When we set out to plan my wedding, we had actually started to look for a venue before our official engagement/betrothal. We got engaged on Christmas Day in an intimate family gathering, but we had already booked our wedding venue a month earlier. The available dates for that particular venue bought us about 6 months planning time.
Deciding on a style
I love old castle architecture and told my husband that I would love to get married in a venue made of old stone. We started to look online, and decided that we didn’t want our family to fly in from all over the world, just to be an hour outside of New York City and not be able to make a vacation out of the weekend. We decided to stay within the city limits, and focus on Brooklyn and Harlem–the areas we frequent most in New York City. We also didn’t want to spend $50K on a venue, which is a surprisingly common cost for a wedding venue here in the city after food and service costs are calculated.
We looked at three venues before we settled on our final one: The Akwaaba Mansion in Brooklyn, Weylin B. Seymore, also in Brooklyn, and the Harlem Stage Gatehouse. At three significantly varied price points, you can probably see how venue hunting became somewhat of a game of the three little bears.
The Akwaaba Mansion, a gorgeous old home in Brooklyn was a fantastic option. In fact, if we had a smaller guest list, we might have gone with it. It has a beautiful series of bed-and-breakfast rooms for guests, which would have been great for our bridal party and parents to stay in the night before the wedding. There were a few parlor rooms, one that could accomodate a reception of about 50 people, and a beautiful outdoor space that channeled Pinterest vibes. There was also huge tree in the middle of the outdoor space that would have been perfect for lanterns and fairly lights. Unfortunately, the venue had just cut down a few trees that blocked the view of the backs of the homes behind it, and we were a little heartbroken about the lack of privacy and whimsicality that resulted from the cut trees. We also found the guest bathrooms a bit dowdy. It was the most affordable of the three. Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of this space (it was before my blogging days and I used the website photos to reference for our final decision).
Next up was the immaculate Weylin B. Seymore. The olde Bank of Williamsburg had recently been painstakingly renovated and become a major hotspot corporate and wedding venue in Brooklyn. The details were just gorgeous. The patterns and colors were The space was absolutely huge. I did take a few photos here (again, before my blogger days so please excuse the quality):
Main reception room
Lower level reception room
Detail of light fixture
Our final pick
This venue is perfect for anyone (with the budget) who wants their reception in the same place as their ceremony. Our home church is in Brooklyn, and we wanted to have our ceremony there. So, for us the value of having everything in one space just didn’t make sense. We also wouldn’t have been able to fill such a large space, which accommodated upwards of 400 people. Our final guest list was 114 people.
My husband called me one day to say, “I found you a castle.” I responded with “What?? How?? Where?????” It was the most romantic thing. I had lost hope, thinking we would have to settle on a hotel or move the wedding miles away. I don’t have anything against hotels, but I personally wanted a unique atmosphere with character and an intimate feel, that also had space for dancing and space for over 100 people. I also didn’t want to choose the most popular venues in the city, which made narrowing things down really difficult. With our Harlem theme, the Stage Gatehouse was perfect for us:
The stage and main arch
Theatre and exits
The terrace that sold us (that we couldn’t use because it rained. More on that later).
Ultimately, what we learned is that a great venue doesn’t need a ton of decoration. Unless you’ve got a lot of free time or a budget to fill up an empty space, the best bang for your buck comes from picking a venue that is already beautiful. The Stage Gatehouse had so much natural beauty, our touches were just *icing on the cake* hehe. More on the cake later as well! Generally, wedding venues tend to look drab when you first see them, but once the uplighting, candles and flowers arrive, the space becomes a dream. You’ve got to let your imagination go free when you’re shopping for venues. We loved this space for our Harlem wedding, and our guests loved it too.
What kind of venue is your favorite? Comment below!
And, stayed tuned for next week’s edition of my Wedding Season Series! If you’d like a Q&A at the end, let me know and I’ll answer questions about planning a wedding on Instagram Live.