Giving up my dream venue before I even get started.

A traditional wedding has a lot of moving parts. At a macro level, you have the ceremony and the reception. But break it down further – people need to sit down, right? And you could stick a bunch of chairs in an empty room and call it a day, but it wouldn’t hurt to decorate the place a little. And while they’re there, they need to be fed and watered. I guess a little entertainment would be good, too. Needless to say, Stallion and I were pretty overwhelmed as far as where to start.

First things first: we knew we wanted to get married in Cape May, New Jersey. The town has a lot of sentimental meaning to us, and its elegant Victorian atmosphere makes it perfect for a wedding.

Cape May being the popular wedding location that it is, we had quite a few venues to choose from. And I thought I had the perfect one in mind – a stunning bed and breakfast with lush gardens, gorgeous decor, and tons of privacy (they only host one event at a time, so we would have free reign over the B&B and its grounds the entire weekend). It had everything we could possibly ask for. Checking out other venues would be a waste of time. This place was perfect. Right?

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Stunning, right?
(via http://www.southernmansion.com)

And this, folks, is why you make your guest list before doing ANY other wedding planning.

Dream Venue has a maximum of 150 guests. That’s massive! I can’t even think of 150 people I know, let alone people I like enough to invite to the wedding! Dream Venue, where’s my contract? Let’s sign some paperwork!

I broke out my handy Excel spreadsheet (side note: Excel is my best friend, both personally and professionally) and started an actual guest list. My family, friends, sorority sisters … Stallion’s family and friends … professional contacts … parents’ friends … and before we knew it, we were staring down the barrel of a 200 person guest list. Whoops.

Now, one may reason that people can and will decline our invitations. But how many? Were we absolutely confident that we’d get at least a 25% decline rate? Most of our guest list would be coming from out of town, so for all intents and purposes, this was a semi-destination wedding, right? We pored over every single person on our invitation list, pondering if they really needed to be invited.

It didn’t matter, though, because the final nail in the coffin hadn’t hit yet. Remember those lush gardens I mentioned as a huge draw for Dream Venue? Well, that’s where the wedding ceremony is held. And in the event of inclement weather, Dream Venue rearranges the furniture in its parlor and holds the ceremony there … and the parlor only seats 100 people. Guests #101-150 would have to stand.

Even for our planned brief civil ceremony, asking one third of our guests to stand was too much. So our choices were as follows: take a hatchet to our guest list, or look for a new venue.

Ultimately, Stallion and I decided that celebrating with all of our loved ones was more important than celebrating at Dream Venue with some of our loved ones. While Dream Venue was spectacular, it wasn’t right for us. And that’s okay.

Lesson? Have your guest list prepared before venue hunting. Sounds obvious, right? Stallion and I learned it the hard way. Fortunately, no papers were signed, nor was any financial commitment made before we got our reality check.

Have you ever had to choose between a dream feature (venue, catering, etc.) and your ideal guest list? Where do you strike the balance?

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