After all the excitement post-proposal, Ken flew back to the states to get back to work, and I spent the rest of vacation researching different wedding venues in New England. I’m not gonna lie – I had definitely done some preliminary research over the last few years of our relationship – I mean a girl can dream, right? I may or may not have even started a secret Pinterest board with some potential venues. Totally normal, right?
I was born and raised in New Hampshire, a New England girl through and through. My parents still live in New Hampshire. My brother, aunts and uncles, cousins, bridesmaids - are all still in New Hampshire. Naturally, I wanted to get married in New England. Ken was totally in love with the idea (or at least I tell myself that!) As you may know, Ken and I got engaged on my 30th birthday in July 2017 (and if you didn’t, read all about it here). When we first started planning, I was hoping to get married in either July or August 2018. I know, I know – it was ambitious. Once I started researching venues, I realized I had to make some quick decisions. I actually ended up cutting vacation short by two days to start that venue hunt! Yes, I was in crazy bride-mode. I drove the 12-hours back, solo with our two dogs and started venue searching the next day. Looking back, this was definitely the start of my crazy bride syndrome. Really, who leaves vaca early?!?!
My parents were still enjoying vacation on Prince Edward Island, my maid-of-honor (my sister) was at a music festival in Newport, Rhode Island but luckily, I had my bridesmaid Holly by my side to start sifting through venues. Technically still a newly-wed herself (married in August of 2016), she planned her gorgeous wedding in about 6-months – so she was the perfect sidekick on my venue search. Her honesty was just an added benefit because you need that when venue hunting!
Even though I’m originally from New England and most of my family still resides there, I wanted a destination wedding feel – a sort of "wedding weekend getaway". All of Ken’s family and friends would be coming from out-of-town. When I started my planning, there were just too many perfect options out there. I knew I wanted a rustic barn spot for the reception but also accommodations on the property for our entire wedding party (about 20 people). I knew it was a bit specific – but I was confident I could find the perfect spot:
Option #1: The Barn at Walnut Hill
North Yarmouth, Maine
This was one of my dream venues before I was even engaged - not crazy, right?? It looks like the ultimate New England rustic wedding venue. After much contemplation (and number crunching), I realized that it was a bit far for family in NH to drive and a bit out of our budget. From its website: DzThe serene and beautifully manicured estate-like acreage of The Barn on Walnut Hill offers an intimate setting to host your event from May through October. Located just twenty-five minutes northwest of Portland in the quiet town of North Yarmouth, the custom-designed gardens and four green acres provide an enchanting setting for your celebration. The attached 19th-century barn and farmhouse have been painstakingly restored and renovated to capture the charm of time past while simultaneously offering modern amenities to facilitate flawless events.
Option #2: Hardy Farm
Hardy Farm was the first venue that Holly and I visited while venue searching. It is in Maine but right across the NH border. The attached Inn is filled with New England charm – exactly what I wanted. There is also a separate Lodge on the property – just a short walk from the Inn – that was perfect for the wedding party (with pool table, fire pit and all). From its website: DzThe c. 1835 barn is the perfect place to host your inspired wedding reception or event. The space features beautifully white-washed walls and elegant chandeliers. The Maine wedding barn venue is open and modern including heating and air conditioning, and features two dramatic staircases that climb to the wrap-around mezzanine. From there, you can overlook the entire barn. Many couples choose to use the mezzanine to create intimate nooks for quiet conversations, or to add extra bar space or seating areas. The barn wedding venue is naturally lit with expansive windows and the original barn doors, bringing thebeauty of the White Mountains indoors for your event.dzUltimately, I decided the distance was just a bit far for my family coming from NH –and not necessarily easily accessible.
I ended up going to this venue by myself on a whim. It was a newly constructed barn near the University of NH (about 45 minutes from my parents’ house) that was also close to the seacoast. The property was still in the midst of putting the finishing touches on the barn – and would be completed by September 2017. The grounds were stunning! Located right across the street from the Lamprey River –surrounded by beautiful gardens and with a beautiful New England historic Inn right on property (originally built circa 1779). I knew immediately that this was the one. It just felt right! I was a bit hesitant that the barn wasn’t finished yet but I was assured it would be completed by the fall of 2017(which it was - and looks amazing!) They also informed me that the Inn would be completely rehabbed and finished by Memorial Day 2018. I’m writing this article in April 2018 with a sad heart. We just learned that the Inn WILL NOT be done – they ran into permitting issues and big setbacks from the town of Durham. It’s frustrating. Disappointing. Heartbreaking (this may be a tad dramatic). But if I’ve learned anything from this whole wedding process, it’s that you have to "roll with the punches" (even the big ones straight to the gut) and that the one thing you can guarantee in this process is that not everything will go as planned. Always expect the unexpected – 'tis life! The grounds and space are still beautiful. There is also a lovely Inn about 5 minutes down the road, the Three Chimneys Inn. After being informed that there could be a set back with the Inn, we booked space for our wedding party here. It’s not exactly the "all-in-one wedding weekend venue" that I was hoping for – but I know it’ll still be perfect and special.
Living in Baltimore, MD and planning a New England destination wedding has been a bit more "detailed" i.e. stressful than I was anticipating. I’ve realized that I’m a bit more indecisive than I thought and that I sure do love checking things off a list. Flowers – check! Cake – check! Band – check! And then I go back to my long Google doc and think "wait – what did I choose?" haha I’m sure it’ll be a wonderful special day that I’m eagerly anticipating.