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Highlighting Our Vendors, Part I

MarriageHannah DrakeComment

In recapping the wedding, I decided to start with some behind-the-scenes planning to talk about the vendors that we chose to be a part of our special day. Some were quick and easy, some were a little more involved, but we truly loved how everything turned out and are so grateful to the people who worked hard to make our day one to remember. Originally, I had planned a lengthy post, but then I realised I was leaving out a couple of major players, so I decided to split it into two posts to hopefully make them a bit easier to read. (Plus now I feel less guilty for including so many photos.) I think they'll both still be long, but I've sectioned it off by vendor and if you scroll to the bottom, you'll find a list of everyone we used and a link to their site. 

VENUE

When Luke and I started talking about what kind of venue we wanted to get married in, the thing I told him was non-negotiable was exposed brick. I started searching for venues online, but since I was in the States, it was hard to make my computer understanding I was searching in Birmingham, England, not Birmingham, Alabama. In fact, we found a really cool brewery (with exposed brick!), but were sad to discover it was in Alabama. I planned to visit Luke in April ahead of my move, with the intention venue viewing and house hunting. We didn't find a house, but we found a venue! Luke had booked appointments at two places I had found online, the first being Shustoke Barn. We instantly fell in love, but they didn't have our date available (16 March 2018...it ended up snowing in Birmingham that night). The second venue was pretty, but far more expensive and there was no brick. There was, however, a bridal suite and a separate room where I could get ready, probably the one thing I really wished our venue had. Besides, we were already in love with Shustoke.

One thing about Shustoke that made the planning process incredibly simple is their online quoting system. You choose a day online and then go through picking your menu and drinks and it will tell you how much everything will be. You can make adjustments based on numbers, menu options, and even the date and it will automatically update your total. It made it so easy to see where our money was going with such a detailed itemised quote. At our consultation after booking, we found out their IT guy had created that system and then sold it to other businesses to use as well. I hope this is the future! They were so great at answering our questions about everything on the day we message them, which was incredibly helpful since everything is happening there. When we logged in to the same system that gave us the quote, we would get an itemised list of costs, a timeline of the day, and all of the notes they took from our consultation and the messages we've exchanged back and forth. It was so easy to have everything in one place.

Our venue was literally a dream come true, at least for me. Because it's so beautiful in its own right, we don't have to do much to it. We opted for the candle package, which included tealights in the walls, on the tables, and around the venue, which makes it look even dreamier. Plus they have fairy lights on the ceiling and outside. It's just breathtaking. On the day of, the staff was great and there was one particular server who seemed to seek me out for canapes to make sure I ate, which was very much appreciated. I would highly, highly recommend this venue. It's pricey, but the stars aligned for us that our second choice for a date was a Wednesday and one of the cheaper days of the year for them. 

After the wedding, we noticed that so many of our friends had done mini photo shoots around the venue and now had new Facebook profile photos. And in the days immediately following, when our friends and family talked to us about our big day, the venue was one of the three most frequently mentioned things! (The other two being the first dance and our vows, but more to come on those two.) 

STATIONARY

I never really considered another vendor for the stationary than Minted. They have so many beautiful designs--for more than just wedding invites--and I had a hard time choosing one! I thought the main problem would be that it was a US company that would be shipping to the UK, but we ended up having a few hiccups along the road. There were times that I so badly want to knock Minted because we had A LOT of problems, but they hit it out of the park with customer service and reprinted an order not once, but twice, and waived shipping fees not once, not twice, but thrice! So yeah, even though it was a headache of a process at times, they came through for us and we're really happy with what we got in the end.

We ordered our Save the Dates in June, shortly after I moved. I carefully designed our postcards from one of their templates and was really excited about the finished product. I paid extra to ship to the UK and eagerly awaited their delivery. When they arrived, I was so excited to get them out and practice some fun lettering when addressing them. When I unwrapped them, I discovered they had the wrong information printed on the back. "That's okay, we can just print up a sticker to cover it," I told Luke. But then I flipped them over and more closely examined the front, only to discover the information on the front was also incorrect. The front announced Luke + Amy were getting married 18 May 2018 in California. The back gave information for Ben + Olivia's 8 August 2018 wedding in Massachusetts. I emailed Minted with pictures of the error and they quickly responded they would reprint our order free of charge and send it out to us free of charge. The information that we got was the template for the design I chose and it apparently never saved our personalised information. Crisis averted, yet somehow I only have images of the incorrect version! 

In the autumn, we started looking at ordering invitations. I was super excited when they announced the 3-in-1 design that significantly cut down on invitation suite costs. The design folded into its own envelope, with the bottom acting as the RSVP card that our guests could tear off and post back to us. It was less than half the cost per invitation than it was to have 3 separate pieces, not including any other add ins. The only downside was that it severely limited the amount of information we could include on our invitation and restricted us from including any inserts. This meant we were completely relying on people actually going to our wedding website to get the rest of the information. (In hindsight, I wish I had at least included a card with our registry information since the store had given them to us free of charge. I was worried it would fall out in shipping, though.)

We ordered our invitations in November and got most of them pre-addressed with our guests' information. We wanted to have a number of slightly different invitations for evening-only guests and to have a number of invitations without an address already printed. Unfortunately, that meant when they arrived, they were addressed with the template information, which I hadn't considered would be printed in lieu of information we could enter. With the amount of time it took to get the invitations from Minted, package up the US invites and get them shipped to my mom, then for her to post them out, we were forced to change the RSVP date in our reprint, but Minted once again waived the fee and even expedited them since our wedding date was quickly approaching. Because we wanted a slight variation on a limited number of the invitations, we actually had to start a second order to get those differences. It was kind of a hassle, but they refunded us the cost of that number of invitations from our original order and only charged us for the new invites (which was more expensive since it was a smaller quantity), and not for shipping since they were intended to be included in the first order.

So in the end, they killed it with customer service. They tolerated my countless emails back and forth slightly tweaking and perfecting the look of the invitations and always offered a digital proof before printing. I know I should have caught some of the errors, like the information on the Save the Dates and the template address on some of our invitations, but I didn't and they were very forgiving. We're very happy to say that we ended up with a great product.

For the rest of the stationary, including table numbers, programs, and signage around the venue, I actually did it myself! It was a mix between hand lettering (the wood signs and place cards) and printing (the table numbers and the programs on the rose petal bags), and I'm really please with how things turned out. 

The table chart proved to be the most difficult for me. I wanted to hand write everyone's name on the board but it was.not.working. It was incredibly frustrating, but we ended up just printing the names and nailing them to the board, something Luke suggested while I was snapping at him about it (the poor guy!). I had had the idea earlier, but apparently was too proud to suggest it. Anyway, I like how it turned out. The petal bags proved to be the most frustrating for Luke. He had to print all 100 to get 75 to turn out correctly, but then we only ended up using a dozen or so because there was only one per row instead of one on every chair like we imagined. Again, that poor guy.

PHOTOGRAPHY

I only ever had one photographer in mind. I think now more than ever, when you announce your engagement, people you know and people you once knew and are still friends with on Facebook will come out of the woodwork to offer to photograph your wedding. Some will be legit photographers, some will be aspiring photographers, some will have just gotten a nice camera for Christmas. We politely declined the offers as I tried to figure out what to do because my dream photographer was in Colorado and the wedding was in England. Brianne Haagenson is a good friend of my sister's, so my sister one day said, "Just ask her! What's the worst that could happen?" So I did. And she said yes! I was beyond happy, let me tell ya! She's done two photoshoots for us (an engagement shoot and a pre-engagement shoot because we weren't sure if Luke would be back in the States or if she'd be able to do our wedding and I just wanted some photos from her.) It helps that I've known her for more than half my life, but she is so great about helping us ease into being the subject and of course her photos are absolutely gorgeous.

To be completely honest with you, photography was something I had to make a case for when Luke and I talked about a wedding budget. He wasn't totally sold on the idea of investing in a great photographer and was a bit more keen to explore options with some of the aforementioned photographers and aspiring photographers who had contacted us. In the end, I assured him that photography would be well worth the investment. Literally, at the end of the day all you have is each other and the photos. We'll eat the food, we'll drink the alcohol, the flowers will die, the dress might not fit, but we'll always have the photos that will have captured everything about that special day. So I told him I would literally eat chicken in the name of hiring a great photographer, and that's exactly what happened. (If you know me, you know I'll choose beef, pork, lamb, or duck--all options at our venue--over chicken every day. I like chicken more than I used to, but it's still so boring!) And guess what, the photos are unbelievable--as you can see--and the chicken was great too.

FLOWERS

Before I got engaged, I was talking to a co-worker about weddings and she showed me the paper flowers for the buttonholes that she made for her wedding out of poetry books she found at thrift shops. I loved that idea but slightly changed to be flowers made out of texts, cards, and letters Luke and I wrote back and forth while long distance, as well as song lyrics that were special to us. I kept going with this idea, but was nervous because I had no idea how to make it and wasn't sure I would have the skills to make them from scratch. Then I saw a friend who used a mix of paper flowers, silk flowers, and real flowers for her bouquets and I thought they looked great! She had used a pattern from Lia Griffith, so her indirect recommendation was the answer to my prayers. I ordered 6 of the bridal bouquet kits that were our exact colours and would come with the paper pre-cut. They didn't ship internationally, but our friend was visiting Colorado and borrowing my car, so I enlisted him to bring them back for me in return. When he brought them, I realised they had gotten our order very wrong and they needed to send me almost 4 more kits. Because there was now no way for me to get them from the US without paying insane shipping costs or getting them the week of the wedding, they kindly shipped them to us free of charge to remedy their mistake. Eventually in January, we tested some out.

My plan from there was to just try to make a few flowers when we were just sat on the couch in the evening or on the weekends watching TV so that it was never a massive amount of work and we could tackle it little-by-little. Luke was the real MVP of the flowers when it turned out he was an absolute pro and twisting the petals for the ranunculus and gardenia buds since they needed to be made into tight spirals to get the right shape. Eventually, we decided to just do the ranunculus and anemone and not bother with the gardenias at all.

We still had plans to consult with a florist because I really wanted to fill out the bouquets with real greenery and Luke was especially fond of eucalyptus after I got some stems for our Thanksgiving tablescape. And from what I could see, it was a lot easier to see that they were paper leaves than it was to see that they were paper flowers. We had met a florist, Penny Johnson, at the open house at our venue at the beginning of January and I was really looking forward to consulting with someone who was so familiar with the space and how it could be transformed. She ended up being a great fit for us and I quite enjoyed our consultations with her. She was happy to work the paper flowers into the bouquets (along with a few real flowers and lots of real greenery). She even gave us the idea to do the same thing for our guestbook, which I absolutely loved! (We traced the ranunculus pattern from Lia Griffith onto one page and then made lots of copies.) The best part about working with Penny--other than her familiarity with our venue--was that we were able to rent a lot of the decor from her so we didn't need to try to find crates and vases and all those sorts of things for cheap. I also really appreciated that she told us to get succulents from IKEA if we wanted those as part of our decor instead of going through her since she couldn't beat their prices. That really made me want to work with her because I didn't feel like we were overpaying or being taken advantage of. We took stuff over the day before to set up, but I let her have free reign on arranging things. Her team really did a fantastic job. I was slightly bummed that the bouquets weren't as flowy as I had envisioned with greenery spilling out and ribbons flowing from the stems, but I wasn't too bothered about stuff on the day of. I also really wanted to have alstroemerias in the floral arrangements as they're my special flower (and my tattoo), but didn't see any until we took the bouquets home and they started to bloom. My favourite parts were the garden roses that were an incredible shade of pink, they almost looked antique! Is this where the term dusty rose comes from?

CHECK OUT MORE POSTS ABOUT OUR WEDDING:

Bridesmaids' Dresses: Weddington Way (US)
Cake: Amerton Cakes (UK)
Cuff Links: Tesoro Jewelry (US)
DJ: Benny Smyth (UK)
My Dress: Allure Bridals via The Bridal Connection (CO)
Engagement Ring: ROX (UK)
Florist: Penny Johnson Flowers (UK)
Hair + Make Up: Sam Larson Hair (CO)
Paper Flowers: Lia Griffith (US)
Photo Booth: Peter Horrox (UK)
Photographer: Brianne Haagenson Photography (CO)
Ring Box: Amonie (AUS)
Robes: David's Bridal (US + UK)
My Shoes: Hobes (AUS)
Stationary: Minted (US)
Luke's Suit: Next (UK)
Venue (Catering & Alcohol): Shustoke Barn (UK)
Vow Books: Elmo Paperstories (UK)
My Wedding Band: Ernest Jones (UK)
Luke's Wedding Band: LuxuriaJewelers (US)

This post contains affiliate links, so I may make a commission off any purchase you make through the link. Some linked items are similar to what has been shown.

All photos in this post, including the header photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.