This past weekend we took a trip up north to visit all the spots for our wedding and also to celebrate Joe’s 34th birthday. We gained a ton of insight into what we have left to plan and also found that time spent away from responsibility was much needed for us to relax and reconnect; even if for just one night. Grandview Lodge was under construction and it was cold and rainy, so its really hard to comment on all of our thoughts of the stay. My favorite part was CRU Wine bar, they had amazing food and I loved shopping for our bottle of Fume Blanc in the cellar and having it brought to our table. It was a wonderful experience, which as you’ll find through reading is very important to me. I honestly love a little luxury and pampering in all that I do, for me and for others in my life. Why not ask for warm and fuzzy feelings after everything that you set out to do?!? Here are just a few things to note:
- The grounds were huge, like across the street, down the main road, miles and miles and miles of Grandview. Be sure to use the map when booking with large groups, or maybe use a travel agent to help coordinate. This way you can stay in close proximity.
- We stayed in the new garden cottages and they were very large for the cost. They have hotel rooms, small cabins, to extra large homes so there’s a little something for everyone. Perfect for our wedding where we have at least 20 reservations being made both long and short stays.
- Bring water! I’m used to hotels or resorts having water bottles available in the mini fridge and they do not do that here. Since the place is so big, it’s nice to have some on hand. There’s also no room service (this may not be the case in the lodge or new hotel they are building). There IS Pizza delivery, which everyone loves 🙂
- Download the app that they send you a link to. It’s a great resource, including map, making reservations, and knowing what is open and when.
- Make diner reservations well in advance. We were there on a Saturday and made dinner reservations at 3pm for CRU, the soonest available was 7:45pm.
- If you are going to stay at Grandview Lodge, book multiple nights! There is so much to enjoy. You’ll need a few nights to really take in all that they have to offer. We’re used to staying at more intimate locations where you’re catered to a little more but this place is SWIMMING with guests so it’s a little different fend for yourself environment – which works for them because of all that there is – restaurants, a spa, yoga, cycling, water parks, beaches, campfires, shopping, chocolate and ice cream shops… just to name a few things!
All in all, it is a great place to stay and we would highly recommend it. We can’t wait to spend our wedding weekend in one of their cabins and experience more of what they have to offer <3
Anyway on to the wedding, I thought I would write this blog to capture my planning experience for my future self but also for anyone else who is trying to do something a little different from your typical wedding today.
We originally set out with the main goal being, simplicity, or what I considered simple ha ha. I have a background in event planning so nothing I do is “simple” but there were things that we knew we weren’t the best at so removing those made the whole planning experience more enjoyable and “simple” to us. I did not want to do much decorating, we knew we didn’t want a formal sit down dinner or a lot of the traditional pieces like flowers or a big wedding party, and we wanted things to be as “easy” and cost conscious as possible. So when we first set out and found a beautiful boat in Stillwater, that seemed to cover all the bases, we booked it immediately to save the date. After all, I was 9 months pregnant and didn’t think I would have any time to plan after baby was here! As we got into planning, we realized that this boat was going to be around 15k (once you add in the details), it was going to take a TON of decorating, and the guest list would be over 200 which is just overwhelming. For someone like me who worries after speaking with a group of 3, I can only imagine the stress I would be under after walking off that boat… “Do you think Aunt Suzy was comfortable?”, “Did I cut off Frank in conversation?”, “Did we talk to Tammy and Dean long enough, do you think they felt welcome?”, “Do you think Sam was offended by my use of “the” in a sentence?” I mean the ridiculousness is real, and I need to work on it but realistically I wasn’t going to change over night and the wedding was just months away and I have a newborn to worry about, not my own issues. We made the executive decision to cancel the reservation and took the chance of losing our 2k deposit. It was so scary because we still had no idea what we were going to do but it ended up perfect, and we did get our deposit back.
After that, I spent months thinking we just wouldn’t find anything that fit our vision and budget. We wanted to keep the wedding itself under 8k and that included a little get away. I hit road block after road block, with things like room fees, minimums, and requirements from venues. It seriously seemed like nothing was going to come together until I came across Sherwood Forest Lodge in Nisswa, MN. Once I found a venue without ridiculous room fees, a willingness to customize a menu for my group, and a serious interest in making the reception of my dreams… everything else fell into place. So if you are out there now looking and feeling defeated, KEEP GOING! You will get there!
Once we found Sherwood, they recommended the park (which is free FYI), and I decided on Grandview Lodge for the stay since they have a TON of different options, cost and size, for people to chose from. We’ll be heading up to Nisswa for a 6 day stay (which is a large chunk of the cost) and getting married on Saturday in the park. We’ll all head to Sherwood Forest for food and drinks and of course to dance the night away! Here are some tips if you are just starting to plan something:
- Pick your budget and stick to it. Decide what is priority. Here was ours: Kids and family would be a BIG part of it, sentimental touches, video and picture, quality of time with guests, experience for the guests, Gifts for guests, having it be a getaway, natural ambiance (no decorating lol), customizable experience, relaxing and comfortable for all involved. Oh and I HAD to be able to include my ONEHOPE Wine in the menu (that part was actually hard because of liquor licenses).
- On that note, keep searching for that perfect dress and perfect spot in YOUR price range that fits ALL of your priorities, it’s out there. For the dress, I was even willing to do something non traditional and just get a formal gown. I ended up finding a beautiful wedding dress on EBay (tags on) for 100 dollars.
- Decide what you are open to live without ahead of time. For me, flowers, heavy decor, plated dinners, formal music, designer dresses, bridal party, hair and makeup, even formal invitations were things that didn’t make or break my dream so we cut them to cut cost. Even if some of those things are MUSTS for you, there are ways (like the dress above) to fit them in and keep the cost down, you just have to be willing to search high and low.
- ASK ABOUT ALL THE FEES!!!! This one is so important, right off the bat – Cake cutting fees, bottle opening fees, do you have to reserve a back up room if it’s outdoors and what’s that cost, minimum numbers and ask for those min. numbers to be included in the cost estimate. Seriously that last one! We were given an estimate of cost based on per head with the boat but once we got planning they reminded us that the estimate did not hit the min. So the actual cost was going to be more than the invoice. So frustrating!
- Ask your venue for recommendations on other vendors – they have all the best secrets of the area and they also have people they love to work with and work well with them. Sherwood Forest is the reason we will have bus transportation between locations, Chalk board signage for our guests (done by a gal who bartends there, she’s fabulous!), I will still do a bouquet and they recommended a shop in town, and before we had even ever seen anything they gave us the ceremony spot. This wedding would honestly be NOTHING without them!
- If you are getting away and can go there ahead of time, *after you’ve already booked everything and when you are in the thick of planning*, do go! That’s the time when the little details start to come to mind, and being up north had us connecting with all the local vendors that we wouldn’t necessarily have found if we just planned it all at home. This is especially important for something like our wedding because we’re not purchasing a package experience that has on site planners and has been done time and time again (like a destination wedding, they are experts at your experience and have a system down pat). We are creating something from scratch so it’s up to us to make sure it has a flow and create the full experience, maybe its not as simple as I thought 😉
- The visit we took will allow us to leave some visiting tips for our guests which will be hopefully nice for them to have, after all, people will be having their own vacations to so it will be fun to know what there is to do in town and on the grounds. The shops in town and at Grandview Lodge have the cutest stuff!
- Let your friends help when and where they can, if they want to! I think this is seriously important for all wedding planning, no matter where or what you are trying to do. This can be a trying experience. Let the folks around you help. Honestly if it weren’t for a few of my close friends, I would not have kept pushing to find the perfect spots for our wedding and we would have just settled on the boat due to ease.
Hopefully you find some of these tips useful. I’ve been to some beautiful weddings where they went for it all and they were amazing! For us we just tried to do something a tiny bit different at a lower cost, which we found is possible, it just takes some extra time and getting creative to bring it all together. Any thoughts or final planning tips for us?!?! I’ll take all the help we can get!