We’ve got 333 days to go, and there’s been a lot going on lately. The first questions we tried to answer, just as I guess most future brides and grooms would, were: when and where. After visiting a handful of venues both in Greater Boston (my home) and Greater Springfield (Alison’s home), in response to some innocent prompting from Alison’s mom (“So, what have you talked about so far, about your wedding planning… Huh, well?”), we chose a facility in the end that really took our breath away.
Now, backing up just a bit, I had a couple of contacts here in Boston with whom I work frequently on other couples’ weddings in my line of work. I was already familiar with the high quality of facilities here – as many Boston DJs would be. We looked into facilities including the Hilton at Logan Airport and the Hotel Marlowe inside the Galleria Mall in Cambridge. I’ve worked at both places many times and both are as classy as you can get; the staff, space, and services are phenomenal at each. Though, as one might imagine, the substantial costs of real estate taxes and overhead in Greater Boston for all intents and purposes priced us out of the wedding market here. Well, not entirely, though the few places we could actually afford did not offer us the all-important “atmosphere” we wanted (e.g. although I’m very familiar with the stellar food and services of Spinelli’s in Lynnfield, we weren’t crazy about getting married along a highway). All of this, plus the facts that my fiancée’s parents were footing a hefty portion of the wedding, as well as that her guest list would be longer than my own, really put the ball in their court – Western Mass.
I’m similar to many born and bred Bostonians, being almost completely ignorant to the world beyond Worcester; but since meeting Alison nearly three years ago, the area is starting to grow on me. Her home town is not very different from my own in many ways. At the same time, Western Mass and the Berkshires offered us a very unique opportunity to wed within an environment all its own. I’ve had the chance to DJ many weddings at barns and similar classic New England rustic venues, so we begin examining that course.
We first made a drop-in visit to a place called the Log Cabin in Holyoke. In all honesty, the view and grounds on the rear side of this venue, for some ceremonies and cocktail hours, are nearly unparalleled. The facility was modestly modern and in decent shape, and we were pretty much sold, again, on the gorgeous view itself – you could see for miles. But, we found ourselves out of luck when the rooms with the best access to the view had minimum guest counts way out of our range (e.g. 175) and very restricted availability; the remaining option in the facility overlooked a highway, which again we did not want. We checked out the Log Cabin’s sister venue, the Delaney House, down the road, but its proximity to an outdated hotel/motel , and its function room which was comparable to just about any other function room anywhere, knocked this place out of the running.
We took a bit of time to visit a Knights of Columbus Hall nearby, of which Alison’s step-dad is a member, and this venue actually surprised us quite a bit. Its exterior was castle-esque and inside there were two sizeable quite modern function rooms; each could hold 250-plus people easily, yet the minimum head counts required for each were very flexible. One room there – for the first time in our multi-city venue tour – was fashioned beautifully for an autumn-décor wedding of 125 people later that same day. (Note: we hoped to choose a date sometime in the Fall of 2011, to harness the power of the New England foliage.) Despite the positives, we could not (again!) get past the fact that the venue was right smack on a rotary, neighbored by the likes of Rite Aid and Denny’s and other similar merchants. The parking (another issue we had to consider) was more than substantial here, as it had been as most of the other venues, but again – no dice.
So, we moved on to a venue which screams (…quietly) New England: the Publick House in Sturbridge. The ride there was stunning, reds and yellows and oranges abound. The grounds were beautiful. Parking was adequate. There was lodging available both inside the House itself, as well as just up the hill. Our cocktail hour would be held inside of an old barn; the remainder of the reception inside what I would describe as a supersized yet uber-comfy country dining room. There was a hutch against one wall; antique sewing machines and snow sleds in the rafters; raw wooden beams everywhere. Our centerpieces likely would have been oil lanterns! The pricing points were even just right. It was seemingly perfect. Though, we had one last place to visit before making our final decision.
We traveled to Hampden, Massachusetts, south of Springfield along the Connecticut border, to see the Hampden Country Club. I can’t honestly recall how we made our way there; but I will never forget driving way, way up uphill, surrounded by trees, finally reaching the top and overlooking a stunning view of a valley that went on for miles. We again dropped in for a visit, knocking on a window of the function space. The general manager happened to be strolling by and let us in, happily and without hesitation giving us an impromptu tour of the facilities. We were floored. The function room was, my guess, about 20-25 feet deep and 120 feet long – that is, 120 feet of nothing but glass and a view of the entire valley. After discussing briefly menu and cakes and parking and pricing and availability (and despite our preferred church and nearest preferred hotel for our guests being 30 minutes away), we were sold. The management did give us one of the best first impressions possible, and everything else seemed to fit the bill. We actually chose the date based on the venue’s availability in October 2011. All Saturday evenings were already spoken for, so we opted for a Friday evening reception in exchange for a small discount on the food and beverage rates. (An afternoon wedding wasn’t our cup of tea: we wanted drinking and dancing, both of which are rarer in the light of day.)So, there we had it: we were locked in to tie the knot the afternoon of Friday, October 14, 2011, and to celebrate that evening at the Hampden Country Club, to the backdrop of a valley seasoned in the shades of New England autumn and a sunset which would cross slowly and directly behind the long, floor-to-ceiling windows of our hall.
Stay tuned, because next time, we will talk one, all, or some combination of the following: discussing and setting our budget (yuck); securing our DJ (no, this is not DIY); choosing a picture-perfect photographer; and dress shopping.
So, with only 343 days remaining (that’s only 29,736,855 seconds, people!), here it is: my opportunity to begin sharing with all of you the delicious victories and the (hopefully few) trials and tribulations of my very own wedding planning process, alongside my perfect bride-to-be Alison. As a career mobile wedding DJ, I thought this would be a perfect chance to show the world how easy wedding planning can be when you’re in the business. As you go from wedding from wedding, you (meaning I) understand all the best and worst traits, all the issues and pitfalls, of venues and vendors and concepts, right? Sure, keep dreaming. I’m realizing very quickly how little I know and how completely complicated, frustrating, and time consuming this process can be. I’m learning that no matter who you are (besides maybe a professional wedding planner – but who knows, that might not even save you!), a bride and groom (or bride/bride, groom/groom) are like infants when the entire world of wedding planning is exposed to them. We’re spoon fed everything: some things we love (the applesauce) and others we hate (split peas). So, I’m guessing we will “spit up” a whole bunch in the process and make some things a big mess.
Of course, I know some things will go down easy: there will be the highlights and quality time spent with my fiancée and family members and friends too, which will make this process in the end more good-memorable than bad-memorable.
So, I hope you will enjoy our ride as much as we do, and that you will learn something along the way to implement into your own wedding planning hullabaloo. Hope you keep reading!