I've been browsing the forums for a few weeks since I got engaged and they have been very helpful! However I keep running into hurdles with each option we look at. Budget for venue (ceremony and reception) is 16-18k (including tax/service fee) and less than 100 guests expected.
Both the fiance and I are from out of state so almost all our family and friends will be from out of town. Because of this, we would really really prefer to have the wedding and hotel either in downtown or somewhere along the Metro Rail where guests would not have to drive to go places. This has been one major limitation.
The other major limitation seems to be the expected guest count and the preference for a Saturday evening event. It seems that every place we really like either is geared towards much larger groups or has such a high minimum for F&B on Saturdays that we would never meet with the number of guests we are expecting.
Places we have contacted so far:
Houston Museum of Natural Science: Initially was really interested in this location. Rental fee from $2-5k depending on the space; you have to use their exclusive caterers and the only caterer that got back to us only gave us a range which we calculated would be over budget.
Veranda by 17 at Sam Houston Hotel: F&B minimum was reasonable at $13k. Went to view the space and personally it felt really small and more casual than elegant.
Hotel Zaza: The hotel itself is very nice with different venues to choose from (with varied pricing). The more affordable rooms were okay, we liked the more expensive ones (of course) but didn't love them enough for the cost.
Other places we have considered but discounted:
The Grove at Discovery Green: Cute but not too crazy about having a wedding in a public park with no privacy, also no tasting or menu options available for 60+ guests.
Crystal Ballroom at the Rice Hotel: Space looks very pretty from the pictures but way too big for our guest count (also confirmed by the coordinator).