An open house event gives couples a preview of wedding-day possibilities.

Recently, Columbus Weddings was invited to the thrice-annual open house at WatersEdge Event Center in Hilliard. The event is complimentary for couples who have booked weddings at the popular venue and serves as a preview of décor possibilities, menu items and preferred vendors.

I was greeted at the door by venue staff, who served up delicious signature cocktails. Batch-made for added convenience, the vodka drinks featured an incredible Simple Times mixer—rosemary, ginger and pear—that’s exclusive to WatersEdge and its sister venues, Brookshire and The Estate at New Albany. This was actually somewhat disappointing to me, as I was ready to run to the store to pick up some of the mixer to keep on hand at home!

Just inside the door was a freestanding photo booth setup. I’m a big fan of photo booths and other alternative entertainment for those who don’t like to dance, so WatersEdge’s setup was a welcome sight. (On the venue’s back deck, more activities in the form of rentable, oversize lawn games were on display as well.)

Past the photo booth, just before the entrance to the main ballroom, was a make-your-own-s’mores bar with several flavors of gourmet marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate—a great add-on as a late-night snack.

The venue itself has a rustic feel, but not in a way that’s overpowering. There’s an elegance to the space and the sense of it being something of a blank slate—the kind of venue that transforms into whatever you need it to be. Hosting an elegant, black-tie soiree? Add gold and glass accents, tulle ceiling sweeps and lots of votives. Looking for more of a barn-wedding-without-the-barn vibe? Bring on the mason jars and burlap.

Tables were set throughout the main dining area with a variety of décor styles to show off this versatility. Some tables were display-only, while others were assigned to have guests seated at them for dinner. The tablescapes—courtesy preferred vendors Bloomtastic Florist and Got Ya Covered Linens—were gorgeous, and I was shocked to learn that both vendors are included in every wedding package, as are Chiavari chairs, DJ services by Patrick Watkins and a wedding cake or cupcakes from Enticing Icings.

It was good that I came hungry; passed hors d’oeuvres included spoons of a tasty lo mein noodle and chicken satay served in a small shooter glass. An excellent charcuterie display rounded out the appetizer samples. For dinner itself, a buffet of the venue’s popular mains and sides was extensive enough to make trying a little of everything difficult. I opted for tastes of the Brussels sprouts, the most interesting presentation of potatoes au gratin I’ve seen, Italian stuffed chicken, short ribs and maple bourbon flank steak. It was all fantastic.

It can be quite difficult to serve large crowds buffet-style, but the staff expertly replaced food items before they had sat out too long. I always judge a catering company by its chicken; if they can keep a chicken breast moist and tender in a buffet service, then you’re probably in safe hands for any other dish.

Dessert consisted of build-your-own-cupcake-combinations placed at the table. I sampled a strawberry cake with chocolate ganache, and it was heavenly.

Along the dance floor, next to the buffet, were several other preferred vendors for couples to consider. Embassy Suites Columbus/Dublin, Homewood Suites, Off Path Photography, Chris Bowman Photography, Romanoff’s Classic Tuxedo and Aiden & Grace all had tables with information on their services. Some people feel limited by preferred vendors, but I find them comforting—it’s nice to know that your photographer or rental company, for example, is familiar with your venue.

I also had the chance to get a quick peek at the venue’s get-ready suites. Upstairs, where the groom and his guys typically prep, a chill loft featured a lovely fireplace, soft seating and a television. In the basement, the bridal suite had many of the same amenities, plus additional mirrors and seating for the ladies to do their hair and makeup.

There’s a lovely ceremony space behind the venue as well, next to the pond for which the space is named. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to explore it properly, but it’s position west of the venue makes it easy to schedule a lovely (and well-lit) sunset ceremony.

I’ve attended a few similar open house/tasting events at venues around the city, but none quite as extensive as what WatersEdge serves. Sister venues Brookshire and The Estate at New Albany offer similar events, also three times a year, for their booked couples; a notable perk for booking at any of those establishments.