December 1st, 2009

(no subject)

It occurred to me after my last post that I should come back and provide further explanation for a few things. When I was searching for venues - and even photographers - and even caterers, even though I've barely begun to scratch the surface on that one - that I found many listings and information on commercial sites, but not nearly as much information from other people who had been through the process. So, for all those who come after us, here is my take on the venues that we visited - in the order that we saw them.

1. Chase Court -- Built in 1879 as a parish house, Chase Court is now privately owned and available for various events. We enjoyed the feel of the great room, which was large enough for our reception (of about 100) but still quite intimate. For ceremonies, the back garden and portico are used, which in warm weather would be quite lovely. Cocktail hour can be outside as well, or inside the library in case of inclement weather. The library is another smaller room off the main hallway, which would be the kind of base for the nibbles during cocktail hour, as well as the bar . . . and in case of rain, the band (if we have one) would have to be in there as well. The pros: the feeling of the great room. The cons: things would be too tight in case of bad weather to move everything indoors. We also weren't too keen on having the bar in the library and the dinner in the great room. Not a big deal, but not ideal. Rates and capacity information on their website.

2. The American Visionary Art Museum -- A home to the works of self-taught artists, AVAM is a great venue that's definitely not the norm. The space we went to see was the Barn and Sculpture Garden, right next to the main entrance. And it was cool. The barn is basically four brick walls with three massive doors, two of which would remain open for the event. In our case, this would definitely be a good thing, since the space isn't air conditioned. The doors open to the Sculpture Garden . . . which is exactly what it sounds like. The space isn't big, but there's a path between the barn entrance and the Sculpture Garden where guests can mill about. There are gates on either end of the Sculpture Garden as well, enclosing the festivities so the event wouldn't turn into "Wedding Crashers 2." The venue is right next to/at the bottom of Federal Hill, which is a great view from the barn and a good place for photographs. The pros: The location is fantastic, right next to the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill. The money is also going to a cultural institution as opposed to a for-profit venue. The cons: None, really; the price is a bit steep for peak days/months, but pretty affordable for an off-peak day/month.

3. Glecn Echo Park -- We were most excited about this venue, located near Bethesda in Glen Echo, Maryland. Glen Echo Park isn't an actual park, as I originally thought (and why it wasn't on our radar sooner). It is an amusement park-turned-arts-center, which is why we thought it'd be close to perfect for the two of us (for those of you who don't know, we first met working at a theme park). Glen Echo Park rents two facilities, the covered outdoor Bumper Car Pavillion and the Spanish Ballroom. The Spanish Ballroom is a fantastic space for a massive party, but it was too large and too expensive for what we needed. The Bumper Car Pavillion is also a great space, airy and open with great original hardwoods. The entire park has a very Art Deco feel, and the carousel is still operational and would be available for guests to ride. (Wheeeeeee!) The pros: It was really different as a reception venue. The cons: By everything being so open, we were worried we might lose people with the cocktail hour/wandering/heading off to the carousel/sneaking into the trees for a bit of action. The park is also open to the public, and while it wasn't at all an issue when we visited, we were worried that in the summer, it might be a different story. Again, very affordable for off-peak days/months. Rates and capacity information on their website.

4. Rockledge Mansion -- Ahhhh, the historic mansion up on the hill. Looks lovely, doesn't it? The original house was built in 1758, with an addition added in . . . well, I forget that part. We thought it would be lovely, as it was one of the few historic homes/estates in the area that had a room big enough for our reception, as opposed to the rooms being smaller and the party having to span a few rooms. They say that the seated capacity is 125. It is not. Wait - I take that back. It might be. But we could barely sit 100 people with the dance floor. On the plus side, if we had 20-30 less people, it'd be a neat space with lots of charm. The cocktail hour can be inside the old kitchen and/or outside, and guests can also see the rest of the first floor, which consists of two sitting rooms and a . . . another room. The pros: Did I not mention it's a historic house upon a hill? In historic Occoquan? Overlooking the water? There's also a small village at the bottom of the hill which is very quaint, featuring such village staples as 'Ye Olde Wine Shoppe' or something similar. This was also the only venue that we visitied with an in-house caterer, which would've been one less thing to deal with. The cons: The space just wasn't right for us and what we were looking for. Rates and information here.

5. Westminster Hall -- This building is also an oldie but goodie. It was actually a Presbyterian church, but before the church was even built in 1852, the grounds were used as a graveyard for 66 years. Now the building is owned by the Westminster Preservation Trust, Inc. and the University of Maryland School of Law. (I'm a bit fuzzy on who actually owns it and all of those details, but that's not really the most important thing for these purposes, now is it?) We were worried that the space would feel too big for the amount of people that we're planning on hosting, but we walked in and immediately changed our minds. There's the main floor as well as two balconies, which can be used if necessary (or not);. The tall stained glass windows are lovely, but the focal point of the room is the massive restored 1882 Johnson pipe organ up on the stage. Delicous hardwoods, too. The pros: The room is spacious without feeling cavernous, and offers lots of options for both a seated dinner and cocktail hour. They also do tours of the catacombs, which I think would be a great activity for those guests who are interested. Plus, Edgar Allen Poe is buried there. (Perhaps there should be some recommended reading as well as watching 'The Wire' . . . ) When we walked out, I turned to him and said, "I really like it." He said, "Yeah, I do too." Them we grinned. Then we scampered off to meet a photographer. The cons: The balcony has gray carpet. *shrug* Who cares?? The rates are based on the number of guests, number of hours, and day of the week; email for a detailed quote.

And there it is! I hope someone finds this at least somewhat helpful . . . I know I could've used more of this over the past few weeks.