Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wedding cake follies

We haven't run into this yet, but that's probably only because we haven't started looking at cakes yet...

The only difference is, I'm going to be just as much of a prick as the guy in the skit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Venue! Part 5

As I mentioned before, once we had crossed off Mellwood, we were really excited, because it meant we had chosen our venue! That's because we had visited Glassworks already, on the same day that we visited the Science Center, but I saved the site visit recap for this post.

So, without further ado, here is our venue:

Louisville Glassworks! The building, the Snead Manufacturing Building, hosts a bunch of glassworking and glassblowing studios, as well as some office space and loft apartments. Here's a rundown of what it offers for us:

-The Rooftop, on the eighth floor, where we'll have our ceremony. I am VERY excited about this part!

We'll set up the chairs the same way that is shown in these pictures, looking east into the heart of downtown. The view to the north shows the river just a block away, and the top of the bat of the Louisville Slugger Museum (picture taken by me):

I really like the look of that wooden arch in the second rooftop picture -- it helps to draw attention to the bride and groom a little more than those flower arrangements on pedestals. I also love the look of the roof at dusk, but I'm not sure if we'll be able to take advantage of that, since our ceremony will start in the late afternoon, and it will be May, so the sun won't set until very late. Plus, Louisville is on the very western edge of the eastern time zone, so it seems as though it stays light out almost a whole hour later than it does on the east coast proper. Maybe we'll go back up to the roof later on, though -- it's definitely an option.

-The reception site, on the second floor
Those columns are encrusted with glass at the top, and there is lots of glass artwork on all the walls. Those windows in the back left look down onto the glassblowing facility downstairs. To the right of those glass tiles is a flameworking studio. We can have a glassblowing or flameworking demonstration for our guests!

This is the view as you step off the elevator, onto a beautiful glass floor. The seating area is to the right, and there are glass pieces along the hallway. To the left is another, smaller, room that allows you to look into another glassworking facility, and has more displays of glass pieces. It's a good place to stage a buffet, but a little small for holding our ceremony (which is OK, since we have that gorgeous roof!).

We have a great rain contingency plan: In the best-case scenario, they'll move us to the first floor, which is another large event space like the one on the second floor, and we'll have our ceremony there, with a backdrop of the gift shop (not as ghetto as it sounds; it is FILLED with tons of gorgeous glass pieces and is lit beautifully). If that space is rented out, we'll have the ceremony on the second floor, with us on the dance floor and all the guests seated at their dinner tables. Since this is a little less than ideal, we would then get refunded half of the rooftop fee. Either way, it eases my mind tremendously about the possibility of bad weather.

The building also owns one of the afore-mentioned loft apartments, and rents it out hotel-style. They suggest using it as a getting-ready suite or as a honeymoon suite. We want to stay at the same hotel as all our guests, so we won't be using it as a honeymoon suite. As of right now, we probably won't use it as a getting-ready suite either, but it would be a great place to use if you wanted to.

Another issue I had thought about was the necessity for a day-of coordinator. I've acted in a similar role for other people's weddings, and I know it's a person who can be a really lifesaver. Glassworks requires all wedding couples to hire their own day-of coordinator, who will be there for the rehearsal, ceremony, and first part of the reception. We will have trusted friends and guests available to help with things outside those times, but it worked out well to have to hire the Glassworks coordinator to get us all down the aisle in time.

Here are some more photos of the facility (photos from Flickr):
The glassblowing studio.

Glass pieces extruding from the outside of the building.

The flameworking studio.

They let you blow your own glass ornaments. It looks fun!

I am so excited to have booked our wedding at Glassworks! Now I have a million ideas for decorating the rooftop (I LOVE that wooden arch; where to get one myself?) and the reception space (should we use tons of glass to mimic the feel of the space or go somewhere unexpected, like lots of flowers and greenery?). The next official parts of planning are interviewing the caterers (there are 15 approved caterers) and finding a photographer. We've also gone ahead and made a block of rooms for out of town guests (which is practically all of them).


The Venue! Part 4

Next up was the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center, a building located just outside of downtown that is a former meat packing company-turned-artist space. The complex is huge, and it has tons of artists' studios and shops, including a rather large art supply store, and a restaurant just opened there as well. We had actually been to a craft fair there a couple years ago, so I was sort of familiar with the building, but it turns out that there is much more to the complex than I originally thought.

A view of the outside of the building. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's awesome inside. The larger event room is above the parking garages on the bottom floor, and those white balcony doors open up from the event space onto that gorgeous lawn outside. The second room is behind the first one (to the left side of the picture), and also opens onto the lawn.

Mellwood has two rooms, both with a very exposed-pipes, loft-style feel (a recurring theme for us, no?). The larger room seats way over 200 people, and costs twice our maximum budget, so it was out. The smaller room was good for our number of guests and fit a little better into our budget, but it was just a reception space. To use the lawn for the ceremony would have been more money, and that would have put us slightly over budget, although I would have been OK with that if we had totally loved the place.

A picture of the larger room set up for a dinner. The smaller room looks pretty much the same.

Reasons we decided against Mellwood included:
-Too expensive, which was OK but not ideal
-A little outside of downtown Louisville, which was OK but not ideal; I really wanted to our guests to get a feel for the city, and not come to a brand new city just to go to "some building" that could be situated anywhere.
-We would have to have the wedding in the smaller room, and it's very likely the larger room would also get rented, and we didn't like the idea of a bigger (although not necessarily better) party going on across the hall (also a reason we weren't big fans of a hotel wedding).

Nevertheless, although we decided not to use Mellwood, we were very happy when we left our site visit, because it meant we had chosen our venue!

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Venue! Part 3

On the same day, we saw both the Louisville Science Center and Glassworks. I was late getting to the Science Center, so Eric was left holding his own with the sales woman. Despite some instruction on my part as to what questions to ask, I don't think either of them was very comfortable until I got there.

The science center is located in Louisville's downtown West Main District, which is notable for having largest collection of cast iron facades in the country outside of New York's SoHo.

The science center's Riverview Room is on the other side of the building from the entrance (shown above). It looks onto the river, with roughly this view, but from higher up:

The view above is looking straight to the north and a little to the west. Unfortunately, to the east, there's a view of the construction site of the just-started Museum Plaza, and while the sales person said they don't think our view is actually going to be obstructed, I wasn't too optimistic. The room was actually two rooms -- a very large space with exposed pipes that would be the main area for dinner and dancing, and a smaller, rectangular space to the side that is often used for cocktail hour, staging a buffet, or, in our case, for the ceremony itself. If we started the wedding before the science center exhibits closed, our guests would receive free entry and could come early to look around, which I thought was very cool. Unfortunately, the ceilings in this otherwise-gorgeous urban, loft-type space weren't very tall, and it gave the whole room a much smaller feel. Plus, they wanted a little more money than I thought was worth it.

Of the four finalists, we easily crossed this one off of our list.

The Venue! Part 2

The first of our final four sites that we visited was the Old Medical School Building. Built in 1893, it housed the Louisville Medical College, which became UofL School of Medicine in 1922 (back in the days when you didn't need a college education to become a physician, Louisville had many medical schools). In 1970, the school moved to its current location, and in 1977, the Greater Louisville Medical Society Foundation (formerly the Jefferson County Medical Society) purchased the building, fixed it up, and set up its offices there. It's a gorgeous building, in the Richardson Romanesque style. You can read more about the building's history here. We had our class's silent auction there a couple years ago, and we will have our Match Day ceremony there next March. The gross anatomy lab is located on the top floor, and it's pretty cool because back before the days of electric bulbs, they harnessed the sun for its full potential: there are prisms in the ceiling that disperse sunlight throughout the room, allowing for full dissection capabilities.

The building from the outside. I love the architecture. (All pictures from the GLMS website)

The main hallway downstairs. The arches add architectural interest, and the tile pattern on the floor is cool. The artwork is all by local physicians -- paintings, photographs, and other artistic pieces. Fun for cocktail hour!

The staircase. I love the rich wood and the banister details.

They have two rooms on the second floor for events: the smaller Museum Room, where the ceremony probably would have been, and the larger Walnut Room, where the reception would have been. They're both nice, and would have worked well. They have no restrictions on caterers or alcohol. My only complaint was that the ceilings weren't very tall, so the rooms felt more closed in compared to other venues. The kicker was that they wanted very little money -- a combination of us wanting a Sunday and them cutting me (I think) a deal for being a medical student who had worked with them on some fundraising projects in the past. And we would have had 8 hours the day of the event -- plenty of time for setup and a monster party. It was very hard to say no to this deal.

I would have loved to have had the wedding here, but it was missing just the tiniest bit of a "wow" factor -- it would have been hard to ask all of our friends and family to travel over 600 miles and not dazzle them. But it ended up finishing in a strong second place.

The Venue! Part 1

I know, I know, you've been all atwitter with anticipation. Well, your patience is about to be rewarded.

First, though, maybe you'd like to know where we didn't choose to have our wedding?

I looked at 36 places. It was exhausting. By "looked," I mean, researched, not actually visited in person. But still.

Actually, I should mention that in the very beginning of our engagement, before we had officially chosen a city to get married in, I had looked at some sites in southern Maryland, where my family lives. We live on the western shore of Maryland, on a peninsula surrounded by the Potomac River, the Patuxent River, and the Chesapeake Bay. It's really pretty. There's a bluff at Historic St. Mary's City that sits right on the water, and St. Mary's College and Solomons Island both have some pretty waterside spots as well. A spot I've had in the back of my mind for many years is the Officer's Club on the Patuxent River Naval Base, which has the nice combination of being an indoor facility with full-length windows overlooking the river. That would have been nice. But, we eventually decided on Louisville as the city in which we would get married.

For a few months I would idly peruse venue websites with no more frequency than I did any of the other vendors -- photographers, dresses, bridesmaid dresses, invitations, flowers, etc. We even drove down to Otter Creek Park soon after we got engaged, for the dual purpose of playing disc golf and checking out their reception facility. It was really pretty, right on the banks of the Ohio (see picture below) but it's about 45 minutes away, and there are only not-nice motels in the area, and we really couldn't ask everyone to camp in the park for an occasion like a wedding (but it would be a great camping site otherwise!), and it would be a hassle for guests to drive 45 minutes back to Louisville after the reception, and expensive to rent a drunk-bus for that distance. So Otter Creek was out (but it would be a gorgeous site nonetheless!).

Otter Creek Park. The conference center (you're looking at the back of it) sits on a hill overlooking the Ohio River. The patio on the level below the building would be a great place for a ceremony.

Then, around October, we realized we needed to get a move on things, because while we felt like we had plenty of time (and with a 21-month engagement, we definitely do), the holidays were coming up, and plenty of people were going to be getting engaged, and those who wanted a spring wedding would probably be looking at spring 2009 -- OUR spring 2009! -- as well. And we had to beat them to it, so I got down to business.

The problem, I quickly realized, was that it was very difficult to compare apples to apples with each of these places. You'd get a price quote, but it might include tables and chairs, or it might not. It might be for a 4-hour reception and the ceremony was extra, or it might be for a 4-hour reception plus a 1-hour ceremony. So I had to be organized. So I made a spreadsheet with the following list of items in Column A:

Site name
Contact Date
Available May 24, 2009?
Time available

Room name #1
Maximum guests #1, seated
Site fee #1
Price per guest #1
Items included in site fee #1

Room name #2
Maximum guests #2, seated
Site fee #2
Price per guest #2
Items included in site fee #2

Deposit due date
Caterers Allowed
Food cost
Alcohol policy
Parking availability
Other amenities available

I created a separate tab for each venue, and gathered as much information for each as possible. "Room #1" and "Room #2" was to account for the fact that some venues have multiple rooms for rent, often a larger and smaller one. I got the list of venues from various sources, including Louisville Bride Magazine, which is a great resource for local vendor listings and ads. I did some googling, too, which gave me a couple extra venues, including a downtown building that isn't currently occupied and is available for commercial lease, but whose owner is also willing to rent for one-time events, which I think is really cool. I probably missed a few, but by the time I had those 36, there were plenty.

Every venue I contacted was wide open for May 2009, with the exception of one that would otherwise probably have been a top contender: The Louisville Visual Arts Association, aka The Water Tower. First of all, their facility manager responded to me very quickly, which was awesome, and sent me an email not only with all the pricing information, but information about the site, its purpose (an art gallery), and planned construction. It also included this paragraph:
In August, September and October, 2008 the Gallery will contain an exhibit of noted Medical Illustrators. Although the specific pieces have not been selected yet, the work is expected to consist of drawings and paintings of the human anatomy, musculature, cardiovascular system, etc. It is expected at this time that the work will be hung in the Gallery and not overflow into the Hall.
I would be kidding myself if I didn't tell you that it made me almost throw the whole idea of May 2009 out the window, just for the chance to be married among medical artwork. Really, what is wrong with me?! In any case, all of 2009 was wide open at the Water Tower EXCEPT for Memorial weekend, because they have an annual Reggae Festival booked. Oh well.

After I had compiled as much information as I could, I presented them all to Eric, and we color-coded the sites according to our priorities, which were:
  • the ability to bring in our own alcohol (since we need to have Yuengling, and the only way we're going to get it is to bring it in ourselves),
  • the ability to have the ceremony and reception at the same venue,
  • a not-too-hefty fee
We also were looking for something fun and unique. We weren't huge fans of hotels right off the bat, but I took a look at the big ones in town just to make sure I wasn't missing out on any good deals (I wasn't). The sites we immediately eliminated based on price, restrictions, or other facts were coded as red; the next batch was orange, and then we were left with 4 yellow ones. I initially went to make the final 4 green, but Eric said we should reserve green for the ultimate winner. And he was right -- it was much more exciting that way (don't laugh).

A screenshot of the spreadsheet. You can see the yellow and orange-coded tabs for each venue (sorry for the crappy resolution, but if you click on the image you'll see the real-deal):

Our next step was to visit the final four:
Louisville Science Center
Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center
Old Medical School Building

In the interest of length, I'll break the rest of this post up, so read the next entry if you want to find out more.