Wedding Planning 101: Amanda May’s Top Venue Picks of Knoxville
Top Knoxville Wedding Venues
Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t written this blog post long before now. I don’t have a ton of couples that inquire with me before they already have their venue, but every now and then I do, and I wanted to compose a list of my top 10 venue picks of Knoxville! Below you’ll find those listed in order of priority as well as some of the reasons why I love that venue so much!
Castleton Farms – The number one reason I love this venue so much is because of the team and the experience they provide their couples. They go above and beyond to make their couples feel extra special and extra excited about their wedding day, which is a priority Amanda May Photos has in common with Castleton. Also, Castleton provides you with an amazing staff for day of coordination that helps in all aspects of the day. This takes SO much stress off of my couples and their families (another aligned priority I have in my own business). They do more than what is expected of them. I preach to all of my mentees to be very communicative with their clients. To set expectations and then do your best to exceed them. Castleton does this at every single wedding I shoot at their property. This is all about their client experience, but there are also logistical things I love about them as well. They have the capacity to have massive weddings. They offer various ceremony and reception sites to cater to different styles of weddings, which means I show up to weddings that look unique to each couple. They have plenty of parking for any and all guests. They offer overnight accommodations the night before and the night of the wedding. They have fabulous getting ready areas for both the bride and groom. They offer an insane amount of portrait locations that are all absolutely stunning. They are a well-oiled machine and often prevent stressful wedding days by planning ahead and knowing what to do in order to make the day run smoothly. Lastly…this may be an unpopular opinion…but I love that they have a limited vendor list. Now, I know this sucks when you’re a bride with a vendor you want to use, and you have to pay a vendor fee. However, try looking at it from a vendor’s perspective. Knoxville has a MASSIVE wedding industry. We have more venues than most cities our size and because of that, we have a vast array of vendors. Some are professional, but most are not. Castleton can be a really hard venue to work at if you aren’t familiar with it. It’s grounds are large, their wedding days are often very long, and there is a specific way things run there to ensure the day goes well. When a couple uses vendors on Castleton’s list, it means I don’t have to worry about educating another vendor on where and how things happen at Castleton while also trying to provide my couples with the very best experience possible. I know I am working with a great team that goes out of their way to help each other deliver a top notch service for that day. Honestly, it’s a dream. I love when I know all the vendors I’m working with for the day, which happens the majority of the time when I’m shooting a Castleton wedding.
The Press Room – This is my absolute FAVORITE urban venue in Knoxville. Over the years, I have developed such a great relationship with the team here, and they are ALWAYS on top of it. One of my favorite things about The Press Room is its indoor options. Whether your day ends up with perfect weather, rain, or scorching heat, we have an indoor option that I will likely use no matter the situation outside because it. is. stunning. If you are having a wedding at The Press Room, you probably like the urban look, and I want to embrace that with pictures with exposed brick, metal piping, and their industrial details. I also love that The Press Room is a very clean slate. You can do whatever decor you want there because they offer a very neutral foundation. Mostly black, white, and brick. I’ve shot a spring palette there, a black-tie soirée, and a winter wonderland. All of which offered their own beautiful setup on that same foundation. I love that The Press Room is a large enough space to accommodate even the largest weddings. Geographically, it’s super close to nice hotels, beautiful cathedrals, and downtown in case you have a lot of traveling guests and/or want to have your ceremony in a church. I love that they offer a GORGEOUS bridal suite that is literally stunning. Also, and this could have been the first thing I mentioned except I didn’t want to be a total fat kid, but they are owned by Spaces in the City. The same company that opened Café 4, Vida, The Vault, The Square Room, and Kefi. They have an incredible menu with the most delicious food and both yummy and beautiful specialty cocktails. They were the first venue in Knoxville to really specialize in the stations concept of catering, which means you get smaller portions of a wider variety of food. You also don’t have to stand in line as long because the line is spread out over several different stations vs. one long buffet line. Aaaaand you don’t have to have a theme of food. Typically on a buffet line, you have a BBQ theme, Italian theme, American theme, etc. With stations, you could have three different themes, one at each station, if you just can’t narrow it down! The Press Room knows their stuff and did a wonderful job at renovating their building, which was historically a press printing building, hence the name. I promise you will not be disappointed if you decide to go with The Press Room for your wedding.
Marblegate Farm – My goodness, where to start. Talk about a venue that came in the market strong. If we ever open a venue, this is how I would want to kickstart it. They did a full renovation on their farm, built an extravagant centralized building called The Grand Hall, and optimized a ceremony site with the most beautiful landscaping around it. The day of service Marblegate provides their couples, the families, the bridal party, and the vendors is seriously unmatched. Here is an example. When you pull into the parking lot, there will be a chauffeur in a golf cart to help you unload your car and take you anywhere you need to go on the property. I’m honestly so confused at how they know when you’re there. The vendor parking lot isn’t visible from The Grand Hall where most of their staff is setting up for the morning, but somehow, some way, they know when I arrive and have someone there waiting on me before I even get out of my car. It’s truly incredible. I’m also fairly certain I have never, not once, opened the front door to The Grand Hall myself. There is literally a door person assigned for the day to ensure no guest and no vendor ever has to open that door themselves. And anytime I’m lugging my massive pile of bags around for the day, there is always someone there offering to help me. Their service is just impeccable. They also give me a walkie talkie for each wedding day so I can radio them anytime I need a ride, and they have someone there within minutes, sometimes seconds, of me radioing. Also, if you’re a couple at Marblegate, you get to have your engagement photos there. The leading lady, Cheryl, escorts you around to all of the best spots on their property, and you can really scope out all of the areas you love most for the wedding day! The Grand Hall, the grounds, the landscaping, the horses grazing in their pastures…all of it is just so beautiful. You get the horse farm feel as well as a water backdrop, and there won’t be a single guest there who doesn’t drop their jaw at it’s gorgeousness. They have great, spacious getting ready areas for the bride and groom. They have plenty of parking and can accommodate a large guest count. Their property is MASSIVE with tons and tons of portrait options, and they look good year round (yes, even in the winter). I really can’t say enough great things about this venue.
The Pavilion at Hunter Valley Farm – My friendship with the lady that owns Hunter Valley goes way back. At the very beginning of my career, I connected with Nancy Barger and have had a massive respect for her ever since. This woman knows her stuff and is one of the most innovative, creative business owners in Knoxville. Nancy hired Brittany as her right hand lady years ago, and the two of them are unstoppable. One of the things I love most about the Nancy/Brittany duo is that they are genuinely amazing and so so loyal. Once you become a Hunter Valley couple, you are locked in for one crazy awesome wedding day. Their vision for your day is one of my favorite things they offer at their venue. You can come in with a general, overarching description of how you envision your day, and they will take your ideas and your thoughts and turn them into something magical that is even better than what you could have ever imagined in your head. Truly. They started the Pinterest-Comes-to-Life open house in Knoxville so many years ago, and after they did it, venue after venue started hosting open houses. Honestly, very few venues can offer an open house like Nancy Barger. She goes all in, and you guys, it’s stunning. So many fresh ideas. If you’re on the hunt to have a really beautiful, unique wedding day but can’t quite put your finger on how you want to make it unique, just go to Nancy and Brittany and let them do their thing. I promise you won’t regret it. They also have something on their property that no one else in Knoxville offers. A beach. Do you love the idea of getting married on a beach or having beach photos but don’t want to do a destination wedding? Well, you don’t have to. Hunter Valley offers its beach access for you, and it’s beautiful. It also offers one of the prettiest sunsets in Knoxville. It sits at a really high altitude without massive mountain ranges right around it, which means you get to watch the sunset all the way down to the horizon without a big mountain blocking your view. Sunset photos at Hunter Valley are ALWAYS some of my favorites! Another massive perk to Hunter Valley is its climate control and smell. I know that sounds weird, but Hunter Valley has a very distinct clean smell when you come in its doors. I don’t know what their cleaners clean with, but it seriously smells amazing. They also always have the air conditioner cranked in there, and I don’t ever see guests sweating like crazy because they actually keep the temps at a good level to balance the large group of people in their building.
The Quarry – I’ve not only grown to love this venue more and more as they have added features to their venue and built new buildings, but I’ve also grown to love the family that owns it. I had the pleasure of getting to know them really well as I photographed quarterly pictures of one of their households for two whole years. I’ve really gotten to know them on a personal level and hear their heart behind their business and goodness it is inspiring. They truly have a passion for what they do. Morgan and Lindsey are sisters-in-law and are the faces of The Quarry. Their husbands are the muscle behind the scenes, and they have various other helpers to bring each wedding day together. Morgan is the creative that helps style your wedding and make it become the prettiest it could possibly be, and Lindsey is the logistics champion making sure all your vendors do their part and your guests/bridal party/family knows all their roles. Together, they literally make the dream team. What’s really cool is that when you book with them, you get access to a plethora of decor they offer only to their couples. It’s not Hobby Lobby decor, you guys. I’m talking fabric runners that are hand died specific shades of color and heirloom doors shipped from France and tables custom built, marble pieces cut straight from their property. It’s top notch decor that will take the beauty of your day to a whole other level. With that, you get intricate styling and planning from both Lindsey and Morgan. You get to come to their property before your big day and scout everything out, see all your choices, pair things together, and map out exactly what you want. They are so good at taking your vision and making it more than you could imagine. You also get a built in day of coordinator that helps SO much on the day of the wedding. I haven’t even started on how unique and gorgeous this venue is. There is literally nothing else like it in Knoxville. The uniqueness of The Quarry itself is where you have your ceremony. Dynamite shapes in the walls of the rock where they blasted out years and years ago. The grounds of The Quarry are covered in beautiful grass and a winding walkway leading you to your ceremony. When you get done there, your guests wind some more back into the quarry to arrive at a terrace outside of a grand white and black building where they can see a massive waterfall cascading down the rocks to the pit of the quarry. A rock bar where their drinks are served and comfy patio furniture under bistro light as they munch on their appetizers and await to enter your gorgeous reception. I mean, honestly, it’s the most unique venue that will leave your guests speechless with its beauty!
The Standard – The Standard was one of the first urban venues in Downtown Knoxville to specifically cater to weddings. The best part about The Standard is the different rooms you have access to. First, there is the bride’s getting ready area. A massive space filled with natural light, exposed brick, and several smaller rooms for privacy when needed. This space is fabulous for larger bridal parties. Then, you have two areas on the main level for your ceremony and reception. One is smaller than the other but perfect for a ceremony. The rooms are divided by a massive exposed brick wall with a doorway so if you don’t want to use one of the sides, you can easily hide it by closing a curtain. If it rains, you have plenty of areas inside to take photos. There is also a patio up top behind The Standard that they preserved with a metal, rusted structure, strung with bistro lights and ivy creeping up over top of it. It is SO beautiful and gives you a high enough altitude to see a gorgeous sunset should the sun be out on your wedding evening. If you love the industrial look, The Standard is a great option for you.
The Mill & Mine – Another urban venue for you that has a similar vibe as The Standard but is in a different part of Downtown Knoxville. The Mill & Mine also has an outdoor location for your ceremony and a giant room for your reception. The Mill & Mine hosts a ton of weddings, but they are also large enough for a concert venue. This is cool for couples who would like to get married on a platform or offer a live band. It’s great for a live band. Just saying. One thing I like about The Mill & Mine that The Standard doesn’t even compare to is the groom’s getting ready area. At The Standard, the groom is in a really tiny room in the downstairs of the ceremony room. and it is basically a dungeon. Cool vibe, but REALLY tight and super duper dark. The Mill & Mine has a huge space for both the bride and groom. Complete with great natural light, exposed brick, and the women have several seats at a wall mirror for hair and makeup. There are also some great lunch spots really close to The Mill & Mine for you to munch on during your wedding day!
Maple Grove Estate – My goodness, this is quickly becoming another favorite of mine. This place is gorgeous and is owned by one of the sweetest couples ever. First of all, can we just talk about the driveway? A quarter mile (guessing here) driveway coming onto the property lined by trees that is just beautiful. The house itself is breathtaking, but when you start wandering the property, there are so many amazing hidden gems with immaculate landscaping. Maple Grove offers several different ceremony spots, and their reception area is outside on a brick patio. The great part is that it is an open air reception that can be strung with bistro lights and becomes so dreamy. Also, when you meet the two that own this venue, you’re going to fall in love with them. They are the sweetest, most down to earth, incredible people. They have donated their property two separate weekends to my Hope Resource Center Fundraiser, and I cannot be more thankful. Additionally, the getting ready areas for the bride and groom are beautiful. You can also stay on site the night before the wedding or the night of the wedding. The architecture here lends itself to some super beautiful, unique compositions for your photos. The landscaping is insanely awesome, and should it rain, you have so many beautiful spots that are indoor as back up options. Honestly, I wish I could book a few more weddings here. I just really love shooting here!
The Trillium Venue – Technically, this is a Sevierville wedding venue. It’s one of the nicest mountain venues in the Smokies, and there are a lot of native Knoxvillians choosing to get married here! The views speak for themselves. I don’t even really need to mention it because it’s the first thing you’ll see when you do any kind of search for them, and it does not need any kind of words. Besides the view, I love this venue. I love the way they designed the inside. Most Smoky Mountain venues are orange inside with all the raw wood. Even if you think it’s so beautiful, it doesn’t photograph particularly well. The Trillium is white with black fixtures and black windows and is very clean and sophisticated while still offering the mountain view. Additionally, this venue offers amazing getting ready areas for both the bride and groom. Again, bright, clean, and classy spaces for you to spend the morning with your bridal party.
The Kincaid House – Technically, this is a Clinton wedding venue, which is located just 25 minutes outside of Knoxville. However, many Knoxville couples get married here, and the uniqueness it offers is why I added it to this list. I LOVE this venue because of the stone details that make it totally unique. The area they offer for ceremonies has a backdrop of a big stone tower that reminds me a lot of a lighthouse. It has arched stone doorways, a staircase spiraling up the outside of it, as well as a room surrounded by windows at the top. It is absolutely stunning, and there is nothing else like it in Knoxville. In addition to this, they also offer stone landscaping that is breathtaking on the lawn in front of the tower. You can opt to have your ceremony either on the stone detail on the lawn or in the grassy area on the other side. Then, you will move down to a tent right outside the main house for the reception. The main house is where the bride will get ready and also offers a ton of areas for indoor photos should the weather not cooperate. It’s a great location for first looks, bride and groom portraits, and even bridal party if we need it. It’s a historic home that has preserved it’s vast amount of natural light as well as more arched doorways to capture fun compositions for your photos. On top of all of this visual beauty, you will also find the two men who run the venue to be so fun to work with. I truly love when I book weddings at The Kincaid House.
After listing out my top 10 venues, I feel like I need to say that if your venue is not on this list, it does not mean I don’t like it or it’s bad. Honestly, even after 11 years of doing this, I haven’t shot at all the venues in Knoxville. If I haven’t shot there, it can’t be on this list. Most of the ones here I’ve shot at multiple times and have various experiences with their team and their grounds and have really great knowledge around them as being one of my favorites. So, don’t get your feelings hurt if it’s not listed here, and don’t think I don’t want to work with you if you’re getting married at a venue not listed here. This is for the couple on the hunt for a venue and needs a good place to start.
Hopefully, it helps, and hopefully, you have fun looking through all of my selections!
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