Wedding Planning: The Venue

Oh wedding planning.  How I love and hate you.  If you’ve never had a wedding (or been closely involved with a wedding) let me impart a tiny word to the wise – this a whole world of craziness you never knew you were getting yourself into.  There are about a million and five questions, and small reference points to try and work of off.  I started texting recently married friends to find out how much they spent, did they get a planner, what did they love/dislike about their venue, etc?


I was in a bit of a tailspin.  I knew how much money we had for the wedding – $8,000 – but no idea how much “wedding things” cost or how to even begin trying to allocate the budget.  I had two miraculous things happen.  I won a $3,000 prize pack from the Downtown Mesa Wedding Walk {more about that HERE} and one of my bridesmaids helps coordinate weddings at the Mesa Arts Center.  She knows all about rentals, coordinating vendors, and the details I never even knew I had to learn.


Our first big challenge was finding a venue to have the wedding.  You can’t really start looking at vendors (cateres, photographers, etc.) until you know where you’re having your wedding.  There are lots of different options when you’re going about this, here are the big three:  church ceremony and reception somewhere else, a non-wedding venue like a forest or a field or a private residence, and an all inclusive wedding venue.  We weren’t having a church ceremony  – it’s not for me.  While a forest wedding up north would be super cool, it wasn’t realistic for our budget or travel for our guests.  So I started looking into all inclusive venues and just venues period.  Most of the places I found were venue only, meaning you get the building and you find someone to get the rentals (chairs, tables, linens, and so on) from.  Here were my favorites…

Regency Garden

{via Regency Garden website}

Regency Garden – This place is freaking gorgeous outside, and the inside isn’t so bad either.  🙂  They can host up to about 125 guests (if I remember right).  This venue is all inclusive which basically means you pick a package they offer and that’s what you pay.  It includes chairs, tables, linens, food, drinks, flowers, staff, security, invitations, a cake, basically the works.  While it’s a beautiful place, even the more basic packages was way way above our budget.  We had to pass.

Tempe Arts Center

{via google images}

Tempe Arts Center – Totally gorgeous, right on the water of Tempe Town Lake, and the reception room has gient windows that look out over the water at night.  They can host up to 200 guests, and it’s located right near Mill Ave and Arizona State University so there’s lots of fun things for guests to do.  I was dreaming of a rehearsal dinner at Four Peaks Brewery if we got married here.  Not that we still couldn’t do that, but it would have been really convenient.  They were a little higher than I was originally thinking of going for the venue budget, but what a cool place.  But our date already had a hold, so it was a no go.

The Icehouse

{via The Icehouse website}

The Icehouse – This place is so freaking cool.  Inside is this funky brick wall, art gallery vibe, almost speakeasy kind of feel, and outside is “The Cathedral.”  How spectacular is this space?!?  Open air, super high walls, it’s just so different.  While I was really really excited about this venue, it didn’t include any rentals, just the building, and with all of that it was definitely out of budget.  Pass.  🙁


{via Soho63 website}

Soho 63 – My Obsession!  First off, go click over to the site and look around a little.  I’ll wait.  This place is in-freaking-sane.  They can host up to 200 guests.  The venue cost includes chairs, tables, and that sort of thing, and you have the option to provide your own alcohol for the bar – a huge plus for us since Mike gets killer deals and we want an open bar.  I cannot get over this place.  It’s so so gorgeous, there are lots of different spaces.  There’s an outdoor or indoor ceremony option too.  They do have different rates for different days of the week and cost changes depending on if you want to have the ceremony and reception there or just the reception.  I wanted this place so bad I started talking Mike into a Saturday Justice of the Peace wedding with immediately family only, and then having a big party Sunday night.  We get the wedding day we want, and get the coolest venue I could find.


Chapel at the Farm – This place is part of a little village of 1920’s houses turned into businesses.  It’s right next to one of my favorite breakfast date with Mom restaurants.  And and and…this where were getting married!!!  Chapel at the Farm hosts 12 or 20 person intimate ceremonies (or elopement ceremonies) inside the 1920’s cottage.  For bigger events like ours, you can rent to pavilion just next to the cottage.  The cottage becomes the dressing area, and the pavilion is the ceremony & reception space.  Want to see?









There’s a big green belt just in front of the pavilion which is going to be perfect to let all the kids run around.  The little concrete platform just across the green belt is for the bar set up.  After the ceremony, guests are politely shoo’d off the pavilion and twenty minutes later it’s party time.  Just to give you a visual…



{photos via Chapel at the Farm website and Google images}

Chapel at the Farm is $1,200 to rent the space for 8 hours from 2pm to 10pm.  Yes, it’s just the space no rentals or anything.  You need to choose your caterer, DJ, and bar service from their approved list as well.  That being said they have some amazing advantages.  For one, we can provide our own alcohol for the bartender to serve.  Win!  Chapel at the Farm has some partnerships with a few of their vendors = lower prices/special packages.  And we totally took advantage.

Heidi’s Events & Catering started at $20/person for all the rentals we would.  Awesome.  And the menu we chose through Heidi’s is $15.95/person for 1 entree or $18.95/person for 2 entrees, and we’ll have a child’s menu option as well (for $6.95/kid).  I was so scared we wouldn’t be able to do the food we wanted on our budget, but we totally can now!  Heidi’s is providing all the staff, set up, tear down, on site coordinator for the day, linens, diningware, and the drink package was only $3.50/person.  So for 100 people (75 adults and 25 kids)  we’re looking at about $5,300 for the food, rentals, staffing, and we basically just bring centerpieces and decorations and they make it all happen.  Insert big sigh of relief here.

Another other vendor partner, J Lyn Photography, has a special $800 for 5 hours photography package.  I’m still trying to decide on our photographer, but what an amazing option to have at our disposal.  I have a family friend lined up to take the “getting ready shots.”  She’s an amazing candid photographer and I’m really excited to be having a friend take such personal pictures.  Our engagement photographer, Maria Fossler, is on my research list as well.  I just have to really have to hash out the budget.  And find some more money somewhere.  


The most important thing I can share in this post is this.  I felt like I was getting sucked into the whole my-wedding-has-to-be-a-certain-way mentality.  I felt pigeon holed and thought we’d never find a place for the wedding that wouldn’t kill our budget.  When I found Chapel at the Farm I was really excited it wasn’t crazy expensive, which is really great an all but not what sold me on the venue.

When  I went to the property and stood in the pavilion, all my stress went away.  It felt so relaxed and I could see the pretty potential.  Even after reading my favorite wedding site, Offbeat Bride, I hadn’t let go of all those “weddings are this way” feelings.  With this venue I did.  I knew we could have a fun party and my wedding could be whatever I wanted it to be.  We could have a fun party and dance the night away.  We lucked out and everything started to fall in place with the vendors too, but just this one little detail completely destressed my wedding brain.  I can’t wait to start more wedding plans and inspiration with you all.

Get My Wedding Planning Printables HERE.  See more wedding posts HERE.

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