Location, Location—Location? (Operation Newlywed)

by Amanda Pressner
Wedding on the Beach

Long before Jason and I got engaged, back when we were still discussing the “maybe one day" possibilities of tying the knot, both of us agreed upon one very critical thing: We had absolutely no idea where we'd eventually throw a wedding.

Many couples still feel strong ties to their hometowns or want to get hitched in the city where they currently live. But Jason's mom and stepdad had long since moved from the DC suburbs where he grew up, and for some reason, I just felt uninspired by the idea of hosting the event Tampa, where I'm originally from.

My decision to take a pass on Florida was truly cemented once Jason proposed in late June: Even if I wanted to get married near my parents, our desired wedding date late Spring/early Summer—coupled with the near 100 percent certainty of steamy weather, thunderstorms and wedding day shine/curly girl frizz—would have nixed the deal.

That left New York, the exciting, vibrant—and seriously expensive—city where we have both lived for the past decade. Knowing that everything here, particularly weddings, can cost two to five times more than it does in the rest of the country, we decided to spare ourselves the agony and the defeat of even starting the search for a venue in Manhattan and instead decided to look outside the Big Apple.

We had to get married somewhere else—but where??

Brainstorming together over several glasses of wine (this would be come a running theme during out venue search), we decided to start by imagining, in the loosest of terms, what our dream day would look like. Would it take place in the mountains or near the water? In a sexy, urban loft or a rustic natural setting? Did we want a small, chic wedding in a glamourous destination locale—or a huge, laid-back affair in easy-to-reach spot somewhere near the city?

In the end, we agreed that we were hoping to get married near the water (but not on the beach) somewhere on the East Coast (where most of our guests are from) and a place that held at least some connection and meaning for us.

The three locations that fit the bill:

The Hudson Valley, New York

St Michaels, Maryland

Charleston, South Carolina

The first two made sense. Nearly everyone in my extended family lives in upper Westchester County, which is located along the Hudson just north of NYC. And Jason's parents now live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, not far from the nautical-chic waterfront village of St Michaels (where, incidentally, parts of The Wedding Crashers was filmed)

The only wild card was Charleston—a city whether neither of us have family, closer friends or any other obvious connections. Our only tie to the ultra-atmospheric, historic Southern town was the fact that we'd fallen in love with it several months earlier on an impromptu visit with Jason's co-workers. We were both eager to return to such a romantic destination…but could it possibly make sense to get married there?

The only way to figure it out? Spend three back to back weekends singularly devoted to scouting venues in Westchester, St Michaels and Charleston. Within days, we'd booked flights, connected with family and were off and running on the Great Wedding Venue Dash of 2012.

With the clock ticking—and imaginary brides battling for premium wedding dates spurring me into action—we packed our bags, lined up a dozen walk-throughs—and hit the ground running.

I'll be sharing images and thoughts about the three destinations and venues in my next post. Stay tuned!

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