Location, location, location –

it’s not just an important rule in the real estate business: It can also be applied to weddings. Modern brides are looking for an authentically unique place to hold their wedding ceremony and reception, and low and behold, the Niagara Region is just the place to host these types of events. “There are some amazing offbeat venues to see in Niagara,” says Laura Beck, The Venue Counsellor. “I have just begun to crack the surface.”

Beck has over 15 years of experience in event and wedding planning in and around the Niagara Region. One year ago she began focusing specifically on unique wedding venues. In addition to assisting brides and grooms in finding their ideal wedding location, she also helps to minimize any frustration or confusion that may arise for them throughout the planning process. “Often, I have a completely overwhelmed bride who doesn’t know where to start. I will get an idea of what she is looking for, walk the couple through the process, and make it less scary for them,” says Beck.

The Venue Counsellor takes time to review the couple’s needs, wants, budget, and additional factors before selecting five different locations for the bride and groom to tour. “First, I make sure the location is not in a residential area, so there are no noise or parking issues. Next, I want to make sure the proper permits and licencing are in order and finally that it is a perfect and beautiful place,” says Beck. “I have to have a plan B, so I look for properties that have a back-up plan in case of inclement weather.”

Beck has an extensive list of exceptional venues for brides and grooms to choose from. “My vendor list is the best of the best,” she says. “With their overall vision in mind, I match people to their vendors and negotiate the contract for them, along with other amenities like photographers,” says Beck “It is about a fit.” The Venue Counsellor uses her expertise to make the couple’s personality shine on their wedding day while saving them a lot of time and aggravation that may arise when trying to find their venue without professional support.

Beck is a straight shooter who is completely honest with her clients when it comes to selecting the perfect venue and wedding logistics. “It’s my job to give them the good, the bad, and the ugly. If it is going to cost them a fortune I will tell them. If I have a bride that is worried about the weather then I will suggest an indoor spot,” says Beck. “Brides have to be realistic and not be embarrassed by their budget. We can give them a great wedding just about anywhere.”

The Venue Counsellor excels in finding locations that are not “wedding factories.” Recently three of her top pick locations were featured in different publications: further demonstrating how selecting unique locations is the Venue Counsellor’s forte.

Her first location, Cherry Avenue Farms in Vineland, ON, was featured in Style Me Pretty. This pick your own cherry farm has remained a family operated business since 1799 and Beck describes it as, “a hidden gem for a bride who is not afraid to do things for herself.” Although the venue is not available in July, due to the cherry picking season, there are endless possibilities for an exquisite reception in the barn or a dance under the stars on a concrete pad in the orchard. “It is gorgeous. The sky is the limit there,” says Beck.

If you are looking for a majestic location for your ceremony, then Willowbank Estate in Queenston, ON, is the ideal location for any budding bride. “It is historic, raw, and fabulous,” states Beck. As a National Historical Site of Canada, the site is used as a teaching facility for School of Restoration Arts. The house was originally a shipping hub and was first owned by the Hamilton Family and later purchased by the Bright Family. “The outside of this house is unbelievable and the inside is art deco,” says Beck. With the original wallpaper, blacksmith shop, and carriage path that extends from the Village of Queenston to the front of the house it’s no wonder Elegant Wedding Magazine picked this site as one of their feature locations.

If you are looking for a spectacular view then head straight to Long Beach Conservation Area. “Long Beach is phenomenal. It’s an open book for someone who is considering a day function. It’s laid back and simple,” states Beck. Long Beach will please any couple looking for an intimate ceremony on the beach followed by a lunch reception. This grass roots location was featured in the December issue of Green Wedding Shoes.

Beck believes that a location is special when it is not typical. “It’s about thinking outside the box and using vendors that understand the vision,” says Beck. “It’s the endless possibilities that I love.”

Although Beck is a wedding planner by trade, she has found her passion in helping couples, businesses or corporations find the perfect location for their wedding or special event. “Being on the road and finding new places excites me. I love what I do and I never thought this was possible,” says Beck. “I also find the perfect venue for socials, meetings, and executive functions where my client wants to do something private and different like taking meetings outdoors,” says Beck.

From putting a food truck in the middle of an orchard to transforming an empty barn into an oasis, Beck considers herself a curator who strives to find something diverse for each of her clients. “My job is to give them something different,” says Beck. “This isn’t just about selling someone their wedding. It’s servicing them from start to finish and helping them anyway I can,” says Beck. “Every month I am finding new places. My best compliment is when a local person says. “Oh my, I didn’t know we had all this,” concludes Beck.

Written By: Jill Tham