Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reception Hall: 92.4% Definite

The location of our reception has been the big question mark as of late. As I mentioned before, my darling mother (with my dashing father) has been going on meetings and talking with wedding-reception coordinators since the engagement like it's her job. John and I are so grateful to the both of them doing this for us. We wouldn't be 92.4% sure about the reception venue if it weren't for them. So, before I announce exactly where the wedding partay will probably be taking place, let me explain a bit (... quite a bit) of the process that has been going on.

Since the start, John and I said we wanted our reception venue to be something unique. I won't lie, I was somewhat inspired by a coworker who is having his wedding reception on the top floor of a beautiful library in Chicago, IL. So, the interwebz searching began. I also got some ideas from some family members (my bro Matt and cuz Sarah). Pretty quickly my heart (and some of John's too) became set on this:

Cheesy? ... yes. Hilarious? ... duh. Extraordinarily epic? ... well, obviously! The Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT hosts weddings on weekends right inside the actual aquarium. So while our guests were dining on their foods and sipping their cocktailz, they'd be able to go up to fish tanks and interact with the sea creatures. 

Needless to say, we were instantly sold. I mean... this is screaming unique. Can you think of a wedding that you've attended that is more out of the blue than this? (pun intended)

But, then we hit a wall. My momma was not happy. My dad wasn't thrilled either. And in addition, my Memere just thought it was weird. They made some good points, too. It would be far from the church and not to mention, just the food at the reception alone would have eaten up our entire wedding budget. (pun intended again)

Another pic of the Mystic Aquarium

So, we put the aquarium on the back burner and started looking into some other venues. Next up, I fell for the beautiful, elegant, classic Federal Reserve in Providence, RI. It used to be a bank and was converted into a reception hall many years ago. The inside is gorgeous. The bank teller counter has been replaced by a drinky drink bar, the ceilings are high and ornate, there's a balcony inside that overlooks the whole reception hall, the floors are marble, and the place just screamed unique. To be honest, I started the whole reception search thinking we'd have the reception in one of the mansions in RI, but that was quickly squashed by the big dollar $igns associated with each. Therefore, I think what really drew me to this place was it's resemblance of the inside of the mansions we couldn't afford. Check out these pictures:

The pictures are definitely a little outdated, but they give you an idea of the inside of the hall. So, I tell my mom that I'm interested and she sets up a meeting with the owners. It turns out that it's actually under new ownership. It's called the Dorrance now and it doesn't officially open for business until December. One of the new owners worked for this place for 10 years organizing wedding receptions while it was still the Federal Reserve. The other woman was her brand new partner... meaning they hadn't run a single function together. My parents ended up getting a really bad vibe from them (i.e. when asked about pricing for the food, they were given a random price quote and were told that a nice guy down the street is the caterer... strange much?). Unfortunately, my (second) dream hall was no longer a reality.

Two other ideas that came up were two barns in different parts of the state, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI (pictured on the right), but neither idea went very far (they both required furniture rental and caterer hiring). We emailed a few Country Clubs in RI, but each of them was booked (I mean, our wedding is only 8.5 months away now). There was also the Ocean Cliff in Newport, RI. My parents actually met with the wedding coordinator there and quickly realized that it was going to be WAY out of our price range. The landscape there is beautiful (right on the ocean with the Newport Bridge in the background) and the food sounded delicious, but to have an afternoon reception there (which is cheaper than an evening reception), it was going to cost thousands of dollar$ over our budget... and that didn't even include the alcohol! Lame.

Ocean Cliff en la noche
Now you're probably wondering... how did you go from alllll of these ideas to being 92.4% sure about a reception hall? Well, in pops the Radisson Hotel. My mom had suggested the Radisson as a reception site pretty early in the search. I put it in the back of my mind and spent most of my efforts coming up with the list of duds you just painstakingly read about. Well, once it looked like all those places were out of the picture (and I got a random email from the coordinator at the Radisson checking in on us), we decided to further investigate. We quickly discovered that we would be getting a LOT of bang for our buck$ if we decided to have the reception there. Check out everything they offer in their wedding reception package:

  • Cocktail hour before the reception
  • Four course meal for each guest (made by chefs at Johnson & Wales University... the same folks who catered my parents' wedding)
  • Wedding cake
  • Linens/tablecloths/etc.
  • Ice sculpture (yes, you read that correctly)
  • Champagne/wine toast
  • Mirrors and votive candles to highlight our centerpieces 
  • Discounted hotel rooms/suites for our guests
  • Use of the hall from 5:30pm - 12 midnight
  • Shuttle to and from airport for our guests
  • Room for Bride & Groom at the end of the night

AND we would be under-budget by thousands of dollars. The frugal part of me just cries out with joy when I think of how awesome this deal is. AND to top it all off, having the reception at a hotel makes it suuuper convenient for our out-of-town guests (of which we'll have many... since John and I are just sooo friendly). 

Basically, John and I just can't say no. We talked about it and decided that (after all that research on reception venues) the reception hall isn't the most important part of our big day after all... it's about having all our awesome family and friends in the same place, and showing them a great time. We decided that (especially with all those extras included) the Radisson would help us affordably do just that!

And the only reason that it's 92.4% definite (as opposed to 110%) is that my mom hasn't called to book it yet. We're expecting this teeny, little detail will be taken care of tomorrow :)

The Ballrom at the Radisson
Radisson Courtyard

So, it is unique? ... not really. Is it fancy and mansion-like? ... nah. Is it going to stick out in the memories of our guests as the most amazing reception hall they've ever been to? ...nope. But, will it still be epic? ... you betcha! You can't have a Schwedding without epic-ness of some sort!

Oh, and all the money we'll be saving will help us pay for the grand honeymoon we've recently started talking about. If anyone has suggestions for a beautiful island getaway (we're talking crystal-clear waters, white sand, perfect temperatures, and fun adventures), we're all ears. 


  1. ARUBA! Crystal clear waters, white sand, it's always in the mid 80s and just when you think you're too hot laying on the beach, in comes the cross-island breeze to refresh you. It seems to be a hit for honeymooners too...both the Mrs. Katherine Young and Mrs. Melanie DiBiasio enjoyed the wonders of Aruba.

  2. The aquarium would have been so fun! Now we can't "drink like a fish." PS - Sooo excited for you two!

  3. Hi Stephanie, this is your future cousin. My suggestion to you is you can always do something "epic" when it comes to your pictures. Just because your reception isn't at (the beach or the aquarium, or a field of flowers, or a carnival...you get the idea) doesn't mean that you can't have pictures of the two of you in your wedding attire at the location of your choice! Maybe it's worth it to you to book more time with your photographer and get ready earlier in the day so you have more time for pictures at a different location or sometimes even more fun is to have a photo session after your wedding day. I'm not a fan of the phrase "trash the dress" but I'm definitely a fan of styled shoots and portraits that are fun and inspired and they can be whatever you want them to be! Sometimes Catholic weddings are earlier in the day and then they have the reception in the evening. That's a good way to squeeze in time for pictures on location for a few hours as well.

    When it's all said and done deciding where your budget goes is great, maybe it's flowers or the dress, but the one thing that will capture all of that is pictures! And they can be as creative a location or theme as you want them to be and that's what you will end up framing, not the reception pictures, but the beautiful/fun/inspired photos that capture the emotion and spirit of the two of you. Be creative and find a way to get the look you want without staying in the lines. I hope that helps! :)