Some girls fall in love with multiple dresses, I fall in love with venues.
How could I not? Look at this place! My heart skipped a beat as soon as I walked on property.
Ok. Ok. I’m being a little melodramatic, BUT let me explain.
When I first started researching venues, I knew I wanted a ‘rustic barn setting in the middle of nowhere.’ Romantic, right? I found a few here and there, but then I came across Cross Creek Ranch outside of Tampa. (Check out the photos I found here, here, and here. Actually just google ‘Cross Creek Ranch Wedding Photos ‘ and prepare to drool.)
It was love at first google search. I called them immediately to set up an appointment to see the property the following weekend. I already had the appointment scheduled when my Mom introduced me to Birdsong Barn earlier in the week, which I also drooled over thanks to the location, price, and the many other possibilities that came with it. I fell in love with Birdsong Barn too, but I wasn’t ready to give up on Cross Creek Ranch.
So I kept the appointment and this morning Derek and I met his parents, my parents, and my sister at the Cracker Barrel near the ranch for breakfast.
I tried the sweet potato pancakes with scrambled eggs and bacon.
The pancakes tasted like cake. They were moist and a tad too sweet for my liking, I’m not sure I would order them again.
It was fun having the whole group together to see the venue. Both my parents have seen Birdsong, so they had something to compare it to.
We met with the on-site planner (Hi Emilee!) just after 11:00 to take a tour of the property.
All I can say, is wow!
It’s amazing how similar, yet how very different the two venues are. Both are gorgeous rustic barn settings, but Birdsong is very DIY with bringing everything together, while Cross Creek is all inclusive. From catering to flowers to DJ to day of set up – they do it all.
There’s a man cave for the groom and his groomsman to get ready.
A bridal suite for the bride and her bridal party.
Since people were asking about the restrooms for the last venue, I would like to put your minds at ease – there are fully functioning toilets on property. (There was at the last place too. 😉 )
Place for smores. Very important. Obviously.
Bar. Also very important. Naturally.
They provide the bartender, you provide the alcohol. 😉
Swoon. Even the table settings for this stranger’s wedding won me over. Burlap runners over navy tablecloths? Yes, please. 😉
And that’s not all.
January in Florida is tricky. There’s the possibility of gorgeous weather (like we had today) with unseasonable highs in the low 80s (who ever was married today was one lucky, lucky girl) or there’s the possibility of freezing temps in the 20s (like we had for the Disney Marathon in 2010 – brrrr). You just never know how it’s going to pan out and my main concern for the other location is the element of weather. If we did luck out with great weather, it would be awesome, but if it’s freezing? Even with heaters, there’s no way to hide from the elements. And rain? not sure.
At Cross Creek they’re able to cover the exposed parts of the barn with vinyl siding to protect the guests from the weather, as well as setting up multiple heaters. There’s also the option of having the ceremony in the barn if the rain cancels out the tree location (though Emilee swears they’ve only had to do this 3 or 4 times in the 7 years they’ve been doing weddings and all of those were during the rainy season).
Each venue has a long list of pros and cons that Derek and I need to go over before making a final decision. Budget is a main concern. Though Cross Creek seems reasonable, we need to get a final estimate and review any hidden costs before moving forward. We plan to set up an appointment with the owner in the coming week to vet out numbers and see where we might stand.
I’ve already started doing a similar price sheet for Birdsong. I’m pretty sure Birdsong will win in the money department (the numbers are already in their favor), but we also need to factor in the price of our sanity. Cross Creek would handle everything and provide an on-site coordinator for the day of the wedding, while we would be in charge of our own set up and breakdown at Birdsong. That’s actually something Derek isn’t a big fan of. He said he wants to enjoy the day, not worry during it – a statement I tend to agree with.
The good news is that we have two very unique venues that we both love. Both have great reviews and both fit our visions for our wedding. The hard part is just picking one that fits for us.
We said good-bye to my parents and sister, as Dereks’ parents and us headed to Universal’s Island of Adventures for the rest of the afternoon. We gave his parents tickets for Christmas with the stipulation that they had to go with us before our annual passes expired in April.
Derek’s parents had never been to Island of Adventures, so it was fun introducing them to all of our favorite rides, while sharing a few tips and tricks (like single rider lines).
It was really the perfect day to visit the parks. The slight overcast meant it wasn’t crazy hot and the random January weekend meant there were no crowds. We pretty much walked right on to most rides – no tips or tricks needed.
I had a piece of pizza right when we made it on property.
And a package of dole dried fruit that I found in my bag (I was hungry today!).
Derek’s mom was really interested in seeing where my brother proposed to his fiance. It’s usually a terribly long line (I’ve seen it get up to 3 hours!), but we lucked out with a 25 minute wait. However, it just wasn’t the same watching the whole show without interruption – I kept waiting for someone to pop out and propose!
We left Universal and headed to my favorite Orlando sushi spot, Dragonfly for dinner.
I had a glass of cab.
And the table split a variety of eats.
We ended the evening with birthday tiramisu for Derek’s Dad.
Happy Birthday, Steve!
Man, what a day! Derek and I passed out in the backseat on the ride home and he’s still sleeping on the couch. I think I’m going to catch some Zzzs too.