OUR HOMEMADE WEDDING
If you’ve followed our love journey, you know that we got engaged in July, 2018 and married in October, 2018 with little time to plan for our big day. You can learn more about our decision for a short engagement HERE but in the meantime, I wanted to share our wedding planning experience with you because we pulled-off one hell of a party & learned a lot along the way.
I have a background in event planning and have planned events three times the size of our wedding all on my own. So in my mind, planning a 100-person event seemed like it would be a breeze. Well, the joke was on us… there is just SO much more that goes into a personal event like this that no one could ever prepare you for. Needless to say, we made it happen and it was the weekend of our dreams (and even better). BUT GUESS WHAT? It wasn’t easy and a lot went wrong… but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Before I dive into all the learnings from our four-month planning process, I have two BIG pieces of advice to give all my brides-to-be out there:
•BIG THINGS WILL GO WRONG and at the end of the day, it won’t matter. What matters is the man you have across from you at that alter and the journey you two have ahead of you.
•Wedding planning WILL be stressful, will make you cry and will make you wonder why you didn’t just elope in the first place. But it’ll all be worth it so hang in there and remember the bigger picture
DATE & VENUE
The biggest stress right after an engagement is picking a date and a venue. Luckily, we had the venue covered because I always wanted to get married at my family’s home on the water. Having a venue doesn’t make it more simple and cheap like we had originally anticipated though. Our wedding actually went over budget because we had to bring in all the rentals, tents, chairs, silverware, linens, tent flooring, and pay the cost of our vendors traveling to the location. So be sure to check your options before automatically thinking it will be cheaper to have it at a private residence.
Finding a date was the hardest thing for us. Because we had a quick turnaround, finding a date that would work with everyone’s schedules was tough. My biggest advice for this is to focus on immediate family. Get a group text going with your closest family and friends and confirm a couple dates that work for everyone then run those by your dream venue ASAP. I can’t believe how quickly venues fill-up these days.
After we got engaged, we sat down just the two of us to make a budget. We did a ton of research and had a very complex spreadsheet before even meeting with our parents. We had an idea going into each conversation of how much we were asking for and what we needed help with. I even got some quotes from vendors to make it more accurate. We asked for a certain amount from each of them and committed to paying a certain amount on our own. Obviously, everyone’s financial situation is different so you have to figure out what works for you. But the most important thing is setting a REAL BUDGET and following it. We had a spreadsheet on googledocs that allowed everyone access to update money spent on specific vendors. I updated it every Monday and made sure to fill in specific information for when each deposit was due. The budget can be very overwhelming but you can find lots of help on The Knot website and other online sources.
Once we chose a date and set a budget, booking our biggest vendors came first. I knew that our catering, band, rentals, hotel options, photographer, cake, wedding dress, florist, rehearsal dinner venue and wedding planner needed to be booked first because those are usually the vendors that get scooped up way far in advance.
•Catering—I reached out to about 5 caterers the week after we got engaged asking for their availability on our wedding date and sample menus. If they were available, we looked through all the menus then contacted the one we thought would be the best fit. I had a 30 minute conversation with the chef regarding our ideal menu selection and asked for a quote for our estimated number of guests. We went ahead and confirmed with her quickly, paid a deposit then went for a tasting with my parents. It was a great opportunity to enjoy the actual planning process. We used OMO Catering and the food was INCREDIBLE
•Band—This was one of the tasks I gave to James. Honestly, I know there’s such a stigma around men helping out with the wedding but if you trust your future husband, you have to let go of some things. It’s honestly not possible to plan all of this on your own. James went on a local website that priced out bands and shared their song lists. James put down a deposit with a band he thought we’d enjoy and that was that. We ended up going to see them play after we had paid the entire fee a few weeks before our wedding. The band was AWESOME… we got lucky. Our band was The Jangling Reinharts… we keep hearing from everyone how much they adored the band. The dance floor was full the ENTIRE night.
•Rentals—This is a very complex task that I had experience with because of my event planning background but I’d encourage you to have your fiancé or a parent join you to make some of the decisions. I made a list of every single piece of serve-ware, table, utensil and any kind of rental we needed for the event before I went to the first meeting. I spoke with the catering company beforehand to make sure I had everything listed that they needed as well. This was super important because if you’re having a wedding out of town, you can’t just go pick up things you need from a local store. The rental company needs to have EVERYTHING you need for both the wedding and the reception. We used Classic Party Rentals of Virginia and it was a great experience. See the list below for a guideline:
-Plates, side plates, dessert plates
-Coffee mugs, wine glasses, beer glasses, cocktail glasses, champagne flutes
-Silverware, cake cutting utensils, shavers, tongs, spatulas, food holders, table decor
-Bars, tables, chairs, cocktail rounds, linens, table linens
-Bar shakers, cocktail dispensers, ice buckets, coolers, bar tops
-Dance floor, band floor or platform
-Tent, lighting in tent (usually not included)
•Hotel—We booked 20 rooms at a local Inn for all of our guests. This needs to be done as soon as you know the date of the wedding to ensure your family members and friends have a place to stay. Room blocks can get expensive and usually the contract entails that you will pay the fee of whatever rooms don’t get used. You can start at a small number then work your way up as more guests RSVP.
•Photographer/Videography—This is an important part of the wedding planning process because this person will be in charge of all your memories. Find someone that you vibe well with but also has the confidence to make things happen the day of your wedding because there’s so much madness going on, the last thing you want to do is be yelling at your family members to line-up for pictures. That’s when we stumbled upon Kristen Camielle Photography and I immediately fell in love with the look of her photos and her energy. I made a list of exactly who should be in what pictures and gave it to her before the wedding. Our photographer also took our engagement session which usually comes in the wedding package. This is a great opportunity to get to know them and find a style that works for you and your fiancé.
As far as videography, we decided not to contract a videographer because it was too expensive. So instead, we bought a cheap action camera of Amazon (HERE) and had someone from our family be in charge of mounting it in certain areas of our wedding. Honestly this is perfect for what we wanted the videos for. We just wanted some way to look back on the day and hear our vows, speeches and see the actual ceremony.
We also signed-up for this FREE App called “The Guest”. It’s an App that all your guests download and during the duration of your wedding, every photo they take automatically uploads to the app. We got over 800 pictures and videos throughout our weekend from our guests and it was amazing. After the wedding is over, the app sends you a link that allows you to download all the images onto your computer. I can’t believe that it was free and was such a great experience for us and our guests.
•Cake—We skipped the whole cake-tasting experience because we just didn’t have enough time and we already kind of knew what we wanted. We went with something we knew and ordered cake from one of our local bakeries, Whisk. They have incredible sweets and their carrot cake is insane. We ordered two “naked” carrot cakes from them and it turned out to be exactly what we wanted. Everyone was raving about our cake the entire night.
•Wedding Dress—This to-do terrified me. I had so many people asking me what I was going to do about a wedding dress with that short of a turnaround time for our wedding. Luckily, we have a local store here called Annalise Bridal that was able to just show the dresses that could be expedited in time for our wedding. I had also planned an appointment at BHLDN (Anthropologie wedding shop) because the dresses are inexpensive but beautiful. I ended up picking the dress on my first appointment at Annalise Bridal though… quick and painless! It was honestly such a beautiful experience. I had all 10 women in my family show-up (I know, it was overwhelming) but I got there a little early to pull the dresses I loved. We had an amazing time and I cried the very moment I put on my dream dress. It was the best way to celebrate with the women who have supported me from the beginning. I paid extra for an expedited process but it was all pretty easy. As soon as it came in (about a month before the wedding), I went to a local seamstress called Fariba Designs and had the dress altered twice before the big day. She saw exactly what I wanted and made it happen even as my body changed before the wedding. SHOES—I got so many questions about my festive shoes and they’re from BHLDN. I actually picked out the shoes before I found the dress. I’m still so in love with them.
•Suit—James wanted to wear a suit that he could wear multiple times so we opted for gray. We had the BEST experience going to Alton Lane for a customized fitting. They greet you with top-shelf liquor and then measure the customer from head to toe so they can create the perfect fitted suit. James was able to customize everything from the lining of the jacket to the colors of the buttons. We loved that the price was decent and we were referred so we received $100 off. ***Let them know we sent you and you’ll receive $100 OFF your first purchase.
•Florals—We really wanted our entire wedding to have greenery everywhere. We didn’t want a ton of flowers but instead just greenery and tons of it. Luckily, our wedding planner, Tanya with Starry Nights Events, was also a florist and we used her for both. This was the best decision because our flowers turned out even better than I pictured. The farm tables were lined with greenery and beautiful white flowers and my bouquet was INSANE. She nailed it. I used Pinterest to send her a ton of pictures that fit with my style and she went above and beyond.
•Rehearsal Dinner—Because our event was out of town, we had to find a venue that was nearby the Inn but also could host 55 people (yes we have huge families). Make sure to negotiate the pricing when it comes to the dinner. We asked for no dessert because James’ mom made a groom’s cake and it cut the cost back tremendously. Be willing to negotiate all of your contracts because everything can add up quickly.
•Wedding Planner—Saving the best for last. Our wedding planner was pure gold. Honestly, I almost wished we would have hired Tanya for full-time planning but we only contracted her for the day-of-coordinator because I really thought I’d have everything down because of my past experience. Yes, I did have everything extremely organized but it would have been nice to have someone take over a lot of the work that happened the week leading up to the wedding. My family and I spent hours hanging lights in the tent, organizing all the decor into specific areas of the house so our wedding planner would know what goes where the day of, we had to purchase lots of ice and organize all the alcohol the day of, we dealt with the setup of the tent and the rentals and SO MUCH MORE. This was definitely a lot of stress and organization on all of us so I wish we would have taken the plunge and just paid extra to have her full-time. I promise you, having a wedding planner to coordinate everything is CRUCIAL… especially the day of. There were so many things that went wrong that Tanya saved… I’m not sure what we would have done without her.
I’d encourage you to stay as organized as possible throughout the planning process to make it easy on your planner. I had spreadsheets for the layout of the tent, listings of specific table decor (cake table, remembrance table, welcome table, mocktail table), vendor contact info, ceremony verbiage, timelines and to-do lists that I shared with her throughout my entire planning process. This was a great way for her to stay in the know before she jumped right in the day of.
THE LITTLE THINGS
I know I wanted our wedding to be simple and chic but I also wanted it to feel homey. I wanted our guests to feel like they were at our home and hopefully they could see a glimpse into our future together. I worked really hard on small touches that made a big difference the day of.
•Party Favors—We stuck with our Richmond theme and ordered 150 Red Eye Cookies ahead of time. They pre-packaged them for us and we added our customized stickers to each bag. Let’s just say people devoured them after a few drinks that evening & it was super cheap. We had cookies leftover for days so it was a special treat for us to enjoy post-wedding bod.
•Table Numbers—James and I homemade our table numbers by sharing pictures of us when we were ages 1-11 (number of tables we had) so that they could see a bit of our childhood. This was such a fun project because we asked our families for childhood pictures and they got to reminisce before handing them over to us. We also had such a good time picking out which pictures to use. I think it put a personal touch on our tables while giving our guests something fun to talk about. I designed the actual cards in CANVA which is really easy to use for beginner designers.
•Wedding Invites—We were so happy to be able to work with a local designer, Bethany with Guestroom Creative for our invites. They were absolutely stunning and incorporated the green vibes we had for our wedding and the simplicity that we were going for. She was so fun to work with and made the process seamless. I highly recommend her for any of your design work!
•Seating Charts—We also designed these in CANVA. I really loved this process because it let me get creative and put my own touch on our wedding day.
•Guest Bags & Itinerary—We thought it would be fun to have goodie bags waiting at the front counter for our guests when the checked-in to the Inn. We put together a bunch of our favorite goodies and got stickers from StickerMule with our initials on them. It was fun to show them the things we enjoy at home. We also designed itineraries for everyone that were SO MUCH FUN to make. I spent hours designing them on CANVA even though I’m sure they all ended up in the trash.
•Cocktails & Drinks—We used all Richmond local alcohol which made it feel so “us”. We had kegs of Triple Crossing Beer and cocktails with Belle Isle Moonshine. One of our favorite moments of planning was going out to the Belle Isle Moonshine distillery and having a private tasting then choosing which drinks we wanted for our wedding. The bartender whipped up some awesome concoctions and we had so much fun trying all the moonshine… duh.
WHERE TO SAVE
Most of you will be planning on a budget like we were. We tried to cut costs as much as possible, even if that meant getting rid of some of your traditional wedding purchases. Here are a few things we went without and it was never noticed.
•Guest Book—We realized early on that purchasing a $150+ guest book would really have no meaning to us in the long run. We knew exactly who was attending our wedding and had pictures to look back on. A book of signatures wasn’t necessary so we skipped it!
•Programs—We decided to forgo programs because our ceremony was less than 30 minutes long. We didn’t have a big wedding party and wanted to keep things simple. Most guests look at the program once then throw them in the trash. A money saver right there!
•Bridal Party—Believe it or not, we decided to forgo having a big wedding party. With all our siblings and friends, we would have had over 8 people on each side. So instead of spending a ton of money on gifts and attire, we opted to have our sister and brother stand by our side. It also kept the attention on us that day and allowed us to have a more intimate ceremony. Everyone is different when making this decision (an important one) but it worked so well for us
•DIY—We bought all of our lights, guest bags and a lot of our decor on Amazon. We were also lucky that our wedding planner had a lot of the decor that we needed so she didn’t charge us to use them. Make sure you ask your planner before purchasing anything! I also designed all of our table numbers, seating chart, itineraries and stickers online using CANVA. Designing is something I love to do so it was worth the extra time because I got to see my vision all over the place when walking into our tent. It also saved us a lot of money doing it ourselves.
Wedding planning was one of the more stressful times of our relationship because it was the first time we really got to see how one another work side by side while making decisions. I wouldn’t take back single moment of the planning process or the beautiful day we spent celebrating with our loved ones. We are so happy with our decision to have a short engagement that was focused on what we really wanted. Our day was just the first step in our marriage and we can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.
Thank you to all the people who made our day possible, our vendors and especially our parents. We could not have pulled off such a stunning weekend without all of you.