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Choosing a St. Louis Reception Venue

Since the wedding is on Valentine’s Day AND a Saturday (February 14, 2009), venues will book up fast. So, we spent some time during the Christmas hub-bub getting a handle on reception venues. From the start we wanted to avoid downtown St. Louis, for a couple of reasons. First, many guests will not be familiar with city driving. Second — and most critical — the next phase of the Highway 40 (excuse me…Interstate 64) shutdown begins the month before. The highway will be closed from the I-70 innerbelt to downtown. This combination sounds like a string of disasters waiting to happen. So, the first requirement: reception has to be easy to find from Sunset Hills, where the wedding ceremony is being held.

St. Louis in February? Could be 65 and sunny. Could be 10 below and blizzardy. Second requirement: must be indoors.

The groom rarely asks for much, and Steve is no exception. His only requirements: Amarette’s happy (aaaawwwwweeee!) and he wants Imo’s pizza instead of the reception food for dinner. Did I mention he’s a picky eater?

Through word of mouth and a bridal magazine we picked up, several options met all the initial requirements (location and indoors, anyway…they don’t really publish their Imo’s pizza policies). On the more expensive side, we looked at Sunset Hills Country Club (Tim’s parents belong and it’s extremely close to the church). We looked at a couple of hotels…costs run the gamut, as does quality. In the more affordable range, there are a variety of banquet halls and restaurants that would be both nice and affordable.
To narrow it down, they had to consider what was important. Many couples don’t put high priority on the room itself. A room’s a room. But Amarette wanted it to have a reason for existing beyond receptions or parties — something that gives it ambiance or character (and I agree).

The country club aced the ambiance test and was at the top of the list for a long while. But, the cost of the venue and catering determines how many “extras” Amarette and Steve can add to the wedding. Have it there, and the extras would be close to nonexistent.

Neither Amarette or I really “fell in love” with anything else…until we looked at the Lemp. The Lemp Grand Hall … built in the late 1800’s, with original maple floors, very cool ceiling beams, a bar originally from the Stadium Club, and a nice fireplace (in case it’s 10 below) … aced character. That’s it in the pictures. According to Mary Wolff, Lemp Mansion Director of Operations, the building was used as the stables for Lemp’s beer wagons and prizing winning Percheron horses. As an added quirk, guests arrive through the freight elevator. Perhaps a bit too quirky for some, but we loved it. Amarette and I forgot to ask about Imo’s while there, so she called back this week. No problem, so it’s a go!

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