Priorities. I have learned that planning a wedding is all about priorities. You and your fiancé need to decide what you want. Since Danny and I are on a limited budget, we can’t have everything, but we decided to pick the things that are most important to us and make that priority one.

In the last blog, I asked what you think the most important item on the wedding to do list is, and we got some surprising answers—from wedding vows to picking a photographer. For Danny and I, venue was number one. We picked our wedding date…sort of, but honestly it is impossible to finalize your date until you decide where you are getting married.

I’ve always wanted to get married surrounded by trees and water, and Danny is a huge fan of outdoor pursuits, like hiking and camping. So we agreed that we wanted an outdoor wedding. We also planned on having our ceremony and reception at the same location. But places get booked quickly, so we knew we better hurry and find a place. Week one of our engagement we started researching. 

Since weddings are all about picking priorities, there were three Danny and I had while searching for our outdoor venue:

  1. Stay within our budget.
  2. Accommodate a potentially large guest list.
  3. Easy driving distance for our guests.

Venue Tours

With those three things in mind, we decided to spend a Saturday afternoon venue searching. Before choosing a location, brides should see it first. I made an appointment to tour the gorgeous Williamsburg Winery. Danny and I decided to take my parents and make a day of it. Who says you can’t make wedding planning fun?

The wedding coordinator at Williamsburg Winery was extremely friendly and treated us to a tour of the venue. As we walked the beautiful lawn and into a huge, wood-beamed banquet room, I could see the potential of the location. But when it came down to it, the distance was too far for our guests to travel and the price was a little higher than we could afford.

We stopped for a leisurely lunch in Williamsburg discussing different venue possibilities. Then my mom suggested we hop on the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry and head to Smithfield. Smithfield is a small, historic town with tons of charm. In our research, Danny and I had seen potential locations, one being the Windsor Castle Park. The location’s name is slightly deceptive. It’s actually a beautiful space right on the river, with lots of trees and nearby barns. We loved the serene, waterside location, but it ,also, was too far away.

Don’t be afraid to dream big…

About five years ago, I visited a beautiful historic home in Norfolk for a summer concert. It had been converted into a museum, and the surrounding grounds contained gardens with beautiful flowers, architectural surprises and the nearby Lafayette River. Instead of listening to the concert, I walked around, enraptured by the gorgeous house and beautiful trees. This location was the Hermitage Museum & Gardens. I knew then and there that if I could get married anywhere, it would be there. 

Even though I had the Hermitage in the back of my mind while Danny and I searched for venues, it seemed beyond the realm of possibility. But Danny and I booked a tour there just to dream. As soon as he arrived, Danny fell as much in love with it as I was. It was everything we were looking for. The Hermitage also possesses a magical charm. Maybe it’s the long, tree-lined drive leading up to the house. Maybe it’s the amazing details prevalent in every inch of the house. Or maybe it’s the huge magnolia tree that dominates the shoreline lawn. All of these come together to make the Hermitage one of my favorite places to visit in Coastal Virginia.

Lil Acosta, the wedding coordinator at the Hermitage, patiently answered the many questions we peppered her with. And as we discussed options, Danny and I began to realize that having our wedding there was not an impossible dream. We would have to sacrifice other expenses, but we knew that getting this venue would make our wedding everything we wanted it to be.

We thought about it, we prayed about it… and about two weeks later, we booked our wedding date at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens! I will become Mrs. Conley on October 30 at the venue of my dreams!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our journey. Planning a wedding in four months is exhilarating, exciting and terrifying. Want to hear how it all began? Click here to read the first blog post of Quickly Becoming Conley. Next week: saying yes to the dress! What are some clues that you’ve found the right gown? 


Want to see what all the fuss is about? Reply to this post on the CoVa Bride Facebook page by telling us about your dream venue, and you could win Two Free Tickets to the Hermitage Museum & Gardens in Norfolk, VA. See the gorgeous grounds, the amazing art and a historically important Coastal Virginia home. 

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