Hello everyone! My name is Lauren, and I will be sharing my wedding planning journey with y’all. For me, all the ins and outs of wedding planning run together, so although I will concentrate on a specific subject each month, I will bring in other relevant wedding planning factors as I write.
I was born and raised in Kingsport, Tennessee, but I came to the University of South Carolina for college, and I now live and work in Columbia, South Carolina. Hence, my wedding planning journey is taking place from 280 miles afar. Thankfully, I have my amazing mother, Hope, to help me with the local details. I’ll also be making the journey up Interstate 26 more often than usual, which I don’t mind in the least.
Jake and I currently have 279 days until our wedding. When he proposed, we were 333 days away from our then-unknown wedding date. Upon our engagement, we decided to shoot for a date sometime around May 31st. There was no particular reason for this other than the fact that an early summer wedding suggests nice weather, the timeline made sense to us because Jake forbade me to plan a wedding during football season, and at the time of our engagement, he was in between jobs. We figured that planning for June 14th would give him a chance to find a job in the Columbia area and would provide ample wedding planning time. I luckily had about two weeks off from work starting the day he proposed (kudos to Jake for popping the question at a smart time), so I visited my family in Kingsport, and my mom and I became half-crazed in the attempt to get everything possible planned before I returned to Columbia.
We began the venue search in Asheville, North Carolina, because it’s halfway between my family’s home in Kingsport and Jake’s family in Greenville, South Carolina. We quickly came to the realization that all the venues we toured in Asheville did not provide that much product for the money we would be spending. We could probably have a reception for around $20,000, but that didn’t include the dress, the photography, and the myriad of other wedding expenses. The main problem was that we had no true connection to Asheville. We toured all the places we found online, but for the most part, they seemed to be tourist traps for brides wanting a wedding with a mountain view. If you want to know more about my wedding venue search in Asheville, feel free to contact me.
After a disappointing day of wedding venue tours in Asheville, my mom and I made the collective decision to have the wedding in Kingsport. My dad had been rooting for a local location all along, and we finally decided he was right. We felt much more comfortable with the decision and were confident that we could stretch our budget quite a bit further. Plus, the lovely mountain views and the charming small-town feel aren’t too shabby.
Jake is the ultimate laid-back fiancé, which means that he gets to sit back and relax, and I am free to design the wedding of my dreams, so it’s a win-win. He was fully supportive of a hometown Kingsport wedding, so my mom and I switched directions. It was due to stubborn feelings of comfort and pure rightness that led me to choose my hometown and BANQ as the places around which to center my wedding.
I felt a sense of decisive intuition when I heard about BANQ, The Gathering Place. Although I grew up in Kingsport, I had never heard of BANQ. When my dad was attempting to convince me to do a Kingsport wedding, he mentioned BANQ, and upon doing some further research, it seemed like quite the Lauren–esque environment. I’m all for the rustic wedding trend, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I wanted something less country, more glamour. This day will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not make it my and Jake’s very own night of Old Hollywood mystique? I knew what kind of ambiance I wanted, but I needed to do a thorough search in order to find the perfect location, so my mom and I took a couple of days to drive around Kingsport. We were looking for the following qualifications:
- A venue that would hold 200-300 people
- An indoor venue (There’s enough stress that goes into a wedding without worrying about the weather.)
- A venue that didn’t require us to use in-house vendors; we wanted freedom when making caterer and bartender choices.
We made an appointment to meet with Connie Price at BANQ. She gave us the grand tour of the Loft, the Grand Hall, Room 300, and the Rooftop. I immediately loved the venue. I especially loved that it had an outdoor area but that the majority of the reception could take place indoors. The layout of BANQ is interesting: you walk inside and immediately take an elevator or the stairs to the second floor. The Loft apartment (our honeymoon suite) is on the second floor along with the Grand Hall. The Grand Hall is adjacent to a banquet room for the buffet setup and also a bathroom, a caterer’s kitchen, and a large coat closet. The third floor holds Room 300, which is a room normally used for small parties or for an add-on room to the Rooftop. There is also another bathroom on the third floor. In order to get to the rooftop, you must walk through an office kitchen area and up the fire escape stairs to the rooftop (there is a small office in the BANQ building on the third floor). There is no elevator access to the rooftop. In talking to Connie and in touring BANQ, my estimate is that 200 people can fit into the Grand Hall if seated, but no more. The Fire Code says that 100 people can fit on the roof and about 50 or so can fit into Room 300.
Here is a list of the pros and cons of BANQ from my perspective:
- Beautiful decor: original floors and ceilings, tall, arched windows, vintagey, urban feel
- Comes with 20 tables and 160 chairs, with the option to add more
- Option to rent the rooftop area, which has a view of Kingsport and the mountains surrounding Kingsport
- Convenient location in downtown Kingsport with ample parking
- Sound system and video system included for a small fee
- Multiple floorplan options
- Freedom to work with whichever vendors, although they give a preferred vendors list in order to provide brides with suggestions for vendors who have experience with BANQ.
- Ample storage space for a coat or purse check
- The bathrooms are very trendy and nice. (This was actually important to me when looking for a place.)
- They do ceremonies at BANQ, although I personally wasn’t a fan of that idea because I thought reorganizing the Grand Hall from ceremony to reception would be too chaotic and because if I prefer to have our ceremony at a church.
- With 200+ people, the Grand Hall will be tight for a sit-down dinner. Although 300 people can fit into BANQ, that would mean no dance floor and not enough room for everyone to sit down unless we take the dance floor upstairs to Room 300.
- It is kind of weird to walk through an office kitchen area to get to the rooftop.
- I wish there was elevator access to the rooftop.
- A reception as large as mine really needs all three rooms: The Grand Hall, Room 300, and the Rooftop. This means that in order to take full advantage of the reception space, guests will be floating between separate rooms throughout the night.
- In order to make room for a dance floor in the Grand Hall, we would have to move tables out of the way after people finish eating.
- Renting the whole place is a pretty large investment for the Grand Hall, Room 300, the Rooftop, and the video/audio package from 10 a.m.-12 a.m.
Overall, I loved BANQ, even with its cons. I loved it so much I chose it as my venue in the end. However, at the time, I knew I needed to keep an open mind until I saw my other options. My next stop was Allandale Mansion. Although I was iffy about having an outdoor wedding, my parents got married at Allandale Mansion, and there really is no more romantic-looking place in Kingsport. Luckily, one of my very first friends happened to be getting married at Allandale the weekend I was in town. I used her beautiful celebration as a chance to check out the ample space at Allandale.
Here are the pros and cons, from my perspective:
- There is a lot of space and a lot of options exist. Want to get married by one of the two gazebos? How about on the beautiful patio area? Inside the house (if you have a small crowd)? Outside a barn? And so on…
- The house has a grandiose, welcoming, romantic feel that doesn’t stop with the quaint barns and the green grass.
- There is plenty of parking.
- The ceremony and reception could be held in the same place and could still be different. (i.e. my friend had her ceremony by a gazebo, had her cocktail hour in one barn, and then had her dinner reception in one of the other barns.)
- Photos are breathtaking at Allandale.
- It is more affordable than other options.
- You can use whichever vendors you choose.
- You are at the mercy of the weather gods.
- Allandale is truly do-it-yourself. You get the property, and the rest is pretty much up to you. (This could be a pro for some, but it overwhelmed me.)
- The pond, which could be beautiful, was green and stagnant.
- The outdoor bathrooms are very rustic, (after all, it is in a barn.)
- The barn is pretty tight for a 220+ person wedding. It’s doable, but it is a squeeze. You can always rent a tent to have more room and I think this is a pretty common option, but it just seemed like too much to worry about for me.
- The outdoor barn option is more difficult for caterers, and cakes could easily melt in the heat.
- Glassware in a barn is not a very good idea, which means most likely you’ll need to be using plastic-ware.
After we visited BANQ and Allandale, my mom and I drove to see Chateau Selah in Blountville and Agota Springs in Kingsport. We got lost trying to find Chateau Saleh, which might have simply been because we are directionally challenged, but we worried that our guests might face the same issue. We didn’t get the chance to tour Chateau Selah, but it looks absolutely gorgeous from the photos. I chose not to pursue this option because I wanted to keep the ceremony and reception within a couple of miles of each other. At this point I had decided to have the ceremony in my grandparents’ church, Waverly Road Presbyterian, which is in downtown Kingsport, so Chateau Selah’s Blountville location was a little far for my taste. Agota Springs is nicely located near Bays Mountain, but honestly they weren’t very responsive to our emails or calls, so we gave up after a few days.
After surveying these five options, I knew that my choice was BANQ The Gathering Place. Honestly, it was a combination of having the feeling about BANQ and the fact that I was ready to make a decision. BANQ had the second and the fourth weeks open in June, so we decided to set the date for June 14th.
I rank BANQ as my favorite, Chateau Selah second, and Allandale Mansion third. (Jake’s family decided to book Allandale for the rehearsal dinner, so we will at least get to experience the Allandale atmosphere for one evening.) All in all, it took about a week and a half to research, tour, and finalize my reception venue and wedding date. If I had done a thorough search of each and every venue I mentioned, it probably would have taken about two weeks of research and touring.
Stay tuned for another post about my wedding planning journey next month.
Thanks for reading my ramblings and please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have!
All images courtesy of Lauren Lowe.