Image: An Endless Pursuit from Julice & Steve’s DIY Picnic Wedding at Woodlawn Manor

Our guest blogger, Carolyn is back today to share with you her venue search for her DC area wedding! Carolyn shares not only the venues she was looking for but how she went about her search. As a reminder to all my readers, my favorite resource for venue searching in the DC area is Partyista! Take it away Carolyn.

Searching for the Perfect Venue | by Carolyn Thombs

I am also a makeup artist and quite familiar with the wedding industry, however that has not made this as easy as I had originally thought.

What helped me in my search was researching places first and then having a list of questions for them when we visited the venues. Scheduling visits can be difficult but we were able to mostly knock it all out in one day. If someone doesn’t get back to you promptly give them a week, but after that kick them off of your list because who knows if that is how it will be while the planning is going on when time is of the essence. It is always good to mesh well with the manager of the property since you will be dealing with them quite a bit and you don’t want to be butting heads with them and having that turn you into a dreaded bride-zilla.

I was definitely stressed a bit in the beginning but, now I feel so relieved and ecstatic about this venue and know that my wedding is going to be so dreamy and everything I have ever wanted!!

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Since Jon and I got engaged, finding the perfect venue was one of the aspects about planning that I was the most stressed about. So of course, that is the first thing I wanted to get out of the way; though I am starting to see that finding the perfect caterer (delicious food and budget friendly) is going to be an even more painful headache to deal with. But more on that later….

I had quite a few limitations when looking for a venue for our wedding. I wanted to keep it somewhat close to my parents house so they wouldn’t have to dish more for travel costs and for some level of convenience for them and something budget friendly, not made of money here! I am cursed with always loving the more expensive item on any list out of any category, so many of my first glance choices had to be knocked off the list immediately. Other restrictions included a large enough location for a ceremony and reception that could fit over 175 people. Not as easy to find as I thought it would be. Most locations that I liked had a 150 limit. I have a large extended family and love them all, and quite a few friends between Jon and I as well as industry friends and family friends. Eeks! So many stipulations, I know, but I promise I am not the bridezilla type! At least I hope I am not…yet!

Image: Olde Silk Mill by Amber Kay Photo from A Modern Grey & Yellow Industrial Styled Shoot

The first venue we looked at was the Old Silk Mill in Fredericksburg, which honestly I thought was going to be “The One”, it could fit the whole wedding and ceremony and bonus it has an inn attached to it, so out of town guests would have a very convenient place to stay. I loved the industrial elegance of the mill and the fact that it was a great combination of both Jon and I.

Image: Woodlawn Manor by Voula Trip Photography from Kim & Brandon’s DIY Maryland Wedding

The next location we checked out was Woodlawn, which is a historical house near Springfield. Kaitlin was so wonderful to talk to and was very prompt in replying to my emails. The venue was beautiful and could accommodate our estimated wedding size and could house a ceremony and reception. The only downside was we needed to get tents and everything had to be outside. Also they only allow you to use their approved caterer, which would have cost us the whole budget plus some. Unfortunately that nixed Woodlawn off the list.

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The next venue I became obsessed with was Sunset Crest Manor. It is right down the road from my sister’s house and it was just by chance I saw it and decided to check it out! It is such a breathtaking venue! Not too girlie and not too rustic! Another great combo for Jon and I! Eva who showed my mom and I around the property was so nice and very informative. They were very good about answering emails promptly and answering all of my questions. Unfortunately they were just that little bit too much over the budget and we would have had to really skimp on the rest of the wedding and we hadn’t even factored in the catering cost.

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Stevenson Ridge was a venue I had known about from doing the Cupcakes & Cocktails event there a couple years back. I hadn’t really thought of it, since I automatically assumed it didn’t have enough space. That goes to show how much I know! They can accommodate up to 216 inside and have the area outside by the pond for an outdoor ceremony. One aspect I didn’t know about them was that they have onsite lodging too! This was a major plus for us because it would make life so easy and we could take our time getting ready for the wedding.

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Elizabeth, was so nice and showed us around the lodge and answered all of my questions with clear and straightforward answers, which is what I look for all the time but don’t always receive. At this point in the search I was 98% positive I wanted go with Sunset Crest Manor, and I would find someway to pay for it. So I tried to be unbiased and open minded when we got to Stevenson Ridge, but I was having a little bit of difficulty. That resolve started to fade as I started to imagine what my wedding would look like in this place. And it was starting to come together in my mind, a road block I had been running into at some of the other venues. After the Lodge tour, we were allowed to check out all of the cabins, this was the final piece that started to make my decision so much harder. These cabins were so quaint and cute, but not that ugly kind of quaint. I totally saw myself getting ready and then walking down these amazing stairs in the Riddick House that has mirrors lining it. It became very real and my surety in Sunset Crest being the place dwindled to being 20% sure and 80% sure about Stevenson Ridge and slowly climbing towards 100%.

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The last location we checked out just for the fun of it was Foxchase Manor in Manassas. This option was convenient to our house and could easily house a larger wedding. We met with Sammy and Monet and they were nice in letting us in on a tour totally last minute. The place was very pretty, but a bit more on the extravagant side and didn’t speak to both Jon and I’s personality. It would have been a beautiful wedding, just not necessarily perfect for us. One thing I didn’t like was the fact that they schedule more than one wedding a day since it is such a large banquet hall. Call me selfish, but I didn’t want to share my date and venue with anyone. Their price along with catering was extremely reasonable and stuck within our budget beautifully.

In the end we decided upon the beautiful and friendly Stevenson Ridge and we couldn’t be happier!! I can fully see my vision coming to life in this venue whether it rains or is the perfect day!

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