Since everyone in the land knows how “Type A” I am, it should come as no surprise that immediately after getting engaged, I was itching to set a date and a venue for our wedding.

Earlier in our relationship, I told Alex I’ve always dreamt of an outdoor wedding. I grew up in the Episcopal church (so did Alex), and I consider myself to be a faithful person, but I have imagined walking down a green, lush aisle for as long as I can remember.

I think we had only been dating for months when I dropped this bomb on Alex, who has always wanted a traditional church wedding. It actually may have been the first time we didn’t 100% agree on something. Lucky for me, Alex was amenable to an outdoor ceremony.

Since Alex wanted to get married in the Richmond area, we made a list of a few venues to tour in our area. I used theknot.com and borrowedandblue.com to hone in on other nearby areas (I highly recommend borrowedandblue.com for the venue search. I love the  featured weddings links for each vendor).

Our priority list for our area’s wedding venues included:

It was important to me to set a date and a venue as soon as we found something we loved so we could relax and plan the rest in the long engagement period we have. We started touring in December, shortly after getting engaged, which meant our outdoor ceremony locations weren’t exactly looking their best.

Fortunately, we’ve got some imagination.

And we stalked plenty of wedding photos from each venue, so we somewhat knew what everything looked like before we saw it in person.

I went into these tours blind. With each tour, I learned what to ask and which details to gather. I kind of wished someone had prepared me with all the questions I needed to ask ahead of time.

For any couple embarking on their venue tour, I’d recommend the following quick tips:

  1. Do your research. Look up other weddings at that site on their website (if available), Pinterest, and Google. Make lists of what you don’t like, and ask the event coordinator if it’s something you can change.
  2. Know your must-haves and non-negotiables. You won’t know if the venue is the right fit for you if you don’t have a vision for wedding. Try to look up other weddings and make lists of what you want on your special day. Know you want a sparkler send-off? Ask if they’re allowed at that venue.
  3. Learn the backup plan. If you need to have an outdoor ceremony, find out the rain plan, and make sure you like it! Finding a rain plan I was okay with was so important to me. I don’t want to be crying over rain on my wedding day.
  4. Take a small notebook to make a pros/cons list as you tour, and take way more photos than you think you’ll need. As soon as you leave, you’ll forget details. Videos help, too!
  5. Ask about the bridal/groom suites. How many can fit in each suite? How long do you have access to them?
  6. Learn all guest accommodations. How close is the nearest hotel? How far is that hotel from the airport? Do you have guests with special needs at your reception like air conditioning or a place to sit?
  7. Inquire about venue insurance. Some vendors require you to obtain it before your big day.
  8. Request a preferred vendor list. Some venues require you to book vendors from their list only. Some purely offer recommendations. Make sure you know the difference for each venue if you have particular vendors in mind, because I did! Also, vendors who are used to working at that venue might be extra helpful for you.
  9. Find out everything that is included and what costs extra. Some things will shock you, trust me! At some places, seating and tables are included. At others, you need to source and supply just about everything other than the grounds.
  10. If the venue is willing to offer them, ask for e-mail addresses of couples who have been married there before. I know people who have connected with those who have previously gotten married at their venues, and it served as a major help in the wedding process. Simple tips in how to interact with the venue staff are very helpful!

And so you can keep this list handy, I’ve created a graphic for you. Feel free to pin this to your Pinterest board, print it out, etc.!

For those who have yet to search: What are you most looking forward to in the venue hunt?

For those who have already selected their wedding venue: What were your deal-makers and deal-breakers?

I can’t wait to share our actual venue with you (coming soon)!

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In our engagement announcement, I promised wedding planning coverage.

So you’re gonna get wedding planning coverage!

Before I dive too deep into our wedding venue search, I realize I didn’t cover much about Alex and my relationship on the blog. Why, you ask?

I’ll tell ya.

  1. When you already have two jobs, finding time to write a blog can be laughable.
  2. Privacy can be underrated… and it’s a little weird to write blogs about your *~*new boyfriend!*~*
  3. If you’ve been a reader since 2011, you’ll know that covering relationships in a space so public had been a rocky road in the past.

But heck, when it’s from the past, it’s kinda like telling an old love story, right?

So I’m traveling backwards in time to give you a little insight to my relationship with my fiancé. I figure knowing a bit more about Alex will make it a little more fun to read about our wedding plans that way.

That, or you’ll feel like you know entirely too much about Alex. Like the fact that he enjoys wearing socks with 4 holes in them.

Alex and I met through mutual friends. After seeing each other out a few times and getting the 411 from my friend Megan, he turned on the romantic charm by sending me a Facebook message to ask me to get drinks with him.

I still remember showing his messages to my friend Emily and her saying, “Alyssa, his use of emojis… he is perfect for you.”

She was right.

We got drinks in town on a Thursday night. I hadn’t done any research on Alex, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was optimistic. It may seem weird to detail that I wore dark jeans, a white top, and beige wedges, but I’m telling you anyway. You’ll know why in a sec.

I walked into Fat Dragon, a restaurant/bar not far from where we each lived at the time. This dude had worn the same outfit as me to our date. I kid you not — a white polo, dark jeans (thank God his were a little looser than mine), and beige desert boots.

I’ve never really been on a first date that makes 3 hours feel like 30 minutes, but that’s what happened. In true form to the matching outfit, it was like he was copying my basic personal facts the whole time (“Oh, I lived in Europe for three years as a kid, too!” “Really? You’re one of three kids? Me too!”) Not to mention my name is Alyssa Halter and his is Alex Hall….

I was cautiously charmed. And I’m not one for mushy stuff, but I’ll never forget the feeling I got after that date that this one was different. We have spoken to each other every day since that date.

Our second date was to L’Opossum, which remains our very favorite Richmond restaurant. It was dead the night we went, but soon after, it got a lot of press, so now Richmond locals book months ahead to get a table. I can’t speak for Alex, but that date was when I knew I was done for.

Or, more likely, it was the next day, when he showed up on my doorstep with a surprise Sugar Shack donut in honor of National Donut Day.

And so it went. Alex got a puppy, which really threw Chloe for a loop. We’ve spent holidays at the James River with his family and on the Albemarle Sound with mine, we’ve completely intermingled our friend groups, and when Alex bought a house in June, I moved in.

We’re doin’ the thang!

And ya know the best part? When I become Mrs. Alex Hall, I don’t even have to change my monogram. *hallelujah hands emoji*

{ 8 comments }

ENGAGED!

February 23, 2017 · 1 comment

It may have been over two months ago, but I guess a serious life event bears mentioning…

Soooo, Alex proposed!

And ever since, I’ve been in a whirlwind of busy season of my full-time job, the usual madness of teaching Pure Barre in addition, and… wedding planning!

But since I’m backtracking to December 17th here, I’ll fill you all the way in on the details. Because if you’re like me, you like hearing a good proposal story.

Sometime before the holidays, Alex asked me if I’d be able to go to lunch with his grandmother, mom, and sister in a few weeks. I didn’t think much of it since we frequently spend time with his family in Richmond, which I love, since my family is a bit farther away.

When I got home from teaching and sweating all morning, I quickly showered, threw on a sweater, and bundled up for the dreary weather outside. On the way to lunch, I was scrolling through my phone, and Alex said his mom was running late. “Hey,” he said, “Wanna kill time and go up to the roof of The Hofheimer? See what’s up there?”

I looked up at the roof and said, “Uhh, it’s kind of cold and rainy…” But he was already dialing his phone. He asked the poor unfortunate soul who picked up the phone if they were open and if we could come check out the roof, and they seemingly said they weren’t open, but that it was fine.

The girl who answered the door was a fantastic actress. She acted like she hadn’t been arranging this for months with Alex, and I apologized profusely for being “those people” who had to look at the roof on a dreary Saturday while they were closed and setting up for a wedding. She walked us up the steps to the roof, and we could immediately see the Richmond city skyline, not far from Alex’s old apartment.

As I started to do a 360 degree turn, I spotted Maggie. You know, my best friend since childhood who lives in Philadelphia. WHAT? Behind her, I could see Alex’s younger sister, Janie, who was obviously trying to hide behind a wall alongside Mag. I knew what must be happening when I saw Maggie and had no idea she was in Richmond.

At that moment, Alex grabbed my hands, and I realized what was happening. Then I blacked out.

I mean, I stood upright and all, but I haven’t the slightest clue what he said after “You know how much I love you… and…”

In the video Janie took, you can just hear me saying before he drops to one knee, “Your knee is going to get so wet!”

I said yes and delicately reminded Alex he had to put the ring on my finger, not just show it to me.

Despite how cold it was, it goes without saying it was my favorite day.

One of the most touching parts of this moment was that when we gathered as a family afterward, the skies opened up for just a moment with the first sunshine all day. Some of you know my dear Poppop passed away just ten days prior to our (already planned) engagement, and I know it was his way of telling me he was there.

Alex had Maggie and Brittany on standby since September since they had the photos of the ring I had chosen a loooong time ago (I had gone with my girlfriends to look on a whim way before I knew we were even close to being ready to get married). He had arranged for Maggie to drive in early that morning and show up with Brittany and Isaac, my parents to come for the weekend (and hide at a hotel), and his younger sister and parents to be present.

It was the absolute perfect combination of a moment for the two of us and a time to celebrate with our loved ones present, which is exactly what I wanted. I was (and am) so thankful, and I was so shocked.

Alex and I had talked about getting married for a while (it is so true what they say about “you’ll know when you meet ‘the one’“), but he had me truly believing this wouldn’t happen until June of this year at the earliest. This was an impressive feat, because I’m pretty tough to surprise.

We had a champagne toast and left The Hofheimer to have lunch at Alex’s parents’ house as I frantically tried to make my brain compute what had just happened.

That night, we invited our good friends to Mekong, our *~*very predictable*~* favorite place to drink beers and eat Vietnamese. Fun fact: My friend Molly, to the right of me, got engaged four days later!

We had plans to attend one of my closest friend’s Christmas parties that night as well. Elizabeth even let us bring our family and completely hijack the party. I surprised some of my favorite girlfriends and we immediately started talking Bachelorette ideas (Vegas, anyone?!).

It was quite the holiday season, and thus far, we’ve had a blasty blast wedding planning.

SO THERE’S THAT.

I’m looking forward to hopefully finding the time to recap some of my favorite parts of wedding planning here. Hit me with your favorite wedding planning “must-dos.” I’m a Pinteresting fool.

Because what’s wedding planning without blog recaps and input from the interwebs?!

P.S. I’m aware I also owe you guys some home renovation updates. Wait until you see what we’ve done with our digs (and the door behind us in the above GIF!).

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Everyday Sun Safety – Tips, Facts, & Products!

October 5, 2016
youtu.be/8WHN4WTjVao

Howdy, hi, hello! I know, I know. Autumn is here, and I’m talking about sun safety. BUT. Although the temperatures are cooler, see that bright thing up in the sky? The sun is still shining on us, and we’ve still gotta protect our skin from it. Since it’s been a hot minute since I threw […]

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We Got A House!

July 19, 2016

Okay, let me clarify. Alex bought a house. I live in it. Sooo…. we got a house! 😉 You may already be clued into this via my Snapchat feed (username: ablyssa). For the past month, we’ve been full steam ahead moving, demolishing, painting, planning, craigslist selling, and reorganizing. And thankfully for me, in his retirement, my […]

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The Bachelorette Recap: Chad will rip your shirt… and all your limbs off.

June 8, 2016

This week, as I turn on the T.V. to start the best part of Monday, I’m suddenly reminded of what I have to look forward to. TWO nights of… Buckle up, y’all. Sidenote: I swear I read something a past contestant posted that the girls aren’t allowed to bring weights, leave the property to run, […]

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The Bachelorette Recap: JoJo’s on Fire; The Dudes are Not

June 1, 2016

I did it. I’m back. I watched the Bachelorette, and I have time to blog about it. How better to kick off Episode 2 of JoJo’s bachelorette season than with 1 million fire similes and metaphors?! By now, the dudes have already bonded (save for Chad, who sits in the corner sulking, eating, or using […]

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Introducing Pure Barre Platform: FAQs from Clients

May 23, 2016

There’s a fantastic new workout on the block, and it’s called Pure Barre Platform. Pure Barre Platform is a new fast-paced class designed to optimize cardiovascular results and increase total body strength. This heart-pumping class combines quick bursts of high intensity, yet low impact cardio work with periods of lower intensity muscle-sculpting movements. These 55 […]

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A Pure Barre Demo & The Fit Foodie Run is Back in Fairfax, VA

May 19, 2016

Remember last year when Brittany and I ran the Fit Foodie Run in Fairfax, VA? We’re at it again this weekend! Last year’s Fit Foodie Run was the most fun race weekend I’ve ever experienced. From the pre-race party the night before, to the events before and after the race, to the finisher’s village, I […]

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Turning Weaknesses Into Strengths: My 5K PR Race

May 10, 2016

On Saturday, I ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure here in Richmond, VA. As everyone knows, with my sister’s fight, breast cancer is a cause I will support to no end, so it seemed like fate that Alex’s mom used to work for Susan G. Komen and is one of the race […]

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