Everything you need to know about planning a Staunton Wedding, and all the vendors that can make your dream day happen.
Wedding Vendor Guide
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Most people imagine their wedding day as this amazing experience you get to have together as a couple. In reality, you won’t spend much of the day side by side unless you make intentional time and space for it. Between getting ready separately, being in the spotlight for your ceremony, trying to talk to all your special guests, and other formalities… your focus is elsewhere for most of the day! To really enjoy the day together, you have to plan ways to get quality, alone time with your spouse on your wedding day. Here are some of my favorite ways to get alone time on your wedding day.
A first look is really popular option! Not for all the reasons you think though. Yes, you might get a big reaction from each other and sweet, emotional first look photographs. And of course, it helps us schedule portraits in a way that allow you to go straight to your cocktail hour after the ceremony. But beyond that, it gives you space to feel the joy of the day.
As you walk down the aisle towards your fiancé, they might react with emotion, tears, etc. Or, they might also be so aware that they’re in front of people that they don’t let it fully sink it. Whether or not they react, in that moment, they can’t tell you how they feel. They can’t spin you around and soak in all of the details of your carefully picked out attire, hair and makeup, and shoes you spent weeks looking for.
Most importantly, you can take a moment to debrief together. Express your nerves, your joy, what part of the day you can’t wait for. Hold onto each other for a little while if you want. Cry a bit if you need, or laugh a lot! You can hide away in private too. It doesn’t have to be photographed or about the portraits! As much as I’d love to photograph
If you have a wedding planner or coordinator, ask them to have some champagne and hors d’oeuvres ready in a private room as you walk down the aisle. It’s going to take some time for the rest of the wedding party and family to process down the aisle anyway. Go ahead and take an extra few minutes to breath with your BRAND NEW spouse! Plus, let’s be honest, you’re probably starving by this point.
This is one of my absolutely favorite ways to end a wedding! Once you’ve danced the night away with your friends and family, clear the room and share a last dance for just the two of you. You can be yourselves, you can soak it all in together. Celebrate the conclusion of your wedding together, dancing alone in the room where your friends just celebrated you!
The absolute best time for your newlywed portraits is the last ~30-40 minutes before sunset. But, that doesn’t mean it’s ONLY for photos! After your portraits, walk away from your reception for a few more minutes to talk to each other. All the rest of the evening, your friends and family will be SO excited to see you, dance with you, laugh with you. You want to say hi to all of them, but with 130 guests, that takes so long! Carve out some time for a conversation with your spouse. Better yet, a romantic walk at sunset.
Setting yourself a table away from the masses ensures you space for quality time together on your wedding day. It also ensures you can eat! Most couples don’t eat their fill between all the different conversations, congratulations, and questions from excited guests. It’s not their fault. Your guests are just excited, and they’re probably been there an hour or so already and can hardly wait to share their love with you. Make it a little harder to interrupt your first dinner as newlyweds by putting space between you and your guests. You’re going to spend the whole evening with them. I promise you won’t miss out on anything by sitting down to eat on your own.
All of my wedding advice boils down to reducing your stress, increasing your enjoyment, and amplifying your joy. If you liked this article and want more wedding planning tips, photography content, stories from wedding days, and the occasional deal or announcement, join my email list.
Over six years of wedding photography, I’ve picked up on dozens of little ways to help my couples enjoy their wedding more. It’s mostly behind the scenes things, communicating with vendors, and small tweaks to the schedule to make sure they stay IN the moment, giving us more candid, authentic, and joyful photographs. If you’re reading this as a bride or groom to be and this sounds like what you want in a wedding photographer, please reach out! Hello@photographybyjo.net is my email. I’d love to talk to you now, whether your wedding is in three months or three years. Let’s get a drink, hop on zoom, and figure out what you’re looking for in a wedding photographer. I betcha I either know someone, or am someone! ?
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They proposed. You said yes! You’re looking down at your ring, maybe a little in shock. And it hits you. You have no idea what to do now that you’re actually engaged. You probably have no experience planning a wedding, may not have been expecting the big question, and it’s all a whirlwind. That’s okay–I’ve got you. I’ve done this before, and been to over 100 weddings. In this article, I’m going to share what to do after you get engaged as well as how to build your relationship during this season of engagement as you plan for your marriage, not just your wedding day. Let’s dive in!
You will only feel like this once in your life, so soak it all in! Maybe take a minute to write some things down, like what your partner said when they asked you. I know for me I hardly remember those details. Take some photos, FaceTime your mom. Get excited!! Stay off Pinterest for now and avoid the overwhelm. This is the time to revel in the joy. Someone wants to love you forever!
Call or visit your closest friends and family to announce your engagement! Once you’ve told all your inner circle (and, they probably knew this was coming), make that ring selfie Facebook official! (I guess Instagram official is more accurate now, but I’m stuck in 2010 lingo). If you had a proposal photographer (great job, fiancé!), you’ll likely get these photos back in a week or less for the announcement.
Sometimes it’s easy to jump right into telling everyone, wedding planning, asking your wedding party, and all the exciting things about getting married. Meanwhile, you neglect to spend good quality time alone, enjoying the engagement together. Keep up with regular date nights! Talk about the excitement, and openly communicate about your wants for the wedding throughout the engagement. It might be a good idea to have date nights where wedding planning is a banned topic. Planning has a tendency to take over your life and relationship for a while, so it’s healthy to take a break.
Some couples skip this formality, but I think it’s such a fun one! Get your inner circle together and celebrate with an engagement party. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can get a large table at your favorite restaurant and toast to the happy news. You only do this once, so indulge yourself a bit.
Some homeowners or renter’s insurance cover valuable jewelry. Call your insurance company and see what they offer. You’ll want your ring insured. In the first two years of marriage, my engagement ring broke at the band, on the prong, and lost a small stone. I was not rough on it and worked a desk job. Some jewelry stores offer warranties for this sort of thing, but it wouldn’t cover loss or theft. You’ll need to take it in to be cleaned and inspected every 6-12 months in order to keep the warranty active. Additional insurance for loss or theft is always a great idea! Remember that you want to get insurance for the value of the ring, not just what you paid. You might need to get it appraised, in case the value is well over what you paid.
Okay, before we dig in, I want you to keep these things in mind.
First, no wedding is perfect. Seriously, all the money in the world can’t buy you a perfect wedding day. Approach your wedding day with a plan A, plan B, and an open mind. Be flexible when changes arise. Years from now, your guests and friends won’t recall the little details. Focus on the most important things to you, and release the stress of planning the perfect day. The perfect wedding is the one you enjoy. Most weddings run behind at some point or another, and there’s always some family members that don’t remember where to be for photos, and little things like that. Let it all go and let your vendors take care of those issues. Enjoy yourself! You can tell in the image, I promise.
Second, make sure you plan some alone time together on your wedding day. You are in front of people for most of the day, on a tight schedule, and in the spotlight. Set aside some time to spend with each other so you can talk together, look at each other, and appreciate the moment. This can be a first look, secluded dining table, last dance, or sunset walk. There’s lots of creative ways to spend time together on your wedding day!
Lastly, be practical. This applies to the amount of planning you take on by yourselves, the schedule of the wedding day, the wedding budget, the vendors you’re booking. At the end of the day, some wedding fantasies aren’t realistic. Work with a planner to figure out what’s feasible for you, and try not to overcommit yourself to too much work or expenses that aren’t comfortable for you. Start your marriage out as stress-free as possible.
Okay, so how does a couple with no planning experience plan a party for 50, 100, 200 plus of their closest friends? Little by little, and with a lot of help! In the beginning, start thinking about who might be willing to help and how you can delegate some responsibilities. Decide on some bigger picture ideas before you get concerned with the little details. Everyone’s first instinct is to start looking at Pinterest boards and Instagram hashtag feeds at dreamy wedding photos. But a lot of those viral ideas are from expensive styled shoots and aren’t easy to replicate. They can cause overwhelm. Ever heard the term you can’t see the forest through the trees? This is a common issue in early wedding planning. Read on to avoid falling into that pattern.
Talking finances can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it’s important to set and stick to a budget up front. Every wedding decision you make has financial implications, so you can’t get started planning until you know the numbers! Who’s paying? Is it parents, grandparents, just you two, a combination? Do you need to set up a savings plan for the next year or so? Or, are you comfortable going into debt for your wedding and honeymoon? (Not encouraging this, but I know some people do!) It’s time to get on the same page about the investment you intend to make on your wedding. This is a great introduction to talking about joint finances too!
Do you want to get married in a ballroom with 250 people, or a historic inn with 40 guests? The size and venue options are somewhat related to your budget discussion. But you need to agree (or, maybe compromise) on what kind of wedding you want to have. This will help you start looking at venues and getting quotes from vendors. There’s dozens of styles of wedding, and you’re going to bring your own unique styles to the event too. Talk big ideas early on, so the details are easier to decide on!
Did you know wedding insurance is a thing!? Special event insurance is becoming a more common investment. You might need to know some details before you can purchase insurance, so this step might come a few months after engagement. There’s a few different types of insurance. Some offer coverage for cancellation, which includes reasons like illness, weather, deployment, or other uncontrollable reasons. The second type is liability. This would cover you if there was damage to the venue during your wedding, or someone was seriously injured during the event. Allstate has a great resource explaining types of wedding and special event insurance.
Have a general idea of when you want to get married. I’d suggest picking a month or range at the early stage of planning. You might want to stay flexible until you’ve found a venue and know their available dates. Some dates are more popular than others and may be in high demand in your area. In general, spring and fall season are quite busy in the Mid-Atlantic, since the weather is so nice for outdoor ceremonies and portraits.
While many think this is optional, I consider it essential. Planning a wedding doesn’t have to be stressful, and you don’t have to start from scratch. Wedding planners can do this in their sleep. They know the ins and outs of the process, the local vendors, and the logistics of a smooth wedding day. Even for the most organized, type-A, likes to be in control couple… you can’t do everything on your own!
There’s no good wedding planner I know that isn’t worth every penny. They make up their cost by saving you money and headache on helping you stay on budget, negotiating contracts, recognizing and educating you on unexpected costs before they come up, and taking care of the details so you don’t have to be everything to everyone on your wedding day. Not to mention the hours and hours of planning time they save you! Worth. Every. Penny.
There are several different types of wedding planning services. You can hire a day-of coordinator to help with logistics for the event, a partial planning service, a full service wedding planner, and even a wedding designer to deliver your aesthetic vision. Full service wedding planners can offer help with every stage of the wedding process, from venue scouting to managing the experience on the day of the wedding. There’s a long laundry list of tasks that wedding planners can handle for you. But that doesn’t mean you’re handing over control! You still get to make all the important decisions on your wedding plans, and leave the execution up to the planner.
The cost of a wedding planner ranges quite widely based on what’s included in your contract, when and where you’re getting married, and the type of event you’re planning. A small elopement with two vendors and a ballroom event with dozens of vendors and detailed tablescapes are going to be vastly different scopes of work. This is why you need to understand your overall wedding vision before contacting any vendors.
Full service wedding planners cost about 12% to 18% of your overall wedding budget. Some wedding planners charge a flat rate package. In central Virginia and Augusta County area, you can find partial planning services starting around $1,000 and full service planning closer to $2,000 – $5,000. Just like my article on the cost of wedding photography, costs for wedding planners vary outside this range. Experienced planners that offer a higher level customer experience will charge more. In general, you get what you pay for. But like I mentioned in the beginning, most of what you invest in a wedding planner will come back to you in some way or another. Whether it’s sourcing materials at a better price, negotiating vendor contracts, or saving you hours of time or time off work… they are worth every penny!
Don’t jump in right away. Give yourself some time to be excited together and enjoy this new stage of life. You will need to decide up front whether you’d like to have a long or short engagement. If you think your wedding will be 12-18 months away, you can afford to wait a few weeks before talking about wedding planning. If you think a short engagement fits your plans better, maybe take a few days or a week before diving in. According to Wedding Wire, 19% of couples plan their weddings in 6 months or less! If this is your plan, jump in as soon as you can, but definitely not the day of your proposal.
There are already dozens of wedding planning timelines and checklists out there. You can even order a planner specific to your wedding! I’m going to cover the highlights for the major vendors here. As we roll into 2022 and 2023 wedding planning, vendors are more booked up than ever before, so it’s important to book early. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to rush any decisions! But if floral design or photography or a live band is super important to you, find those things right away. It is never to early to inquire and start asking questions.
Besides your wedding planner, the venue is the first thing you’ll want to secure. You can start looking at wedding and reception venues 12-18 months ahead of time. If you’re on a shorter timeline, you’ll want to get this secured right away. While new DJ’s, Videographers, Bakers, etc crop up all the time, venues are a little more scarce and have to fit your specific wedding needs, like style and capacity size.
Wedding photographers and videographers will typically allow you to book as far as 18 months out. As soon as you’ve booked your venue, you’ll want to start researching your photographer options. You might even save some money by booking at their current rates, before your wedding year!
In 2021, we had a floral shortage and logistical issues with supply. So florists with inventory access were in super high demand! I don’t think every year will bring these same challenges, but there are fewer quality florists than most vendors. I’d say it’s never too early to start looking into floral design. They can help guide you on what will be available in your season, which could impact your wedding vision early on. Book your florist shortly after your venue, about 12 months in advance if possible.
If you’re looking for live entertainment, you may want to reach out 8-10 months in advance. Skilled wedding bands are less prevalent than wedding DJ’s and MC’s. For DJ’s, start researching and inquiring 6-8 months before your wedding day.
Start contacting wedding officiants 6-8 months in advance. If you are part of a church or having a religious ceremony, you may have a minister available in your religious organization. Non-religious officiants should be registered with the state where you are getting married. You can have a friend marry you in most states, but you’ll need to check with the licensing requirements in your state and possibly county. These are details a planner can help you sort out.
Check with your venue right away about catering and bartending options. Some venues have in-house caterers, preferred vendors you have to use, or a short list of approved vendors that are familiar with their policies and site. If you’re bringing in off-site catering and bar services, start looking 9-12 months before your wedding. Catering companies are among the vendors that typically only serve one wedding per date, so availability will get more limited the longer you wait.
You’ll want to leave plenty of time for a hair and makeup trial, so start looking 8-10 months out! Pro tip: time your makeup trial with your engagement session date for the perfect, photo-ready look!
6-8 months in advance, you’ll want to start trying on dresses. Picking out wedding attire is not as simple as buying formal outfits. You’ll likely have multiple fittings to make sure your dress is altered perfectly to your shape and will be comfortable to wear all day. For the ladies, bridesmaids dresses can take a couple months to come in after you order them. If you’re doing mismatched dresses, they need to be ordered around the same time so that the color all comes from the same dye lot. Otherwise, there may be color variance. For the men, give them several months to all go get measured to ensure a proper fit. Final fittings and measurements for all the wedding party should be in 4-6 weeks before the wedding, unless your attire provider says otherwise.
Bakers for wedding cakes are able to take on multiple weddings in a day, so long as the delivery distance is feasible. You can be more flexible with your planning timeline for this vendor. Still, you want to make sure this vendor is secured 3-6 months before your wedding. If you have a very specific vision, dietary restrictions, or unique flavor request, reach out sooner to schedule a tasting.
Like live bands, skilled wedding musicians are more scarce than other vendors. Contact musicians 8-10 months before your wedding day.
1-2 months ahead of your wedding, start looking for places to host a rehearsal dinner. Large restaurants can accommodate a request like this with just a few weeks heads up. If you’re planning a catered dinner at a venue, you’ll need to start looking sooner. Your wedding planner can help with this also!
Asking people to be part of your wedding is a huge honor! But it’s also a lot of responsibility. Members of the wedding party have to buy expensive formalwear, take time off work for multiple wedding events, foot the bill for the bachelor and bachelorette party, incur travel expenses, write speeches, help make sure the wedding goes as planned, and generally be there for you on your wedding day. It’s a large commitment! Start talking to your wedding party as far in advance as possible so they can plan accordingly. Make sure you are all open and honest about the financial and time commitments, so your wedding party members have enough time to plan for the cost, or decline your offer without leaving you high and dry.
These people will be there to help you prepare for your wedding morning, in your wedding portraits forever, and will make a huge impact on how your day feels. Think about asking only people who are in your most inner circle, who you can see adding helpful and positive energy to the day.
Wedding planning has an endless list of subtopics. There’s still your registry, décor and design, honeymoon, shower, and other details we haven’t even touched on. Not to mention after the wedding! Change of address, filing your marriage certificate, changing your name, tax filing status, and more. For more checklists and resources on wedding planning, check out these articles:
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