My fall break was this past week, and I devoted my time almost completely to wedding planning! My mom and I had a tight schedule of venues to visit, dress shopping, and doctor’s appointments. Jon came on Friday to see one venue with us, and then on Saturday we visited one new place and went back to a couple I had already seen. I wanted to give a quick run-down of the places we saw and my thoughts on them:

1. The Dairy Barn in Fort Mill, SC

A great place to have a casual reception out in the country!

Pros: flexible with what they allow you to do with the space –  you can be very creative! surrounded by 2,000 acres of beautiful land. pretty loft upstairs for the ceremony. reasonably priced. guest list can go up to 350. onsite catering.

Cons: distance from Charlotte. needs a lot of “extras” to dress it up and look complete. rentals not included. outdated restrooms.

2. Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in Belmont, NC

Beautiful setting for a formal, evening wedding in the spring or summer.

Pros: with the exclusive package, guests have the freedom to wander through all the gardens. nice ballroom and other indoor space is provided with both packages. lots of space. guest list can go into upper 200s.

Cons: rentals not included. no on-site catering. expensive. distance from Charlotte.

3. Pine Island Country Club in Charlotte, NC

Provides all the usual country club offerings. Nothing special that makes it stand out, as its “best of weddings” pick by The Knot implies.

Pros: no country club membership required. everything looks recently updated. on-site catering. personable events director (apparently recommendations from her brides is what secured the pick by The Knot).  most rentals included.

Cons: close to 485 and the airport. located at the end of a not-so-picturesque neighborhood. main ballroom was only half the size of most country club ballrooms. about one-third of guests would be seated separately. lacks character. expensive. does not offer anything greater than other country clubs.

4. VanLandingham Estate Inn & Conference Center in Charlotte, NC

Charming Victorian house with beautiful outdoor space and an intimate atmosphere.

Pros: lots of character and history. pretty gardens in backyard. flexible with what you can do with the space. all guests can be seated outside together. garden room provides a great transition from the house to the yard and an indoor space for dancing. on-site catering. guests can stay in rooms at a discounted rate. nice location near downtown. guest list can go into lower 200s.

Cons: expensive. indoor spaces may feel small with lots of guests.

5. The Duke Mansion in Charlotte, NC

Perfect for an opulent setting reminiscent of a 1940s dinner party in Charleston! (to me, anyway)

Pros: high ceilings and chandeliers. lots of space. gardens outside for extra seating or cocktail mingling. great location. on-site catering. guests can stay in the mansion at a discounted rate. rentals included (chivari chairs, too!)

Cons: expensive. guest list is capped at 150. ballroom can only seat 60 with a dance floor – other guests are divided up among other rooms. limited parking/valet required. very high food and beverage minimum.

You might be able to tell based on my comments which venue we’re leaning toward. I don’t want to say for sure until it’s in writing, though! I’ll keep you posted!

P.S. Check out these bridal stores where I began my dress shopping! The customer service was amazing at both!

Nitsa’s Apparel in Phillips Place across from Southpark Mall

Hayden Olivia downtown on S. Tryon St.