Today is our 3rd anniversary, so I thought I’d share with you all the story of our wedding day. I did share this over at Truly Lovely a few months ago, but it was never published here because I wanted to save it for today!

I grew up (for the most part) in Asheville, NC and after a 6 year hiatus in DC, moved back here with my then boyfriend Mike. I’ll let you in on a little secret: he hadn’t even proposed when I first contacted my dream venue for information. When the wedding coordinator leaves a message on your machine saying congratulations on your engagement, you know you’ve been busted. But when you want to get married at The Biltmore Estate in the Fall (our tourist season), you have to be on top of things!

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Planning a fairy tale wedding, step 1. Contact the most ridiculous, total long shot, no way in hell venue and ask for wedding information.

No, seriously.

Step 2: Freak out when you get a response and the prices.

Steps 3 and 4: Continue to freak out and wonder why you even asked. Wasn’t it a crime to get your hopes up?

Step 5: Get real. If you wanna do this, you better figure out how. Let’s face it, no place else is even going to compare.

Step 6:  We crunched the numbers. We had conversations with our parents to see if they were planning on contributing and how much. Yes, this can be awkward, but it’s better to know what you’re working with up front. By the time we got married, we had already bought our house and had been living in it for a year and half. Financially, we weren’t really expecting our parents to help. But both sides put in some money, and we had our starting point. I knew for this to work out, we could have only 50 people at the wedding.

Yes, I said 50.

If you’ve ever planned a wedding or are currently planning a wedding, I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before.  It happens to be Step 7: Cut. The. Guest. List.

We were very fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) to be paying for the wedding mostly on our own. This meant that we (by that I mean me, since Mike had about zero interest in anything except food and cake tasting) had complete control over the guest list. My parents didn’t invite their friends. His parents didn’t invite their friends. Certain friends of ours didn’t get invited unless we had been in contact with them in the past year. No plus ones unless it was a serious boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/spouse. We were very strict, but not because we wanted it to be some exclusive event. We didn’t want to offend anyone. We just wanted to have our close friends and family around us and show them a good time. Neither Mike nor I like to be in the spotlight, so a small wedding suited us better. I realize this is impossible for some people. We are very lucky.

Step 8: Negotiate. I called up the planner and told her that I really wanted to get married there, but we’d have to work on the pricing. Instead of getting married on the front lawn, we got married in the barn.

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At 50 guests, there was no way we’d meet their minimum food order for Saturday. I asked if we could lose the minimum and bring the per plate price down if we chose a Sunday. I told her I wanted to leave off the $8/per person passed champagne toast (it was open bar, anyway). We chose a sit down dinner because it was actually the same price as a buffet at that headcount. Be careful of station/serving fees on buffets…for some reason buffets have a reputation of being cheaper but this is not always the case since they have to over prepare food and staff the stations.

{Image courtesy of Castell Photography}

Step 9: Hire vendors. At Biltmore everything was provided through them except music, floral, and photography/videography. I found that when choosing a vendor, price is important, but so is the vision. By that I mean you want to pick someone who you gel with- they get your idea and run with it. You feel like they really understand what you want for your day. If you sacrifice this for price, you may be sorry. If you visit enough people, you will be able to find both elements. Sure I would have loved to have a live band, but I decided to compromise and hire a cellist for the ceremony and a DJ for the reception.  Brie Castell of Castell Photography shot our wedding, check out some pictures here, here, and here. Our florist was Stacey Brown of The Bloom Room who did a fantastic job of taking my “rustic elegance” vision and bringing it to life.

{Image courtesy of Castell Photography}

Step 10: Enjoy your day. Everyone kept telling me to soak it all in, but you really don’t grasp this until it’s happening. Try to eat. Definitely get cake. Say hi to everyone, but skip the receiving line (who invented that, anyway? AWKWARD).

Now I’m sure you’re wondering how we paid for it all. When I tell you what we did you may think twice about the sacrifice, but to me it was worth it. Our parents donation paid for the “down payment” at Biltmore to hold our date. I took a part time job (in addition to my full time engineering job at the time) waiting tables at a diner on the weekend. We rented out a room in our house for 4 months. Every week I wrote checks to Biltmore and our vendors. Sometimes they were large and sometimes they were small. Everything was paid for in cash. We didn’t eat ramen noodles, but anything we had leftover at the end of each pay period went out to one of our vendors. By the time our wedding came around, we didn’t owe anyone money which felt awesome.

We went to Costa Rica on our honeymoon and charged the entire trip (yay, reckless abandon!) to a low interest mileage credit card. We paid it off with our tax refund 4 months later. Today we have been married 3 years, and I still think about our wedding quite a bit. Friends and family who were in attendance still talk about the flowers, the cake, and the fillet mignon. Do I regret spending the same amount on 50 people that some couples would spend on 150? Absolutely not.

Image courtesy of Castell Photography


6 Responses

  1. Shannon

    This is great! Your pictures are beautiful! It’s awesome that you paid everything off before the big day. I’ve wondered how I’m going to do that- so thanks for the tips!

    Shannon @ Imperfectly-Inspired


    Happy anniversary! Is it weird that I’m totally dying for more wedding pics!?!?!? 😉 Looks like you totally got your dream! We were pretty much strict like you guys with the guest list and it totally worked out in our favor… thank goodness! No wedding debt! 🙂


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