Finding the Perfect Wedding Location (Don't Worry—You Will!)

Budget, Real Weddings
Bronx Zoo wedding

Photo: Courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Over the next three weeks, guest blogger Anna Maltby will share the ins and outs of narrowing down your bridal style, snagging your dream wedding location, taking the perfect engagement photo, and more.

When it comes to planning your wedding, you really don't have much until you have your venue. Almost everything depends on it: The date, the size, the flowers, the budget—even the dress!

I'm from Kansas City (Missouri, not Kansas!) and my fiancé is from Southern California. But a hometown wedding didn't make sense for us: My family moved from Kansas City to St. Louis several years ago, so I haven't been back in a long time; and as beautiful as SoCal is, when we got engaged I had never even been there, so it didn't seem right to say "I do" in a place so unfamiliar.

But we met and fell in love and got engaged in New York, so as expensive as we knew it would probably be, NYC just made the most sense. City: selected.

I knew we'd need a place that could accommodate a pretty large number of people (though not a place so gigantic that it would feel sparse with a group of 200 or so). We wanted to have our ceremony outdoors if possible and finally, as we're having a ceremony that combines Christian and Hindu elements, we'd need to be able to have a fire. (More on this later!)

After a lot—and I mean a lot—of searching (in fact, I just looked back on our venue spreadsheet and there are literally 38 places on that list), we narrowed it down to two: the quirky and fun reBar in Brooklyn, and the gorgeous and elegant Desmond Tutu Center in the New York City neighborhood of Chelsea—but I was having an absolutely terrible time making the decision. Both places were totally awesome, but completely different. I started to worry that reBar was too quirky and that the Desmond Tutu Center was too traditional. (For us anyway! I'd highly recommend either venue to any NYC brides.)

Somewhere around this time, the idea popped into my head to check out the Bronx Zoo. I really wish I could tell you exactly what my thought process was, but let's face it—my head was in such a crazed and frenetic place at this point that I have no clue where the idea came from. Regardless, in the midst of my stressful, tear-filled, hair-ripping-out decision making process, I trekked up to the Bronx, fiancé in tow, and promptly fell in love with the zoo.

It's perfect: Fun and quirky but still elegant and traditional enough that I don't feel like we're trying too hard. It's certainly not bottom-of-the-barrel budget-friendly, but it's in the same price range as other venues we were seriously considering. It's in New York City but away from the hustle and bustle. They'll let us have a fire for our ceremony. And we actually write our checks to the Wildlife Conservancy! (OK, so it's not tax deductible. And yes, I checked—does that make me a jerk? Still, warm fuzzies are nothing to shake a stick at.)

If you're at this (totally stressful) stage in the process, please rest assured. You'll find your venue! It just takes a lot of research, and a lot of time. In fact, we got engaged May 1, and though we did take pretty much an entire month to celebrate and enjoy before we really dug into planning, we didn't book our venue until the end of July. For an instant-gratification person like me, that was pretty rough. But we made it, and we're so excited.

Find local vendors for your wedding here.

—Anna Maltby

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