When You Least Expect It: One and Done

July 26, 2016 by Patrice LaHair
   

Greg and I returned from Paris in an engagement/vacation glow. We had been away from reality, work, and waging war against the mouse that thought our kitchen was its home. We had been told by my friend to avoid any wedding planning for a few weeks and to just enjoy the excitement of being engaged. While I think that is amazing advice, I am incapable of not beginning to plan immediately. Maybe it’s the former Girl Scout in me or maybe it’s the backwards-planning teacher, but, either way, I like to plan.

Our first morning back from Paris started early with casual perusing of Wedding Wire and listing things our must haves in a venue. Luckily, we agreed on many things: access to AC (I’m a notorious back-sweater), something classic with history, and something within an hour from us. Despite being a teacher, I knew that a summer wedding in Baltimore was not for me. I drip with sweat and burn from the sight of the sun so I needed a slightly cooler month. Greg, a San Diegan, appreciates my hatred of humidity and sweltering heat and agreed that a summer wedding wasn’t in the cards for us. The week of my 2017 spring break for Baltimore City Public Schools seemed like a good fit: It was cooler, I would have time off before to finish last minute things, and it was near Easter, which is when we got engaged. As a terrible quasi-Catholic, I had no qualms about a near Easter wedding since we weren’t doing a religious ceremony. Tentatively picking a time seemed simple, but we knew that nothing was set until we actually found a place available at that time.

Everyone’s style when it comes to wedding planning is different. Some like to make it a group affair and include lots of people from the start. Some weddings are planned exclusively by one partner and the other just shows up. Some are a team effort. There is no wrong way; it has to work for the people getting married. Greg and I were in the team planning approach. We both researched together and separately. Luckily, our opinions on things were similar--but who knows, we could end up battling over ceremony music--and made it easy to narrow down venues to see. We had not said much to our parents yet since we hadn’t really secured a list and we had only been looking for a few days. We figured the search would take a few weeks. We were wrong.

I scoured Wedding Wire and looked at museums and historic homes around Baltimore. Greg would look at the websites. Nope, that one is all outdoors. Nope, that one is way above our price point. Nope, that one doesn’t allow red wine (a deal breaker of epic sorts amongst some in the family). However, one that I considered far out of our reach kept slipping into my mind: The Belvedere. Classic, elegant, timeless, historic: all the things on our list. Though it was my seventh year in Baltimore, I had never been inside but thought it was gorgeous. Although we had strong anti-hotel ballroom sentiments, we felt the former hotel was different. It had a rich history and the pictures were stunning, though a bit more formal than I had originally thought. To be fair, Greg said he had multiple tuxedoes growing up (because kids grow, of course), so I should have expected we’d end up someplace fancier despite my tuxedo-free childhood. We sent an email and heard back the next day that there was an open time to visit that Saturday. This wedding stuff was getting real very quickly.

On the very short drive over, Greg and I repeatedly reminded each other that we needed to look at multiple places and would just soak everything in. While I completely agreed, I also knew that for certain things I am a gut reaction person. All of the row homes I have lived in were gut reactions. I walked in and knew that I wanted to live in them. It made things feel right and removed any indecision from my mind. I was curious if my gut reaction would come out at the Belvedere.


All images from The Belvedere.

If looks alone were the selling point, we were sold at the entrance. You could imagine the history of people sneaking into the Owl Bar, you could imagine travelers arriving in furs and silks, and you could imagine being part of that history. I got good gut reaction vibes. Then, we met Kat.

Now, I tend to be positively biased towards fellow redheads, but I am not being biased when I say Kat, the main event planner at the Belvedere, is amazing. When we met her, she was warm, welcoming, and appreciative of our quirky personalities. She led us through the three rooms we would use, should we select the Belvedere and showed us the other options just in case.


The Palm Room was elegant and felt like something out of The Great Gatsby. I could imagine getting married in that room. The John Eager Howard had gorgeous paintings and incredible wood details. I could picture myself sipping a cocktail and saying hi to family and friends. The Charles was elegant and classic, reflecting a royal feel that reminded me of Paris and our engagement. I was sold.


I had all the good vibes and Kat made me feel even more confident. I loved that the planning was handled in house by a team of experts who knew the venue inside and out and could provide ample recommendations. Greg and I wouldn’t have to stress over coordinating caterers or finding day-of planners. All we had to do was show up and be part of Belvedere’s rich history.

I think I’m pretty good at reading Greg, but I wanted to respect our car discussion about seeing places. Surely, it shouldn’t be a one and done venue search. As we went over menu packages and I watched his face, I was fairly certain he was as sold as I was. When we told Kat our tentative date, she mentioned that they switched to peak season that day (a Saturday). I suggested the day before, a Friday, which would be off-season and get Friday discounts, plus people could get home in time for Easter. However, this meant a Good Friday wedding. Up until this point, Greg and I hadn’t even mentioned we were at the venue to anyone, simply because it was so last minute. A quick text to my mom received a positive response and we went forward. Kat coined the wedding as Best Friday and we parted, eagerly awaiting the proposal to be sent.


As we stepped out of the revolving doors and onto the marble steps, we looked at each other. Greg immediately told me he was sold and didn’t want to look anywhere else. I completely agreed. My gut reaction was there and I could see us getting married in that historic, gorgeous building. The venue search, despite our original plans, was one and done.

Spoiler Alert: The weekend of our wedding is also during Passover. (Greg is Jewish but practices about as often as I go to Mass. We are the worst only children). However, my friend Julie offered to hide the afikoman at our wedding and my Grandma said it was okay since we weren’t having a Catholic ceremony. We tried to appease both religions, but sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

   


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