Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Search Begins...

Two months and three states. That is what it took to finally find the barn for our reception. Because Ian and I come from opposite sides of the country, we had to come up with a solution for who would travel. Would my family go from Los Angeles to New York? Would his go from New York to California? Would they meet somewhere in the middle? Neither of us has a family that is particularly larger than the other. But, for monetary reasons, my family could travel from California to the East Coast more feasibly. Thus, my Google search from New Mexico was kicked off to find the perfect barn on the East Coast.

I combed through New York's resources and abused the terms "New York," "Barn," and "Wedding" in search engines. But nothing I came across felt right. We were a month out from our engagement party, which was to be held in New York, so we knew we'd be able to visit venues, but only a few since we had limited time.

The first place I got stuck on was Riverside Farms in Vermont, about a five hour drive from Ian's hometown. This is a venue that flies somewhat under the radar, unlike Round Barn Farm, which is beautiful but a bit of a wedding factory. Three-hundred acre Riverside Farms not only has one wedding barn, they have four and a meadow protected by a small mountain. It's secluded and full of antiques and completely not manufactured. I loved it. The price, well, I didn't love that as much. That said, the owners told me about a property they owned down the road called The Amee Farm (pictured above) which wasn't on as much land but included a 16-bedroom farmhouse and a newly restored barn with organic garden. I loved the idea of all of our wedding party and family staying in the house while cute bed-and-breakfasts nearby would suffice for the other guests. But there were two things I couldn't quite latch on to: 1) There wasn't anywhere to have a private, secluded ceremony. The farmhouse sits just above the busiest road in town (Okay, not that busy. It's Vermont, but still.) and the ceremony would have to be on the hill overlooking the road and town. Or, the road and town would be looking up at you. 2) The three-story barn was still under construction. The reception venue was planned for the second floor which had a flat ceiling because of the third floor above it, thus ruining any novelty of celebrating in a barn structure. I want high ceilings, people. And, visiting the farm was my first time in Vermont and I was starting to feel like I wanted some connection to my locale of choice.

A few days later, in New York, we decided to check out a few venues that didn't have barns at all. The first was Ian's family friend's new lake home--also under construction--about twenty minutes from Ian's hometown. There was a beautiful field on the lake with a couple of trees I could totally see saying "I Do" under, but the lawn in front of the house didn't seem big enough. Plus the idea of bringing in every table, chair, fork, knife, speaker, and light was enough to make me say no. As generous as the offer to use the house was.

The second venue was actually recommended by a bridesmaid who had driven up for the engagement party from New York City. She stayed in a sweet little bed-and-breakfast called Berry Hill Gardens bed-and-breakfast. The five-bedroom house was a little outdated, but the gardens in front were stunning with a trellis to use as an aisle and flowers everywhere. Talk about not needing to decorate. But, alas, this didn't feel right either.

The third place we went in New York has a bit of family history--Ian's great-grandmother had been a caretaker on this amazing property: Hyde Hall near Cooperstown, NY. Hyde Hall is a historic mansion on a grassy hill overlooking Otsego Lake in the Finger Lakes region. After rushing around the grounds, on our way to the airport, I was ready to say yes. The views were fabulous for the ceremony, the mossy, marble building had the perfect amount of history creeping up its walls, and I loved the family-tie. Plus, this was the first place we'd seen that didn't have any construction going on. But, Ian didn't like the idea of paying a site fee that came with absolutely nothing but the grounds. Hmph. This was proving to be difficult.

It wasn't until we were back in New Mexico, feeling more unsure than ever about where we wanted to get married, that we found it. I was reading my Real Simple Weddings book late one night when I came across a wedding in a barn in southern Colorado. Light. Bulb. We were only two hours from Southern Colorado. The weight of planning a wedding from afar lifted from my shoulders. I Googled, and Googled, and Googled. Blue Lake Ranch in Durango looked nice, but Durango is really too remote for our traveling guests. Dunton Hot Springs near Telluride is even more remote but almost seemed worth it: You can rent the entire town (yes, it's an old ghost town) including the multiple hot-spring pools. But the price proved it too remote in more ways than one.

Third time's a charm. I stumbled upon Devil's Thumb Ranch. Five-thousand raw acres of mountainous Colorado with a renovated barn on a completely, sustainable ranch. Whew. That's a mouthful, but that's because it has a lot to offer.

People ask me why Colorado? One, it's in between both of our families. But it's also a place Ian and I steal away to for long weekends in the mountains, so we associate it with fun, adventure, and relaxation.

In the end, we decided on what felt right. We knew that traveling would be involved for at least half the guests so we decided to make it a destination wedding for everyone. The ranch feels unique, is filled with one-of-a-kind antiques, has gourmet food, and, most importantly, has an inclusive-package that fit our budget. Well, sort of.

How many venues did you look at before you found the one? Did you always know what you were looking for or did you stumble upon it, unexpectedly?

Photo 1 by AndrewTCurry
Last photo by Laura Dombrowski

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