Yeah…so…wedding planning is expensive! I swear as soon as a vendor hears the word wedding, the price immediately doubles.
It sucks and unfortunately seems to be an industry truth.
Now the price tag has nothing to do with how beautiful or meaningful a celebration is, but chances are you’re not able to host a “no expense is spared” affair, so it’s important to sit down as a couple and discuss the items that really matter to the both of you. Establish some wedding priorities sooner than later.
Everyone’s priorities are different—from couple to couple and even from couple to their parents—so I’d recommend establishing your priorities as a couple first then discussing with your parents (especially if they are helping pay). Hopefully all the lists will overlap though there will likely need to be some compromises made.
Keep these priorities close by (with your mood board) so as decisions arise you have a clear view of what to splurge on and what to save on.
Here are some of the larger ticket items to consider:
- Beauty Services
- Invitations + Paper Goods
- The Dress
- Attire (rehearsal, showers, parties, engagement pics)
- Gifts + Favors
Establishing Our Wedding Priorities
Our event was different from anything we had previously been to as we were hosting a destination wedding/small reception followed by a larger reception/party back in Nashville. Though when actually think about it, we basically established two sets of priorities—one set for the ceremony and one set for the reception. If separating the two events is helpful for you, go for it!
For Our Destination Wedding
Hosting a destination wedding doesn't necessarily mean you’ll end up saving money, but one way to cut some costs is to choose a location and/or venue that doesn’t need much done to it.
Maui is renown for its natural beauty and the venue we choose was set amongst an olive grove on one side, towering Cyprus trees on the other, and a view of the valley and ocean. So overall, can’t complain. Now we could add as much or as little as we wanted, but at the end of the day the venue spoke for itself and would be beautiful with or without small floral arrangements on the guest book table.
A big concern for us was the weather. I’ve mentioned before we had always planned on a late autumn/early winter wedding so when we were given a two-week window in the middle of summer, we had to regroup.
Maui’s summer weather is consistent. The ocean provides a soft, cooler breeze, and summer temperatures hover between the mid-70s to 80s. Generally still a bit warmer than we prefer but nothing compared to the 100 degrees/100% humidity of summer in Tennessee (seriously, it’s brutal).
2. Guest Experience
The guests at your wedding should be people you love and care about, and generally you want them to as happy as you two are. Especially with a destination wedding your family and friends will have to make some sacrifices to attend—spend money on flights and hotel rooms, use their limited number of vacation days, even get a pet or house sitter. It’s asking a lot so take care of them.
We arranged a room block, coordinated flights and airport pickups, delivered welcome bags, printed detailed itineraries, arranged transportation to and from all wedding-related events, and made sure everyone was comfortable and enjoying themselves. Luckily we have a pretty laid-back group, but we knew that we had done everything in our power to make sure they were having just as much fun as we were.
Fortunately Hawaii was not a hard sell as it was on everyone’s bucket list and was a great excuse for a vacation. :)
At the end of the day when everything else is packed up, photography and videography (and the rings of course) will be the tangible memories of your big day, which is why they were a priority for us.
An experienced photo and video team will capture everything from the big, obvious moments like walking down the aisle and the first kiss, to subtle yet meaningful moments like the smile on a father’s face when he see the bride for the first time or the laughs the groom shared with his brothers before the ceremony.
Weddings are a time for people to come together in celebration, and with life as crazy as it is, who knows when that same group will all be together again. The photographs and videos will immortalize the experience.
Also I know everyone says it, “the day will go by so fast,” but it’s honestly true. There’s no way to take in every sight, smell, and sound of the big day. I personally can’t wait to see all our photos to remember the little moments that got lost in the hustle and see moments I wasn’t apart of like LeBraun and his boys getting ready in the morning.
For our wedding day meal we wanted essentially a big family dinner—a table surrounded by everyone we love, a time to connect with each other…all while enjoying a fabulous meal. Nothing brings people together like food, and we are believers that a nightly family meal is great for the mind, body and soul!
The chef we selected puts an emphasis on the use of quality, local ingredients and sustainable practices. He is also a commercial fisherman and caught our fish the day of our wedding. Can't get fresher than that!
Our tasting in March was seriously one of the best meals we have ever eaten. Everything was outstanding! Fresh, cooked to perfection, and with the local flair we wanted for our meal.
The menu was definitely one of the personal touches of our wedding day as it reflected our tastes as a couple and the location we now have a special connection to.
Do we need separate priorities for the reception?
No, it’s not necessary but since our events were in different cities and a few weeks apart. it made sense for us. But you do you!
Our Nashville Reception Priorities
Again, location was a priority for us. Many Nashville venues identify themselves as “rustic,” which definitely does not fit our personalities at all. We are city people. We love being in the middle of the hustle and bustle, close to everything, and preferably up high.
Praise for L.A. Jackson! As one of the trendiest rooftop bars in Nashville, L.A. Jackson is located in the hip Gulch neighborhood, a revitalized area with tons of condos, upscale restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife.
The bar is a feast for your eyes. Bold patterns, chic furnishings, and a views overlooking the city, all tied up with a mid-century modern bow. It feels more like LA than Nashville and we like that!
Plus, as with our venue in Hawaii, the venue didn't need much. There’s already a variety of seating, bars, lights, etc so we could put the decor money towards the venue rental price.
Not everyone will remember what appetizers were served or what the guestbook looked like, but you betcha everyone will remember the band that rocked your wedding and kept everyone on the dance floor till midnight!
Unfortunately you can’t accurately judge a wedding band by their website. Most are outdated and the atmosphere and sound just can’t be accurately captured by iPhone videos. Since we weren’t in town while planning the reception, we reached out to friends on Facebook and Instagram for recommendations. Having friends with personal experiences with the entertainment at an actual event was clutch.
Don’t forget bands book up almost as quickly as venues. An experienced band will be able to read the room and adjust the vibe accordingly.
Music is relatable. It helps break down social barriers, an instant icebreaker if you will. Who can’t bond over the boogie beat of Uptown Funk, or at least join in a chorus of Sweet Caroline.
Besides keeping your guests…well entertained :)…a great band will help dictate the flow of the evening, make announcements, keep people smiling, and of course get them on the dance floor. It’s a party after all!
The Thompson Nashville has the added benefit of a fabulous restaurant in its lobby, Marsh House. This southern seafood house’s chef loves experimenting so when we asked for an Asian-inspired, small plate menu for our reception he jumped at the challenge and created a fantastic variety of options for our guests.
We wanted our guests to enjoy an ethnicity of food we adore. Sidenote: No joke, if we could eat Asian food every meal, we would. We keep contemplating moving to Asia just for the food. :)
An Asian menu would be something different from any reception we had attending and definitely a change for the traditional fare at Southern events, though that doesn’t make it any else crowd-pleasing. As long as there is a good variety of items, there will be something for everyone.
For example, we had an action station of bibimbap—a Korean dish that is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with sautéed vegetable, protein, sauce, and spice. Guests literally started with a bowl for white rice so you could add as much or as little of whatever you wanted to suit your preferences. We had a variety of protein and sauces to chose from.
Chances are guests will appreciate something different. One of our guests who has been in as many weddings as Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 Dresses said to us, “If I have to eat one more grilled chicken with mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes, I’m gonna lose it!” Haha. Crisis averted.
Again, we wanted all those moments that went by way too fast or that we missed entirely to be captured—our first dance, father-daughter/mother-son dances, bouquet toss, people dancing, people catching up, the food and drinks, etc. Our reception had a different, larger guest list so we wanted to make sure we had moments of all who came to celebrate with us.
Just remember it is an investment.
All photography by Teale Photography