If you read my last post about our wedding priorities you'll remember I briefly mentioned that our wedding venue is from the 14th century (and did I mention that it's surrounded by vineyards?). Yah, it's amazing. I want to share the story of how we found it (AND some questions/pros/cons about venues that we discovered in the process.) While each country has its on way of planning weddings, the main questions and concerns are the same.
Seeing that we aren't living in the Bordeaux region, our venue search was done mostly online through mariage.net, recommendations from family friends who had gotten married around Bordeaux, and from a catalog of reception halls from a wedding fair in Bordeaux (my mother-in-law went for us!). I primarily did the first search and big list and then Pyk and I narrowed it down with different questions we had for the venues (We used an excel spread sheet for this! Super easy and kept everything very organized. Best part is that through dropbox we could both easily edit it). Our first BIG list was about 15 chateaux/domaines around the Bordeaux region; all places that looked nice, could fit 150 guests seated, and were within 50km driving of Bordeaux centre.
How we narrowed down:
We would have been happy with any of the 15 original choices had they ticked off all our priorities. They were all stunning and everyone who I talked to at the different venues was absolutely lovely. Some questions we asked to narrow down:
- Can all 150 be seated in the same area? (Some places had different rooms and we didn't want to separate anyone.)
- Does it have rooms where we and some of the guests could stay? It was important for me that we (Pyk and I, our parents, and at least some of the bridal party) would be able to sleep at the venue so we wouldn't have to worry about driving home at 6am after a night of dancing.
- How late can we have music/people? Most places in the region only allow music until 4am and Pyk really wanted this unlimited. We started by knocking out any venue that wouldn't allow music until at least 4am. Word to the wise: French people like to party, especially my fiancé who's always the last one left on the dance floor.
- Can we rent out the space for Sunday as well? The typical American wedding where the reception lasts only a few hours and you barely get time to get up and dance was the last thing I wanted. Rather, I wanted everyone to come and enjoy a whole weekend of festivities. So many people are coming from so far away, I wanted to make it a real event for them!
- Can we have a ceremony at the venue? Most of the locations had outdoor areas where you could have a ceremony, but some were very limited in the space they had available to set up any sort of chairs and altar-esque thing. In the end, the chateau that we booked has a courtyard where we'll be having the ceremony.
- Is there a caterer or wine that's imposed? This really wasn't a deal breaker for us but we would have to make sure to have a tasting to be sure we liked the chef and what they were proposing. Great food is a HUGE priority for us. We are inviting many people for whom this trip will be their first time in France. You better believe that I'm going to be sure they are stuffed with amazing French food! (Especially the food from the French southwest - it's so so good.)
In the end we saw 5 venues, 4 with things we both loved and weren't so crazy about, and 1 that was absolutely PERFECT!!
We took two days off for visiting venues and for two days it POURED… sideways. Seriously.
Fields looked like lakes.
When we went back to our venue the other day (this time with the sun shining!) we realized that many of the lakes we saw were now vineyards. Crazy.
Needless to say, it wasn't the most ideal way to view our venues but it didn't stop us from falling in love with the one we chose.
The 4th venue we saw was the one. We walked in through the rain into the cobblestoned courtyard. The chateau was in front of us and both of us knew.
This is it.
This is where we're getting married.
During the tour we saw the rooms where we and some of our guests will stay, the pool and the panoramic terrace, and finally the reception room and we both felt this HUGE weight lift off our shoulders.
WE FOUND IT!
We still did a tour of the 5th chateau we'd scheduled with but we both knew that the other was where we were supposed to marry.
And there it is! We got in touch with them immediately, READ and signed the contract (please read your contracts people!), put down our deposit, and may or may not have high-fived because HOLY COWABUNGA BATMAN WE HAVE OUR WEDDING VENUE!
A tip for the newly engaged:
Be precise in your venue search and be sure to talk about what you want BEFORE you start looking. Communication between the two of you is incredibly important. Once you have an idea of what you'd like in a venue, look at many different places. I looked online, on wedding websites, on my favorite French destination wedding blog, and talked to family and friends in the area. If you're considering hiring a wedding planner or a day-of-coordinator talk with them, they are sure to have real insight into venues in the area. Also, remember your budget. There was an AMAZING 5 star hotel venue just 10 minutes driving from Bordeaux that we loved… until we found out that it'd be 3 times our allotted budget for it. NOT WORTH IT.
P.S. Thank you to our incredible vendors, all photos are from our actual wedding
Hair and makeup: Kendra Hittinger
His custom suit: Samson Bordeaux
Venue: Chateau Isabeau de Naujan