[Edit: Nov 8, 2013 - This blog post was published over 1 year ago and was based on my real life, honest experiences at the time of being a Rhode Island bride trying to plan her wedding. Prices and venue coordinators may have changed since that time. Please use this blog post as a guideline to help you consider some different options for RI venues but keep the date in mind. I do not mean to offend any one company or its employees. As the owner of newly established Emily's Enchantments - a Rhode Island wedding invitations company - I've gained more recent feedback from real RI brides whom I've worked with, so I have new details of venues in RI and I will give you a new, up to date post with more venue choices very soon. Thanks guys!]
Ok so I thought wedding planning would be as easy as yawning. I’m organized, detailed-oriented, and all about making plans ahead of time. So I figured if we started planning in January, we could easily slap something together and walk down the aisle in the fall of the same year. Right?
Well, now that I’ve lived through some tough couple weeks venue-hunting….I have gained serious respect for the brides who spend 12-18 months at the very least planning and figuring out the perfect place for their wedding. I didn’t realize how quickly places filled up and how soon you would have to put money down and book to secure the date.
I didn’t have an emotional attachment to any particular time of year – I thought late summer or early fall would be nice, but I also saw some winter weddings around Christmas and the holiday decor was spectacular. So I knew that the knot would probably be tied sometime between late August and mid-December. But finding a Saturday evening within less than a year is harder than it sounds…
Our Guest List:
Our Venue Price Range (for renting only):
No more than $5,000
Places I Looked At:
2. Country Clubs
4. Historical Sites
I wasn’t sure what I was going for. I have seen beautiful rustic outdoor weddings with backyard, DIY decor that looked beautiful and charming. But then I’ve also seen the city chic glamorous hotel weddings and have loved the luxe look of them. I knew that I wanted to throw in my craft-making skills somehow, but I still wanted to keep it sophisticated and elegant.
Here are some of things I encountered (pros & cons) when viewing all the places in my area, Rhode Island, so in case you happen to get married in the Ocean State, you have an idea of what you might run into:
RHODE ISLAND VENUE REVIEWS:
These are all very different, but I wasn’t sure what I was going for and had to try them all out.
1. The Biltmore Hotel, Providence, RI
Type: Hotel Wedding, City Wedding
Very pricey but pretty! I would say if you can afford $10,000 – 15,000 on renting your venue (not including any food) and have your heart set on a hotel setting for the convenience of having out-of-town guests, then go with the Westin in Providence instead. While I loved the beautiful, charming look of the Biltmore Hotel, it just didn’t really go with the style I was looking for and it didn’t really fit my budget.
2. The Village Inn by Almalfi Catering, Narragansett, RI
Type: Beach Wedding, Ocean View Wedding, Restaurant Wedding
I happened to know someone who worked at the Village Inn and texted him asking how he felt about it as a wedding site. His exact words, “DON’T USE THEM. It is run by scumbags and wicked overpriced.”
I decided to just go and see for myself, so I contacted the coordinator, Jim. Of course, like 50 other Rhode Island wedding vendors, he ignored the questions I asked and said “please call me for more details.” Well, ok….but I work all day during the week. So I would call him after work and get his voicemail. And then he would call me back the next day while I was at work in a meeting. And it was an endless cycle. The two of us had emailed back and forth about 5 or 6 times in total. Each time, I was asking him basic questions like pricing, availability, number of guests allowed, etc. and each time he would just say “please call.” It was so frustrating! Why can’t you just email me the information so I can review it first? I live about 85 miles from the location (I’m currently in MA) and didn’t want to drive all over the place to view a site that I know nothing about because the coordinator couldn’t even email basic info. This is the 21st century for goodness sake!
3. Castle Hill Inn, Newport, RI
Type: Restaurant Wedding, Ocean View Wedding, Newport Wedding
This location is absolutely spectacular. Anyone who is able to afford it should seriously consider this venue. It is incredibly first class and the staff and food are phenomenal. My family has been to Castle Hill for years for Easter and Thanksgiving dinners and it is just impeccably wonderful. Only thing that was holding me back from this? Well…it starts at $55,000 minimum for a Saturday evening! An average wedding at Castle Hill Inn costs about $75,000-100,000! Yikes! I very quickly learned that this was way out of price range and we would have to stick to this Rhode Island gem for the holiday dinners instead.
4. Crystal Lake Golf Club, Burrillville, RI
Type: Golf Course Wedding, Country Club Wedding
Crystal Lake is lovely, picturesque, affordable ($950 to rent), and has fantastic food. It is also on a lake so you can have water view pictures. You can even have your ceremony and then have a romantic boat ride across the lake to arrive at your reception and greet your guests. Very cool! The coordinator, Tracy, is awesome and very quick at responding to emails and leaves detailed voicemails. She is very patient and answers all questions thoroughly no matter how many hundreds of times she has probably had to answer the same one. Also, a good thing about this place is that they allow you to place a hold on the date without putting any money down. They simply pencil down your name and notify you if someone else asks about the date (after 3 weeks), then will ask if you still are interested in it. The only reason why I didn’t book this place is that they are about 50 minutes away from my church location and it would be too far and too out of the way for out-of-town guests to figure out and navigate to and from.
5. Mount Hope Farm, Bristol, RI
Type: Farm Wedding, Rustic Wedding, Barn Wedding
Please see our updated blog post for more current information about this location as this post is outdated.
This location was beautiful and definitely a charming idea but there were many cons to this location. First, the coordinator, John, was rude and difficult to reach by email and never called back. I always had to call him back to get more info and hunt him down. This place was $5000 to rent, which was the top of the budget and that doesn’t include anything else. But it also comes along with all types of strict rules – like no dancing in the barn but only outside so you have to rent a separate tent if you want to dance (which I mean, of course you want to dance at your wedding!), you have bank on the weather being warm enough to be outside and pay for tent rentals and setup fees. It is also in Bristol which is tough to get to from southern RI where my church is located.
6. Whispering Pines, West Greenwich, RI
Type: Campground Wedding, Rustic Wedding, Woodland Wedding
I read online on someone’s blog that this was a great affordable location for a rustic wedding. But then when I inquired with them, I found out it is $5900 just to have your wedding there! That doesn’t even count the minimum $75 per person price for food which only they provide. You also have to get all of your guests to stay there overnight. It was pretty but not that pretty…I will say that they were very informative, thorough, and easy to get a hold of though.
7. Sakonnet Vineyards, Little Compton, RI
Type: Vineyard Wedding, Ocean View Wedding, Rustic Wedding
This is a beautiful location but you need to rent a tent if you want more than 75 guests. That means, you can’t have a wedding in the off-season and you have to deal with tent rental setup – which actually is pretty pricey around RI! You also have to end music by 9PM which isn’t what I was looking for…and the price was kind of high for what you get…$4500 for just the vineyard. You don’t even get a building you can have your guests seated in. The bathrooms have to be all outside.
8. Country Gardens, Rehoboth, MA
Type: Garden Wedding, Rustic Wedding, Outdoor Wedding
I visited this place before I determined that the church location would be in southern RI (way too far away). But it sparked my interest because the website shows a very impressive looking, all-inclusive package (with the exception of photography). But what disappointed me the most is that it was such false-advertising! When I showed up in person, I found out that the rental fee is $4500. It’s a garden that is part of a yard owned by a couple who also have a B&B. So you are basically spending that money to use their yard for pictures and a tented-reception. Turns out, the food was completely separate (even though it makes it sound like it’s all apart of the package) and so was the cake. I will say though that Ralph is fantastic and very sweet. He is very easy to talk to and get a hold of quickly. It just wasn’t the place for us.
8. Waterman Grille, Providence RI
Type: Restaurant Wedding, City Wedding
I was so torn about this place. It was a restaurant where my fiancé and I had one of our first dates, so it has sentimental meaning to us. It is also part of Newport Restaurant Group which is known for being a restaurant with top notch service and top notch food (Castle Hill is actually part of Newport Restaurant Group as well). The Waterman Grille provides a unique, charming, and intimate location with a water view for an affordable $850 room rental. The food prices started at $38 per person – and this place has food that will blow your mind away. It also has a patio right on the river and lovely lounge area for cocktail hour. Only problem – it is very small. It can seat up to 100, but that is without a dance floor. You have to have tables broken down and removed after dinner to free up space for dancing. With our guest list of 130, we just wouldn’t be able to do it. Even if we cut it down to 100, we realized that it would just be too tight. Plus, the low ceilings make the room feel even smaller. Kim was such a great coordinator, and very on top of her emails. I think we will use this place as a rehearsal dinner though…it’s definitely a top choice.
9. My Fiance’s House – Cumberland, RI
Type: Backyard Wedding, DIY Wedding, Outdoor Wedding, At-Home Wedding
Yes, we even discussed having a wedding reception right in my fiancé’s backyard. He is in the process of completing a beautiful stone patio that wraps around the entire back side of the house and the lawn is large enough that we could fit a tent, dance floor, DJ booth, bar, etc.
The problem – It was too expensive! Yes, I kid you not. Having a backyard wedding is not as cheap as you might think. We would need to rent outside bathrooms, a dance floor, a tent, tables, chairs, extra flatware, china, glassware, napkins, the whole nine yards. Just renting the bar setup, the dance floor, portable bathrooms, tent lighting, and the tent itself would cost around $4000 alone. Plus a lot of the caterers charge extra for having to go to your house instead of a regular venue. He also doesn’t live on a great street for 130 people to park. The yard is picture perfect, but we just weren’t ready to drop thousands on an outdoor, backyard wedding…I had this nightmare of me in my wedding dress, with an apron and my rubber gloves scrubbing down the kitchen at the end of the wedding day. Yeah….it just wasn’t going to happen.
Here is what we chose for November 17, 2012:
Glen Manor House, Portsmouth, RI
Why we chose it?
* Rental fee: $3750 (Off Season November – April)
* Accommodates up to 200 people, and 130 fits ideally
* It looks like a mini Newport mansion
* Has unbelievably beautiful, historic, Gilded Age interior decor and perfectly manicured grounds
* Has ocean views and flower gardens
* Has 2 dining rooms that connect through french doors making it one room
* Has 1 giant ballroom separate from the dining rooms
* Has a grand foyer and marble staircase that leads up to a second floor where the wedding party has access to 2 additional rooms
* It’s unique, classy, sophisticated, and breathtakingly beautiful
* Katie, the coordinator is fantastic to talk to do and easy to communicate with
I am SO excited to have our special day at Glen Manor!!! I feel a sigh of relief now that we have officially secured a venue, church, and a date. It feels like it’s really happening now, and I’m getting butterflies already!! It can be stressful finding the venue, but once you have it, the rest can be done at a leisurely pace.
Good luck to all the new brides out there!