Monday, January 23, 2012

Wedding Planning - Where to start?!?

When Nick and I got engaged it was so exciting and so much fun!  After a few weeks (maybe even days) people are done congratulating you and start asking about the wedding particulars.  It can all be a little overwhelming to say the least - I mean, I was just happy to be engaged at that point.  So after about 2 weeks of engaged bliss Nick and I decided to work on a date so that we could give people some answers.  For better or worse, I actually did not have much of a clue as to what I wanted for my own wedding.  There were certain things I knew I did not want (such as sit down dinner), and I had already vicariously planned a couple of weddings when I was helping close friends with theirs, but when it came to my own I was at a bit of a loss.

Willowdale Estate
We figured we could be pretty flexible, and a wedding date (and most everything else) was going to be venue dependent, and a part of us (me) really thought about doing a destination wedding.  However, when push came to shove, the thought of planning a wedding long distance did not sit well.  Further complicating issues was that neither of us wanted to have our reception at a hotel: Nick plans a lot of events for work at hotels, and he didn't want the wedding to feel like another conference.  In Boston, finding a location that is not a hotel, that holds enough people and is a reasonable price is somewhat difficult.  So, as a first step, we decided to do the "tour de North Shore" (where both Nick and I are from) to see if we could find something we liked that was within the budget and work from there.

Since many of my friends got married in the same area I had a good number of places to check out, and they had helpful hints as to what venues would work.  So, for two weekends and one Friday morning in the Spring, Nick and I (along with my mother) headed out to check out potential venues: Commander's MansionTurner HillMoraine FarmHamilton HallBrooksby Farm, and Willowdale Estate.  The plan was to pick a venue, find an available date sometime in 2012 and then sit back and relax until we had to get the planning underway.

Hamilton Hall
After looking at all the different venues we had to narrow down the choices, basing it upon how much we loved the venue and the value we were getting for the money.  A big cost factor is dependent on whether or not the venue has a liquor license - without one you are able to bring in your own at wholesale cost, which saves a ton of money ($8-10K in some places).  In the end we were choosing between Hamilton Hall and Willowdale Estate.

Willowdale Front Door
With Hamilton Hall we would have gotten married in the summer or fall of 2012 - on season (April through October) was affordable, but there was something that just did not click for me.  With Willowdale, on the other hand, I fell in love instantly when I looked at the photos online and even more so when I saw it in person.  Nick wasn't as enamored with the venue's outside, but loved the details on the inside.

Dining Room
The tricky part about Willowdale is that the "on season" cost can be expensive, even with the fact they did not have a liquor license.  However, during the off season, Willowdale was very reasonable - that, and they include an awful lot in their winter packages.  When looking at the dates available for the winter of 2012 (late fall and next winter seemed too far away!), I was excited to see that New Years Eve was still open.

A part of me always wanted to have a New Year's wedding.  I have never been one to get really excited about New Year's plans because it always seems like a bit of a bust.  I always think a fun dinner with friends is the best way to celebrate.  If New Year's is your anniversary, oddly enough I think it takes some of the pressure off.  All you need is a nice bottle of bubbly and you are set for a fun evening at home to celebrate, plus there will always be fireworks on your anniversary ;)

View to Gardens
What made the New Year's date even better this year is it was a Saturday, which meant all of our out-of-town guests could feasibly travel to Boston without having to take any time off for the wedding if they didn't want to.  We decided to ask some of our family and closest friends if the date would work for them.  Not surprisingly, they were more excited to have New Year's plans mapped out for them than concerned that we would be screwing up any potential plans.

Balcony of Grand Room
Conservatory - where the ceremony would be
With the go-ahead from our loved ones, Nick and I decided to book Willowdale for New Year's Eve.  While we were more than excited, the New Year's date meant we had to get going on the planning - there was no real time to sit back and wait.  Given both of our Type A personalities, and knowing that Nick does some event planning for work, I knew we were up to the challenge.

Beside the look of Willowdale and the date, what I liked most was how much would be taken care of through the venue.  They do their own catering, we could have our ceremony on site, open flames are allowed, and a wedding planner and wedding night in one of the suites was included.  Also, we did not have to worry about renting tables, chairs linens and all of those minor things that require some thought and attention, the cost of which can sneak up on you.  With all the stress weddings can cause, we figured the less we had to think about the better.  Willowdale just seemed to make things less stressful.  With all things considered it was really a no-brainer and we signed on the dotted line.

Into the Dining Room
I am here to tell you that you can plan a wedding easily in 8 months.  In a time when people have very long engagements, I actually really enjoyed our timeline.  So, over the next few weeks (or months, more likely) I will go through some of the tricks I learned through the process and some of the vendors I loved and others that really dropped the ball (ahem, Priscilla's).  After all the effort put into planning it will be fun to share it all with you!


  1. Thanks for sharing this! I have friends in various stages of the process and it's always interesting to hear the behind the scenes. I'm glad I have a few years before I need to start thinking about it.

  2. This venue looks incredible. I also planned my wedding in 8 months - totally doable if you secure a venue you like. Can't wait to hear more about your planning adventures!

  3. I am currently living vicariously though a couple close friends wedding planning. I love that I can now live vicariously through yours - this seems so helpful already!!

  4. Looking forward to hearing more. I too love that we'll be able to bring in the alcohol at wholesale costs. Such a perk! I'm taking 2 years to plan mine. Ha. And I'm almost at the 8-month point. Time to step on it!

  5. I am so, so, so glad you had an amazing experience at Willowdale and a much better one than I did with Lena!

  6. The lot of wedding planning people finds this problem. Where to start the wedding planning. Today there are certain thing available like wedding planner person, iPhone wedding app or android wedding app,wedding planning software and online wedding planner etc. It is their choice to select perfect start.

  7. My fiance and I are looking into Willowdale Estate for November 2013. From the picture I knew I'd love this place and then seeing it in person made me fall in love with the charm. Our only concern was the amount of space available in the conservatory room for the reception. I'm not totally crazy about having a few tables in the next room. Do they offer a lot of layout options to keep this from happening? How many people are you inviting?

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