Plan I Must: Finding a Venue that is Us
- Photography by Greg Burk
I wasn't the girl who dreamed through childhood about where and how she'd wed. I was the hopeless romantic who decided that when the time came, it would all just magically come together like a Disney movie, with the swirl of my gown. There was no need to think about my ideal wedding location because it was more likely to fall from the sky – accompanied by uplifting music – when I was ready for it.
My reality as it came time to choose a wedding venue was the opposite of Disney magic and helpful forest creatures. The venue search began with a lot of research, email back-and-forths, and long days hearing about bathroom options for my guests, or how much extra a white chair might be as opposed to a brown one.
What no one tells you before you begin planning a wedding is how much every decision you make weighs on you because you feel it must define you. Not only did our wedding venue need to meet a slew of needs for our guests, it needed to wholly define us as individuals.
My fiancé Bryce has natural, rugged Vermont beginnings while I still bring a relaxed, oceanic California vibe (or so I like to think) to my life on the East Coast. We hold onto those aspects of our personality, but we're also a couple that is very . . . Baltimore. We love crabs, Bohs, cobble-stoned Fell's Point, and the kind of quirk that makes people-watching a daily activity. Our first home is in Baltimore. Why not exchange our vows here?
That's where I paused. Baltimore is us, but we are also a couple who grew up under trees, skipping rocks in the water, and adventuring in our backyards. For us, getting married outside was a must, and Baltimore didn't offer many options in that arena. There were a few lovely spaces: The Conservatory & Botanic Gardens in Druid Hill Park, The Frederick Douglass Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum outdoor dock space in Fell's Point, and the Baltimore Museum of Industry's waterfront views. Unfortunately, what all these venues have in common is Baltimore weather and an extreme risk suffocating humidity or rain – or both – in the summer months.
Right now Bryce lives in Charleston, South Carolina during the week on a temporary project for his job. If Charleston wasn't such a magnificent city, I'd probably be angrier with him for it. Instead, I feel like it's our second home, and I visit often. So I spent a ridiculous amount of time researching and visiting venues in the city during a winter trip. If our current home couldn't make our wedding feel like us, perhaps our second home could?
What I quickly learned (though I saw a gorgeous array of venues): don't try to force your wedding in a place that really doesn't define either of you just yet. I looked at white, wrap-around porches, 800-year-old oaks, and tons of history. But it wasn't our history to take. I felt like I was trying too hard to be a Southern bride when really I hate ball gowns and big hair and buttoned-up weddings. Charleston, we love you, but for our wedding, it's just not working out.
With Charleston and Baltimore tossed out, we were ready to consider the beautiful places on opposing sides of the U.S. where we grew up: Vermont and California. While Vermont's quaint charm was enticing, I visited California first in search of the perfect blend of great weather, outdoor space, nature, flowers, and more importantly: a place with character.
The moment we parked under plumes of hanging flowers at Sand Rock Farm in Aptos, Calif., I knew I had arrived somewhere enchanting. We toured the property and saw a giant Redwood tree to marry under, an antique water pump with daffodils sprouting from it, and an open-air, former wine cellar with ivy inching down the weathered walls, sprinkled with Italian lights. Flowers bloomed from all corners of the property, and the living room of the Inn on site felt like home. In the Disney movie in my head, I knew the forest creatures were rejoicing.
A homey, unassuming hideaway tucked a few miles from the beach, anchored by a Redwood, with homage to wine. It's not Baltimore, and that does give me a twinge of regret. But we get a lot of Baltimore flavor, all of the time. This venue not only defines us, it defines our family and friends who plan to join us next year. And that doesn't just make the forest creatures sing, it makes our hearts sing too. - Jasmine Touton
Jasmine is the co-founder of Stay Classy Canton.