14 Months Before The Wedding…
TABLE OF CONENTS
Wedding planning has been interesting… to say the least. Quarantine has thrown a rift into all of our lives, and it just so happened to be my wedding planning year. I can’t say I’m TOO upset however. Now that we are working remotely, I have more time on my hands to get the planning done. And there are some awesome perks for getting ahead of the game that I want to share with you today.
But first, Ben & I got engaged in March. If you missed the proposal, you can watch it here! While we were in San Francisco, the US began to go on lockdown and we were right in the center of it! Thankfully our flight home was just a few hours before the city shut down.
Fast forward to June and we are all in Quarantine. I’m now working remotely and have been allowed more time to plan my wedding. At first, I was reluctant to begin planning. With all the uncertainty that surrounded COVID, I was wondering if i would even have a job 2 months from now.
It took about 3 months of quarantining and unfathomable boredom before I started looking for wedding venues. As I investigated, I found that there were many weddings getting pushed back or cancelled completely. So, I decided to get ahead of the game and look at availability for 2021. I’m am SO HAPPY I did because there were not many weekend spots left in the year. It was a difficult time to find a venue you loved and to find a weekend in the season you wanted, and have it be withing your price range.
Although I was dreaming of a Fall wedding my venue only had August 21st, or the weekend of Thanksgiving 2021 left. So hot, humid, August it is!
So here I am in June 2020, 14 months before my wedding, starting the planning process. It may be too early for some, but I’m quite happy with how far in advance I began planning. There are a lot of benefits to starting your wedding planning ahead of time. So I wanted to share everything I was able to knock out early, along with a few tips.
Before I begin, the best advice I can give is to figure out your budget first and a guest count. Crunching the numbers may make you realize that having a big wedding with 150+ people is not a realistic goal. Besides the venue, food and bar tabs will cost you the most money. You can expect a wedding of 120+ people to cost between 3-8k for food and 3-6k for beverages separately. Of course, there are ways to keep those numbers down. You can opt for a smaller guest list, a cheaper venue, or a venue that allows you to bring in your own catering and alcohol. Sit down with your partner and decide on what type of wedding you want to have, and what is within your means. Establishing this foundation will help you on your search for venue’s and vendors.
(14 Months before the wedding)
Found our Wedding Venue
Found our Photographer (@katiedewaldphotography)
Found our DJ
Found our Caterer
Found our Month of Wedding Planner
Sent out DIY Bridesmaid Boxes
// OUR WEDDING VENUE
It wasn’t too hard for me to settle on a wedding venue, however, it was difficult finding dates in the season I wanted (Fall). I always knew I wanted an outdoor ceremony and/or reception. I wanted a beautiful oak tree backdrop with Spanish moss, sunset hour wedding photos, and open & airy spaces for friends & family to enjoy. I looked at many plantation-style weddings in South Carolina but ultimately decided on a venue in the town we fell in love, Wilmington, NC.
Our venue is the beautiful Wrightsville Manor. It has everything I wanted including the oak tree backdrop, room for an outdoor ceremony and indoor reception. It’s located only 2 miles from the beach, and only 2 hours from most of our family and friends. We figured it would be an inexpensive trip for everyone, and they will get to enjoy the beach outside of wedding plans. I’m currently looking at places for family from out of town to stay but will include this in a post later down the road (everything is up in the air with covid!)
Tips: When looking at the venue’s be sure to read the fine text. Especially in the contract before signing. Some venues require that you work with their preferred vendors, which can be more expensive than finding one yourself. Have a list of questions drawn up like: What is your rainy day policy? What happens if I need to reschedule my wedding? What vendors am I allowed to bring in? Most of this will be detailed in your contract, but it’s worth reaching out before you sign anything.
// OUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
Ben & I are blessed to have both our families chipping in, so when were looking at our budget, we had to figure out what items were most important. As much as I would LOVE to have a videographer, we just can’t afford it. However, we all know how much I love Photography, editing, & design, so I wanted to make sure I found a photographer with a great portfolio, but also someone Ben & I could have fun with at the wedding.
I spent a few hours scrolling through Instagram and reaching out to photographers. After all, that is one of the easiest ways to see someone’s portfolio.
I highly recommend looking through as MANY photographers as possible. It took me about 2 weeks to decide on mine, but I searched for hours.
Budget tip: Don’t just look for photographers, IN your city or state. Search for photographers from ALL over. You’d be surprised at how many photographers are willing to travel for an extra charge or for free depending on their location!
Search tip: Search for a few photographers that shoot in the “style” you like (ex: moody/dark, golden hour lighting, or bright & airy) on Instagram. You will see suggested accounts pop up at the top of the profile you are viewing. Make sure to check out these other photographers as most of the shoot in a similar style!
Our photographer, @katiedewald, lives in South Carolina. We spent some time chatting about my vision for the day, what she brings to the table, her rates, and what’s included. Thankfully she was able to help me make that dream come true with staying within our budget!
Here are some other photographers I fell in love with during my search and were so nice, responsive, and reasonably priced. (PS- I’m a sucker for golden hour lighting ).
// OUR DJ
Our DJ’s were a no brainer. Ben & I both worked at a restaurant in Wilmington when we first started dating. On certain nights of the week we had karaoke (which Ben would jump in and sing occasionally) and Trivia. We ended up becoming close with the couple (Chris & Melodee) who ran Party Gras Entertainment at our restaurant!
It was a pretty easy decision. Not only are Chris & Melodee the KINDEST human beings, but they were also there during the first few years we dated, so they know our relationship very well as well as a good portion of the people attending the wedding.
Budget Tip: If you want to save money, try reaching out to your musically inclined friends, family, and any referrals you can get. If you want to save even more, opt to create your own wedding playlist and set up with your laptop, iPhone, or iPod.
// OUR CATERER
My coworker and few people I know have gotten married at Wrightsville Manor. I reached out to them to see who they used for their caterer. All of them used the same one, Middle of the Island. Not only were his rates some of the best around, CM and his staff have received some of the most prestigious catering awards for the industry. Because we are having a late dinner, we opted for a buffet-style menu rather than seated. We will have our first tasting in January!
Tip: Get the pricing from as many vendors as you can. Think about your wedding day and whether you want a seated dinner or buffet style. Our wedding is going to be more laid back, with a late dinner, so we opted for a serve-yourself buffet style package. You will also have additional costs for china, linens, glassware, set up fees, and servers.
// OUR MONTH OF PLANNER
Wrightsville Manor makes you select your food vendor AND wedding planner from their preferred vendor list. And you better believe I went through EVERY SINGLE ONE. I finally landed on Belle Ame Events. Not only did she have amazing reviews, but she is also one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Her pricing is something you can not beat. Most wedding planners’ services started at $1,700 / $1,800 for just the DAY OF PLANNER! (Keep in mind you also have to pay for the linens and rentals on top of that).
However, we saved around $500 AND have a month of planner with Jennifer. If you end up getting married at Wrightsville Manor, I highly recommend using her services.
Budget Tip: Most venues will require you work with a preferred wedding planner. These ladies are typically very familiar with the space you are getting married in, and can paint you a beautiful picture of how your wedding day will look. If you are a very organized, make-it-happen kind of bride, you can save a ton of money with a day – of planner (raning in the $500-1.5k range) If you want to handle all the large details, but still need a bit more guidance, opt for a month of planner ($1,200-2k). And if you feel completely lost and need someone to hold the reins for you, investing in a 6 month planner may be worth your while (3k +).
// DIY BRIDESMAID BOXES
I ended up with 9 bridesmaids! Yes, that’s a lot. But I have so many close friends I want to be there with me on my special day. They all my nearest, dearest, closest friends, and I couldn’t imagine leaving one of them out.
Pro Tip: When it comes to choosing bridesmaids – do not let ANYONE influence your decisions. Not family, and definitely not your friends. This is your day. I’ve had a lot of people tell me who I should and should not choose, or that I have too many bridesmaids and should keep it small. No, no thank you! Do what is going to make you happy (and also keep the budget in mind). 😀
Because I have so many bridesmaids I have to keep gifts and favors to a minimum. And with working remotely- I had all the time in the world to craft something special, and rather inexpensive. My budget for 9 gift boxes was $200. And I came in right at $180 including the boxes, stuffing, gifts, and $20 in shipping. CLICK HERE if you want to read the full blog post with links to everything I bought !!
In conclusion: The benefits of beginning planning 14 months ahead is that you have time to figure out the big details – Budget, Venue, Food Vendor, Bar Tab. Then you can move on to planning things like your photographer, dj, and rental suppliers. By planning ahead of time, you’ll have more time to save and plan out the finer details.
You also have more time to start DIY projects for your special day. Things like signs, invites, table placements, and boquets! I’ll be doing some of the projects at home to save money, so I’ll share more of these down the road. Stay tuned!