Eenie, meenie, miney… Golden

venue collage
My ‘Top 5’ in the Venue Pageant

venue [ven-yoo]

  1. a massive chunk out of any wedding budget – and an equally as massive headache (negative)
  2. an opportunity for spontaneous road trips and [Southeast] world-travel (positive)
  3. a possible journey of self-discovery and preference (if we want to get really deep)
  4. the pinnacle decision that generates a domino effect of wedding planning: venue availability determines date, date determines dress-code and flowers (heaven forbid hydrangeas are out of season!?!) – and so on.

Granted, I had more than a year to plan the biggest party of my life (to date) – and I can’t speak for everyone (God knows there’s always someone who is going to object) BUT – the venue decision put the party planning progress on hold. Let’s back up…

The Miller family took an annual trip to Wild Dunes in Charleston, S.C. every summer from the time I was in 5th grade to my Sophomore year of college. It stopped mid-way through college because my nomadic family moved from N.C. to Ocala, Florida and gloriously discovered that white sand and teal water does exist without jetting over seas. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade Charleston’s exquisite historical charm for all of the white sand in the world – but from a convenience stand point, it does make sense to visit the beach in your back yard whenever you want ( hour’s drive) rather than make the pilgrimage to the Holy City once a year.

All that to say – I decided at age 10 that I would absolutely get married at the Grand Pavilion at Wild Dunes Resort. No questions about it – and when Tye popped the question 13 years later, I knew exactly where we would tie the knot.

Touring St. Augustine
Touring St. Augustine

Turns out, selecting a venue isn’t about a 10-year-old’s fantasy – but about real-world, grown-up factors like, guests’ travel, proximity, accommodations, and ungodly prices for vendors. Think out-of state-tuition (Sorry again, mom & dad, for Auburn tuition) – Because when you’re planning a destination wedding, for some reason it seems like you’re instantly paying significantly more for…everything.

So I accepted that the Grand Pavilion (#5) was out of the question and reigned the fantasy in to explore similar ‘beachy’ venues in Florida.  We checked out:

#4 – Omni Plantation Amelia Island Resort : Perhaps if we were royalty…or Kardashians. Nope.

#3 – Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort: The planning folks scoffed at our budget… we took the hint

#2 – The White Room – St. Augustine: Very reasonable – seemed like the ideal choice. But then the preference took a turn…

e6612ef104074fb3fc9e39947c8f2298My husband serves as the voice of reason for my mercurial imagination. He pays attention to detail(s) – all of them. And like many men, Tye is the victim of a Pinterest addiction. Mine. On a very regular basis, he has to succumb to never-ending rounds of ‘Look at this! and this!’ Don’t get me wrong – he certainly benefits because it makes me WANT to cook and do trillions of burpees & squats – but he also is a victim of boot + scarf pairings, bucket-list vacation destinations from Bali to Scotland and the occasional DIY dining room table project. After our visit to the White Room, we were playing the Pinterest game and he noted that all of my wedding pins were rustic country meets southern plantation – not tropical destination.

So why were we desperately becoming Florida-resort world-travelers seeking a replacement for the Grand Pavilion? Mind blown. We hit the brakes, switched gears and began looking for a venue that would meet the desires of my Pinterest-prone heart, rather than fulfill a 10-year-old’s fantasy.  After all, vintage blue mason jars and burlap have no business on the beach.

I had no idea that the perfect venue was actually in Ocala – The Clubhouse at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club. A traditional southern setting with a lovely garden, white columns, rolling hills and charming ambiance. And finally, since the venue was local – we had access to small-town vendors, and family friends. Venue – check! We locked in October 26 (our ‘dating’ anniversary) and heaved sighs of relief. Time to pick flowers, cake, attire, decor and more!

The wedding fairy tale isn’t about living out a childhood daydream – it’s about ending up with your best friend – and whether it’s on a beach, in a backyard or on the moon – the moment you lock eyes on your future spouse during that euphoric walk down the aisle, the setting fades away with the rest of the minute details – and suddenly you’re just ready to party, eat cake and… get naked.


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