Wedding venue contract: Signed, sealed, delivered

I've always liked to get work done in short, aggressive bursts. From term papers in high school to cleaning the apartment last Saturday – I'll wait, wait, wait and then with head down and eyes narrowed, blitz all that needs to get done in one fell swoop.

When moving to Baltimore, Sam and I looked at 15 apartments in two days. We were practically delirious when we signed our current lease, so I count us fortunate to have made a good choice.


Shopping for a wedding venue was not much different: one Saturday, four locations.

First, I should say that we opted to focus our search around Charlottesville, Va. We've got family and friends who will be coming from New York, North Carolina and literally every state in between. Charlottesville is in a central location that most guests can drive to, and we love spending time there. Everybody wins.


Second, Sam and I were leaning toward doing our wedding in winter. We liked the idea of doing something a little less common, and Sam was excited he wouldn't be sweltering in a coat and tie all night. Also – winter weddings are generally cheaper, so we could pat ourselves on the back for saving a few G's.

Here's how the search went down:

Our first appointment of the day was at a place I'll call "rustic farm." The sweeping mountain views and low prices made it a hot contender after my online research. I also liked that guests could stay at cabins on-site and they were a-OK with us providing our own booze. Can you say "epic party"? Sadly, it became pretty clear early on that this would not fit our vision for a winter wedding. The outdoor space was amazing, but the indoor space lacked the charm we were hoping for. Had we been planning on spring, summer or fall, this could have been a nice option.

Appointment number two was at "chic mountain winery." Can I just say holy first impressions? From the minute we turned into the driveway of this venue I was enamored. The views, the buildings, the landscaping – even in the dead of winter this place had swagger. Once inside, I saw the big stone fireplace and exposed beam ceilings. *Gush* It was a little on the higher end of our price range, but the amenities were styling, so this jumped to the top of my list.

Behind door number three we had "remote mountain winery." I say remote because it's about a 40-minute drive outside of Charlottesville, so we would essentially be holding our wedding in a different town. I really, really wanted to like this place because the prices were pretty palatable, but something about it just didn't click. It could have been the over-stylized décor or the oddly named wines, I'm not quite sure. Though it offered a similar space as "chic mountain winery," it just didn't fit us as a couple.

The final stop of the day was at "luxury retreat inn." Every inch of this place was picturesque, and it was hard not to be impressed. Perfect is the only word I can use to describe it.  I wanted to crawl all over the building and take notes for decorating my own home. Alas, similar to "rustic farm" this place was meant for warm weather weddings, and it lacked an indoor space where we could hold the ceremony. It was also an all-inclusive spot, and Sam and I knew we'd prefer to patch together our favorite vendors for a more customized wedding.

Exhausted from the day-long search, we headed out to get dinner at one of the restaurants known for their catering. We talked over the options, and it was clear we both had "chic mountain winery" at the top of our list. Our only deterrant was the price, though we were hopeful we might be able to negotiate a lower rate given our off-season plans.

A month later, after a few second-thoughts and some gentle negotiation, we signed the contract for a Feb. 22 wedding at "chic mountain winery." We did get a nice discount, so holding an off-season wedding has already paid off. Now, we're onto the next big piece in this massive puzzle: caterers!