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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!

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Hi belles! Our friend Stephanie Scholl is the newest gal to take you through her wedding process here on the blog! Stephanie will be blogging for us every two weeks or so until her wedding in April. In case you missed her first post, be sure to check it out here! — Emily

The final countdown is here, friends! Our wedding is less than a month away, Rob and I just returned from our bachelor and bachelorette weekends, and all of the RSVPs for our wedding are in! I seriously can’t believe we’re in the homestretch of our engagement. It’s been such a sweet season for both of us, and we’ve grown so much as a couple, too. (PS: I can’t say enough good things about investing your time and hearts into pre-marital counseling!) I love knowing that Rob and I will get to be joined together as husband and wife on April 1st and that so many of our loved ones will be in Raleigh to celebrate with us! We’re so grateful for it all, and, of course, I love finding creative and thoughtful ways to express our thanks.

One of my favorite Southern traditions is the bridesmaid luncheon, and I cannot wait to partake in this sweet and celebratory tradition! Generally the day before her wedding, the bride hosts a luncheon to honor her bridesmaids and the beloved ladies in her life. I am ecstatic that I get to celebrate how incredible, encouraging, generous, and thoughtful my bridesmaids and our moms (and a few other special ladies!) have been throughout the years. I am having this luncheon at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC, a place very near and dear to my heart. Not only do I plan weddings there regularly, but during college I lived in a cute house just across the street – and my sister got married at the Carolina Inn almost four years ago!

For many months now, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect gifts for my bridesmaids, and I wanted to share some of my finds with you all, as you very well might be on the hunt, too! Most any bride-to-be has heard of the dreamy floral robes from Plum Pretty Sugar, and their robes (so many styles and patterns!) are the perfect accessory to get ready in the morning of your wedding.

Speaking of the morning of your wedding morning and getting ready with your best girls… you can’t forget the mimosas to properly toast to your wedding day! Champagne from Le Grand Courtage (I always love rosé!) or white wine from Speak Wines are two favorites: not only are their labels and packaging both beautiful and occasion-appropriate, but most any bridesmaid would love to be gifted a bottle or mini-bottle of champagne or wine. And with mimosas, you can’t forget the toasting flutes! Naturally Chic Gifts, based out of Raleigh, creates personalized champagne flutes (I’m a fan of the stemless ones!) and wine glasses in an array of metallic colors for your best girls.

I also have long loved the adorable Minimergency Bridesmaid Kits from Pinch Provisions, which hold everything you’d ever need for a wedding-day snafu. And, of course, one of the most popular bridesmaid gifts is jewelry for the wedding day, like matching earrings or a necklace that complements her bridesmaid dress perfectly. I love finding local stores to get jewelry from, and Moon & Lola is a Raleigh favorite! The best way to beautifully hold your bridesmaid gifts is in a pretty bag, like this Hello Lovely tote from PCB Home, all tied up with a pretty ribbon. And, above all else, a card with a written note expressing your thanks and love is the most important part. Taking the time to write a thoughtful note (to your soon-to-be spouse, your parents, your wedding party, and even vendors) is paramount!

We are hosting some fun wedding weekend events to love on our guests well and to welcome everyone to Raleigh, especially since most everyone will be traveling into town for the festivities. Welcome bags are always a marvelous way to show your guests some local flavor and your personalities, and they can also provide information on the wedding weekend timeline.

We are having an informal, everyone-is-invited welcome party on Friday night immediately following our rehearsal dinner, as it was important to us to spend as much time with our guests as possible! It’s a great way for everyone to get to know each other better, for us to meet those extended family members that we haven’t been able to meet yet, and to extend the celebrations even more. Most of all, we want to make sure our family and friends feel welcomed and celebrated when they arrive in Raleigh, especially since quality time are both mine and Rob’s love languages!

I’d love to hear how you celebrated your wedding weekend: did you have a bridesmaid luncheon or a welcome party? Are there any fun traditions or celebrations that you incorporated into your wedding weekend, or want to when you do get married?! And I’m cutting it close here with our rapidly approaching wedding date, but I have to ask: do you have a great idea for a meaningful, thoughtful gift for grooms? I have one gift for sure (so excited!), but I’m still searching for the perfect accompanying gift for Rob. I’m all ears if you have any suggestions!

All photos by Sarah Morrel Photography

P.S. In case you missed a post:
The proposal
Venue and photography
The dress
Bridesmaid style
Engagement photos
The details

emily Written with love by Emily
6 Comments
  1. avatar Christian reply

    Stephanie,
    Great ideas! Your bridesmaids are going to love everything! I had a hard time with a groom’s gift too. I spent so many hours searching, until I had a lightbulb moment. I have designed a valet box for him that my dad is building and staining out of wood that was harvested off of some family land I own. I ordered two engraved plaques for it – one for the top of the lid with his initials and one for the inside with a special message. Inside, I’m going to be putting a few trinkets including a book of notes I’m writing to him. Also, if you haven’t checked out UncommonGoods online, do so – they have some really awesome unique gifts. Good luck!!!

    • avatar Stephanie Scholl reply

      Christian, these are AMAZING ideas!! Thank you so very much for sharing! I love, love, love the sentiment + meaning behind your gifts for him, and goodness is he going to love it all!!!

  2. avatar Joy – Leicester Wedding Photographer reply

    I love these gift ideas!! Great touch :)

  3. avatar Amy reply

    Who wouldn’t want these gifts! So generous and loving! Looks like everything is coming together!

  4. avatar Sarah Frederick reply

    Great gift ideas and unique at that. One etsy shop that I think has some wonderful unique monogrammed and appliqued gifts is Southern Linens. I buy most of my shower and wedding gifts there and every couple has loved them.
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/SouthernLinen

  5. avatar Amanda reply

    I’ve got a gift idea for grooms. Actually, both the bride AND the groom can enjoy this one.

    I’m thinking espresso maker. What a wonderful way for the lovebirds to cozy up together with a nice, hot, homebrewed cup of coffee?

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Hi belles! Our friend Stephanie Scholl is the newest gal to take you through her wedding process here on the blog! Stephanie will be blogging for us every two weeks or so until her wedding in April. In case you missed her first post, be sure to check it out here! — Emily

Hi friends! We’re a mere six weeks (!!!) away from our wedding day, and I’m feeling both incredibly joyful at the thought of marrying my best friend so soon… and a little bit overwhelmed by all that’s left to do! Luckily, I’ve planned more than a few weddings, so I know we’re at a great place in the grand scheme of things and what’s left on our to-do list are the little details you’d expect as our wedding draws closer. RSVP cards are filling my mailbox every day (it’s a highlight of our day to open them together in the evening!), I have a final dress fitting tomorrow, travel plans have been booked for our guests, our wedding bands are picked out, and Rob and I are both excitedly counting down the days til we’re husband and wife!

Photo by Jenna Walker via Style Me Pretty

I’ve been keeping the design and details of our wedding day pretty private, as I really want to surprise our family and friends when they arrive to celebrate our marriage. I’m also known for my love of surprising people, so it’s only fitting that we keep many elements of our day under wraps! Today, however, I want to share with you some ways we are making our ceremony and reception personalized and meaningful, all while on a budget.

I’ve learned more and more throughout planning our wedding how important it is to us to stick to our budget, which also helps us (me, especially) prioritize what’s most important to us and what novelties we are able to do without. It’s been both demanding and liberating to stick to our set budget, knowing that we could easily spend much more money… but also knowing that we do not want to do so. We’re sticking to our biggest priorities: loving our family and friends well, showing them genuine Southern hospitality, celebrating our marriage alongside our loved ones, and glorifying God through it all!

Bouquet by Philosophy Flowers and photo by Landon Jacob from this editorial

We chose to work with Alana from Serendipity Designs as our wedding florist, and I couldn’t be happier with our choice! Flowers are one my favorite wedding details, and they’re also something I notice right away as a guest. I love (love!!) flowers, and I have no doubt Serendipity Designs will make all of my floral dreams come true on our wedding day.

Many of my very favorite Southern blooms (most of them with great meaning to me) will be present in my bouquet and throughout our wedding design. We’ll be using O’Hara garden roses as a nod to my paternal grandma, as she and I share a deep love of the book Gone With the Wind and all things Scarlett O’Hara. And to pay tribute to my maternal grandma, who passed away a few months ago, we’ll be using Queen Anne’s lace, a beautiful flower that reminds me of her. My sweet mama is also letting me use a ribbon of lace from her wedding dress to tie around my bridal bouquet, as my sister did a couple years ago. I love knowing that I’ll be carrying such significant, sentimental nods to the most important ladies in my life as I marry Rob!

Photo by Amy Arrington from Lauren and Kristian’s wedding

For our ceremony, we hoping to portray our faith and God’s love for us in all aspects. One of the very first things I did after getting engaged was to rent a wooden cross for our ceremony (local Triangle brides, check out Homemade Bride!), as we want Christ to be the center of our wedding and our marriage. Even though we’re getting married outside under the trees, as I’ve envisioned my entire life, we know that we can still have a church-like ceremony, especially with a cross at the center of it all. And, as a nod to our engagement session under the Spanish moss and my love of Spanish moss, our florist will be adorning the cross with Spanish moss, a little detail I’m incredibly excited about it.

Photo by Nancy Ray Photography from Callie and Jamie’s wedding

During our ceremony, as one of our first acts together as husband and wife, we will be serving communion to all of our guests. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and I tear up when I stop and think about the ceremony: walking down the aisle with my daddy, having our best friends stand by our side, saying our vows to one another and marrying Rob, praying with our pastor and our wedding party during the ceremony, singing our favorite hymns, and serving our family and friends communion. I can only imagine how many times I’ll cry happy tears on our wedding day!

Photo by Davy Whitener from this editorial

One of our biggest hopes for our details is that they showcase our love of our family. Rob and I both are blessed to have marvelous families, and we are grateful for the legacy of lifelong, abundantly loving marriages for all of our grandparents and parents. All of our grandparents and parents (and their marriages) have made a profound impact on us, and paying homage to those marriages at our wedding is something we’re very excited to do. Our beautiful venue, The Merrimon-Wynne House, has gorgeous white mantles in almost every room, which are the perfect spaces to display wedding photos of our grandparents and parents. I am also working on compiling marriage advice from our families, and we will be displaying their wisdom in a beautiful way, too.

Photo by Haley Sheffield from Emily and Joe’s wedding

Goodness, designing all of these details is something that makes my wedding-loving heart so happy, and knowing they are for OUR wedding is icing on the cake! I am truly giddy about the thought of it all and seeing these meaningful details come to life on our wedding day.

Tell me: if you already got married, what were the most personalized details you chose to incorporate that are a nod to your love story? And if you haven’t planned your wedding yet, are there any details you are absolutely set on having? (I used to want a black and white checked dance floor (and I still do!), but it simply isn’t in our budget and wasn’t an absolute priority for me!)

P.S. In case you missed a post:
The proposal
Venue and photography
The dress
Bridesmaid style
Engagement photos

Landon Jacob, Amy Arrington, Nancy Ray, and Davy Whitener are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
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    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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