venues at a time. The key is to prevent overwhelm, so try not to visit every single venue you've come across in your search. It is most likely that there are 2-3 truly viable venues that you LOVE for your wedding!

To find your perfect venue, follow these steps I follow myself with my couples when booking their wedding venues:

1. Set parameters. Create criteria that your venue will eventually need to meet. Answer these questions to create your venue criteria:

- How many guests will you need to be able to host at your venue?

- Ideally does your venue need to have a ceremony location, cocktail reception location, and dinner and dancing location?

- What are the most ideal dates for your wedding?

- Are their parking areas and restrooms on site? Does this matter to you?

- Is the venue close by to hotels and/or a town or city? Is this important to you?

- What is your total budget for the venue, catering and beverage itself? 

- What are some additional non-negotiables that your venue must have (ie: dinner and dancing in the same room, must have accommodations on site, etc)?

2. Research. Put together a list of 5-7 venues you are interested in with an aesthetic you love or you feel you can work with! My favorite resources for finding venues are the Venue Report and Style Me Pretty. Style Me Pretty's venue list includes vetted and highly rated venues with a gorgeous aesthetic. And for my brides out there looking for unique venues that are a little bit off the beaten path and outside the box, the Venue Report includes so many unique venues you might not have even thought of! Finally, the Knot is a good resource if you'd like something offering a more broad venue search. Get a little creative with this part as well -- look at venues such as greenhouses, vineyards and historic homes with an option to put up a tent!

3. Make Contact. Email each venue, and follow up with a phone call. Speak with a venue sales manager at each venue, and ask them to send over dates of availability (or check to see if your ideal dates are specifically available), a rate sheet AND sample proposal for your review.

4. Organize Your Thoughts. Sit down with all of your information and begin applying your parameters and venue criteria to each option. Does this venue have your ideal date? Can it hold your guest count? Can it accommodate all aspects of the day necessary (ie: ceremony, cocktail reception, dinner and dancing)? Is it close to nearby hotels where out of town guests will stay? Does fall within budget or very close to it? Can it accommodate all of your non-negotiables?

5. Refine. Which venue(s) meets ALL or almost all of your criteria? Which venues meet the least amount of your criteria? Make a list of the top 2-3 venues that are the best fit, and set the others aside. You can always visit the others later if your top 2-3 don't pan out. Schedule tours with your representatives for all of them, and take notes of what you love and what you don't love as you walk through. Try to visit all options in one day, or over the course of two days.

Tip: Ask any and every question that you can think of during your tour. No question is a silly one, and venue representatives want to answer these questions for you as fully as possible! Being the most educated when making the decision to book a venue will make it that much simpler.

6. Listen to Your Intuition. After your tours, sit down with your fiance and review the options, what you love and what you don't love. Listen to your knee-jerk reactions and intuition. There is most likely one (or two) that you feel the most excited about! If you're deciding between two venues, weigh the pros and cons, and visualize your wedding at the venue. I recommend asking yourself these two questions: Does this venue "feel" like us? Can I envision myself walking down the aisle at this venue or having my first dance at this venue?

Once that venue option just seems to "click" in your head and heart, call your venue sales rep and get your date locked in with a contract and deposit!

Transforming a Venue into a Perfect Fit

For some couples, they find venues that are almost perfect; the venue might be a very blank canvas where everything must be brought in OR the venue might have the right foundation but need some finesse. An example of this is an empty tent, where you have SO much blank space to work with. Another example of this is a venue with an aspect such as carpet you don't love. If you're reading this and feeling this way about your own venue, I know it can be difficult to visualize what can be done to transform your space to fit your vision. But do not fear, there is so much that can be done and ways to visualize to ease your worries!

When Working with a Very Blank Canvas: When you're working with a venue or tent that is very blank, the first thing I recommend doing is having your wedding planner (if having one), venue coordinator, or caterer provide you with an ideal floor plan of the space with your guest count. This will help you see your wedding from a bird's eye view and stop overwhelm in it's tracks! It's like decorating a room in your home -- if you can see all of the pieces outright that you must fit into the room, you can begin visualizing how to make it all fit well and then go about decorating and accessorizing it. Knowing where your dance floor, stage/dj booth, tables, chairs, bars and entryways are going to be allows you to see the space with all of its key components. Expanding your vision from here will be so much easier, less overwhelming and much more successful!

If you wish the venue had something a little more visually interesting, speak with your planner, coordinator or caterer about adding lighting such as chandeliers, add a photobooth, add a backdrop, add statement bars that are focal points or maybe a huge impressive head table. There are endless possibilities so do not be afraid to ASK! From there, start working with your wedding planner, coordinator or caterer piece by piece -- pick your lighting (maybe you want chandeliers or greenery on existing lighting), then select your table shape, then your chair style, then your linen style, then your place setting, then your centerpieces, then your bars and then your entryways (maybe you want flowers, draping or signage by the door for a grand entrance)? Work piece by piece, step back, look at it, finesse, repeat. 

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 Carly Michelle Photography

Carly Michelle Photography

When Your Venue Needs Finesse: When you're working with a venue that has elements you aren't completely in love with (ie: heavy drapes, patterned carpeting, colorful walls, ornate light fixtures that do not fit your aesthetic, very dim light, etc), my biggest piece of advice is this: bring in a professional creative vendor for a site visit. If you don't have a wedding planner, bring in your floral designer. Having a creative vendor "walk through" the space with you and your venue coordinator and share with you all the possibilities to "hide" something or transform it is one of my best kept secrets. Trust me on this one. A professional creative can take something you don't love and find ways to make it work within a design.

Something I experience regularly (often in hotel ballrooms) is that my couples don't love the wallpaper and carpeting in the reception space. Chat with your floral designer about her ideas, and then consider calling a local rental company and have them add floor to ceiling white gauzy draping around the room to transform the space into a romantic, luxurious, and airy space. This can also work if you don't like a carpet in a room -- drape the room and add a bit of uplighting to shadow the floor, which will draw your eyes upwards towards the draping and ceiling. Even draping the longest wall in the room can transform the space. And if budget wont allow for draping, feel free to skip the draping but keep your uplighting, adjust your centerpieces to be tall centerpieces on every table and maybe even add some floral or greenery to your overhead light fixtures to draw your guests' eyes up! I promise they will be looking at those impressive florals and ceilings over what is under their feet.

And there you have it! I know that is quite a bit of information to take in, but my hope with these posts is to cover topics as fully as possible and give you detailed responses to your biggest wedding planning questions. When it comes to selecting a venue, it can feel like a such a big decision to make. And I hope that this post will serve you well in finding a venue that is perfect for YOU so that you may celebrate this milestone day to the fullest. 

 Carly Michelle Photography

Carly Michelle Photography

And something quickly to remember before I bring this post to a close -- no matter where you, what color the walls are, what pattern the carpeting is, what the drapes look light, how high the ceilings are, what the light fixtures look like or what the weather is, the most important thing on your wedding day is that you are marrying the love of your life. No matter where you choose to say "I do" the constants are your partner at your side and the incredible marriage you are about to embark on. Wherever you are, it will be remarkable.

Until next week my friends!

xoxo, Keri

Photography by Carly Michelle Photography|| Planning + Design by Always Yours Events || Venue: The Wequassett Resort || Couple: Whitney Bischoff + Ricky Angel || Stationery by Amanda Day Rose || Floral by The Wild Dahlia || Hair by Jennifer Tawa || Makeup by Amanda McCarthy || Band: Boston Common Band || Videography by Brighter Lights Media || Dress by Audrey Grant || Bridesmaids Gowns from Brideside || Calligraphy by Design by Laney || Linens by La Tavola

Five Tips For a Gorgeous Rainy Wedding Day

It's the week of your wedding, and you've just opened your weather app to see that the forecast went from sunshine to showers for your Wedding Day. First, take a deep breath and try not to panic -- please know that everything will work out just fine, believe me. You've come to the right place, and this post is devoted to providing you with steps you can take to ensure that your Wedding Day is just as gorgeous and spectacular despite the rain's inconvenient RSVP.

As a wedding planner and designer based in New England, a region of the US where rain is always a possibility on any given day, I've had to execute a fair share of rain plans over the last nine years. In fact, in the Summer of 2016 alone AYE had to execute three rain plans! Since AYE's specialty is private estate and tented weddings, it's imperative that I create two plans for my couples from the very beginning: a main plan and a rain plan. To ensure that my couples' weddings are just as magical and gorgeous when rain strikes, I've put in place procedures to help a wedding plan adapt to an unfavorable forecast in the days leading up to the wedding. And today I'm sharing with you my top five rain plan tips for hosting a gorgeous wedding when Mother Nature isn't cooperating!

luxury chatham wedding and rainy cape cod wedding

1. Assess Your Umbrella Needs

As soon as you believe rain might show it's face on your Wedding Day, swiftly put that Amazon Prime subscription to work and purchase umbrellas for you, your bridal party and your guests. My biggest tip here is to purchase pretty, large and matching umbrellas for yourself and your bridal party. Dreamy portraits and formal photos can be created even in rainstorms with the right umbrellas! I highly recommend these Totes Clear Bubble Umbrellas (link below) for the bride, groom and bridal party! Or if you would like something solid, consider this classic and sophisticated option with a wooden handle (link below). 

For your guests, consider a smaller, compact umbrella or these white umbrellas (links below). Ask your wedding planner or a friend to place them in large woven baskets at the entrance to your ceremony, cocktail reception, dinner reception (and restrooms if they are accessed from outside) for easy access by all of your guests at all times. This hospitable gesture goes a long way in the eyes of your guests, and will keep them dry and comfortable throughout the evening.

Your Umbrella Shopping List:

For extra comfort, inquire with your rental company to add coat racks and hangers, and have your them placed at the front entrance to the venue or tent.

2. Reconsider Having a First Look

This is sometimes requires some convincing, but I promise you that it will save you quite a bit of anxiety and stress! I LOVE the tradition of the groom not seeing his bride until she walks down the aisle, but this beautiful practice doesn't allow for all formal photos to take place prior to the ceremony. While this might not be a concern on a sunny day, when rain clouds roll in your sunlight diminishes. As you head into the evening on your Wedding Day, it becomes a race to squeeze in all the photos on your list before the sun sets and light is completely lost. On a rainy afternoon/evening, visible sunset will not take place, you will skip over twilight and it will be darker earlier than usual. To streamline your day and ensure that you capture all those gorgeous photos of your family and bridal party, consider having a First Look followed by formal photos about 2 hours prior to the ceremony at a pretty, predetermined location such as an open and airy bridal suite, light filled covered patio, or an indoor space with lots of windows. 

luxury cape cod wedding and chatham beach and tennis club wedding

3. Find a Indoor Location for Ceremony, Cocktail Reception and Formal Photos

If you're getting married at a venue with an indoor space, moving any outdoor aspects of the day such as the ceremony and cocktail reception should be pretty painless -- call your wedding planner and venue coordinator 4-5 days prior to the wedding and request the relocation of these events indoors! If you're hosting a tented wedding, consider calling your tent company and adding an additional rain plan ceremony tent. Many tent companies will recommend you place a deposit on a rain plan ceremony tent upon booking the dinner tent, so you may already have one reserved and at the ready! Then relocate your outdoor cocktail reception to the dinner tent by moving the cocktail tables and placing them around the bars and dance floor in the dinner tent, which will encourage guests to continue mingling until first course is served!

To ensure your Formal Photos aren't compromised by the rain, I would highly recommend finding a light and airy indoor location that you can take pre-ceremony and post ceremony formal photos in. Call your planner and/or bridesmaids and exercise "divide and conquer" for this tip! Have each person call a local space within close proximity to your wedding venue where you can take newlywed photos and formal photos during the Wedding Day.  Look for museums, galleries, public pavilions, greenhouses, hotels, historic homes and even other wedding venues with lots of windows, natural light and simple decor. Some locations may require a minimal fee for wedding photography to take place. In this case I say that if you love the location and it's convenient, pay the fee -- it will be worth the peace of mind! Once you find your Formal Photo Location, update your timeline and contact your photographer as well as the bridal party members and family on the formal photos list and provide them with the address.

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4. Keep Your Vendors In the Loop

This step is key. If you don't have a wedding planner already handling this aspect, contact every vendor on your Wedding Vendor Team to let them know your rain plan, even if the changes are very minor. A simple quick phone call to each to chat through the flow of the day will keep everyone on the same page as well as address any questions ahead of time, and it will allow your vendors to adjust their own plans if need be. Keeping your team informed and working off the same plan as you are will set them up for success, and as a result keep the event seamless even in inclement weather.

5. Embrace the Rain

This final tip might be the most important one. Try not to let the rain dictate your emotions on your big day. Reframe your mind to see rain as "no big deal" and you will be much more likely to enjoy the celebration from start to finish. One of my most magical weddings to date took place in the rain -- with the pitter patter of raindrops overhead the candlelit reception under a clear top tent felt like a little piece of romantic heaven to guests! Some of the BEST newlywed photos have been those taken in rain. When the ceremony is over, grab your pretty umbrellas, hold onto your other half and head for the outdoors for a few minutes with your photographer. Laugh, smile, dance, hug and kiss for some stunning and epic photos of you as newlyweds in the rain.

gorgeous rainy day wedding on cape cod

Bonus Tip: Add Flowers

I couldn't resist adding just one more! Because many of my couples' host at least one part of their wedding outdoors, often times we are moving that piece of the day indoors. And when doing so, sometimes you need to bring the outside in to maintain the aesthetic and keep the design you've worked so hard to create in tact. Flowers can really help to transform a space into a romantic setting and add brightness to an indoor venue. Consider adding more blooms to your ceremony's flower arch to make it more impactful and "wow" guests as they walk into the ceremony space. Soften hard surfaces such as mantels and 

And there you have it! Friends, I hope this post has been helpful and calmed any nerves you might be having about the chance of inclement weather on your wedding day! For anyone who has experienced rain on their wedding day, I would love for you to comment below and share your umbrella photos with me! 

Until next time!

xo, Keri

Photography by Carly Michelle Photography

Newly Engaged? Here’s How to Start Planning Your Wedding

Hooray, Gorgeous! You're getting married. You've made the announcement, you’ve posted a photo of your beautiful ring on Instagram, and you’re receiving hundreds of phone calls, texts and Facebook notifications with sweet messages from your family and friends congratulating you! And already a curious relative has asked you, "so, when's the wedding?" Cue the planning anxiety. 

 Megan Braemore Photography

Megan Braemore Photography

To get you on the right track towards your big day, I have put together a short guide featuring the “First Six Wedding Planning Steps” to begin your wedding planning journey. And, if you're interested in a little more wedding assistance from Always Yours Events, read through to the bottom of the post for access to another planning tool from AYE!

At AYE, my intention during a couple’s initial consultation is to essentially start them off on the right foot, lay down a good foundation and, most importantly, prevent stress. Many of my brides tell me that the first thing they do after they get engaged is hop onto Google and Pinterest, beginning the endless search for venues, caterers, photographers, stationers, etc.  And every one of them says that within a few days, they are completely overwhelmed. So when a bride books with me, my goal is to skip the overwhelm and get her on the right track towards a gorgeous wedding. Below is my “First Six Wedding Planning Steps” guide, outlining touch points I use during my initial consultations to help my couples start from scratch.

 Megan Braemore Photography

Megan Braemore Photography

1. HAVE A LITTLE REVERIE

You’ve been dreaming about this day since you were seven, so don’t stop now! Have a little reverie about the aspects you hope to incorporate into your Wedding Day. Jot down these ideas and take a good look. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you will see the makings of a wedding style/theme starting to form. Farm tables, flower crowns and floral garland -- you might be dreaming of a botanical, rustic affair! Pink peonies, gold rimmed glassware, black and white striped linens -- you’re on the Kate Spade chic track!

2. THE “WHERE”

Do you have a general location in mind? Will you get married in your hometown? Or maybe your fiance’s hometown? What about where you spent the Summer as a child? Or are you are you dreaming about jetsetting for an intimate destination wedding in Bora Bora? You don’t have to specifically pick your venue at this point. Just hone in on your ideal location.

3. DEFINE YOUR BUDGET

I know, this is the scary conversation. But trust me, you want to do this now. This is going to allow you to set parameters, which, believe it or not, will actually make the journey easier and wedding-related decisions less daunting. If you haven’t already, speak with both sides of the family about whether or not they feel comfortable contributing to your Wedding Day budget. Then sit down together and come up with an estimated figure. Here is one of my favorite resources that will help you generate a budget: http://theeverylastdetail.com/first-things-first-setting-a-wedding-budget/

4. CREATE YOUR GUEST LIST

You’re thinking, “this is going to be tough” (cue Steve Martin in Father of the Bride ruthlessly cutting names from his daughter’s guest list). But it doesn’t have to be! Create your list with your fiancé by working from the core outwards. Start in this order: immediate family, close relatives (first aunts, uncles and cousins), best friends, distant relatives, family friends, work friends and colleagues. You can refine later, but at this point you will have a pretty good handle on your estimated guest count.

5. NARROW YOUR VENUE OPTIONS DOWN (THEN BOOK!)

Now take your dreams, general location, budget and guest count and do a little research. Go to review websites such as thevenuereport.com or theknot.com and review venues in your ideal location that will work with your guest count and overall wedding vision. Call all of your venue options and set up a time to chat with your venue representative about potential dates. Set up site visits with each venue that has availability. And once you find one that you love, consider booking immediately so the date you desire is 100% yours!

6. BOOK YOUR WEDDING PLANNER

This step can come before booking a venue OR after. Some brides book a wedding planner before reserving their venue, therefore their wedding planner will be very actively venue scouting with them. When looking for a wedding planner, look for experience, good recommendations and take a gander at his or her portfolio. Most importantly try to find someone that you connect with immediately. A personal connection with you planner will make the experience that much more enjoyable.

 Megan Braemore Photography

Megan Braemore Photography

And there you have it! AYE’s six "next steps" that will help you jumpstart the wedding planning journey and lay down a fantastic foundation for your the big day. I hope you found this guide helpful, and I hope you feel more confident moving forward with this very exciting experience! 

In the comments below, share with me ideas for posts you would like to see in the near future! And for more gorgeous wedding inspiration, design ideas, tips and tricks straight to your inbox each month, sign up for the AYE Monthly Newsletter here!

xoxo, Keri

Photography by Briana Moore Photography

Wedding Planning by Always Yours Events

Here's to You 2014! {A Year in Review}

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. And I hope somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
— Neil Gaiman

Dear 2014… I have to say, you were so good to me.

In 2014, an enormous dream came true. The dream of becoming an entrepreneur, small business owner and principal wedding planner at my own boutique wedding planning company finally became a reality. On January 1st, 2014, I started the new year off with this thought in mind: a year from now you will wish you had started today. This was my mantra throughout these past 365 days. With every single overwhelming decision, I kept my dream and end goal in mind. When I came to crossroads I thought to myself "a leap of faith will do me good." And as a result, Always Yours Events opened its doors this past July!

I have to say, 2014 will go down as one of the most prosperous years in my life. 

I hope you all can find the strength, faith and courage inside you to pursue your dreams in this beautiful year of 2015. And allow yourself to take that leap of faith! Au revoir 2014! Cheers to 2015!