Monday, February 9, 2015

Our Wedding:The Big Decisions

Before Nick and I began our wedding planning, I had us go through a little exercise to pick a few adjectives to describe what we wanted out of our wedding day so we could get on the same page. We both said very similar things but ended up narrowing it down to fun, relaxed, & simple-chic. While it seemed silly at the time, it became something we frequently referred back as it is VERY easy to get caught up in all the planning and lose grasp of your core wishes.  

I'm going to begin this mini-series with the decisions we made in the months leading up to our actual wedding day.

Our Priorities:

While budget tends to fuel decisions, I'm a firm believer that anything could be done at any price point... we needed to determine what parts of the wedding were of our highest priority.  From there you can choose to scale back on quantity or quality, buy things second-hand, borrow them from a friend, use coupons, negotiate cost, or do-it-yourself.

What topped our list?  tasty food, open bar, shuttle service for guests, amazing photographer

What fell to the bottom?  fancy wedding cake, limo for wedding party, videography, professional engagement pictures

Our Guest List:

This was the part I dreaded the most!  We are both lucky to be blessed with large families and lots of friends that have always been so loving and supportive, which made drawing that line very hard and very uncomfortable. Realistically, we had a limited budget (and limited space once we found our venue)... so difficult decisions had to be made.

We set a few simple rules:
  1. family comes first - our family members accounted for nearly 80% of our guest list, including immediate family, aunts, uncles, cousins and their kids.
  2. we both must know everyone there - we didn't want to spend the night doing introductions and instead wanted to spend our time celebrating with our closest friends and family; keeping the list small meant we could spend quality time with each person (a typical 4 hour reception & 100 guests allows ~ 2.5 minutes per person). Distant relatives were not invited, if we hadn't made the opportunity to see them in the past 3 years while we were dating then why pay $130+ per person to ask them to join in on this very special, intimate moment for us. We figured if friends from school/work/sports teams couldn't understand that the line had to be drawn somewhere, then they'll either get over it or they weren't friends in the first place.

After making an initial list, we knew we wanted ~100 adults in attendance so we invited 143 knowing some would not be able to make it. In the end, we only filled 4 spots due to people's last minute changes in commitments/plans. This is expected to happen, make sure to have a few people in mind who understand this situation and would love the opportunity to join in the event but won't be offended they CLEARLY didn't make 1st string. While wish we could have had invited all our friends to join us in our celebrations, we are very happy with the love and support that surrounded us on our special day!

The Venue/Ceremony:

We were looking for a venue that offered:
  • a single location that could host our ceremony & reception - we liked the simplicity of keeping our guests in one spot all night;
  • it's own character that complimented our "simple-chic" style;
  • was in the Baltimore-region - close to airport, hotels, and other activities to make it convenient for our out of town guests;
  • a ceremony location indoors (& outdoors if possible) - I, the paranoid bride, wanted to plan on having an indoor ceremony that could be moved outdoors if weather permitted, rather than be disappointed by bad weather; 
  • availability on a Saturday in Fall of 2014; and
  • cost ~$2000 (8% of our total budget).

After going to 10+ venues, we settled on Historic Oakland Manor in the center of Columbia, a cute town 20 min. south of Baltimore. While the structure wasn't super large, it had several options for the ceremony and reception both indoors and outdoors. Check to see if there is a specific vendor list that you must stick to, this might impact your decision. Historic Oakland did give us a list of recommended vendors who they've worked with in the past but did not restrict us to it. 

The Food:

I found this to be the most overwhelming vendor to find, simply because I had no idea where to start. Or maybe it was because it typically accounts for ~30% of your total budget... that one expensive decision! We were able to weed out caterers and identify others to look into more after attending a few Bridal Shows hosted by the venues we were looking into. Tip: I definitely recommend doing this, as it helps to discover new vendors, visualize what the venues look like full of people, and see different styling decisions in the place. We ended up going with Santoni's Caterering because they had very delicious food (main courses and finger foods alike), had bakery that could make the cake, and they were very responsive. Tip: Check to see if you can supply your own alcohol, this will help your budget. 

Looking back, I did have a really fun time planning our wedding. Coming home from work to a wedding project waiting for me was quite exciting, whether it be researching florists or making our Thank You cards. Now that doesn't mean I'm not glad that it's all over! Perhaps it's also a mixture of the cold weather, holidays, or winter germs kicking my butt, but I've found myself enjoying being a couch potato extra lately and avoiding being the brains behind planning anything - hence the long periods between posts, apologies!

What part of wedding planning did you find the most challenging? Is there something you would have done differently?  


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