Adventures in Wedding Venues: Panama City Possibilites

Panama City has a limited amount of possibilities for wedding related activities. We've already been through the church idea and have moved on. In figuring out what we really wanted in a venue, we went back to the basic aspects that we knew we wanted.

Lessons learned and ideas that we want to steal...errr... incorporate: In the fall of 2007, we attended the wedding of a couple of friends and learned a few things that we decided we wanted to incorporate. The key thing being - it was a true party and no one needed to worry about driving! The bride and groom planned it so everyone could walk from the hotel (where everyone, bride and groom and families included were staying) to the church (though, this should not be done in new heels!) and then there was a bus (with mini champagne bottles on every seat) to get everyone to the reception, and then back to the hotel afterwards. There was no worrying about a designated driver, no looking at others and being concerned about how sober they thought they were and who might get in the car with them, and then the best part: At the end of the reception, we loaded the bus with the leftover alcohol, and the bride and groom rode back to the hotel on the bus with us! We all got back to the hotel, unloaded the remaining kegs, changed into comfy pjs, and hung out in the lobby with the newly weds! It was really the best wedding we've ever been to. Every guest and friend from near or far really felt like we were a part of the celebration. The night before the wedding was the welcome BBQ (i'll get more into that in another post), all the guests were included in a group photo (not an easy task with 175 guests!), and then afterwards we all were invited to hang out in pajamas and recap the fun of friendship and then stories of the day. We want that feeling at our wedding.

Buses aren't cheap. So we started tossing out the idea of having the wedding and reception in one location, and just bus everyone to and from the hotel. (Again, I state the hotel because I really want there to be just one... enter lesson learned 2)

Lesson Learned - a $10 a night savings is not enough reason to have a second hotel option. A different wedding that I went to this spring (Adam couldn't join me, so I traveled with my Maid of Honor, who happened to be the MOH at this wedding too!) had 3 different hotel options. We never ran into another guest at our hotel. It was $10 less per night than the hotel that the family was in (where we spent much of our time coincidentally), and the bride , who told us not to bother with a car, had to shuttle us everywhere and in between the hotels because the family hotel was about a 20 minute drive and we were just outside the reach of the wonderful DC metro system. After the bride and groom exited the reception, we all stood around looking at each other trying to figure out if anyone wanted to hang out or meet up for drinks. This reinforced the above mentioned, everyone at one hotel, PJs after party idea.
(Don't get me wrong here folks - these were 2 VERY different weddings. I am not saying that the latter wasn't fun or not well done, just lessons learned about the way I would do things differently.) This picture from Elite is from the latter wedding. "Sexy Little Bride" up front, followed by our shared Maid of Honor, and last on the escalator - moi! aka the "day of fix it - find it - go to girl". (Again, post specific to that to follow. Wow, I am all kinda of blog teasing today aren't I?)

Who am I - Charles Dickens? Enough background hulabaloo - on to Venue Options!

St. Andrews Bay Yatch Club - Beautiful lawn on the bay. Many a wedding has been held there and I know the food is tasty! My family has been involved there for a long time, so we could really have free reign of the place! The building however, is about to undergo some much needed renovation, so they won't be hosting weddings for 2009. Scratch that option.

Next up, the Panama Country Club. It is a beautiful Golf Club located in Lynn Haven. But it is what you think of with most Country Clubs, a little tight on the rules and somewhat pretentious. (My opinion people!! No one get up in arms please.) For those who don't know the area, you might think that I'm being hypocritical by liking and being a part of the Yacht Club but not a fan of the Country Club. What you don't know is that the Yacht Club is much more along the lines of Craig Morgan's "Redneck Yacht Club". (If you haven't heard it, click on the link -listen -laugh - then reevaluate whether or not you think I'm being hypocritical.)

Crossing the bridge to Panama City Beach, we go to Carillon Beach. This place is like Seaside (think Jim Carey's Truman Show. Seaside is where it was filmed.) but closer and more private. Seaside, while still a popular wedding choice, is a little far in distance and prices. Carillon seemed to be a more logical choice. They have beautiful weddings there. My parents have been to several weddings done there on the beach, or in the meeting house, or on the lawn. "Carillon Weddings specializes in creating elegant, flawless events at our breathtaking Village by the Sea. Our village is the perfect place for your destination wedding celebration." And its true. I am including some photos from Paul Johnson Photography of the beautiful possibilities. The first is of the beautiful "meetinghouse" , which can be used for wedding or reception.

And then its out to their beach option. They are far enough down Panama City Beach that they are away from the Mtv Spring Break bonanza world. Which, I'll explain here soon, is key. As in biometric - fingerprint - voice recognition - file vault - key. No go for launch without this.
More beautiful possibility pictures by Paul...

Anyone else drooling over gorgeous photography yet?

Ok, enough beautiful Paul pictures for now. For more, stay tuned for my "Blog Bliss" feature of why I stalk Paul Johnson. Or if you can't wait until then, click on the link to his blog on my favorites list.

Enter the best and worst thing about Carillon Beach. You can only work with their vendors. Paul Johnson (obviously) happens to be the go-to photographer for beautiful Carillon weddings! WOOT WOOT! Unfortunately, he aint cheap. And neither are the other vendors. Carillon is a private community, so they have the right to say who you can and can't work with. That being said, I like options. I want to be able to pick vendors based on whether or not they are compatible by personality and budget. The other major drawback to me is the venue booking. I was searching through Paul's archives, dreaming of a wedding on the beach and then the reception on the lawn, when it occurred to me - what about a back up? If it rains? On that grass, a tent wont really cut it. Dry heads but muddy ground wont work. The meetinghouse is the back-up venue but its rather small. And then how do I back up the wedding? Have it inside the already way too cramped meetinghouse too? Oh yeah and to top off the back-up battles, I would have to pay for the beach venue, the lawn venue, AND the meeting house, even if we don't use it. Each venue runs about $2500 just in site fee. My mother met with the coordinator there, (whom Momma Duck says is a sweet fun lady who was very helpful), ran some numbers and figured that we were looking at a minimum of WAY more than what I consider reasonable, for less people than I wanted to be able to be there. So, for us - its off the list.

Next up 2 of Panama City's Beach Resorts!


Jen Huang said...

Hi Michelle, I really like your wedding planning style - I thought maybe you'd like to see a photo of a wedding I shot in China since it goes along with your theme: http://bp1.blogger.com/_i7DGFTwKt-g/SDRhADcfVrI/AAAAAAAAACs/C13LZMNuTRg/s1600-h/DSCN1450.JPG

Maybe you can feature it! Check out my blog/website: http://www.jenHuangphotography.com