One of the cool things about adjusting to living in a new area as a wedding photographer is the opportunity to explore the wedding venues and photography venues in the area. This is not a quick process but actually a very slow one, built on talking with vendor friends, chatting with brides and doing good old-fashioned exploring. My husband has become skilled at me shouting “look at that” from the car and him throwing an immediate u-turn to find whatever random ‘wow’ I just saw, so that I can jump out of the car and check it out just in case I need it for a photoshoot. Ya, he’s cool like that. Marry up ladies, it’s worth it. 😉
The wedding planning process is an intense one. Just ask any bride you happen to run across. In their mad flurry of planning and activity, they’ll tell you how fun it sounded when he popped the question as compared to, say when becoming engaged actually meant becoming a ‘wedding planner’. Things are a little less Hallmark-y and a little more Gilmore Girls crazy at that point. Can I get an Amen??
When you first become engaged, there are going to be a few things that you need to prioritize in your planning. One of the reasons that wedding photographers becomes somewhat of an expert on all things wedding is that usually we are one of the first vendors that a bride looks for and books when she’s planning her wedding. Because we’re usually top of the list and see all the other pieces come together. We can help share what we know, as far as, how to how to put all the other pieces in and the difference between fantastic vendors and not so fantastic vendors. Hint: choose fantastic ones. 😉
One of the other big early decisions that needs to be booked right away is the wedding venue. I thought it would be fun to chat a little bit about the south Florida / Palm Beach wedding venues. Because I’m a little bit of an outsider, I think it’s kind of a fun perspective on what is here and the things that I have found that I love. I also know not everyone reading this is local, or planning a local wedding, so I’m chatting on my oh so humble opinion of how to pick a great venue.
If you’ve read my blogs or chatted with me at all, you’ll know that I’m highly motivated by principle. I have often said that as you’re planning your wedding day, the most important thing to come back to over and over again is who are you and your fiancé? Pinterest is lovely, The Knot is lovely, all those things are great for inspiration and encouragement. But no one can be who you are, and showcasing who you are on a wedding day is the most important thing you can remember when you’re planning.
So here is my entirely scientific method to share with you about picking your wedding venue, as well as my top 5 wedding venues in South Florida. There are so many other wonderful places, including random places in the forest or on the beach that can make fantastic wedding backdrops. So, please, don’t be offended if your venue is not in this incredibly short and totally subjective list. I am simply hoping to give some inspiration as a jumping point.
5 Things to ask yourself as you pick a wedding venue:
- First things first, who are you? Do you love outdoors, is the beach your thing? Do you cry at Cinderella and the castle wedding scene?? Just because the wedding venue is popular, or chic in your city does not mean that’s the venue for you. Think about what you love and what you’ve always envisioned even if that means you need to think way outside the box. I’ve had brides mention things like “there’s a random warehouse that we were in one time that would be just amazing” offhandedly. My first response is, figure out who the owner is, find a phone number and call them! The worst that can happen is that they can say no. The best that can happen is that the day of your dreams comes true in a wedding venue that nobody else has ever used. Boom.
- Do you want the ceremony and reception at the same location? This is a big one simply for logistics sake. It seems like a fairly simple question, but answering it can very much define how your wedding day is going to look. It can define a lot about the flow of your day. It can be really tricky trying to plan a large wedding with many guests and making it all work smoothly. How you plan to transition from ceremony to a reception can be vitally important to the overall look and feel on your wedding day. It’s definitely something to consider.
- How many wedding guests will be attending and can they hike? Okay, I know you all laughed at the subtitle, but here’s the thing. The idea of getting married in Yosemite is pretty stinkin fantastic. However, your 150 wedding guests probably aren’t going to be willing to backpack it up the hill behind you to see your blessed event take place. 😉 I am alllll about wedding elopement and I’m the first to say, “forget it, I’ll throw in the towel hike to Yosemite and get married with your favorite photographer and two best friends”. But that may not be your groove and if it’s not, you need to consider that a location may not be as important as the people you want surrounding you. So if your friends aren’t hikers, maybe Yosemite is not the place for you. This can be also translated for that random beach location, cool bridge in a faraway place that everybody has to park three miles away from. Stuff like this becomes important when you’re considering who you want standing by your side, and how you pick your venue.
- Do your guests like an adventure? Destination weddings, even if it’s only a few hours away open up the possible venue options a ton. This is another one of those things that very much depends on the kind of friends and family that you want standing behind you when you get married. But if you do have the opportunity to travel, even if it’s only a couple of hours, it can open up so many other options as far as venues go. Much as I do love south Florida, one of the drawbacks is that there are very few really beautiful venues and they tend to fill up fast. So if you’re not planning to be engaged for 3 years you might need to think a little bit outside the box. That might even be traveling an hour or two out of the way to open up to some of the gorgeous venues that are in central or northern Florida, or head down south and have a tropical wedding on one of the islands. Either way, thinking outside of the box and taking into account what you really want is essential.
- Weather… whether we like it or not. You may all know this one… but apparently it rains here… Like sunny day, skies are beautiful, hurricane. Boom. That fast. It’s not something this southern Californian girl is at all use too. As a matter of fact, I still tend to look around in shock when it rains, every single day. Don’t judge, I’m a slow learner apparently. Much as you might hope that your wedding day is going to be bright and sunny, there really is a good chance that there’s going to be some kind of crazy weather. Like I said before, I’m all about hiking up Yosemite to get amazing wedding images made. And frankly, I’m totally fine with a bride and groom soaked in the rain because adventures like that make fantastic images and that’s so my groove as a photographer. But if the thought of your hair and dress getting soaked or your gorgeous table center pieces can’t stand up to hurricane wind, then planning ahead on a venue that has a second bad weather option can be kind of essential in the south Florida area.
On to 5 South Florida wedding venues I’m completely in love with:
- Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens | West Palm Beach Everything about this venue is me. I’m completely biased with this list anyway, but the sculpture gardens just make me, sigh. Getting married in a museum / sculpture garden / anywhere that there is art and beauty kinda completes me…. so, ya. This place tops my list.
- Social House | Lake Worth This wedding venue is super close to my heart for a couple of reasons. The people behind it would be number one, (they’re amazing, go say hi) and the adorable modern vibe it carries would be number two. This is a creative coworking spot during the day that transforms into an amazing venue at night. It’s almost like a blank slate venue, with indoor and outdoor options. Very modern / classic which can be hard to find in Palm Beach. I heart this place.
- The Addison | Boca Raton Those trees tho. I’m sorry, maybe it’s a Californian thing but Banyon trees are the coolest! I love the Addison because there is so much you can do with it as a wedding venue. Different looks, different feels, indoors, outdoors. Basically good times over there. I can’t handle the trees!
- The Flagler Museum | Palm Beach I’m not even sure I need to say anything after this title. It’s probably the premier wedding venue in the Palm Beach area, but there is a really good reason for that. Plus, I’m a complete history buff so historic anything makes my day. Another huge plus is that, in a bit of a venue shortage (sorry south Florida, you know it’s true), it’s a wedding venue that can accommodate a large amount of guests, which can be a bit of a challenge to find around here.
- The Harriet Himmel | West Palm Beach I guess I’m a bit old Hollywood but the charm of an old theatre is almost too much for me to handle. I also think this venue is amazing because of the location. It’s not going to be right for everyone but it’s right in the center of the bustle of City Place, which personally I LOVE. Feels like it has a little LA or New York flare to me.
I know I said top 5 but my PS, I just have to add one more is number 6…
- Vizcaya Museum & Gardens | Miami Just stop, I can’t even with this place. It’s like Italy got confused and left part of itself on the tip of Miami. I feel like this is one of those, book the venue, show up, and have a wedding, kinda places. The beauty speaks for itself.
This is a whole lot of thoughts on a subject that I hope is helpful to someone out there planning away. I’d love to hear what Palm Beach South Florida venues you love in the comments. I’m still exploring this land and loving every new discovery… Enjoy friends!