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You’ve probably heard us say this before, and we’ll repeat it till the cows come home, because gracious, it can save you so much stress: don’t book any of your vendors till you’ve signed on the dotted line for a venue!

I will be the first to raise my hand when I say this may be easier said than done, though. When I was wedding planning, my now-husband and I had an immediate bead on our officiant and photographer, and were eager to confirm the dates with them. But, our venue search took MUCH longer than we ever suspected! (And ended — long story short — with John scrolling Google Maps satellite view to find a patch of coastal land where we could pitch a tent!) I can’t imagine the headache it could’ve caused if we had put down deposits on other vendors before securing the place where our “I dos” would take place (and, of course, the official date!).

Along with setting your date in stone, your venue will likely have more of an influence on your wedding than any other decision–it will determine the style and aesthetic, your guest count, and even the timeline of the day. Below are a few tips for making this important decision!

Start with Google. While venues that market themselves to weddings generally have a lot of information online, unusual or “off the beaten path” options may be harder to find through a simple search. Try searching for phrases like “North Carolina barn wedding” or “Atlanta ballroom wedding”–those terms are likely to bring up posts on wedding blogs (oh hi! :)) and photographers’ blogs, which can be a great way to both find new venues and see how others have used the spaces.

Compare apples to apples. When you’re booking a venue, you’re often booking more than just the space–you may also be booking their in-house staffing, rentals, catering etc. All venues calculate their prices differently, so as you research, try to organize the information in a way that’s easy for you to understand and compare. For example, one venue may seem exorbitantly more expensive than another at first, but when you learn that the first price includes a month-of coordinator, valet parking, and use of their extensive rental inventory, while the second is just use of the space, the first may actually be the more affordable option.

Visit your venue one year in advance. If you can, try to visit venues as close to a year in advance of your wedding date as possible–it will give you the best insight as to what you can expect in terms of landscaping and scenery.

Get it in writing. Especially if you are asking for particular allowances, such as hanging a certain type of decor or arranging the space in a unique way, be sure to get the venue’s agreement in writing. That way, even if there’s staff turnover during your engagement, your provisions should be safe.

Here are a few important questions to ask venues you’re interested in–pin the graphic below so you don’t forget! (P.S. If you have our Joyful Wedding Planner, you’ll also find this list in there to bring to your appointments.)

I’d love to know–what made you say “yes” to your wedding venue?

emily Written with love by Emily
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    Bride Ivana shares her glam Texas ballroom wedding!

    Any professional football fans reading today? :) I wouldn’t necessarily count myself amongst your ranks, but Ivana and Jordan’s wedding (featured in our tenth-anniversary issue!) has given me a new reason to care about the upcoming Super Bowl! Jordan plays for the Eagles, and so I, having fallen in love with this sweet couple and having no other existing allegiances, will definitely be rooting for Philadelphia on Sunday.

    Of course, you can sport another team’s jersey and still cheer for Team Hicks – they’ve made it easy! From their surprise first dance to their thoughts on serving communion at their ceremony, theirs was a ballroom wedding that oozed personality.

    Thanks to Blue Ribbon Vendor Jen Dillender for sharing these beautiful photos!

    How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We met through a mutual friend Jordan’s sophomore year, my junior year, in college. My friend Lydia and I were talking at a picnic table in the heart of campus as Jordan was walking by. Lydia calls him over to say hi and he briefly introduced himself to me. A day later, he reached out to Lydia asking about me, and and before I knew it, I was seeing him more and more around our 40 acre campus. We eventually exchanged numbers which led to us going on our first date. Since then, we have been inseparable!

    How did you prepare for marriage while planning your wedding? Jordan was in (football) season, so we did marriage counseling with the Eagles team chaplain and his wife. We went through many exercises doing all that we could to set a solid foundation before we were actually married. It truly was a blessing to have them guide and prepare us in this new season in life.
    Tell us all the basics of your wedding! We had an evening June wedding at the Barton Creek Hotel in Austin, Texas on June 24th, 2017 at 6pm. With Jordan’s schedule, we had to choose a time when he wasn’t in season or in spring training, but it turned out to be the most perfect June wedding.

    What was the design inspiration for your wedding? I wanted an elegant, romantic setting with lush peonies and candles everywhere. The colors were blush, white, and gold.
    What was your favorite detail of the wedding? My favorite detail of the wedding was taking communion right after we said our vows.

    Tell us about your wedding flowers. I love peonies, and knew that I wanted them in my wedding. I had a mix of peonies, pink garden roses, and white orchids. They are flowers that are timeless, beautiful, and make a statement.
    Did you write your own vows? We did. My favorite verse that I wrote was: “I promise to be loving, faithful, and true to you always! I promise to uplift you, motivate you, and stand with you when you’re low. I promise to always celebrate, admire, and treasure your highs. I promise to always be your best friend!”

    Describe some of the decorations or décor elements you used. One decor element I wanted to see everywhere were candles. I wanted the room to be lit up for a romantic setting.
    What kind of food did you serve at your reception? To start, we served a Mexican wedge salad. For the entree, guests had the option to choose between the jalapeno-brined chicken with smoked tomato butter and the seared sea bass with tomato caper relish. Both were served with garlic rosemary mashed potatoes, and seasonal roasted vegetables.

    Tell us a bit about your first dance. Jordan and I surprised our guests with a Latin dance by Marc Anthony as soon as our first dance ended. It was so much fun, especially for him to take part in my Latin culture. Our friends and family loved it!
    Tell us about your wedding cake! Our cake was a six layer white cake with beautiful fresh flowers that consisted of two flavors. Our flavors were orange, and chocolate cake with strawberry and grand marnier whipped cream filling.
    What is the one thing that made your wedding different from anyone else’s wedding? We really tried to cater to our guests. Every person there had impacted us in some way, so we wanted to make everyone feel special and as if they were being catered to.

    Describe the proposal! At the time Jordan and I were long distance because he had relocated from Austin to Philadelphia to play for the Eagles, so we planned a trip to Turks & Caicos I was very much looking forward to. We took a private boat ride, and 20 minutes or so into our sail, Captain Tim tells us we’re about to pass what many believe is the most beautiful part of Turks & Caicos. Jordan gets up to quickly refill his drink, but when he returned, he returned with much more than a refill. He gave me his hand to help stand me up. Not a word was said as we locked our eyes together. I knew IT was about to happen. He promised me a lifelong love, and made me the happiest girl in the world as he asked me to marry him. Jon, ‘the crew member,’ came over to re-introduce himself to me as ‘Jon, the photographer.’ Afterwards, we celebrated, did our engagement shoot around the islands, and even got to swim with wild dolphins which was a sweet ending to our perfect day.
    How many guests attended your wedding? 250
    What was Jordan’s favorite detail of the wedding? (From Jordan) My favorite detail of the wedding was the surprise first dance. I am not much of a dancer and was nervous to do it all the way up until the music began playing. Once we started dancing everything happened perfectly, even better than we had practiced. For me, it was fun to step out of my comfort zone and be able to bring excitement to the reception.
    What was your reception like? It was so much fun! We couldn’t get off the dance floor and neither could our guests. For the last dance, we surprised everyone with gold and white confetti poppers that added the perfect touch to the night.
    What was Southern about your wedding? Our wedding revolved around our faith. This was what was most important to us: that not only did people see our love for one another, but for Jesus Christ as well. The first thing we did as husband and wife was take communion, vowing that our foundation will be found in Him.
    What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? My advice is that if you’re planning a wedding from afar, I highly recommend hiring a planner. It is so important to hire someone that you instantly connect with! Remember, you’ll be talking, texting, emailing, and meeting with them for the entire process, so choose someone you can imagine building a friendship with. Plus, it just makes the process that much more fun, and stress-free.

    Photographer: Jen Dillender | Videographer: Wes Raitt | Planner and Designer: Brock + Co Events | Ceremony and Reception Venue:Barton Creek Resort + Spa | Florals: Botanical No.9 | Wedding Cake Baker: Simon Lee Bakery | Bride’s Gown: “Fiona” by Galia Lahav | Bridal Salon: Ivory Bridal | Bride’s Shoes: Christian Louboutin | Bride’s Jewelry: Russell Korman Jewelry | Bride’s Veil: Galia Lahav | Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Lola Beauty | Groom’s Fashion: Soto & Co | Rentals: Whim Hospitality | Linens: Nuage Designs | Decor: Townsley Designs | Favors: Cornucopia Popcorn | Lighting: Filo Productions

    emily Written with love by Emily
    5 Comments
    1. avatar Meet the Eagles’ WAGs — the true Super Bowl winners – Feeds van DiG.nl reply

      […] 26-year-old blogger is the wife of linebacker Jordan Hicks. She tells Southern Weddings that she met her hubby while studying at the University of Texas. “Since then, we have been […]

    2. avatar Meet the wives and girlfriends of the Philadelphia Eagles who celebrated with their better halves as the team won its first Super Bowl ever | Breaking News Time | Live News | Current News | Fast News – US, UK & World reply

      […] told Southern Weddings: ‘We met through a mutual friend [during] Jordan’s sophomore year, my junior year, in […]

    3. avatar Meet the wives and girlfriends of the Philadelphia Eagles #Leadership @MondoPlayer [Video] – MondoPlayer reply

      […] told Southern Weddings: ‘We met through a mutual friend [during] Jordan’s sophomore year, my junior year, in […]

    4. avatar Meet wives and girlfriends of the Philadelphia Eagles   | Australia News Today reply

      […] told Southern Weddings: 'We met through a mutual friend [during] Jordan's sophomore year, my junior year, in […]

    5. avatar Alisha Bradley reply

      I LOVE the save the dates. Where can I order these?!?

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    Bride Maggie shares her waterfront wedding at her groom’s family home!

    I have a real soft spot for weddings hosted at the bride or groom’s family home. After all, there isn’t a venue much more personal than that, and you’re unlikely to have already been to someone else’s wedding there before! That’s why the sentiment behind today’s couple’s perfect ceremony location is so sweet. Bride Maggie shared, “After looking at several out-of-town venues, we both felt that something was missing. We wanted something personal, special and unique to the two of us that we could make our own. We wanted something that felt like home. Then we realized that our venue was in right in front of us: between two coconut palms in the backyard of Michael’s childhood home on Davis Islands, overlooking the the Hillsborough Bay. Home to Michael’s parents with his grandmother residing next door, this property has been in Michael’s family for nearly 70 years and been the backdrop for family celebrations and gatherings for six generations. With the help of Ian Prosser and Zoe Gallina of Botanica, our dream became a reality.”

    Maybe the best part is that while the groom and his groomsmen proceeded out of his family home, Maggie and her dad were able to hide away and make their entrance from his grandmother’s home right next door! Read on for more of the lovely details behind this waterfront wedding!

    Big hugs to Justin Demutiis for sharing this celebration with us!

    Tell us the highlights of finding your wedding dress. Growing up in Atlanta, we would always drive by an adorable, vintage bridal store called Kelly’s Closet. I always dreamed of getting my dress there one day, but never really thought it would happen. Kelly’s Closet was our first stop when we went dress shopping, and I tried on a beautiful Tulle NY gown. It was the perfect dress: simple elegance and a great skirt for a good twirl. My mom, my mom’s best friend, and my two best friends were with me and we all agreed: it was the one.

    We did a first look and wouldn’t have a changed a thing about it. It was important to us to have an intimate moment between just the two of before the wedding, and it truly did ease our nerves. We will never forget how special that time was together.

    Our ceremony was incredibly special. For starters, my bridesmaids, my dad and I walked to the procession from Michael’s grandmother’s home, and Michael, his groomsmen, and our family walked out from his parent’s home. My Uncle Nelson is an amazing musician. He joined the string quartet with his mandolin and played Rod Stewart’s “Maggie Mae” as my Dad and I walked down the aisle. Our officiant, Reverend Kathy Conner, performed a meaningful and special ceremony. Before we said our vows, Kathy asked that we turn around and face our guests. She told us to look at everyone there to support us. She told us to remember the moment as these are the people that love you and will continue to love us and support us for the rest of our lives. We were able to take in the moment and it is a part of our ceremony that was so moving for both of us. At the end of the ceremony, as Michael and I were announced as Mr. & Mrs, Michael’s brother-in-law coordinated a celebratory cannon salute from a friend’s boat in the bay. They even had binoculars to watch for our kiss as their cue. It was pretty spectacular.

    What was your favorite detail from your wedding? It is so hard to pick the most memorable moment because the entire day was filled with incredible ones! One of my favorites was the gardenias in my bouquet and flower crown and on Michael’s boutonnière. The Gardenia flower is my mom’s favorite.

    Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I can’t write about the songs without writing about the band. We chose Yacht Rock Revue from Atlanta, my home town. I had seen them perform numerous times in Atlanta. They play the smoothest hits from the 1970s and 80s, dress the part, and have the ability to connect with anyone aged 9 to 90. They are incredibly fun, wildly talented and really entertaining. We walked toward the dance floor as the band introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. to “Silly Love Songs.” It’s just a feel good song that we both love, it has a great beat, and fits with the theme we wanted to create for the evening. Our first dance was to “God Only Knows.” We were listening to The Beach Boys Pet Sounds album one weekend and this one spoke to us. It’s just a classic, sweet, beautifully composed song that we both love. I danced with my dad to Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey.” It’s his favorite song by his favorite artist. In his welcome speech at the reception, he dedicated the song to his Tupelo Honey, my mom. Michael and his Mom danced to “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Michael’s grandmother used to sing this to him when he was a child.

    Tell us all about the proposal! When I got home from work on a Friday afternoon, Michael was waiting for me on the dock at our house where he proposed! It was absolutely perfect. After he proposed, Michael told me to get ready and that there was another surprise waiting. We got in the car and drove to his parents’ home. Michael surprised me with both of our families and our closest friends waiting to celebrate with us. It was one of the happiest days of our lives.
    When did y’all get married? December 10, 2016.
    How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 300.
    What did you serve for your wedding cake? Our wedding cake was vanilla chiffon cake with raspberry buttercream and cream cheese icing (Michael’s choice) and amaretto chiffon cake with cream cheese icing and toasted almonds.
    What was Southern about your wedding? We had an emphasis on family and tradition. They shaped our lives, and made us who we are. Also, there is nothing more Southern than having your first dance under a grand oak with lanterns hanging from the beautiful branches.
    What was your favorite thing about wedding planning? My favorite thing about wedding planning was the anticipation of having all of our friends and family together in one place.
    What was the hardest part about planning your wedding? The guest list. Michael and I come from very large families and both cast a very wide net of friends so it was definitely hard making the cuts and tough decisions.
    What was your most memorable moment from your wedding day? One of my most memorable moments was just before the ceremony. From Michael’s grandmother’s house, my Dad and I had a perfect view of all of the guests arriving, my mom being walked down the aisle by my two brothers, Michael and his groomsmen, and my bridesmaids walking in the procession. My dad and I shared a special, tearful moment, as we prepared for our walk to my soon-to-be husband. Walking down the aisle on my Dad’s arm, and seeing Michael at the end of the aisle was breathtaking and a moment I’ll never forget.
    What advice would you give to someone currently planning a wedding? Do not think too hard about the details. Remember that the most important thing is your the ceremony, and y’all being together with your dear family and friends. It will be the best night of your life.
    Is there anything else you’d like to share about your wedding? It was magical.

    Photographer: Justin Demutiis | Videographer: Voila Cinematic | Planner and Florist: Zoe Gallina | Ceremony and Reception Venue: Palori Family Home | Wedding Cake Baker: Hand’s On Sweets | Caterer: Puff n’ Stuff | Rentals:
    AFR Furniture Rentals, A Chair Affair, US Tent Rental | Lighting: The Production Crew | Band: Yacht Rock Revue | Paper Products: A&P Designs | Bride’s Gown: Tulle NY from Kelly’s Closet | Jewelry and Shoes: BHLDN | Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Elena Joseph | Groom’s Attire: SuitSupply | Transportation: Ambassador Limos | Parking: 717 Parking

    Justin Demutiis is a lovely member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor directory!

    Written with love by Catherine
    6 Comments
    1. avatar Lisa reply

      Those bridal party and groomsmen shots are pure gold!! So joyful and sweet!

    2. avatar Tegan reply

      love love LOVE the black and white dance floor – its on the ‘must’ list for our wedding

    3. avatar Sheffield Wedding Photographer reply

      Great Photos Justin! Beautiful inspiration

    4. avatar Maria reply

      What a gorgeous wedding! And great photography.

    5. avatar Sheffield Wedding Photographer reply

      Wow! Lost for words. What a great post!

    6. avatar Maggie + Michael – Justin DeMutiis Photography reply

      […]  Published on Southern Weddings […]

    Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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