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Southern Weddings

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With so many of us moving far and wide these days, it seems that all of the wedding invitations my husband and I get are destination for us! And we don’t mind that one bit. It’s fun to combine loved ones’ celebrations with an opportunity to see new areas of the country. Your wedding certainly does not have to involve a beachy locale to feel like a vacation. If you’re planning a wedding that most of your guests will need to travel to, you might want to consider ease of transportation, scenic beauty, uniqueness of culture, and abundance of activities when choosing a venue.

One of my absolute favorite getaways we’ve taken so far was for a three-day stay on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. I’m still dreaming of that weekend! Between the peaceful country roads winding past the white fences and fields of horses, the delicious restaurants and distillery tours, the beautiful hiking and horseback riding trails, and everything there is to see in Lexington, this area of Kentucky is divine!

All this gets me dreaming of how amazing it would be to be invited to a Keeneland wedding! If you’re looking for something super fun and different for your guests, combined with a rich Southern culture, I don’t think I can recommend Keeneland enough.

Keeneland certainly hits all the cultural marks, and it’s a fantastic location for guests to be totally immersed in horse country. At Keeneland, guests can watch horses during their morning track workouts or tour the Keeneland Sales Pavilion, the largest stage in the world when it comes to Thoroughbred racehorse auctions. You can even work with the Keeneland staff to organize tours of nearby horse farms for your guests. These experiences will give your guests an unforgettable behind-the-scenes peek of the horse industry.

Not only is Keeneland located in the heart of horse country, it’s also in the heart of the Birthplace of Bourbon! You can work with Keeneland to bring in Master Distillers from nearby distilleries for tastings, cocktail hours, or receptions to add a uniquely “Kentucky” bourbon experience to your wedding.

Keeneland boasts 1,200 acres of property and is home to a variety of venues to match your personality and style. One of these is Keene Place, the original home of the Keene family, built in 1805. Or you can hold a reception in the Keeneland Clubhouse and have the breathtaking views of the Keeneland racetrack serve as the backdrop for your wedding.

You can also share this rich Kentucky culture with your guests through thoughtful welcome gifts! The staff at the Keeneland Shop can fill your welcome baskets with bourbon balls, bowties, mint julep candles and more so your guests can take home a piece of Kentucky.

To top it all off, Keeneland is located right across the street from the Bluegrass Airport, providing easy accessibility from all over the world. And I haven’t even mentioned Lexington’s sweet Southern charm yet! I can’t think of a better location to show off your Southern hospitality than a wedding at Keeneland!

The wedding photos in this post are by Chris Cornwell Photography, Bobbi and Mike Photography, Nina and Wes Photography, and Rebecca Shehorn Photography. This post is brought to you by Keeneland, a quintessentially Southern venue we know and love. Thanks for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

Written with love by Catherine
1 Comment
  1. avatar Janna Toruno reply

    So neat! We are doing a semi-destination wedding in Folkston, Georgia. It’s only 2 hours from our hometown of Gainesville, FL. It’s right near the South Georgia Coast- so our guests can stay in town and see the trains that the town is known for or visit St. Simon’s Island if they want!

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One thing I knew from the start of my engagement? We wanted to dance to the tunes of a swing band at our reception. I’m an old soul, and I just knew we’d never be able to create our desired vibe without a horn section!

However, as certain as I was about wanting a band, I was entirely uncertain about which band I wanted. Few things affect your reception’s mood more than the band or DJ, and a band is such an unknown! Will they sound good? Will they play the right songs? Will they be cheesy? Will they be able to read and adjust to the crowd? Ahh!

If you’ve struggled with the same questions, you’re in the right place. To help set your fears at ease, we invited our friends Sol Fusion, winners of the inaugural Best of the South Wedding Awards’ Best Band (!!), to offer some advice on booking a band for your wedding.

Hopefully, your story will turn out much like mine: with a rocking band that’s the highlight of your reception :)

From Sol Fusion: Booking your wedding band can be a lot like online dating. You search through endless websites and profiles hoping to find a match that catches your eye. At the same time, you hope your new prospect is actually available, will fit in with your group of friends, and will be pleasing to your parents and grandparents. Here are four tips to help you find true love! :)

1. Identify your parameters. Ask yourself a few questions as you get started: What sort of vibe do you envision for your reception? Does your venue have space constraints that would limit the size of the band it can accommodate? What is your wedding date? Your entertainment budget?

2. Make it personal. How can your potential entertainment options add to the personalization of your wedding day? If there’s a must-have first dance song for sentimental reasons, do they know it or can they learn it? Same goes for mother/son and father/daughter dances!

3. Ask questions. A good band should be ready and willing to answer them! Don’t hesitate to ask them:

— How long will they play?
— Will they take breaks, and if so, how are they handled?
— How is the set list put together and can you veto or add in songs?
— Have they performed in your venue before and are they familiar with its acoustic, power, and amplification requirements?
— Do they offer ceremony and cocktail hour packages or upgrades?
— Are certain band members guaranteed? What happens if a band member falls ill on the day of the event? If the band dissolves prior to your event date?

4. Use an agency. Using a reputable agency can streamline your search for finding fitting entertainment (and when wedding planning, streamlining is always a good thing!). Because agencies represent multiple artists, they have the resources to connect you with artists who fit your criteria regardless of your budget or how eclectic your tastes might be. There are also fewer hurt feelings or cringe-worthy moments along the way — if you just don’t think a certain band will be a good fit, the agency will simply provide additional options!

An agency also acts as an insurance policy, ensuring that the band you book is reputable and will show up as contracted. If something unforeseen should happen, the agency has the resources to pull equitable or better talent to fill in – whew!

I’d love to hear: Will you have a band at your wedding? Or is your vibe more DJ? :)

Voted Best Band in the 2017 Best of the South awards by Southern Weddings, Sol Fusion is one of the nation’s premiere private events bands. Based in Charlotte, NC, the 11-piece musical powerhouse has performed at high-profile wedding and corporate functions throughout the United States and beyond.

Sol Fusion is exclusively represented by ECE (formally East Coast Entertainment), a long-time Blue Ribbon Vendor and the largest full-service entertainment agency in the country arranging unforgettable entertainment and producing custom events from coast-to-coast and around the world.

All wedding photos by Caroline Lima. This post is brought to you by ECE and Sol Fusion, two vendors we know and love. Thanks for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
1 Comment
  1. avatar CJOHN reply

    Very helpful…Thank you!

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I’ve had the privilege of helping many friends and family members plan their weddings over the years –when you work at a wedding magazine, you become the go-to gal! As much fun as it is to dream about color schemes and escort card ideas, the area where I feel I’m really able to add value is the logistics. A wedding day is a complicated event with a LOT of moving parts, and if you’ve never planned one before (and don’t necessarily have the assistance of a planner), it can be overwhelming.

A solid wedding day timeline is the best tool I know for making sure the right things happen at the right time with the right people present, and so today, we’re going to walk through how to create one!

A note: If you’re working with a wedding planner or day of coordinator, creating a wedding day timeline is likely something she will handle. If you’re on your own, it is absolutely essential that you create one of these yourself. (And trust me, there are very few things that I will say are essential for every single wedding!) A well-crafted timeline creates a seamless experience for your beloved guests (and maximizes your time with them!), helps your vendors do their best work, and cuts down on the amount of “managing” you’ll need to do on your wedding day — all very good things!

Let’s get started!

Begin by gathering information and materials. Collect all of the information you have, especially the parts that are externally set/not in your control. It might help to start by asking yourself these questions:

A note: Most ceremonies last approximately twenty minutes, but I would recommend rounding up to at least 30 minutes – and some can be much longer. Add up liturgy, readings, entrances, vows, homily, communion, rituals, etc. to get a ballpark.)

Whew! Answering these might require conversation with your vendors, particularly on subjects like food timing. Your caterer will have the best idea of how long it will take to serve all of your guests at your venue based on whether you’re having a plated dinner, a family style meal, or a buffet, and your photographer can advise you on how long portraits will take based on the list you give him. If they don’t offer this info, ask! Never assume you’re on the same page about how things will run – always confirm.

Add times and details as you confirm them. As decisions are made and information comes in, start plugging each piece into a doc (Word or Excel, your choice!). For example, you probably already know what time you have to vacate your reception venue, so that’s a great place to start! If you’re totally stuck, here’s the general arc most evening dinner receptions at two locations tend to follow:

Of course, there are many, many, many factors that can affect this timeline. Let’s discuss a few.

— One location or two. If your ceremony and reception are at different locations, be sure to build in time for your guests to get to their cars, travel, park, and walk. Take traffic into consideration. I would recommend underestimating the amount of time travel will take, because there are few things worse than having guests arrive to a reception that’s not ready for them!
Portraits. While there are many reasons to recommend them, first looks are not the only option – but, if you’re not having one, you need to be realistic about the time of year and time of day you’re getting married, and adjust your expectations accordingly. (i.e. If you’re having a winter ceremony at 5pm, don’t expect your photographer to be able to capture daylight portraits.) Whether or not you’re having a first look, I recommend checking off as many bridal party and family portraits as you can before the ceremony, and leaving a concise list of group portraits for after.
Location and transportation. Confirm where the gents and ladies will be getting ready, and if it’s not at the ceremony location, confirm transportation for everyone as well as how long it will take. If you’re taking portraits at the ceremony venue but getting ready elsewhere, consider putting on your gown once you arrive to make travel easier!
Dances. At our wedding, we moved immediately into our first dance when we entered the reception, which I loved. You could also use your first dance or parent dances to open the dance floor after dinner, or do them during dinner.
Toasts. I like when toasts are offered during dinner, perhaps between courses. I’d also recommend splitting them up, so guests are able to focus on each one individually.
Sunset. Your photographer will likely suggest taking a few bride and groom portraits at sunset. Even if you did a first look, I think this mini portrait session (10-15 minutes) is a great idea. You’ll be in a different “head space” than before the ceremony, and it will also give you a chance to be (mostly) alone in the middle of your reception. And, there will be lovely glowing light!

Photo by Blue Ribbon Vendor Sawyer Baird

And finally, a few tips to remember:

Guest will arrive early. Fact. Plan to begin your pre-ceremony music at least half an hour before the invite start time. Likewise, if you’re doing a first look or pre-ceremony portraits, have everything wrapped up and be “hidden” away from guests at least half an hour beforehand – otherwise you might get caught chatting with arriving guests when you’d rather be spending a few quiet minutes with your ladies.
Make multiple versions of your timeline. I had a typed, single-spaced, two-page timeline that outlined exactly where every person was going to be for nearly every minute of the day — but I certainly didn’t send it to anyone but my day-of coordinator. That would have been completely overwhelming! I made simplified versions for each major vendor, and emailed them out a week in advance. I also printed out personalized copies for family members and the bridal party, so everyone felt confident about where they had to be when.

Photo by Blue Ribbon Vendor Gandy Photographers

For all this talk of detail, though, hear this: your wedding timeline is a guideline. As long as you don’t keep guests waiting and the food is fresh, it’s totally fine to deviate from it as the day begins to flow. And that’s where a talented coordinator or planner comes in. I know one is not in every budget, but I would highly recommend making room for one if you can, and if not, at least arranging a handpicked family member or friend to be the point person on the big day. If you’re the type to stress over whether everything is getting set up correctly and whether little details are being taken care of, a coordinator could be the best gift you give yourself. I think a coordinator is also a gift to your family and friends – both because you’ll be less stressed, and because it will allow them to relax, as well. A win win!

Tell me: Do you have a timeline for your wedding day yet? Are you doing anything different with the flow of your day? I’d love to hear!

P.S. Does this advice sound reasonable to you? (Ha! Hopefully!!) Well, if you love it, you will surely love our Joyful Wedding Planner – there’s lots more where this came from!

emily Written with love by Emily
4 Comments
  1. avatar Kelly reply

    I love this information! So resourceful, I can’t wait to use it some day. :)

  2. avatar Kyla Shattuck reply

    This almost perfectly matches the timeline we built for our June wedding! Our timeline was crucial to ensuring that every meaningful moment had space in the day to be enjoyed, but also left room for spontaneous moments to bless us throughout the day! :)

  3. avatar Pixie Weddings reply

    Great article as always! Leaving contingency time in the morning is so important just in case of any last minute delays or dramas!

  4. avatar Kristina reply

    I’m a reader from Germany and have always been curious about one thing when reading about or hearing of American weddings. And that’s the fact that there is a definite end to the reception. Is there a traditional reason for that? All the weddings that I have been to ended after the last guest had left. And that is usually not until well into the early morning hours. It’s just one thing that has always struck me as a big difference between American and German weddings and I was just wondering if you, as the wedding experts, could tell me if there was a reason for it. Lots of love from Berlin, Kristina

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