Back in high school, I had made a pact with myself that I would never buy a wedding magazine until I was engaged, to make the period of engagement even sweeter (Of course, that didn’t stop me from sitting in the aisles of Target or Barnes and Noble flipping through every beautifully laid out page). But, now I was actually engaged, and was too nervous to start planning the day I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl! We were on cloud nine, and I was afraid that we would lose that excitement by starting the planning process.
For the first few weeks of our engagement, we did very little planning–just soaked in the state of bliss that we were in. Fortunately, we had already planned vacation, which began shortly after the proposal. We decided to just stick our toes into the beginning stages of planning, while we were relaxing on vacation. We stayed at an adorable little bed and breakfast off of Lake Erie. We spent a few mornings in a gazebo that overlooked the lake, with a couple of the magazine we were gifted as engagement gifts. We talked about how excited we were, what we imagined our married life as, and ways to incorporate our love story into our wedding.
By the time we returned, we had some ideas of what we were looking for in terms of the theme and feel of our wedding. We wanted a more casual affair; with a smaller guest list that had the feel of a big family gathering. I knew that I wanted southern hospitality to be at the core of the day, with a rustic flair. I had always dreamed of getting married in my hometown, so it became time to start looking for venues near home.
I started by searching for all of the venues within 30 minutes of my church. I had just assumed that I would be married in my church, and as locations are more spread out on the shore, I didn’t want our guests having a long commute between the two venues. There are a surplus of waterfront venues to choose from, but considering half of them were out of my budget, I felt that waterfront reception, while beautiful, wouldn’t fully match our rustic theme.
Ideally, I imagined an elegant, rustic barn venue, complete with high ceilings, and wooden beams galore. I also imagined that finding this perfect venue would be easy, as I was planning a wedding in a very rural area. Much to my surprise (and to my dismay), there was only one venue in my area that could work, but it was too small and too expensive for my event. I started to worry that I would have to settle on my dream venue.
While we were on vacation a few weeks prior, we went to a beautiful little winery in upstate Ohio that we joked would be perfect for the wedding.It wasn’t until my mom called me the night before I was suppose to drive up to go “venue shopping” that we realized we never considered looking at wineries to hold the reception. There were two in the area that were big enough to hold weddings: Layton’s Chance and Harvest Ridge Winery. I made last minute appointments for a tour at these vineyards, in addition to local classics, The Tidewater Inn, and The Evergreen. I packed my bag, grabbed my wedding planner, hopped in the car and headed to Maryland.
As Jody had to work, and since I still had some vacation days I needed to use, my mom volunteered to go venue shopping with me. I met her at my parents’ home, and took a short drive to Harvest Ridge Winery.
I almost knew that was my reception venue the second it appeared around the bend. Surrounded by rows of grapevines was a barn, a small courtyard, and a smaller building with large windows on the right. It was like God looked at my wedding inspiration board, and put a winery I’ve never heard of just 20 miles away from my hometown. I was ready to book the building before we even walked in!
After a tour and wine tasting, we stopped by my childhood church, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, just to see if the wedding date we had in mind was available. My current church is 30 minutes away, and I never could picture getting married there, even as beautiful as Immanuel Lutheran is. We were able to pop in the sanctuary, taking a peek down memory lane, as I spent the first 14 years of my life growing up in that church. I opened up the big, wooden doors in the back of the sanctuary, and for the first time, pictured Jody at the end of the aisle as my groom. I had a feeling that I was standing in the room where I would marry my best friend, but I still had a couple other venues to visit!
The Tidewater Inn is a classic venue, here on the shore. It has two elegant ballrooms, that have enough personality, decor would be minimal, and an outdoor option in the middle of the small-town hustle and bustle. All of the wedding portraits I’ve seen at the Tidewater were stunning. Plus, the food is phenomenal. I never imagined getting married there, as it is quite expensive, but it was so fun to go tour the rooms, and imagine hosting our wedding at this classy location.
We headed further down the shore to another winery. It might have been the hottest day of summer, thus far, but it made imagining my beginning of summer wedding even easier. With a sweet glass of wine in hand, we toured this beautiful facility, which included a ceremony location in the middle of the vineyard! As much as I loved the uniqueness of this winery, it was pretty far from most things, including my church. I really didn’t want my guests to have a long commute between the ceremony and reception, and since I wanted to have the ceremony in a church, Layton’s Chance Winery just wasn’t a match.
Our last stop was at Evergreen Easton Point, which is a health and well-being facility, on a serene waterfront property. The views were breathtaking, and I imagine even more so during sunset. However, I did worry about that amount of mosquitoes that would be present in late June, on the riverbank, as well as the lack of inclimate weather options for our guests.
I had a pretty good idea of which venue options we would choose, but I promised I wouldn’t make any decisions without Jody’s approval. One week later, I brought Jody back to St. Luke’s and Harvest Ridge Winery, where we decided without hesitation that we would be married on June 24, 2017 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and would celebrate the first hours as newlyweds at Harvest Ridge, surrounded by our closest family and friends.