The proposal was a bit of a surprise to me.
We'd been together about a year and a half, but it came at the end of a completely terrible week last August. A car accident and subsequent surgery had forced my boyfriend and I to cancel our vacation, so we made the best of our free weekend by going to brunch in Saratoga. At the end of the meal George casually asked if I "wanted to be together forever." I responded with sass. "Sure," I said "I'm just waiting for you to ask me."
George was completely prepared! As he got down on one knee, I was in complete shock. I kept asking "Are you for real?" and "Are you sure?" No one ever said I was smooth.
I'm Lauren, by the way, an energetic non-profit marketer by day, and a crafter/DIY-er and author of The Thrifty Ginger by night. My fiancé, George, is a freelance computer programmer and all-around nice guy. Over the next few months I'm going to share my adventures in Albany-area wedding land here on AOA.
First up: Picking the venue...
As soon as we were engaged, the type-A part of my mind started working on all of the little details of a wedding. I couldn't help myself. I had to jump right in. After crunching some numbers to create a basic budget, George and I began to tackle the first big decision: location.
I am a transplant to this area, originally hailing from Rhode Island, but George grew up a bit north of Saratoga. We both have family all over the country, though, so we decided to make it easy on ourselves and have a wedding here in the Capital District. But where, exactly?
The venue felt like the biggest wedding decision for me. After all, that decision has a dramatic impact on the look and feel of the whole event, and guides all the other decisions.
We started with some general guidelines: we wanted to have a fun and laid-back wedding, and we wanted to have both the ceremony and the reception at the same property.
Here's what I've found out about wedding venues in this region.
Considering all of your options can quickly get overwhelming
There are a lot of different types of venues for ceremonies and receptions. The non-comprehensive list includes: hotels, golf courses, museums, barns, historic sites, state parks, galleries, restaurants, and private homes. And this region has it all.
I spent many an evening poring over wedding review websites and local photographer pages to get ideas for local spots. When I started to get carried away, I refocused on our modest budget and desire for a fun event. I came up with a short list and started investigating further.
I've found that wedding venues can be classified in a lot of ways, but I focused on the level of customization and service. Many venues, like hotels and country clubs, will have pre-set packages where they arrange the setup, food, bar, and more. Some places, like state parks and private homes, involve a lot of work coordinating table rentals, catering companies, and various vendors to cover all of your details. When you make your wedding venue selection, you are making a lot of other implied decisions at the same time.
The full-service route
Having our wedding at a venue that could handle all the small details was certainly appealing to me. There are some truly breathtaking spaces in this area, like the Hall of Springs at Spa State Park, Saratoga National, and Crooked Lake House. They all have beautiful grounds and amazing interiors. However, all of those locations were a little beyond our plans for a wedding -- both in terms of budget and in terms of grandeur.
Even on a modest budget, there are some great full-service venues in the Capital Region. We seriously considered Taste, which has a penthouse terrace where you can get married in front of the Albany skyline. They take care of everything, including ceremony setup, food, bar, linens, cake, and personalized menus.
My fiancé and I also looked into hosting our wedding at Catherine's in the Park, a restaurant right on Victoria Pool in Saratoga Spa State Park. We were especially drawn to this location because of the personal meaning to us. During the summer, we spend many weekend days lounging by the Victoria Pool. Apparently George almost proposed to me outside of the pool! We were taking selfies on my phone and I was embarrassed when someone walked by, so I wanted to leave quickly. If I had waited it out, we would have been engaged one week sooner!
Anyway, a poolside wedding seemed so fun and would have been a sentimental location.
In the end, both Taste and Catherine's in the Park exceeded our tight budget constraints, so we decided to consider a more-DIY route.
I was a little bit nervous about selecting a wedding venue where we would need to assemble all of the various vendors. I knew that it could potentially save us money, but it also could end up costing more after paying for all of the details ourselves. At the very least a DIY wedding would lead to a lot more details and potential frustration!
For instance, if you have a wedding in your parents' backyard, you may need to rent a tent, tables, chairs, linens and glassware; hire a caterer and bartender; separately order a cake or desserts; handle all of the day-of set-up, and then clean everything up after you're done! That is in addition to all of the other wedding duties and decisions you'll have to make! It makes me tired just to think about!
Since I have experience planning events and I'm hoping for a unique wedding, I was up for the challenge of a more piecemeal wedding venue. In this area, there are so many fun and interesting options, like the Corning Tower Observation Deck, The New York State Museum, and the Saratoga National Historical Park.
Based upon our budget and taste, we arrived at two final possibilities for our venue: the Woman's Club of Albany, and Indian Ladder Farm. Both of these locations are extremely budget friendly, but require a lot of coordination.
The Woman's Club of Albany is a historic building slightly uptown of Washington Park. It has a warm interior that spans two floors of rentable space. The top floor is an open ballroom that could certainly have fit our 75-person guest list. The people at The Woman's Club were very accommodating and responsive, but ultimately we didn't think the feel and arrangement of the building was right for our wedding. We were concerned that the two levels would make the party disjointed, and there wasn't a great ceremony space for a group of our size. So that was off the list.
The last option we considered was Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont. They are well known for their cider donuts and apple picking, but also rent out space for weddings and other events. We loved the great mountain view and openness of the orchard around the ceremony site. Receptions at Indian Ladder are typically held in their barn, which is rustic and fun. This is exactly what we were looking for, so we've decided to have our wedding at Indian Ladder!
I am so excited to finally have our wedding venue, but I know it's not all smooth sailing from here. There are a few sacrifices that we had to make while choosing Indian Ladder to stay within a reasonable budget. One of the biggest letdowns for us was the fact that we are unable to serve hard liquor at our wedding due to constraints with the venue and catering. We'll also have to get very creative with our layout to fit our guests into the small barn space. Fortunately, the folks at Indian Ladder seem very flexible in other ways.
On a positive note, we now have the opportunity to make choices that reflect our own style and taste. Since the barn is a blank slate, we can decorate it however we'd like. We also can have our choice of caterer and all other vendors.
There's a lot to plan, though! Now that we have our venue, we also need to decide on the caterer, my dress, the cake, flowers, music, and more. I'll be back to share more of the experience with you soon.
Lauren writes about shopping, crafting, and living well on a small budget at The Thrifty Ginger.
We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.