“Thank you for accepting us.” That’s how she signed her email. She and her girlfriend had just booked a wedding with me. It broke my heart. These two beautiful women sat in front of me and told me their love story. It was sweet and they both shared their parts in the story like a well-written, well-rehearsed, script to a great movie. Only it wasn’t. It is their life. It is their love. And it’s real.
They shared with me that they were nervous about looking at weddingvenues being a same sex couple. That sometimes they are met with ugliness and resistance. And that she had seen other same sex photos in my galleries and felt comfortable calling.
It caused me to pause and wonder why people are afraid of those unlike them. I don’t drink or smoke, but wouldn’t turn away a customer who did. I also don’t have tattoos or facial piercings – but some of the most amazing people I’ve met do. My parents aren’t divorced, should I turn away a bride whose parents are? Where does that line get drawn?
Our way of life is simple – serve those who have come to us and asked to be served. Love those who have come to us in love. What else?
Bring us your love story. We don’t care if you’re model perfect. Or if you’re marrying a man or woman. Or if your gown isn’t what we would’ve picked. It’s YOUR happily ever after, not ours. We’re just here to be a brick in the path of your journey. And we’re honored to be so.
Sometimes it happens… I get the short notice call about a prime date. Those dates are typically in October, November, March and April. In Arizona, those are the months with predictably nice weather. It would normally be unusual for us (or any venue for that matter) to have dates in these months open with short notice.
At Virginia’s House, we do things a little differently. We allow you to move your event date without losing any deposits. You are able to move your date to another date within a year of the original scheduled date. There is no penalty for this and all of your payments and deposits will follow you to your new date. From what I can gather – we’re the only venue in town that does this. We just think it’s good business. It’s even better karma.
We live in a real household with a real family with real life things that get in the way. Our assumption is that our brides do, too. We’ve had couples who lost their jobs, were in horrific car accidents or had family members with frightening and sometimes terminal illnesses. The dates don’t always get pushed back, sometimes they get moved forward.
So… if you see that our venue is “dark” on a prime date – it’s because we exercise grace and opt to help our couples out. And sometimes that comes at the expense of not rebooking that date. It’s a risk I’m willing to take for those who love deeply.
Jody Serey (Spirit and Light) and I had a very sweet couple who married at Virginia’s House one evening. They had a very small angel of a child born extremely prematurely. We prayed for sweet Madison at their wedding ceremony, but sadly – they lost her a few short weeks later.
We were able to offer them a place for a small memorial service for their sweet baby. The baby’s grandfather wrote this very sweet message for their baby girl. I wanted to share it with you. I can’t see a hummingbird without thinking of this tiny girl.
Madison and the Hummingbird (translated from Madison y el Colibri) by Delfino Vargas Chanes
A hummingbird came home this morning. The bird flew in front of a yellow flower, and made three short turns before it left from my sight. I enjoyed that moment because I always enjoy the moments that nature gives us as a present for our eyes.
Madison is like the hummingbird, and gave us happy moments during her short stay. She opened her eyes to us and let us know gently how much she loved us and how grateful she was being with us. Madison has taught us that we need to value small things in life, and to appreciate ephemeral things that are significant. She gave us thoughtful teachings that we will keep in our hearts forever. The ephemeral appearance of the hummingbird at home and Madison are alike, not only for their size but for the joy they transmitted to us.
The hummingbird as Madison went home but left a yellow flower – actually many yellow flowers –with honey flavor like nice memories.
[This reflection was written both in Spanish in English by the grandfather of tiny baby Madison. He read his tribute to his granddaughter at her memorial service.]
It’s happened yet again. A wedding venue has closed right as the spring season is upon us. I’m not sure why it affects me the way it does – less competition for me, right? Sure, but there’s more…there are some very sweet brides and doting grooms that just had their worlds rocked. And that’s not okay.
Because I’m the curious type, I searched the name of the venue that closed. It’s beautiful. Absolutely. I’ve admired it since it opened about two years ago. But looking at the reviews online, I’m wondering why people who clearly don’t like people get in the people business? It seems counter-intuitive to me. If I even had one bad review online, I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I got it right, then made it right for that reviewer.
The rule of starting your own business is “find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” The addendum to that is… do something you would do, even if you weren’t getting paid to do it. That’s a reality. A cold hard fact. There were many years in the beginning that we put more money in that we got out. But it was my dream and I loved it. And that trumped the make-a-million-dollars-by-the-time-I’m-35-years-old-thing. Every. Single. Day. And nearly 15 years later – I’m still doing what I love.
I’ve been in business since 1998. My paperwork says 1997, that’s when everything was filed, but the first bride I sent down the aisle was November 7, 1998. We made some mistakes. We had some kinks. But we also did everything in our power to make that bride feel as special as we could. And that’s something we’ve done every day since.
I had “wedding professionals” early on tell me that I would “fail quickly” because I refused to be like everyone else. I didn’t want to charge too much, charge extra for every little thing, nickel and dime people to death, then tack on fees, taxes and gratuities. To those who doubted me… I’m still here. And I still don’t charge extra fees. I even eat the tax. The bookkeeping and awkward conversations are not worth it to me. I’m flexible, I’m personal and I care. Really. Once again… I’m still here.
I’m not saying we’re perfect – we’re definitely not. But I’ve met some of the most amazing couples and their families that have enriched my life more than I could ever put into words. Thanks to social media, I’ve been able to watch my couples buy new homes, welcome new babies, graduate from college, welcome more babies and remain a part of their lives. I’ve gotten a couple of very sad cards and calls from those who have lost their loved ones – and I’m flattered beyond belief that they thought to call/write so I would know of the loss. After all, I’m just the wedding venue coordinator, right?
My venue just turned 100 years old. It’s not the most perfect venue; it’s got 100 years of wear, tear and Arizona summers under its belt. But it’s full of love. And I mean full. We named the business after Virginia Hook – the sweet elderly lady that we purchased her home from. We kept in touch with her until her death just a few years ago. In our early years, she wanted me to call before every wedding so she could talk to our brides – she told them loved lived here and they could take some with them. Her family has been here and held events here. They said, “I knew you would be here” when I showed up at her funeral.
We’ve touched every single corner of this historic house, we’ve lovingly restored every single corner of it, and because it’s 100 years old – that process never ends. It’s also my home. We live above “the shop” and we’ve raised our family here. We’re not going anywhere. It’s not just a job, it’s our life. And we have saved this gem of a home from the wrecking ball. It’s going to take a pretty big army of men to drag me away from here. I’ve invested blood, sweat, tears and my family. Who could walk away from that? Not me.So… if you know someone who had their venue pull the rug out from under them – send them my way. I won’t add insult to injury. And I’ll love them like my own.