Vandiver Inn is a small, family-owned operation; there is a main house, built in 1876, and two smaller houses (presumably newer) which are adjacent. Behind the main house is a huge pavilion, and between the two smaller houses is a grassy space with a small gazebo. Typically the ceremony takes place at the gazebo, and the reception under the pavilion. My general impression:
- John and Susan, the owners, seem to be incredibly willing to make adjustments to fit guests' needs - for instance, he discussed adjustments to the menu (Susan, a self-taught chef, makes all the food), and potential plans for the future to offer an all-local menu.
- John was very honest. We've been talking about a guest list of 175, but he said 160 was what they could comfortably handle. While we were touring the gazebo area, he pointed out that our large numbers would stretch the seating area pretty much to the edge of the lawn, close to the street, so guests in the last few rows might notice cars going by - then again, it's a small street in a small town, so that probably wouldn't be much of a big deal.
- Their web site has lots of details on the pavilion, but in brief - solid structure, wooden roof and brick floor (no mud if it rains beforehand), lots of nice space outside for mingling, assuming good weather.
- The mansion itself - the rooms and everything else looks pretty nice,
- Location - close to 95, fairly convenient to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and NJ. Oh, and two blocks from the river and five from the bay, so lots of great options for photos.
- Decent amount of off-street parking.
- Reasonable price, and, as implied above, includes catering (and a cake from a local bakery), etc. No additional vendors to deal with for tables, linens, etc. Generally speaking, $70-90 per guest depending which options we go with. We'd probably be in the middle of that range.
- Decent number of rooms on-location for bridal party, parents, and a few other guests (which all include breakfast).
- They like to end events by 9pm, which fits with our general inclination to not be exhausted as we kick people out at 11pm.
- Somewhat handicapped-accessible. Not fully ADA compliant (old building, grandfathered) but someone in a wheelchair can at least get around to where they'd need to be.
- At our current estimate, our size is right on the edge of what we can handle. Ellie is concerned that with a full six chairs on each side in front of the gazebo, the aisle might be too tight to have both her parents walking her down, and as I mentioned, the seating would run most of the way back towards the street. Full seating in the pavilion wouldn't leave much space for dancing and would potentially be cramped for larger guests at adjacent tables.
So, if we revisit our guest list and decide that we're likely to find ourselves more in a 120-130 guest kind of place, this would probably get a big bump, but for now it looks like it would be tight.
One thing we discussed that I hadn't encountered before was the concept of having stations, instead of a sit-down meal or a buffet. It seems like a nice compromise - a little bit more of an upscale feel than a buffet, but still a lot of variety for guests with different tastes. They also set up differently, without 100% reserved seating, which leads to a bit more of a fluid, party-type atmosphere, which is what the weddings I've been to tend to turn into as people get tired of the company at their table and start drifting around to see other friends. Plus, none of our friends have done stations yet so it would be a little bit of a break from the routine we've gotten into.