Just to follow up to my own post, I’m going to post details of my impressions of venues during our search. I don’t feel that I interacted with each place enough to warrant posting in the Vendor Review section, but I hope this might help future brides 🙂
Chase Court – loved the pictures online, but didn’t love it as much in person, thought the outdoor ceremony space was a little small and pretty noisy (street noise), really liked the main room, but it seemed like it would be a very tight fit at their 125 max capacity, especially with dancing, liked that it was potentially walking distance to hotels. Didn’t like that the coordinator grilled me about my “offbeat bride” credentials because I showed up in my work clothes. Sorry I don’t wear a full on steampunk costume to my office job. He also gave me a free lip balm, which kind of makes me angry every time I use it (see infra, re: grilling), but it tastes good!
Cloisters – love, love, loved the beautiful space, the people seemed helpful and accomodating, the upstairs spaces to get ready in are huge and endless, very scenic location. Didn’t like that they “fit” 150 by putting your guests in two separate rooms – 90 and 60. I wish we only had 90 guests! Very pretty inside and out and more than one outdoor option, if that is your thing.
Maryland Zoo – coordinator gave us a TON of helpful information on all the vendors on her vendor lists, complete with notes, she was very, very forthcoming with information. The space is much bigger than it looks in the pictures online – we were concerned it would feel like cramming tables into hallways but it seemed fairly spacious. I didn’t care for the outdoor location on the lake, I felt that was smaller than it looks in the pictures. They have some great locations for outdoor pictures. I was disappointed that it’s not possible to have pictures taken by various animal enclosures due to the zoo close time vs event start time. They will only take you down to the flamingos. And ultimately we felt it’s a nice historic building, but other than the animal ambassador program (yay, penguins!!) you would not know you were at the zoo at all. Plus you would need to do shuttles unless all your guests can drive.
Peabody Library – extraordinarily impressive reception space. Like, just, wow. We were interested in ceremony/reception and did not feel that the cocktail hour space was great compared to the library space. They didn’t show me the bridal ready room. We also found the woman we spoke to disconcertingly unfriendly. I found the tone of their website off-putting too. A lot of historic places have rules, but it felt to me like they must have had some sort of ridiculous incident in the past that makes them wary of everyone now. They only allow two catering options… Basically our decision was that if we won the Powerball, we would have our ceremony there for the WOW pictures and then go have the reception elsewhere. The woman we had the appointment with also didn’t know any details about the venue (dates available, alumni discount), so not even sure who she was or how it was that we came to have an appointment with her. My overall impression was of feeling really unwelcome and like we were bothering them by showing up for our appointment.
The Walters Art Museum – really liked the ceremony/reception space, love that your guests can go into the exhibits during the cocktail hour/reception (just with no food/drinks), there is a restriction on red wine except during seated dinner, they allow 11 caterers, there is a restriction on photography (sounds like you can take pics of people with art behind them, but not have your photographer go document the whole museum), they don’t have a place to get ready, you just wait in the cafe space. We were asked if we were doing a first look and we said yes and were told we could wait in that cafe space together, so not sure what they would do to keep the bride and groom separate. That part wasn’t great. The cocktail hour area is not as fancy as the reception space, but it was spacious and there are additional exhibits there. It’s only half a floor up, so not too many stairs for your grandma and drunk bridesmaids! Also your photographer is allowed to go upstairs to take photos from above. (That is strictly prohibited at the Peabody, I presume because photographers are frequently caught stuffing volumes of the Maryland Historic Register down their pants and/or spreading mayonnaise between the pages.)
There is a little park outside of the Walters that is also outside the Peabody Library and we saw people taking pictures there. There’s a statue of Lafayette (I think) on a horse and there’s a tall monument behind that. So both those venues have a couple of easy outdoor picture options.
There’s also a gorgeous church right by both the Peabody & Walters, for those who need a church. There is also a nice looking Unitarian church we walked past at one point if there are any UU’s about!
Hotel Monaco – very nice coordinator, cool vibe to the hotel in the common spaces, good indoor locations for pictures (historic train building). The attached B&O restaurant does the catering for a rate that seems reasonable compared to DC, and we tried some of the bar snacks and they were tasty (excellent fried oysters! Great whiskey selection too!) The Paris Ballroom is a hotel ballroom with some quirky elements – like a fancy colored glass chandelier – and slightly better carpet patterns than some I’ve seen. Mostly what I did not like was that it looks like a hotel ballroom (surprise, right?) and I ended up deciding I didn’t want to get married in a hotel. We are seriously considering doing our room block there though!
We also looked at two places in DC – off topic for Baltimore so just a tiny recap – the Ritz Pentagon City, which has EXCELLENT customer service, an UNREAL cheap cheap cheap guest rate (like $130!), but then $22k food/beverage minimum on a Saturday night (plus tax & service = $30k), and no good places for pictures, no outdoor options, but great location for metro & other cheaper hotels! And the DAR Continental Hall, which has a great view of the (scaffolding all over the) Washington Monument and a very pretty room for the reception with an indoor/outdoor option for dinner – you eat in the pretty room and the doors open onto the portico for dancing. I want to be all indoors, so it’s not for me, but great for lots of people!!
I hope this information is exactly what someone else is looking for, because I know it’s what I was looking for before I went out and pounded the pavement myself!!! Good luck ladies!!!