Pennsylvania-Philadelphia

Unique wedding venue vs. traditional ballroom....Cairnwood Estate?

We love something that is historic and charming. Right now, our top runners are the Merion Triibute House and Cairnwood.

As soon as I walked through Cairnwood, I fell in LOVE! The only thing is that instead of having dinner and dancing in one big ballroom, this will take place throughout the estate. I'm concerned about what guests might think - much different than a traditional wedding. Cocktail hour will be outside on a terrance and in the great hall (lobby in center of house). The bridal party will be announced down the stairs of the mansion and the couple will have their first dance in the middle of everyone in the great hall.



Dinner will then be held throughout three mansion dining rooms. So guests don't feel isolated, there will be a sweetheart table for the bride and groom to eat a course with the guests in each room.



As guests finish dinner, the party moves to the music room. Toasts, cake cutting, and dancing take place here. There will be a bar set up in the back and several cocktail tables. Large doors/windows open up onto a covered terrace and garden area where guests can sit and watch the dancing.



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Re: Unique wedding venue vs. traditional ballroom....Cairnwood Estate?

  • edited December 2011
    If you can afford it and like Ciarnwood, go for it.  It's a beautiful place.
  • edited December 2011
    How many guests do you have?  It may seem like cattle herding if you have to organize and move a LOT of people from room to room.  I think it's a beautiful venue, so if you love it go for it.  Obviously other people have been married there, so the venue should be equipped with staff to keep your guests comfortable.

    PS - I don't really like the idea of having your dinner split up by moving through the rooms to have a course with the guests in each room.  I think if you have non-petty guests, you should be able to sit in the room with your BP and parents that that should be fine.
  • amy727amy727 member
    Sixth Anniversary 1000 Comments
    edited December 2011
    I voted a ballroom or sometime of venue where everyone is together.  I was at a wedding with different rooms before and I hate it.  I missed the cake cutting and speeches.  I felt like we were off in our own little world. 
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  • edited December 2011
    Thanks for the feedback! I'm going to 8 weddings this year (yes - 8!) and mine being after all of them, I wanted it to be a little bit different which is why I'm considering the idea. There is an option of putting a tent on the terrace and having everyone eat together outside, but that is an additional 3k, which we really can't afford.

    We're having 150-165 guests. The woman assurred us that they do this style dining frequently and that it flows really well, the overall floor plan is pretty open. I see pros and cons - you lose that "center of attention" feel, having guests seated all around you in a ballroom. But at the same time, I think it makes things more intimate. Ex: As dinner finishes, staff will encourage guests to transition towards the music room. The bar, cocktail tables, and additional seating will surround this area. Events like cutting, first dances are done after guests transition into the space. This allows people to mingle where the remainder of the night is held - is also much more intimate than a ballroom. I think my FH and I will like it - but guests might not since it's not traditional.

    Anyone been to Cairnwood? Or know of any other unique/historic venues with a ballroom option?
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  • LadyJ10LadyJ10 member
    1000 Comments
    edited December 2011
    I think it just depends on what you're looking for!

    We had a mansion wedding and weren't bothered by people eating in two different rooms - they were adjacent to one another, so it's not like we were having to run down a hall to make announcements about the cake cutting, etc. We also had an awesome Coordinator who helped make sure everyone knew what was going on. I actually loved having a table for us in both rooms, as we got to spend time with all of our guests and it wasn't quite as overwhelming. At the same time, we knew from the start that a ballroom wedding just wasn't our style, and that we wanted a smaller, more intimate feel.
    And they're the five best friends that anyone could have, the five best friends that anyone could have! Photobucket
  • CaitC21CaitC21 member
    1000 Comments
    edited December 2011
    I voted a big YES for this!

    Talk to the caters they allow you to bring in.

    The one I met with for Cairnwood had an awesome idea of doing a stations wedding in that set-up instead of a formal plated dinner.

    This way you and your guests get to move room to room to eat what they went. 

    I think it uses the space better this way...

    But if you can afford Cairnwood do it!!!
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    MaidofToy
  • LadyJ10LadyJ10 member
    1000 Comments
    edited December 2011

    As for other historic venues that have a ballroom-sized space, I'd recommend checking out Pen Ryn, Aldie Mansion and Glen Foerd. 

    And they're the five best friends that anyone could have, the five best friends that anyone could have! Photobucket
    MaidofToy
  • edited December 2011
    Carinwood is beautiful and certainly offers a different wedding experience.  Just make sure its what you want.  I went to a wedding at Cairnwood a few years ago, and I personally didn't love it as a guest.  I had to stake out a place to sit (there was no assigned seating) and then had to grab a plate and fight the crowds going room to room to get my food (everything was split into stations, so you had to go everywhere to get a full dinner).  I didn't like hunting for my food like that.  Once everyone was out on the dancefloor, things were better.   The bride chose the venue specifically for the separate rooms as she had divorcing parents who couldn't be in the same room, so it worked for her.

    Another bonus for Cairnwood, if you do it, is a spectacular grand entrance by the bride coming down the staircase. :-)

    I had my wedding at Pen Ryn, which I would look at as well, if you're looking for the mansion feel.
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  • edited December 2011
    Thanks everyone - I'm driving myself CRAZY trying to decide. I'm hoping to make a choice by Friday. It's over our budget - but we decided on a DJ instead of a band if we went there, which saves $$.

    Personally love it. So does my FH - but our parents turned up their noses to the idea. I think I'm mostly afraid of if guests will like it or not (like you mentioned, cara). My fiance's family is very traditional - so we'll stick with the seated dinner, assigned seats. Just split within the rooms. Cara - had the wedding you gone to been like that,would you enjoy the experience more? or was it the separate rooms in general that you didn't prefer?

    I agree with you though, LadyJ - we're totally NOT hotel/country club ballroom types. I want something that's different and intimate. Thanks so much for the encouragement!
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  • edited December 2011

    I'm not really sure I would like it as a guest having separate rooms to eat and dance.  It's nice to have everyone together in one room.  Also, will you have some seats available in the dancing room for people to take a break or will they have to go back to the other rooms to do that?  The whole party atmosphere (everyone dancing all night) is pretty up there on my list but it might not be for you so you should consider this also.

  • LadyJ10LadyJ10 member
    1000 Comments
    edited December 2011
    YSL, we were able to accomplish the party atmosphere with the dancing in one room -- there was seating available in three rooms off of the dance floor, so if you wanted to sit you could still see the 'action' but actually engage in conversation without having to scream over the music. IMO it was even better for our older guests who weren't interested in dancing, because they had the opportunity to still be engaged without feeling like they were being the "party poopers" by not dancing. Of course, our most fun guests were up dancing the entire night regardless of their age (including my Grandmother and her boyfriend, and DH's Great Aunt). ;)
    And they're the five best friends that anyone could have, the five best friends that anyone could have! Photobucket
  • Amerbutt81Amerbutt81 member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary
    edited December 2011
    I know you like historical places, but if you like rustic and elegant, have you looked into Normandy Farm?  I got married there last July and I looked at a lot of the same places you have looked.
    Mrs. JEGs
    est 7.17.10
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    Hunter Fillmore
    October 1, 2011

    Lizzie In Progress
  • edited December 2011
    That's good!  I'm pretty paranoid about this myself because there's suppose to be a dessert room opening (same space as cocktail hour) after dinner so I'm a bit worried people will go there and not dance.  I think i'm gonna have nightmares about having a boring wedding!

    Oh, btw, how will speaches work at this venue? Will it happen the great hall after the first dance?
  • edited December 2011
    Oh nm! I reread it and it'll happen after dinner in the music hall.  Got it!
  • edited December 2011
    I am having my wedding March 12 at Cairnwood. I instantly fell in love with it. If you have any other questions feel free to DM me or email me.

    [email protected]
    Photobucket
  • edited December 2011
    Yeah - we're announced into the great hall down a set of stairs. we could do speeches before while in the great hall or after dinner when everyone is in the music room.

    The music room will also have plenty of seating for guests. the back part of the room will have a bar set up with several cocktail tables. there are two large glass doors that open up onto a covered terrace. Guests will have tables here so they can sit and watch the dancing take place. A step off of the terrace is a garden, where a few more tables will be placed. So even though dinner and dancing are in different rooms - people will have a place to sit and watch dancing, just not in the same place they had dinner.

    Amber - I checked Normandy but they are completely booked for Spring 2012 already. The next date they had was in September 2012 but I really don't want to wait that long if I don't have to. Where else did you look?
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  • edited December 2011

    You might want to check out Villanove Conference Center.  They have a large mansion, which your guests have use of, a ballroom for dinner/dancing, and beautiful patio areas for cocktail hour.  Plus it's a hotel which is the best of all worlds.

  • Amerbutt81Amerbutt81 member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary
    edited December 2011
    psst, it's Amer, not Amber.  Pet peeve of mine ;)

    We looked at Merion Tribute house, Boilingbroke, The Farmhouse at People's Light and Theater,  Glen Foerd, Penn Ryn/Belle Voir and Knowlington.

    I am by no means trying to talk you out of their of those places.  We really liked the Merion Tribute House, but we loved Normandy more ;)  I've never been to Cairnwood, but I hear it is gorgeous.  We didn't look at it beause they were already booked solid we when called.
    Mrs. JEGs
    est 7.17.10
    [IMG]http://i43.tinypic.com/2md4eb4.jpg[/IMG]
    Hunter Fillmore
    October 1, 2011

    Lizzie In Progress
  • edited December 2011
    Amer! Ahh so sorry. I know about pet peeves - I always get "LindsAy" and mine's spelled with an "e". :)

    Anyway- those are all great places. Normandy is booked now - but we loved it too. Cairnwood is gorgeous, but very different. I think it might be the one for me, even though it's unconventional. Merion Tribute House is also up there - I just feel like I have to get more creative with that space.

    Thanks for your input! And so glad you loved Normandy...such a nice venue.
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  • edited December 2011
    Hi all,
    I just booked my wedding reception at Cairnwood for August 2012.  I am not sure if anyone has had their reception yet, but I would love some feedback.  We are thinking about a  dinner outside on the terrace without the tent.  It is ridiculously expensive and in my opinion prettier without it!  We were going to have themed rooms for each of the three.  A big concern of mine seems to be the same with others.  Is it going to be too hard to get everyone to participate in every detail that will be going on the day of?

    Thanks!
  • valmiller82valmiller82 member
    First Comment
    edited December 2011
    Hi
    I'm booked to have my reception at Cairnwood next june.  Can anyone give me feedbac on there experience.  We're inviting 200 guest (but it'll probably be more like 170-180)  Were having a sit down dinner on the terrace.  We hope not to have the tent....dependent on weather of course.  I'm most concerned about people feeling squished or not feeling like the dance floor is big enough
    Thanks!
  • Swilkins1122Swilkins1122 member
    First Comment
    edited December 2011
    I also have Cairnwood booked for September 2012. We opted to do a Thursday wedding to save some money because there was just no other place that compared to it. We're also having a seated dinner on the patio and (fingers crossed) will hopefully not have to us the tent. I'm looking into having some string lights hung above though (saw a picture where people brought in pillars to accomplish this and it was beautiful). We're hoping to utilize the others rooms by having the second bar in the first pink room, along with a photo booth, and maybe putting a cigar bar in the greyish room towards the back. I'm worried about not using enough of the place, it's just too gorgeous not to!
  • lmdavis0208lmdavis0208 member
    First Comment
    edited December 2011
    I should have come on this post before posting my own! I'm booked for July 2012 at Cairnwood. You can absolutely choose your own vendors for everything except caterers - those have to be from the "preferred vendors" list, otherwise you have to pay a lot of money. 

    I'm worried though because my ceremony is downtown at a Catholic Church (I didn't like any of the ones out in the suburbs - not statuesque enough) and then we have to bus everyone out to Cairnwood. Do you guys honestly think this will be an issue? Also, does anyone think that the dance floor is too small for 150 guests (assuming many don't dance, though)?

    Thanks ladies :) 
  • valmiller82valmiller82 member
    First Comment
    edited December 2011
    I'm concerned about that too but...honestly I've booked all my vendors including phtographer and DJ and caterer and they all have said that they've never seen a problem with the dance floor (the dj was more than confident and we're inviting 200 guests (hoping only 180 show).  As long as you put some tables on the side patio and across from the dancing room you should be fine.  I JUST PRAY IT DOESN"T RAIN than I truly will not worry about anything.  I was torn between Cairnwood and Cescaphe (at the curtis center).  I chose Cairnwood cause its close to the church and was so unique.  The obvious pros of cescaphe are the over the top food and the nice room...and no weather concerns but at the end of the day its still your typical ballroom.  

    As far as the rooms I want to put a photobooth in the "gray/blue" room but I'm not sure if my fiance and parents will go for it.  I'm doing 2 stations along with butlered appetizers during cocktail so 1 station will be in the pink room with a few tables and the other maybe in that room across from the pink room??? We're definitly putting a viennese dessert table in the room across from the pink room also with tables.  The most challenging room is the "blue/gray" room...i dunno what to do with it...
  • lmdavis0208lmdavis0208 member
    First Comment
    edited December 2011
    See, we have a band, which is why I was concerned with the dance floor situation. Everyone including my wedding planner has convinced me that it'll be ok. I'm still worried though.

    We're also doing a dessert room, but haven't figured out where things will be set up yet. I'm so interested to hear how everyone is setting it up! Maybe we should start a new post? Sounds like it never is really an issue and things flow smoothly...maybe I'm just worrying too much.

    Oh and we're DEFINITELY doing the tent outside for dinner, with the drapery in the tent (I think it looks pretty, anyway). With my luck, it's going to rain :)
  • hawkinahawkina member
    First Anniversary First Comment
    I know that it has been a while since anyone has posted on this thread, but has anyone had, or been to a Cairnwood wedding where dancing was held on the terrace. We are considering Cairnwood for a September wedding and I have fallen in love with the terrace. We'd definitely do dinner out there. I've seen some photos online of people dancing on the terrace but I know that the music volume has to be lower and end earlier. I'm a bit worried about forcing people to move from space to space. Any thoughts?
  • Hi everyone!

    I'm getting married August 2014 and have the same concerns all of you have had. I'm going to have 150-200 guests and worry about my guests being squished or missing important events (toasts, first dance, bouquet toss). I'm going to get the tent and honestly wish they would let me put the dance floor out there like they allowed in other years. I want a band and worry how my guests are going to fit comfortably on the floor. What if they want to take a break? I don't want them sitting in other rooms missing everything. I like some of your ideas for the set-up and would love to know what worked and what didn't. Also any recommendations for photographer, band, caterer? Thank you so much for you feedback!

    - A very concerned bride
  • If you have any questions about Cairnwood, contact me. We had everyone sit under the tent, dancing in the library, and three different stations in 3 rooms. Each was a full meal though so no one was required to go to all three. It was nice because people were wandering around at all times, especially during cocktail hour where people were exploring all of the rooms. My husband and I sat in front of the doors leading to the inside and so we had a lot of people stop by on their way to and from getting food, which was really fun. It was a problem getting people from room to room. The only downside is that there wasn't much seating in the library so people who wanted to watch without dancing had to stand. There were a couple of tables inside and 3 more just outside on the patio, but it wasn't enough, especially at the end of the night. 
    Feel free to contact me, I will gladly answer questions! Pictures from our wedding: http://www.sparkphotography.com/cairnwood-estate-caroline-brian/
  • I worked a wedding (back in college) at Cairnwood - I actually remember it out of many weddings I worked at due to the interesting layout, everyone did the toast at the staircase with butlered champagne, and dinner and dancing flowed really nicely.  If you group people that may know each other in each of the rooms it would totally seem more intimate.
    They had the bar outside in the tented area so everyone ended up back in that same area anyway.  The people that work there totally know what they are doing.
  • I just booked my ceremony/reception at the American Historical Swedish Museum in South Philly which was 100% the perfect compromise of the two!  I've lived in South Philly for years, and wanted something that was unique, local, on the water, and had something "different" to entertain the guests... This place seems absolutely perfect!  You get the full venue- which includes an indoor "grand room", tons of galleries, and lots of outdoor space just steps from the lake in FDR Park.  We're planning on having our ceremony on the steps of the grand room (beautiful murals), an indoor/outdoor cocktail hour, and then outdoor dinner and dancing on the main entrance.  It's so different, I'm absolutely in love!  There's unique architecture, a skyline view of the city... I'm shocked more people don't talk about it!!
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