It feels great to sign the contract. No, correction: It’s a THRILL. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself; let me rewind a bit.

After Brandon and I chose our wedding date and did some research, I compiled a short list of venues I knew had history of being the “total package,” so to speak.  My list included Chateau Estates, Audubon Tea Room, The Balcony, and Southern Oaks Plantation, all of which had excellent reputations and plenty of experience. As I gathered phone numbers and contact information, I felt this would be easy.  How hard can choosing a reception venue actually be?

First I called the Tea Room, though I knew their per-person price was a little higher than I would like.  But the ambience is amazing, and the vaulted ceiling would make for excellent pictures.  I was able to speak to an assistant and informed her that I could only have one day off work to visit venues. She said that was fine, but she would have to check the schedule and get back to me. Well, that sounded promising. Check the schedule? Get back to me? I’m sorry, but I need an appointment now. I didn’t completely write them off, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath until I got a call back.

Next, I called Chateau Estates, and was relieved by how easy they were to deal with on the phone. They e-mailed me the information and were relatively flexible with appointments.  By flexible, I mean that I could come by right before a wedding, tour the venue, and observe how the room is set up. I like that idea, but I’m not sure how much time they would be willing to spend with me answering questions. Still, I set an appointment with them for Saturday at 5:00 p.m. One appointment ready to go! Still waiting for the Tea Room to call me back…

Southern Oaks Plantation was my third call.  Brandon was completely against this venue because it was “too far out of the way.” He didn’t want the older guests (such as our grandparents) to have to go home late at night from a place he assumed was in the middle of nowhere.  Still, I knew Southern Oaks had the perfect ambience.  I have attended countless events there, and I have heard nothing but glowing remarks from previous brides; Brandon would just have to give it a chance. Kyle, the event coordinator, answered the phone on the second ring. One point for Southern Oaks!  Secondly, he asked if I would like to come by and tour the venue today. That makes two points! They sounded like a well-oiled machine, and I couldn’t wait to bring Brandon to see it. We made an appointment for Friday, which meant that my second appointment was already in place. Um, paging Audubon Tea Room?

Finally, we called The Balcony.  They answered the phone immediately as well, and asked me when I would like to come by, which made it convenient for Brandon and me. A friend of mine was married there last October, and my cousin was married there shortly after, so I knew exactly what to expect from the venue and its staff. Despite this, I had not seen the venue during the day, and felt this would be an important factor. We made an appointment for Saturday, immediately following the one with Chateau Estates.  This was going to be interesting: Both venues were doing tours up to the last minute before an actual wedding began. Still, I believed they knew what they were doing, considering they constantly have events. That makes three appointments already in the can. Hello? Audubon Tea Room?

Though I’m sure it would be scintillating for all of you, I’m not going to compare all of my potential wedding venues. I had VERY strong opinions about each place. As a business owner myself, I would not want to be compared to the other businesses that provide the exact same service as mine because we’re all very different. My expectations are not the same as other brides’ and it is probably best to keep my opinion to myself.

Ok … I’ll give in a little. We chose Southern Oaks – well, Brandon chose it. Isn’t that funny?  The venue he didn’t want ended up being the venue we booked. The following is my best attempt at not comparing the venues:

•    They tied with the Balcony for cleanliness.  Both places were extremely clean.  I can’t say the same for Chateau.
•    Their furniture seemed new, though they probably don’t replace everything that often. They seem very meticulous in their care for their facility. 
•    The grounds were amazing. No one could top them on that. My pictures will be spectacular.
•    They were easy to reach on the phone and by e-mail.
•    The décor was updated and neutral. I just can’t stand when it seems as though a man chose the décor he thinks a woman would want. Sue Asaro of Southern Oaks is a master decorator.

I asked Brandon why he wanted Southern Oaks, when originally that was the only place he was against.  His response was that Kyle answered every question he had in the shortest amount of words and with the most finesse. He always knew the answer and never had to ask someone else. We received the white glove treatment without even choosing the venue yet. It was an amazing experience from the second we arrived.

That’s what you want for your wedding, ladies. You want to feel special, taken care of, beautiful in every way. I am absolutely certain that Southern Oaks Plantation will do that for me. 

Sadly, Southern Oaks didn’t have my date available. I couldn’t believe that my wedding date was taken! All the other venues were available, but we couldn’t change our minds. Our wedding would take place at Southern Oaks Plantation and there would be no ifs, ands or buts about it.  After much deliberation and talking to our photographer (who I will introduce next month), we chose October 16, 2010 as our new wedding date. As luck would have it, that also happens to be a bye week for LSU, which is a huge deal in our family.  So all of our plans are slowly falling in to place.

All weddings are different, and mine will probably be a circus.  I’m sure, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Kyle at Southern Oaks Plantation will be the perfect ring leader. Now it’s on to choosing the guest list, planning the engagement party and possibly finding a dress. Oh and that photographer … well, he’s amazing. But you’ll have to come back to find out about my mystery man next month.