Congratulations! You are engaged to the love of your life and about to plan the dream wedding you’ve always imagined and it is time to start planning the wedding. Or, perhaps you’ve waited until this time to decide what style of celebration fits you as a couple. Either way, the details can be overwhelming as you add “wedding planner” to your already busy lives. Not to worry – the mountains of North Georgia have all the professionals and amenities, as well as spectacular venues, to assure a wedding that expresses your love and commitment in a very personal way.
First you need to ask yourself a number of questions. What is your budget? If you have a limited budget you may choose to have your wedding day party in your family garden. Do you want a church ceremony and a reception at some other location such as a hotel ballroom? Do you want ceremony and reception at the same location? Are you thinking indoors or outdoors? What amenities will you need to make your wedding a memorable event (i.e. party barn, horse-drawn carriage, bonfire etc.)? The wedding and reception venues will set the tone and motif for this important day, so it is vital that your location meet your expectations.
Reception and Ceremony Church weddings remain the choice for many couples. You may have a particular church in mind. If so, then the reception location must be carefully selected keeping in mind distance and transportation. If you are planning a civil wedding, you have the option of looking at venues that can accommodate both the ceremony and the reception. This will certainly minimize the amount of travel for your guests.
Venue capacity: How many guests are likely to attend? Carefully determine each venue’s capacity and ask what happens if 20 additional people show up at the last minute. Some venues can offer a range for over or under turn-out while others maybe inflexible.
Seated or Standing Wedding and Reception: A short stand-up wedding followed by a stand-up reception needs very little room. If you are planning a multi-day itinerary that includes bridal party luncheon, bachelor party night, rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, open-bar, sit-down dinner for 200 followed by an all-night bonfire, you will need a much larger venue. Get a firm idea as to what type of event(s) you would like before you start approaching venues.
Entertainment Facilities: Are you thinking punk-rock band or a strolling violinist? Bands and other entertainment need a large amount of space, especially if you need a dance floor too.
Champagne, Liquor and Dining: Venues may need special licensing, insurance or security to support open bars, on-site dining and guests bringing their own beverages. Make sure you outline for the venue what your expectations are and find out what limitations there may be on your guests bringing their own drinks.
Now that you have determined some parameters for your wedding and reception it is finally time to select a venue. Where do you start? Location, location, location! You should not just go by the looks or beauty of a potential wedding venue; you should also take into consideration all the practical aspects such as catering, wedding day decoration, weather conditions, etc. Once you have selected a venue you will be able to identify a theme and start working on the details. Whether you want an intimate affair or an over the top celebration, the North Georgia Mountains offers an amazing array of wedding venue ideas.
Resorts, Country Clubs and Hotels: Many of these venues can offer one-stop shopping. They may even have a wedding planner on staff that can take care of all your needs including flowers, catering, alcohol, photographers, officiant, music, parking, etc. Just be sure to view their location so you are sure it offers the stunning location for your ceremony that you seek as well as all the amenities you expect.
Historic Buildings: Country houses, charming bed and breakfast inns, old barns, stately court houses and museums are all among the locations that may offer a dream venue for your wedding and reception. Many of these venues offer packages to help you with your budget as well as recommended caterers, photographers, musicians and florists.
Vineyards and Farms: North Georgia Vineyards and farms can offer rows of grapevines and miles of orchards, stunning cellar settings filled with wine barrels, or open fields with a backdrop of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. One need not go to the expense of flying to Napa or Tuscany, it’s all right here in North Georgia.
Marquee Location: This may include botanical gardens, waterfalls (on private or public land), mountain tops, river banks or on a dock in a lake. An outdoor location brings the unrivaled beauty of nature into your ceremony. Say your vows beneath a towering oak tree beside a mountain lake or tumbling stream. Just be aware that to hire a marquee location for a wedding and reception can often times be very pricy. The plus side might be that you can better control some of the costs of catering, flowers, and alcohol by managing this separately from the venue. Make sure you have a back-up plan for rain. Many locations can supply tents.
Restaurant Location: If the success of your wedding includes great food, real Champagne and wonderful table settings, then where better to start than at a restaurant or cozy wine bar. Just be aware that these venues may not be able to accommodate 200 invitees. Also, you will not likely be allowed to furnish your own caterer or allow your guests to bring their own drinks.
Sports or Social Club: Many private and social clubs own facilities that are perfect for weddings and receptions. Our mountain lakes offer marinas and rowing clubs with stunning waterside locations. Many lakefront and mountain communities have pavilions, stunning overlooks and community buildings that allow you to build your own wedding at a much more reasonable cost. Do your research so you know what limitations may apply as to the type of event and activities they will allow. You may need to secure your own insurance naming the facility/club as an additional insured.
Some Final Thoughts: Having a written contract for your event is fundamental. Make sure it spells out everything in detail including the cancellation and change-of-date policies. Understand what happens to your deposit or prepaid fees if there is a cancellation. Before signing on the dotted line, read it thoroughly. Watch for hidden and exaggerated costs, such as a hefty corkage fee or drink prices. These might mean compromising on other aspects of the wedding.
Make sure the venue has sufficient experienced staff to manage and assist in the events you plan. Flexibility is very important. Are they willing to adapt to your last minute needs? This will be a major factor in how smoothly your day runs. Is the venue suitable for guests with a disability, and can it provide appropriate seating for the elderly and/or young children? Is there a reasonable range of accommodations close to the venue? If the site is remote, are the access roads adequate for the number and type of guests you plan to invite. Does the site have adequate parking? Is shuttle service available back to local hotels and inns for guests concerned about after reception driving?
Consider the venue’s restrictions or limitations that that might impact your wedding and reception plans. Some venues stipulate no loud music after a certain hour, others don’t permit confetti, rice or candles. Is the venue photo friendly? If there is lots of natural light the photos will be better. You might also want to check that there are plenty of appealing outdoor spots close at hand. Are table linens, flowers, place cards and other decorations included in the quoted price, or will you have to provide your own?
Finally, make a list of what you want in a venue and as you visit places, check off the items that meet your criteria. Every place may not meet all of your wants, but may get really close.
As innkeepers, we attempt to serve as a conduit for brides, grooms, their friends and family in pursuit of romantic yet authentic mountain hospitality. We hope these insights on selecting a venue for that special day will be of assistance. We are confident that if you come visit our beautiful North Georgia Mountains you will find a wonderful location that fits your heart’s desire.
For places to start your venue search please visit the following websites: Rabun County Convention and Visitors Bureau www.explorerabun.com; Towns County Chamber of Commerce www.mountaintopga.com/; Habersham County Chamber of Commerce www.mountaintopga.com; Toccoa- Stephens County Chamber of Commerce www.toccoagachamber.com.
By David and Gayle Darugh
Innkeepers Beechwood Inn
Georgia’s Premier Wine Country Inn