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If you’re anything like me, you’ve had a secret wedding Pinterest board for longer than you’ve had a beau, but if you joined my last post, you know how important it is to prioritize your wedding budget before pinning another wedding bouquet (though they are lovely!).

Today, I’m excited to be sharing what our top two priorities have been during wedding planning, and a few ways we’re saving money with another vendor!

Our Wedding Venue

We took the advice of many wise friends and didn’t start dreaming about details or vendors until we secured our venue (and date!). Logan and I are both from North Carolina, but currently live in Atlanta, so we had quite a few location options we could have considered.

We knew early on where we wanted to get married, however. In fact, Logan casually told me before we were engaged that he knew where we were getting married. Talk about sending a girl into a tailspin! Glen-Ella Springs Inn in Clarkesville, GA was a place of refuge for us a year ago after very busy work seasons (the launch of Southern Weddings’ Volume 9 and PowerSheets), and we were overwhelmed by the hospitality and attention we experienced from their entire staff, particularly Luci and Ed, the innkeepers.

When they replied with only one available date between March and October, we were giddy. Albeit eager and excited, we wanted to do research before signing the dotted line to make sure it was a good investment. We took Emily’s advice and compared apples to apples. While Glen-Ella’s initial venue fee was higher than some other quotes we received, we soon realized it was by far the better deal because it included all tables, chairs, dishes, flatware, stemware, and linens.

A bonus for us? Glen-Ella’s restaurant is award-winning, and by booking them as our venue, we get to take advantage of their catering! Not only is the food delicious, but that’s one fewer vendor for us to find and manage!

Photo by Cariad Photography

Our Photographer

I was surprisingly calm during Logan’s proposal, not shedding a single tear! However, when we received a yes from my dream wedding photographer, I bawled my eyes out (and still do tear up when recounting this story to others)!

When Emily and Lisa returned from an editorial shoot for Volume 9, Lisa Kirk looked me in the eye and said, “I know this sounds strange and you aren’t getting married anytime soon, but I think Davy Whitener will shoot your wedding.” I giggled, shrugged it off, but was captivated when the photos for A Storied Love came in.

After spending time in Laurel, MS with Davy and his entire family for our Home Town Celebration editorial for our tenth anniversary issue, I knew I wanted Davy to be our wedding photographer. His demeanor throughout the entire day was nothing but joyful and hospitable, and I couldn’t think of anyone who better embodied our hope for our big day.

Photo by Davy Whitener from A Storied Love

Our Florist

While my Pinterest board was full of beautiful bouquets, I knew early on our flowers were an area where we would be able to save money. Our florist–Bella Flora Designs–has been phenomenal to work with. Not only has she given us options, but never once have we been pressured to spend more money than we have allocated.

Here are a few ways we’re saving in our floral budget:

  • We’ve hired a florist who has worked extensively at Glen-Ella Springs Inn. Susan and Renee’s familiarity with the space gives them an understanding of how to best invest our floral budget. Not only are they familiar with the space, they are local to the area, which means we’re saving on travel fees. Be sure to ask your venue for preferred vendors!
  • We’re flexible about the specifics. I’ve communicated my favorite flowers and color preference, but I trust their expertise in finding the most economical blooms for our bouquets and centerpieces. I’ve found that I’m actually excited about seeing what they create on the day-of!
  • Our bridesmaids are carrying smaller bouquets, and they will be repurposed for the buffet tables after the ceremony. We’re using a mixture of florals and candles for our centerpieces.
  • My three-year-old niece is our flower girl, and we’ve decided to forgo traditional flower girl petals, knowing it’d be a bit of a toss up if she’d actually throw them :)

While we’re certainly saving in our floral budget, I’m confident our flowers are going to be beautiful because I’ve seen Susan and Renee’s work and it matches my personal aesthetic!

I’d love to hear from you! Where did you find your wedding vendors? What made you choose them? I’d love to hear any personal stories!

Need some help prioritizing and planning your big day or want to stock up on gifts for friends? You’re in luck! Shop our Valentine’s Day sale in the Southern Weddings Shop! Our prompted wedding journal, all copies of Southern Weddings magazines, and my beloved Joyful Wedding Planner are up to 50% off!

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
9 Comments
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    I am still quite proud of that prediction, but most of all, I just can’t wait to see the way Davy captures you and Logan!!! Counting down the days!

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      I might have thought you were silly at the time, but boy am I grateful that you were right! Xx!

  2. avatar Stephanie Shaul reply

    Jess, I’m getting more and more excited for you, and I love hearing about yours and Logan’s wedding plans!! Our venue was really the only one we looked at and wanted, and it also had just one date open in almost a year-long span. Hence the six month engagement for us, too! But I truly am SO, so, so glad our engagement was six months (and I have a feeling you will be, too!), and I wouldn’t change that timing for the world. I can’t believe your wedding is coming up so soon – April weddings are the best!! xoxox

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Yes! I think about you and your encouragement often when thinking about our timeframe! Yay for April weddings!

  3. avatar Janna Toruno reply

    We knew what we were looking for and were open to a semi destination wedding, we actually found our dream venue from a Facebook ad! Daughter’s Barn in Folkston, Ga! Our photographer I found from Instagram and fell in love with their work! Southern Studios from Jacksonville, FL! Turns out they were old friends of my fiance’s family!

    • avatar Janna Toruno reply

      My mom is a retired florist, but I’m going with more of greenery on the tables with white pumpkins added in the mix. My niece is going to be carrying a cotton boll kissing ball.

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      I love hearing all about your day, Janna! What a fun connection with your photographer!

  4. avatar Tegan reply

    We picked our venue because it’s beautiful, associated with an incredible restaurant, and allows us to have an intimate ‘backyard’ wedding vibe while accommodating our larger guest list.
    My fiancé was on board with it from day one, but what honestly sold him on the venue was the fact that his college football team’s coach got married at the same venue!

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As an Editor for the Southern Weddings’ team, I’ve had the privilege of making Southern Weddings and chatting about Dating Well on the blog. Since getting engaged almost three months ago, I’ve gotten to experience Southern Weddings’ from a new perspective: a bride-to-be!

Emily will be the first to tell you I’ve always been a closet crier, and I often find myself tearing up reading our real wedding interviews or watching a wedding day video. But flipping through the pages of our tenth anniversary issue as a bride-to-be this year was different. For the first time I was imagining OUR wedding and OUR marriage, and let’s just say I used quite a few tissues during our launch season!

My fiancé, Logan, and I got engaged on October 21, 2017 while apple-picking in the NC mountains, and we’re planning an April 14, 2018 wedding. You likely just did the math on your fingers, and thought, “Wow, that’s quick!” Indeed! It’s been a whirlwind of planning a wedding, adjusting to a new city in a new state, continuing to serve in my job, and preparing for marriage–not just a wedding–alongside my fiancé, Logan. Our shorter engagement season has helped us learn how to prioritize what’s most important to us, and it’s teaching us skills that we know we’ll carry into our marriage.

Knowing we were working on a shorter timeframe, I’ve developed an even deeper affection for our Joyful Wedding Planner! It’s been my right-hand guide for this entire wedding-planning process! Whether you’re already engaged or have a sneaky suspicion that ring is coming (no one has to know; mine was tucked under my couch and if Logan ever saw it I’d just chalk it up to needing it for work!), go ahead and snag one for yourself from our shop!

Our very first wedding planning conversation? The budget! While both sets of our parents are generously contributing to our wedding, we are paying for the majority of our big day ourselves. It’s important to note that we established our budget based on the amount of money we have, not the amount things cost. While we hope our wedding day is a celebration of our marriage, we also know it’s one day, and we want to be good stewards of both our finances and the finances of our families. No one day, no matter how happy, is worth starting our marriage off on the wrong foot financially.

Identifying our biggest priorities early on was a huge help in determining where to direct our attention, time, and budget. Our goal for our wedding is to celebrate our marriage and say thank you to all of those who have loved and supported us–both individually and as a couple–over the years!

To better help us do that, we’ve been running each of our financial decisions through a few questions we came up with to help us align our budget and priorities:

  • What is motivating this decision? Is it what we want, or are we doing it because others expect it?
  • Will this make people feel loved?
  • Will this have a lasting impact?
  • Does this say “thank you” to people?
  • Is this a place we can save money and add value elsewhere?

These questions have helped us choose most of our vendors: our venue and caterer, our photographer, our florist, our paper goods, our bakery, and many more!

In the same way that Logan and I are trying to be good stewards of our finances throughout wedding planning, we also know that vendors are doing the same. Approaching each potential vendor with a grateful heart and without expectation has helped us graciously ask for referrals if they are out of our budget.

As my coworker Emily says, it’s possible to have a wedding on any budget, but it’s not possible to have any wedding on any budget. At the end of the day, regardless of budget, your wedding will be gorgeous and meaningful and memorable because you at are the center of it–blissfully happy and in love–no matter how much you spend or don’t spend, and that is what your guests will remember years from now!

I’d love to hear from you! What areas of your wedding did you prioritize in your budget, and why? Is there anything you wish you’d prioritized differently?

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
8 Comments
  1. avatar Emilee Renwick reply

    Jess!! April 14 is my birthday! It is always my favorite time not only because of the obvious, but because in the spring the whole world blooms! Baby animals are born, flowers begin popping up and the Lord is risen!
    Thank you for these 5 big questions! My fiance and I are just now going over all things budget and guest list so this is beyond helpful.
    Happy planning and much joy to you both!

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      How fun, Emilee! I’ll have some cake on April 14th to celebrate you! I’m so grateful it was helpful, and I wish you and your fiancé the best! What a sweet season!

  2. avatar Brittany Worthen reply

    Love love LOVE this post! When Ryan and I got married back in 2010, we had a very small budget and we knew we were going to have to make some very hard decisions for our wedding. We knew we wanted beautiful photos, but we couldn’t afford a top-tier photographer. Thankfully, we found an up-and-coming boyfriend and girlfriend photo team that absolutely crushed it and we LOVED our wedding photos! Also, considering Ryan had started his own wedding video business back in 2004, his wedding gift to me was to surprise me by hiring a wedding videographer friend of his to capture our day and that footage is such a treasure to us today!

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      What a great way to save money, Brittany! And what a sweet gift from Ryan! I’m so grateful you’ll forever have that memory of your celebration on film!

  3. avatar Taylor reply

    I’m currently planning a wedding too, I got engaged November 18! I love the southern weddings planner, my fiance and I had no idea about the different wedding costs and this is so helpful! We are prioritizing the guest list, with big families a small wedding wasn’t an option so we knew catering would be a large part of our budget. To compensate we chose other areas we could save on. And a coiple things to splurge on!

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Sounds like you and I might be planning the same wedding, Taylor! Lots of family on both sides makes cutting the guest list difficult, but we’re finding other areas to save (like florals!). I’m so excited for you and your fiancé!

  4. avatar Katie reply

    What are your wedding must have priorities? What is a good budget to start with?

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Hi, Katie! Great question! Our top priorities are a photographer and venue/catering (the venue we chose includes a great restaurant that handles catering). I’ll be sharing more about those two choices in my next post! Our Joyful Wedding Planner offers a great suggested budget breakdown, but your final budget will depend on a lot of factors. The surefire easiest way to cut your budget? Cutting your guest list! It’s hard, but the savings will add up!

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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Farewell from Nicole

by in In The Office, Main on

My first desk in the Southern Weddings office was actually more like a nested side table situation in the corner by the closet. It had room for a computer and… that was it. Back then, we worked in Microsoft Publisher to create all of our graphics and real wedding posts. We hand wrote every single address for every single magazine that was ordered. Making Things Happen was on its first full year of touring, and Cultivate What Matters wasn’t even a phrase we said during our most eloquent of times. iPhones weren’t yet ubiquitous, y’all.

(2010: My first photo booth with the team when I was an intern in, and our annual holiday photo with Santa!)

A lot changes in seven years. My desk has prime office real estate now, we run two shops that have their own shipping team, Making Things Happen is now on its 53rd intensive, and our team has more than doubled (not counting all the babies that have been born!).

(2011: My first team photos! Millie Holloman took these — look how long my hair is!)

I’ve changed a lot over the past seven years, too. I started my internship at Southern Weddings as a college student with a long-distance boyfriend and heart eyes for weddings before heart-eyes were even a thing.

As the company went through its transformations and growing pains, so did I. We outgrew our office and started honing in on the South and on marriage. I broke up with my boyfriend and learned that dating well doesn’t mean blind commitment and hopefulness, but hard work and the confidence to find a partner who will work just as fervently as you will (and make life more fun in the process).

(2012: Shipping magazine orders out from our garage, and playing assistant at the first photo shoot I helped envision and organize.)

In 2012, I graduated from college and met my now-boyfriend, Taylor. The same year, the Lara Casey Shop was born out of a single, powerful sentiment.

(2013: I traveled to the National Stationery Show for the first time — a dream come true! Lara and I fed goats for our team photos the same year.)

In 2016, the Lara Casey Shop was transformed into Cultivate What Matters, and we took a deep dive into living more purposefully, more joyfully, and with a stronger community. At home, Taylor and I started working on passion projects, we got a puppy, and we started setting goals that we could both work on together.

We’ve been growing like really good, flowery weeds since then.

(2014: We frolicked in fields with ball gowns. Taylor made his modeling debut at our team BBQ.)

This year, as Cultivate and Southern Weddings learned to prioritize and focus on a long term vision, I did, too. Each conversation we had in the office, each magazine we made, and each iteration of the PowerSheets we created — those were all seeds that got planted in my personal life. They showed up when Taylor and I snuggled on the couch after a long day, when my friends were going through loss and change, when my sister got married, when my parents were sick. I found myself subconsciously weighing each decision I made: does this honor my value? Does this make other people feel empowered to live their best lives? Does this matter??

(2015: It doesn’t matter how big our team grows — we WILL fit into the photo booth! We had a dreamy day with Katelyn James for our team photo shoot. Jess and I met for the first time when she volunteered to pack PowerSheets!)

This company is a little seed that buries its roots in all parts of your brain and heart.
It changes everything.

(2016: The best squishy hug photo at the Gingerbread Barn Building Competition — favorite part of my legacy! We took the holidays pretty seriously with fruit-themed Halloween costumes. Amber, Jess and I became a terrific trio working on Cultivate What Matters.)

It is with no small amount of humility and gratitude that I say farewell to the team and you all this week to leap into new adventures in 2018! I’ll be freelancing full time while occasionally popping in to cheer on the Southern Weddings and Cultivate businesses.

(2017: Taylor’s and my first modeling debut inside the magazine! Silliness and laughs at our spring Team Summit.)

I’m looking forward to diving into a new season of helping other small businesses grow their design and visuals, but this transition has been both scary and rewarding. I am floored with gratitude that my coworkers are now some of my biggest cheerleaders. I can’t wait to see what they do in the next seven years. Most of all, I can’t wait to see how your lives might change for the better just by letting us be a part of your blog feeds, social feeds, and inboxes. Seven years from now, I hope you’re as blown away by the transformation as I am.

With love,
Nicole

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
3 Comments
  1. avatar Kyla Shattuck reply

    Cheering you on Nicole in your future endeavors and celebrating all that you have accomplished with these two beautiful brands over the years! :)

  2. avatar Erin / Floret reply

    What a beautiful post and what a brave, exciting, inspiring next step. Our little team is rooting for you over here in Washington. Congrats Nicole!!!

    • avatar Nicole reply

      Erin — you guys are the best cheerleaders! Thank you so much for this sweet comment!

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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