How wrong I was.
One of the things that I decided was important to me was the wedding date. As I discussed in one of the earliest blog posts, there are a lot of factors to consider that will affect when we can have our special day. The wedding date is also one of the few elements of the wedding that will continue to be relevant for years. An anniversary is a special event. Especially for me, since I grew up in a family that celebrated every joyous event to the max. My mother was still giving me pink rainboots with hearts on them for Valentine's Day through senior year of high school, and my grandmother sent me Halloween cards until she couldn't write anymore. For these reasons and more, I didn't want my wedding anniversary, one of the most important days of the year for the rest of my life, to be dependent on some stranger's wedding date or the pool-cleaning schedule at a pretty venue I like. Therefore, when Joey and I picked a date that we liked, that had significance (and convenience!) for us, I kinda latched onto it and decided that it was one of my (hopefully few) non-negotiable elements. This sounds pretty reasonable, right? The date is over a year away and at a time that works for our families, so, as far as bridal quirks go, this one is pretty easy to work with ...or so you would think.
This past weekend, Joey and I travelled to LA to spend Passover with my family and check out wedding venues, with my dad along as expert-on-hand, since Joey and I have no idea what we're doing. After doing extensive online research, I narrowed our venue visits down to four, which I will call A, B, C, and D. I was going to write out the locations and include links, but then I realized that I am going to point out positive and negative elements of each and I would feel very stupid if I chose one of these and then all my lovely readers were distracted at our wedding by the off-center arches and corny crown moulding at our venue of choice, or sad that we didn't choose the place with the three-story slide into a bunny pit. So, until we pick a place, the identity of the candidates shall remain protected.
Venue A was lovely. We were greeted by a very nice man who walked us through the location and flow of events. There was a lovely outdoor space for the ceremony as well as indoor dinner/dancing areas, which was exactly what I wanted. The whole place felt cozy and intimate, and their on-site caterer is actually a very nice restaurant company that both my mom and I have heard of. The guy who showed us around was very kind and helpful and seemed interested in getting to know us. His only mistake was telling us about a wedding coming up this month that is no longer coming up this month because the groom got cold feet. I said we shouldn't even mention such things, to which he replied "Oh, you have nothing to worry about, this guy was only 23!" I explained why that was in no way comforting and the poor guy started backpedaling and tripping over his words so fast, Joey had to explain that I was just giving him a hard time and it was really okay. Strangely enough, I think that made me like the guy and the place more. As we left, I explained that I have no way to gauge Venue A against others, since I hadn't seen any others, but it seemed great!
Venue B was amazing. Very different from Venue A in that the building itself was amazing, whereas at Venue A it felt like the venue was just a good space to hold an amazing event. Venue B had a distinct personality all its own. There was an indoor space and an outdoor space for the ceremony, both of which would be amazing, and a beautiful ballroom area for dinner and dancing that had all the lovely little details that architecture junkies like my family notice. The woman who showed us around was friendly and funny (well, she laughed at my jokes, you can make of that what you will) and I think that all four of us were feeling really good about the idea of having the wedding there. Then, as we were sitting and discussing options and logistics, she double-checked our date availability (I had already checked it with another person who worked there when I made the appointment) and learned that it was no longer available. After such a great tour, that was quite a disappointment. This is the part where Joey and my dad look to me with that face that says "okay, the special date idea was cute before, but now that it actually matters, can you just let it go?" and oh goodness I wish I could... but I'm emotionally stuck on it now! And now I'm afraid that this one non-negotiable point is turning me into my biggest fear: Bridezilla. I'm torn between it being one very reasonable request and it now suddenly becoming a problematic deal-breaker. We explained the situation to our hostess and left with a very friendly "let us know if anything changes" to go to our next venue.
Venue C was an easy one. The events team was off for the holiday weekend, which we couldn't really work around because this is our only planned trip to LA for a while, but we were supposed to be able to walk around the space anyway, which looked great from the photos online. Unfortunately, nobody had told them we were coming so it took 20 minutes to get them to let us over to the event space. When we got there it looked not at all like what we'd seen in the photos and was very harsh and sterile looking, not at all the feeling we wanted for our wedding. We left pretty quickly (but not before Joey diagnosed the girl working the front desk with Cushings. Med students are weird). [someone tell me how to properly punctuate the end of this paragraph! There are two full sentences inside the parenthetical phrase of the final sentence!]
When we walked into Venue D there was nobody to greet us and nobody to talk to, since they were all busy with what appeared to be other couples planning their wedding at the same place. This isn't horrible. Having to wait five minutes isn't the end of the world and just because other people get married there doesn't make it, in my mother's words, a "wedding factory". The nail in the coffin came before we even began the tour, though. Before the tour and just after finding our names on her tour sheet for the day (we had made appointments at all these places), she asked us to fill out a form with our contact information and wedding details and "how did you hear about us?" and all other sorts of malarkey. This brought me and Joey back to the day we spent apartment hunting in Omaha. Some places made us fill out information cards before they'd talk to us and it just put a bad taste in our mouths. The place we ultimately chose just wanted to get to know us and our needs and we really liked that. So I filled out the info card at Venue D cursorily, knowing that this wasn't the place. Then the tour started, with the woman speaking in an unnervingly unnatural high-pitched sing-songy voice that drove Joey nuts. She kept pointing out pianos that lived at the venue that we could have available to us on our wedding day. I thought my mom, who has recently rekindled her love of playing piano, would love this, particularly the grand piano, until I saw all the nicks and scratches in it. When I notice nicks and scratches from five feet away in a dimly-lit room, you can bet my mother would cry to see a musical instrument so mistreated. The thing I liked least about the tour was that the woman kept talking to me, saying "so you can do this or that, it's really whatever you want, Ariella", only sometimes mentioning "and Joey" as an afterthought. I hate the "it's the bride's day" mentality and her consistent semantic reinforcement of this paradigm drove me up a wall. They do have our date available though! Joey wanted to check, even though none of the three of us liked the place.
Venue E -- Surprise!
Don't scroll back to the beginning, you're right, I did say there were four venues. Well, more specifically, I said I planned for there to be four venues. One place, Venue E, we were not going to visit because, when I called, they said our date was unavailable, and, as anyone who's ever seen "Say Yes to the Dress" knows, you should never try on what you can't have. My mom and dad were crazy for this place, though, and wanted me to take a look anyway. They were not impressed by my Say Yes to the Dress logic. This is probably because they don't have cable. Anyway, since the Venue B debacle, I figured we may as well look at this place they liked. Plus, it was by the beach and I'd been itching to get my toes in the ocean water since Thanksgiving*. Venue E was amazing. Beautiful building, beautiful view, everything I'd wanted. Fortunately, this time I knew it was unavailable before I fell in love again, but it was still hard to see a space so wonderful and know that it was unavailable to me because of my desire for that one special date. I tried to tell Joey that maybe I could get over the date thing, but even as I tried to say it I couldn't believe myself and he wasn't really buying it either. As much as he thinks it's a little bit crazy, he knows it's not something I'm going to be able to "just get over".
The upshot of all this is that we still don't have a venue picked and I'm wishing I had picked something different to focus on, or at least that I hadn't found such a perfect date.
*Little-known fact: California girls have a powerful connection to the beach and we need to touch the Pacific Ocean every once in a while to recharge. Los Angelinas who have moved away, try it if you don't believe me. Take a trip to the beach next time you're in town. See how much better you feel afterwards.