Hello again! I’m bride blogger Caitlin, back with Charm City Wed to share some more of my wedding planning experiences!
As I may have mentioned in my first post, John and I started planning our wedding more than 14 months before our eventual wedding date. After John proposed in late July, we decided on a September or October wedding. This seemed like a ton of time to get everything in order, but we very quickly learned that this wasn’t the case. After seeing close to a dozen venues in about two weeks, we had a clear picture of our date options, and they were getting fewer by the day. Venues for 150+ guests in Baltimore City book fast. We also wanted something with outdoor space and some Charm City character, which isn’t tough to find, but an available Saturday evening in September is.
I made a very comprehensive spreadsheet of all our venue choices and we narrowed the list down to our favorites. We were completely sold on the Evergreen Museum – it had a beautiful garden for an outdoor ceremony, a lovely patio with more than enough space for the cocktail hour, and the tented Carriage House with enough stone and brick and dark wood to satisfy all our classic Old Baltimore desires. With a hotel less than three miles away and plenty of lawn for convenient parking, we really couldn’t have designed a better venue ourselves. But, as with all options in an important decision, there will always be a sacrifice.
Photo: Dani Leigh Photography
If we were going to book the Evergreen during September or October, we had two not-ideal choices, date-wise. The first available date in our time frame was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. The weather during the end of August in Baltimore can be vicious, with out-of-nowhere thunderstorms and off-the-charts humidity. It’s also a rather expensive weekend to travel, and one that a lot of people take to see the ocean or the mountains one last time. With a lot of family and friends flying in from out of town, this date didn’t seem like the friendliest or most convenient choice.
Our second option was to choose a Friday. Every Saturday evening until November 2014 was booked by the time we toured the Evergreen in August 2013. But we had our pick of the calendar if we wanted to book a Friday evening wedding! If we did, we would have to start the ceremony at 6:00, at a spot in Baltimore City that isn’t the easiest to get to during Friday rush hour, so our local guests would most likely have to make some unique arrangements to see the ceremony, not to mention our out-of-town guests would possibly have to take extra vacation or personal time to be here than they would have for a Saturday wedding. But even with those hurdles, a Friday wedding still seemed more plausible than a holiday weekend event.
We started thinking about how much time is spent running around in the last few days before the wedding, and how little time you have to spend with your guests because of your myriad appointments and errands. If we spent the middle of the work week getting the big stuff taken care of, when our guests weren’t in town, we wouldn’t feel guilty about not visiting everyone longer at the hotel, or not having an opportunity to adequately thank everyone for coming. With a Friday wedding, we’d have fewer distractions during the last-minute preparations, and maybe a little less stress because of it.
We also realized that we could potentially have an all-weekend affair if we booked a Friday wedding. Even if we would have had opportunities to see our family and friends before the ceremony, John and I would probably be so nervous and excited that it wouldn’t be enjoyable. But, if we could plan something for the Saturday after the wedding, we would be relaxed and able to devote our full attention to our wonderful guests. Most of our out-of-town family and friends wouldn’t plan to leave until Sunday, so all of Saturday could be reserved for relaxing and spending time together.
So that’s exactly what we did.
John and I decided on a Friday evening in September for our wedding, and almost immediately after booking that venue, we reserved a pavilion in Patapsco State Park’s Avalon Area in Ellicott City, Maryland. My parents have been hosting a Fall Festival in Patapsco for decades, and it seemed like an obvious choice for an all-day after-party. John and I live in a pretty small townhouse in Baltimore City, and our parents’ homes definitely can’t accommodate 100+ people, so we were going to need an outside venue. And we chose a garden wedding ceremony in mid-September because the weather is gorgeous at that time of year, so it just made sense that we would want to be outside on Saturday, too. Plus, renting a pavilion in Patapsco is exceptionally budget-friendly.
Photo: Val & Sarah
We’re still working out the details as far as food and beverages go, but our plan is to have it catered in some way. We know we won’t have any time or energy to organize a pot luck-type event, and we know our guests won’t either, so catering is the way to go for us. John and I are making lists of outdoor games and activities we’ll want to include, like cornhole, bocce, croquet, Frisbee, softball, and maybe some hiking, if anyone’s up to it after dancing all night! There are benches and large picnic tables already in the pavilions, as well as electrical outlets and a gorgeous fireplace with firewood, so we’ll be plenty comfortable. As soon as we add a few blankets for the evening and an iPod dock, we’re ready to go.
I cannot wait for our wedding day, but I’m also pretty excited about our after-party in the park. We can take our time visiting with family and friends, relaxing outside and enjoying the last few official days of summer, and more than likely looking through pictures from the last few days. We feel very lucky to have this extra day to get as much love out of our wedding as possible.
If state parks aren’t your thing, here are a few more ideas to fill up your post-wedding weekend:
- Baltimore Inner Harbor Field Trip With the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery, and tons of shopping and restaurants, the Inner Harbor has something for everyone to do. It wouldn’t keep all your guests in one place, but maybe a picnic at Rash Field would bring everyone together again for lunch. Try baltimore.org for events calendars and maps.
- Annapolis Field Trip As with the Inner Harbor, Annapolis has incredible history and entertainment to offer. The Naval Academy, the Maryland State House, and walking tours of the city are all great ways to spend an afternoon in our state capital for history buffs. Shopping, restaurants, cafes, and several types of Chesapeake Bay boat tours are sure to keep everyone else pretty busy, too. See visitannapolis.org for more ideas.
- Orioles Day Out If you’re getting married between April and September, chances are the Orioles are playing! Treat your guests to a little Orioles Magic while they’re in town. You can rent the Bullpen Picnic Area before the game and share some classic stadium food and drinks. Then, the Orioles have plenty of deals for group ticketing, which you can check out at orioles.com/groups.
Photo: Rachel Smith Photography
- A Crab Feast, Hon! What’s more Bawlmer than a newspaper-covered picnic table with a few bushels of crabs and a few cases of beer? Throw a few burgers, dogs, and ears of corn on the grill (still in their husks, dipped in olive oil – you’re welcome) and you’ve got yourself a casual, delicious Old Line State party.
- Neighborhood Bar Crawl This is probably more feasible for a smaller party of adults, but with proper organization, it could be done well. If you have some enthusiastic bridal party members or family members who would love to make a map of bars through Fells Point or Hampden, for example, you would have a fun afternoon of Bohs, Orange Crushes, and Black-Eyed Susans in one of Baltimore’s many eclectic neighborhoods.