The Story of Our Wedding Venue Hunt, Part 1

by Melissa on January 19, 2012

For our wedding, Ken and I rented a campground for three days. For those three days, we paid $1620. The rental rate was $540 per night. It was an amazing wedding venue. But, it took us a long time to find it.

We had to kiss a lot of frog venues before we found our Prince Charming venue. 

It occurs to me that I never told the story of our wedding venue here on the blog.

There were a couple of reasons for not talking about it. 1) Sometimes I can be overly paranoid about privacy; 2) I didn’t want to talk about venues and dates that I was loving and have another bride find my post, and think, “Hey, that’s a great venue and date!” and then manage to book the venue before I did. Weird, yes, I know. 3) The venue we ultimate chose had some unusual application timeframes, so once we applied to our venue, we had to wait nearly three months before we found out if we actually got the venue. I’ll explain all of that in the next few posts about how we found our venue. And 4) I didn’t want to blacklist myself from finding a venue or caterer by blogging about every asshole I encountered. So, let’s get started.

We first started wedding venue hunting in the DC area in early November 2010. Very early readers of SuperNoVABride may even recall the overview I provided of the venues we visited during those first two weekends of our search. After visiting several venues, it was a toss up between two different DC area venues:

The Pavilions at Turkey Run and Glen Echo Park.

The Pavilions at Turkey Run

The Pavilions at Turkey Run Park was not a traditional wedding venue per se. I had been contacting venues for weeks, but they were all either too expensive, or just to … blah. So I tried to “Think outside the box.” I used different types of search terms to help me find a venue. But then I recalled a lovely picnic area at Turkey Run Park in the Northern Virginia area where the company that I formerly worked for held their annual picnic. 

I contacted them to see if they allowed weddings. They said that they did, and they actually sent me some photographs from a wedding that had just been hosted there. It looked beautiful! To make matters even better, their food was “reasonably” priced, at just $30 per person, and you got a significant amount of food for that money. And it was normal, picnic-style food, just like Ken and I wanted. As an added bonus, they had an entire catalog of activities that could be selected, including a moon bounce rental, and a rock climbing wall. I was pretty much in love with that venue.  But, we still wanted to shop around.

Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park is a popular wedding venue in the DC area, and it was, relatively speaking, very reasonably priced and within our budget.

On our second weekend of venue hunting, we went to Glen Echo Park, a venue I had been secretly eyeing up even before I got engaged. Ken and I immediately fell in love with the Bumper Car Pavilion at Glen Echo Park. And the entire park itself was just so unique. We could have the ceremony in one part of the Park (we liked the Cuddle Up Pavilion) and then the reception in the Bumper Car Pavilion. Best of all, the venue was reasonably priced compared to other venues we had found. 

Glen Echo Park has a limited selection of preferred caterers that you can choose from. Some of the caterers had pricing listed right on their website, and I could rule out right away as too expensive. One of the caterers, Matters of Taste, seemed like they would be more reasonably priced, so I e-mailed them for an estimate.

Although I had to follow up with them a few times to get a response to my estimate request, I was impressed when I finally talked to them on the phone. The woman was really nice at first. She apologized about our estimate being delayed, saying she was slammed with holiday party catering estimates. After speaking with them, she quickly turned around an estimate for food, and it actually seemed like it was going to be in our budget! 

However, the estimate left out a few things. Specifically, bar service, alcohol, and table and chair rentals.  I followed up with her by phone. (There were a few issues experienced in between, like bounced back e-mails). She said she would update the estimate and get it sent back to me. However, she told me that I should go ahead and take advantage of Glen Echo Park’s two week, no deposit hold they have available. The caterer warned me that “engagement season” would be kicking off (this was the week before Thanksgiving), and that I might have difficulty booking a date if I waited much longer.

Taking the caterer’s advice, Ken and I placed the two week hold on the venue.

There was just one problem. Matters of Taste never called me back or responded to my e-mails with the updated estimate. I contacted Glen Echo Park for advice. They just said that was very unusual for that caterer.

FINALLY, in early December, two days before our no-hold deposit was going to run out, someone answered the phone at Matters of Taste. I asked to speak to the person I had been trying to contact. In a curt voice, the woman on the phone said, “It’s the holiday season and it’s SNOWING out.” I was completely taken aback. After all, I was simply waiting for a few additions to the estimate. I had already been provided with the estimate for the food!  And what the fuck did snow have to do with anything?

I said, “I have been waiting for a return phone call or e-mail for TWO WEEKS. Now, either have her call me back, or you’ll just be missing out on a sale.  Plus, you all have been giving me this “holiday season” excuse for more than a month now!” The woman told me she’d have my point-of-contact call me back that afternoon. I never received a call back.

I was really pissed.

So, Ken and I contacted Capital Q BBQ, another one of Glen Echo Park’s preferred caterers. The prices on Capital Q’s website seemed very reasonable, so I e-mailed them with the details and asked for an estimate. I still had not received a response by the end of the day, and I was getting panicked because our two week hold would expire in two days. I followed up with Capital Q by phone, and they said they would e-mail me an estimate. You might remember what ensued after that, but the short story is that their estimate to me was about five times what was listed on their website. When I asked them why their estimate differed so much from the prices on their website, the man said, “Well, that’s for corporate catering, not for a wedding at Glen Echo Park!” The tone in his voice conveyed a huffy “You silly woman, how could you think we would charge such a low amount for a WEDDING!”

I hung up on him.

I was furious.

I talked to Ken. I said that maybe we should just put the deposit down on Glen Echo Park and hopefully we would hear from Matters of Taste soon. The most we would lose from the deposit was like $250 I think. So if Matters of Taste was in fact too expensive, we could just break the contract and lose the $250.

But then I realized what was likely happening. The caterer was just playing games with us. They were probably assuming  that we loved the venue so much that we’d put the deposit down without having a firm catering estimate, and then they’d be able to charge us whatever they wanted. 

I wasn’t going to play that game. I contacted Glen Echo Park and told them they should not expect our deposit. I told them the entire story, and included a link to a review I had written about Matters of Taste on Yelp documenting the whole saga.

Glen Echo Park was really nice and apologized and said they would contact the caterer for me, but I had had enough. I was not going to deal with it.

So, we would not be getting married at Glen Echo Park. More than two months after our engagement, and we were still venue-less.

I was so sad. Sad about how I was treated, about how everything had to be some huge ripoff just because I was getting married. I had spent the last several weeks envisioning our wedding there, and now, it wouldn’t be happening.

It was time to start over from scratch.