My younger brother Matt is getting married in June, and just recently confirmed the date, which has set into motion a quest for both a bridal shower venue and a location for a rehearsal dinner. Since the long-running supper club my parents relied upon for my other brothers’ rehearsal dinners sadly closed its doors in December, my mom has been scouring the yellow pages, hitting the pavement, and making endless phone calls trying to nail down a venue that suits her style as well as the size of the guest list. In her own words, she’s “frazzled.” Her worried phone calls to me have become more and more frequent, as she keeps me up to date with the growing list of possibilities that are already booked. June still tops the list in wedding popularity, so trying to come up with an available site is proving difficult.
Meanwhile, I’m making my own inquiries, Googling myself to death, and roping in the advice of girlfriends who still live in my home town who might have suggestions for a bridal shower venue. True, the social hall at church is a great standby, but I was hoping for something fun and unique.
What to do when all the regular hotspots are taken? Employ a bit of creativity.
I’ve had the good fortune to attend gatherings and parties at some creative and off-the-beaten-path locations. Years ago, a hayride pulled by Clydesdales ended in an autumn bonfire where I joined other shower goers as we sipped hard ciders and watched the bride open gifts. A college friend opted to have her baby shower in her parents’ renovated barn that had been converted into a stained glass studio for her mother. Ryan and I even attended a rehearsal dinner at the zoo after hours.
Apart from restaurants and banquet halls, coming up with alternative options can be tricky. But keep your mind open to possibilities and consider the following venues for parties such as rehearsal dinners, showers, engagement parties and the like:
- Local colleges will often rent out small ballrooms or special meeting rooms. Some are quite lovely and unique!
- Does your city have a wine café or a coffee shop that can be rented out for special gatherings? It’s worth a call! I attended a graduation party at a local coffee shop. Best non-alcoholic beverages at a party EVER!
- Historic homes make for beautiful backdrops to small, intimate celebrations. Try your local bed & breakfasts as well. They often rent out their main floors for such events.
- Some larger city public libraries have rooms for rent and can be utterly enchanting. It’s said that the James J. Hill Reference Library in the public library in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, with its stately columns, marble floors and towering stacks of books, is equal parts Harry Potter and Downton Abbey. Hmm. I may need to consider renewing my vows.
- In keeping with the bibliophile theme, if you’re lucky enough to have a quaint corner book shop in your town, it might be available to rent after hours.
- Art studios often offer beautiful space that can be manipulated to fit your party.
- Call your local community center to inquire about potential rooms or spaces. These are commonly more affordable and have significant parking and handicap-accessible features.
- Summertime opens up outdoor possibilities. Some organic farms and orchards have the potential of hosting an outdoor picnic or setting up tents or canopies for parties.
- One of the loveliest showers I attended was at a ballet studio. The studio, once an old warehouse in the historic district of town 120 years prior, had been renovated to reveal exposed brick walls, thick wooden beams, and soaring windows overlooking the waterfront. It’s worth investigating yoga studios as well.
- Do you know of a beautiful nursery or greenhouse willing to reshuffle some things to make way for garden tables and chairs? What prettier way to decorate than to be surrounded by flowers and plants?
Bear in mind, some venues might require that you deal with catering, set up, decorating, etc., but if you’re the type who likes a challenge, the effort can be well worth it!