You know how sometimes it feels like perfect isn’t possible and then perfect shows up right in front of you?
That was kinda how wedding venue hunting went for us. One of those situations where we had done all the research, narrowed the list, had our options laid out and then a dark horse choice steals the show.
Prairie Glenn Barn had not shown up on our initial searches. My mom and I had done a lot of digging in the Tampa area and found a number of really great places but this rustic spot eluded us initially. I honestly cannot remember where my mom stumbled across it. Florida Rustic Barn Weddings is listed in all the normal places but for some reason it was buried in our searches.
The important fact is that my mom found it and immediately inquired as to their availability for the one day I was interested in for a Florida wedding. We had an expanded time frame in the event of an Iowa wedding but I was pretty set on Saturday, March 2 for Florida.
It was available (!!!) but dates were going quickly and they couldn’t confirm that it would be available over a month later when Adam and I had tentatively been thinking about visiting Tampa for some venue visits. After discussing options, my mom said they would go look at it and if they thought it was a good fit, we could discuss coming sooner to lock it down.
The next day my parents made the hour trip to Plant City to see if this venue could be early as beautiful as it looked in pictures. And despite the recent freeze that had killed many of the plants, it was perfect! My mom sent me pictures during their whole visit, I almost felt like I was there with them! The venue is run by a family and my parents loved how welcoming and friendly they were without feeling fake. They answered all of my parents questions (and some that I texted along) and were very willing to be flexible with us on some of the items we were hoping to add to the experience.
Then came some decisions.
This all happened when Adam was in Brazil on a work trip. He was nearly impossible to reach and the venue made it clear that spring dates (especially Saturdays) were going quickly for 2019 and that we would have to pay a deposit to hold the date for two weeks prior to signing the contract and initiating payments. After the experience my parents had, I decided to move ahead with the deposit and then figure out a way that Adam and I could get there to see it ourselves within two weeks!
That was January 27. On February 9th Adam and I were boarded on a plane to Tampa! We had a lot to consider. The venue is an all-inclusive situation. Aside from the ceremony and reception location, built into the price is the cost of the caterer, cake, flowers, and DJ, as well as decorations. All of the vendors are pre-determined. Alcohol is an additional cost by their caterer. In many ways this was ideal for a wedding that we would be planning from a distance but in some ways it worried us about limiting our options before we had the opportunity to meet the vendors. I spent the week before flying to Tampa scouring the internet for reviews. I wanted to be prepared for what the typical concerns were and to be honest, there were not many! No one has perfect reviews, you cannot please everyone and I believe bridezillas are a real thing, so looking at the average review I was feeling really confident. Everyone seemed to love the staff and had wonderful, unique experiences. Before I even made it to Plant City, I was decided and knew I just had to convince Adam!
As I mentioned in my February Recap post, we went to the venue on Saturday morning, hitting a sweet spot between a rehearsal for a Sunday wedding and before people started arriving for the Saturday wedding. Staff was there setting up the tables and putting out flowers. It gave us a really good idea for how detail-oriented and individualized the wedding could be.
The whole venue is perfect. We both wanted rustic but I wanted to make sure we could make it feel elegant and beautiful, not too country but reflect our love of the outdoors. The ceremony area is flanked by tall trees that create a roof overhead. It is natural and beautiful and made me gasp the first time I saw a picture. It really is a unique space that seemed more true to us than any other venue I had researched. The barn location for the reception is also gorgeous with natural wood, tall ceilings, and open air. It could easily host a square dance or cocktail party, and we are going for something in between!
We didn’t look around very long. We knew what our questions were and expected to love the space (which we did!). The owner, despite setting up for a wedding and being pulled in a million directions, took the time to sit down with us and answer all of our questions. Everything from the serious (can we have whiskey on the rocks?) to silly (can we bring a John Deere tractor and hide that red tractor monstrosity?). At first it felt like I was in the “Yes, Man” movie and I was skeptical, but then they told us no to a question and I was sold. I knew if they were willing to tell us no to something (and they had a perfectly legitimate reason to say no!) then their yes responses were genuine.
Despite the potential inconvenience of distance from Tampa, dirt roads, and rain location, I knew this was the place where Adam and I would get married. I felt it. It was the feeling I was hoping would happen during this whole process. That feeling where you walk in and know “this is the one”. It actually happened!
It took a few more minutes to get Adam on board. But I managed. He could after all have his John Deere tractor and whiskey so really had nothing to complain about!
With this major decision made (state, date, venue) as well as many vendor decisions, I have been able to more confidently plan for next steps in the wedding planning process. Adam and I will soon be putting together our website and registry. My mom and I will look into save the dates and invitations when she visits next month. I have started researching photographers. Adam and I have been researching honeymoon destinations. My sisters and I are flying to Tampa in two weeks to go wedding dress shopping. It is all happening. For real.
Last Friday was our -1 Anniversary. I am so excited to marry this man and so happy that we found the perfect spot to make our forever official!
What do you think:
- What did you look for in a wedding venue?
- Have you been to a wedding where the venue (ceremony or reception) was fantastic? Where was that?