So many of y’all have asked about wedding planning and I’m so excited to have y’all join the process- to be honest I’m very overwhelmed with planning. My heart goes out to anyone who has had to plan a wedding during the times of covid- between the uncertainty & stress, and the rush of every single possible date filling up faster than you can say “Yes!” after getting engaged, the pressure and confusion is so stressful.
Due to the rush to secure a date, I broke down my wedding planning into the first immediate steps needed to get a date on the calendar for next year. This blog post is about everything I’ve done to secure our major vendors to make that happen. (If you’re curious about my vision board, I posted that last night here!)
Before I got serious about planning, I did a lot of research- I bought the big planner from The Knot on Amazon, rented planning books from the library, and watched a lot of wedding planning Tik Toks, haha. I wish I could afford a wedding planner, but it’s out of my budget and I think my wedding is going to have a lot of DIY aspects, anyway- for example, I am designing my own invitations and might even do my own flowers.
Here’s everything I did to get started to secure a 2022 date with our vendors!
Determine your all-in cost and be realistic.
A bit of warning here- wedding prices have skyrocketed post-covid, and getting married in the city is really expensive. I’m lucky to have both of our parents generously pitching in for our wedding and honeymoon, and I am contributing about a third of the cost as well.
Make a wedding email.
I read this tip online and loved it- what a lifesaver! I made a wedding-themed Gmail account and gave Ryan the password, and we have used it for all wedding communications. It’s been great for being organized, and I even made our wedding excel spreadsheet from that email account too.
Make an excel spreadsheet to break down your costs.
The second I saw what our “X” is, I started doing the math to determine what that really meant in terms of budget for our different vendors. This article from Brides.com was incredibly helpful- I did the math and saw the numbers broken down to use as a guide when we started our next step: looking at venues.
Tip: Most of the wedding spread spreadsheets and articles you can find online forget little costs that add up very quickly. I used this as a guide, but remember the cost of things like: the rings, postage, security, gratuity, gifts for your bridal party and parents, videographer, dress alterations, spray tans or other beauty treatments, hair and makeup artists (especially if you are paying for your bridesmaids), the cost of your marriage license, breakfast and champagne for your wedding party the morning of, a hotel room for the night of (we are staying in the city with our guests as Ry and I don’t live together), and dance lessons (I’m so excited for these!).
Look at and reserve your venue…As soon as possible!
The first thing Ryan and I did was look at venues because they are booking up so quickly right now. Getting our ceremony venue was easy- we are getting married at our church in Midtown. While we are having our ceremony in the church, we want to have our reception somewhere else. I initially looked at rooftop restaurants in midtown, hotels in Midtown, and various venues all over the city….but ended up narrowing down our search considerably once we got serious about looking.
We looked at venues that:
- Were located close to our ceremony venue. We are getting married in our church in Midtown and don’t want to pay thousands and lose time in transportation to a venue OTP, as many of our guests are flying in and won’t have cars.
- Allowed us to bring our own alcohol. The prices of all-inclusive venues just for the bar per person would’ve been half our budget, so finding a BYOB venue was key.
- Were “nice” enough that we didn’t have to decorate or furnish the entire venue ourselves. I tried hard to find the “sweet spot” of saving money by DIYing the entire wedding versus the saved costs of not having to rent chairs, tables, and massive amounts of decorations. The West Side and other parts of the city have tons of warehouses-style venues, but I ultimately did the math and found that it would be the same price to rent everything ourselves, and at the end of the day, the utility style just wasn’t my aesthetic at all.
- Were nonprofits. I knew if I was spending thousands on our venue, I wanted the money to go to a good cause. Luckily, there are many venues around Atlanta that are nonprofits!
Midtown Venues we Considered:
With those parameters, our venue choices were very limited. I saw that as a blessing- it made choosing so much easier, especially given the time constraint of picking a venue right now. We ended up considering two venues: The Wimbish House and the Trolley Barn. Spoiler alert- we are picking the Wimbish House!
The Wimbish House
The Wimbish House is a historical mansion from the 1920s on Peachtree Street, and it’s owned by the Atlanta Women’s Club. It’s been featured in several TV shows and movies, and it’s been one of my favorite buildings in Midtown for years.
It’s on the same street as our church, making it super convenient for our guests, and we’ve decided to get a trolley to go back and forth from the church after the ceremony. The interior is gorgeous- it’s filled with fireplaces and chandeliers, and it has a beautiful ballroom that needs minimal decor. I can picture us having a southern, 1920s city wedding there!
Pricing-wise, the Wimbish House is very affordable- they even include security, and also have the amazing benefit of getting a day-of coordinator for only $850! (If you haven’t gone shopping for a wedding coordinator lately, this is a steal). It’s hard to put a price on the aesthetic of the house, but decorations are going to be so much cheaper in an already beautiful space. They also gave us a 10% discount because Ryan is a first responder. One final plus is that they have a gorgeous bridal suite for us to get ready in, which will be great for morning photos and a fun brunch the day-of.
The Trolley Barn
The other venue that met our parameters was the Trolley Barn, which is a beautiful venue located in Inman Park. The Trolley Barn was really appealing to me because it could give us the beautiful outdoor wedding of my dreams. However, it’s a lot further from our church and hotels for guests (meaning more hassle and increased transportation costs), and an outdoor wedding comes with the added costs of tents and outdoor furniture.
The biggest factor of the Trolley Barn was the aesthetic- I ultimately decided that the decorations to fill the big space would be astronomical, and I personally don’t like the barn look for a wedding. Also, the venue fee was more expensive for fewer hours than the Wimbish House and no bridal suite, and came with added costs like security and needing professionals to set up and break down the space.
Other Venues I considered:
These venues didn’t meet all of our practical requirements, but I loved them when I was in “daydreaming” mode aha!
Marietta Educational Garden Center: This gorgeous venue is very inexpensive, but it quickly left our list because a tent, lights, chandelier, outdoor dance floor, bar, chairs, and tables cost thousands. Also, we decided Marietta was too far from the church.
Roswell Historic Cottage: Absolutely gorgeous, but too expensive. If you want an all-inclusive wedding, this looks like a great choice.
Piedmont Park Greystone: This was actually my first instinct for getting married..how dreamy! However, Piedmont Park requires you to use their catering and bar services, which immediately put us completely out of our budget.
Before Committing to a Venue, Price Catering
I didn’t want to put a deposit down on a venue before I knew we could really afford it, and that meant knowing the cost of catering. I mentioned that all the venues were BYOB, but I didn’t mention catering because, unfortunately, I could not find a single venue that was black tie appropriate that didn’t have a preferred catering list. If you’re new to wedding planning, preferred catering lists are lists of local caterers from venues that require you to pick catering from their list- if you don’t, you pay a hefty fee (the Wimbish House’s fee is two thousand dollars).
Ideally, if you’re planning a wedding you want to find a venue that lets you use any catering you want. However, these venues are impossible to find in the city of Atlanta, let alone outside the city, unless you are in a public park DIYing your entire wedding (no judgement but this didn’t really match my vision board). So…to make sure we could actually afford the Wimbish House, we needed to get catering quotes.
Determine Your Guest Count
I quickly realized that there is actually a step before this- determining your guest count. Catering is the biggest variable cost to a wedding- it’s literally priced per person. So, I added a little tab to our wedding excel and started writing out our guest list, and Ryan and I added the people we wanted with the help of our parents.
Balancing the fact that more people are more expensive, and wanting all of our loved ones there, we settled on inviting about 140 people, estimating that if 85% of the people we invite (not including the bridal party) come, we will be around 120-125 people.
Tip: we estimated a generous 85% because I’ve been reading that post-covid, people are dying to get out of the house and that tons of brides are having way more people come than expected! While we have a lot of people traveling, we wanted to be on the safe side with our final count.
Get Catering Quotes
Once we had our guest count estimated at 125, I reached out to the coordinator of the Wimbish House, asking for quotes from the cheapest caterers in their preferred list (no shame).
I looked at a few quotes, and we settled on the Grand Gourmet as being the best value, while having a lot of flexibility with menus. We have a tasting on Monday and we’re excited to try everything from shrimp scampi to barbeque!
Tip: A lot of wedding websites recommended to include the staff in our estimate. To save money, I’ve decided to go with outdoor catering for 15 people working our wedding, like Chick-fil-A party platters!
Pick a Wedding Date
As we look at venues, it’s become very clear that dates are selling out, fast. So, it looks like we will be getting married on a Friday. I won’t be sharing our exact date here for obvious reasons, but we’ve narrowed down to September 2022.
Here is what we considered when picking our date:
Lease times: Although this isn’t very romantic, the fact that my lease ends next August was the biggest factor for us. I didn’t want to break our lease early or extend, and having to figure out moving twice in a year sounded like a lot of work. Ideally, I’d love to move right into a new apartment with Ryan right after the wedding.
The weather: I didn’t even consider a summer weather- there’s no way in Georgia heat that it would be enjoyable. The biggest factor weather-wise that we did think about a lot was honeymoon weather (and peak season- ie crowds and prices). Europe in September is a lot more enjoyable than Europe in June, in my opinion.
Planning time & venue ability: I knew I needed at least a year to plan and that venues are selling out quickly, which put us at next fall. However, I didn’t want to wait any longer to be married, so we decided 2022 was our year.
Book a Photographer
This wasn’t a big immediate step for me, but I was lucky enough to land an amazing local photographer, Millers Photography and film, that is more reasonably priced than others in the area and incredibly talented! If you’re looking for a photographer, check her out!
As I mentioned before, we’re looking to get transportation for our guests because most of them will be flying in. I want to be as considerate to my guests as possible, and it just didn’t seem fair to make people uber all over after flying in. So, we’ve hoping to get a hotel block in Midtown next to the Wimbish House, and a trolley for the big day- how cute?!
So…this is where I have gotten so far in wedding planning…we have a tasting scheduled for Monday (which is also me and Ry’s five year anniversary!) and we’re working on getting a meeting at our church setup this week, too.
Here’s what is next on my list (and likely in my next blog post! :))
Putting deposits down. Since we’ve secured a lot of big vendors, the next step is putting our deposits down on our church, the Wimbish House, catering, and transportation. Ideally, I’m looking at putting them on a credit card.
This is a little controversial (and absolutely do not do this if this doesn’t make sense for your financial situation!), but I’m currently looking at a few credit cards for most of our big expenses to earn a lot of rewards points. I’m still doing my research, but I’m all about maximizing my money spent, haha.
Planning engagement parties. Right now, my mom and I are talking through an engagement party near her in Maryland, and I’m thinking about having a second one in Atlanta. Ideally, I’d like to have the second one the weekend I go dress shopping, since most of my bridal party and family wants to be there!
Asking my bridesmaids to be a part of my big day! I’ve actually already put together gift boxes and am sending out bridesmaid “proposals”, but don’t want to spoil anything here until everyone has opened them.
Finalizing and sending out save the dates. I’ve made an initial design in Canva already- I’m going to design everything that is on paper for our wedding. Since we are targeting September, sending this out a year in advance is coming up fast.
Finding a Band. We’re still working on this one, but having live music is non-negotiable for me. This is our last big vendor to secure before I feel like I can relax about everything selling out. I’m also trying to see if I can find an inexpensive, local pianist for our happy hour (if anyone knows someone, please let me know!).
Dress Shopping. I’m hoping to get a dress this fall- I can’t wait to go dress shopping!