A Sigh of Relief

What brings people together even quicker than two people falling in love? Food. What costs more money than we could ever imagine? Food.

Catering has proven to be the most difficult project in my wedding planning journey. I’ve emailed back and forth with more than 10 different caterers each giving me quotes ranging from $4,500 all the way to almost $9,000. RIDICULOUS RIGHT? After stressing over prices I decided to give the whole catering thing a rest until Thanksgiving break… which creeped up quick! I set up two appointments– one with a local caterer and the other with one about twenty minutes away which I met at a bridal show– to go over food choice and prices. When the day came, my mom and I were on a mission to get this taken care of.

The first lady we met, from Sister to Sister Catering in Bedford, VA,  just so happened to be the mother-in-law of a girl I grew up with! Plus ten points for her right off the bat. While we talked, she didn’t try to control the options, she let me tell her what I wanted. When she did give a suggestion, we were on the completely same page! When it came down the big question, I was so nervous, but here’s how the conversation played out:

Helen the Caterer: “What’s your budget.”

Me: “We’d like to stay under $3,500.”

Helen: “Um, okayyy.”

Me: “Can you give me an idea of what all of this will cost?”

Helen: “Not THAT much. It’s easy to get to the quantity, the cost pays mostly for the labor and time. Probably $1,500 no more than $2,000.”

Me: “OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE YOU.” (So I didn’t actually say that, but I’m sure that’s what my face said).

The second caterer we met with ended up doing far more than just catering. By the end of our session, we had over 2 and a half pages of ideas from catering, to flowers, to decor, and even cake! I didn’t get a rough quote, but I’m expecting one soon.

We know that catering will be the most expensive thing we will purchase for this wedding, but going in we honestly weren’t expecting $6,000. Meeting with Helen from Sister to Sister Catering saved my reception as well as my mom’s wallet.

(Speaking of my mom, here’s a picture of us before our Thanksgiving meal!)



Top 5 Ways to Save: Catering Edition

1. Go for heavy hor d’ourves. It’s a wedding, you shouldn’t be expected to dish out $20,000 to feed guests lobster tail and filet mignon (unless your filthy rich and I’m the guest, then I want that on my plate). For our reception, we’re choosing foods that remind you of a picnic, with a little flare.

burger sliders

fruit kabobs mac n cheese

jalepenos poppers  veggies

Just make sure you mention that your reception is hor d’ourves only and plan your wedding at a time later than the average dinner time. This gives guests a heads up and is a way to make sure guests don’t show up starved and looking for a full meal.

2. Purchase your own alcohol. Believe it or not, specialty stores such as Trader Joe’s have great prices on wine sales. Or go for no alcohol at all.

3. If you must have alcohol, stick to beer and wine only. Unless you really want your groomsmen climbing the walls to take a picture with a giant deer head mounted on the wall (yes, that’s a true story), say no to liquor.

4. SHOP AROUND. I cannot stress this enough. When you only speak with one caterer, you’ll never know if you’re getting a good price, because there’s absolutely no comparison. $4,000 may be in your price range, but you may be able to get a better deal.

5. Purchase your own dining ware. These days, you aren’t forced to make your guests eat off of white paper plates. Smartyhadaparty.com offers a huge variety of decorative plates and plastic ware.

The website offers 120 of these plates for only $55.39.


And if you absolutely hate those white plastic forks, you can get 24 plastic but looks just like silver forks, 12 knives, and 12 spoons for $4.99.


Vendors, On Vendors, On Vendors.

So you’re engaged. Now what do you do? If you’re anything like me, you head straight to Wal-Mart, pick up tons of wedding books, then when you get home you turn on Say Yes to the Dress and pull up Pinterest to start planning.

Little did I realize when I started planning, I can’t do everything from behind a computer. Yes, it is the digital age, but wedding planning is an experience that allows you to meet new people and gain relationships with vendors. You’re not going to get a feel for the personality of a vendor by reading their “About Me” section of their Facebook page.

But how do you meet vendors? BRIDAL SHOWS.

bridal show

Bridal shows allow brides and their fiances (if it doesn’t interfere with football of course) to meet vendors and even try out their products in one place. These things are usually huge and the best part is they ALWAYS have door prizes. I recently attended one in Lynchburg,VA with my wedding planning sidekick (so excited to have someone who is also planning a wedding by my side!), Victoria, and she won a gorgeous bridal jewelry set. They usually have prizes ranging from free engagement sessions, to free honeymoons, even a FREE WEDDING. How awesome is that?

Going to a bridal show can be overwhelming though. There are usually a lot of vendors, some of which you probably aren’t even interested in. I’m not going to lie, I tend to go to these events solely for the catering and cake tastings as well as the door prizes. To make sure that you don’t end up lost, dazed, and confused here are a few dos and don’ts for surviving a bridal show:

1. DO stop at every vendor. Even if you know that you won’t use that 90’s rock tribute band, stop and see what they have to offer. You never know, they may have other options that aren’t visible on their poster or a drawing you can enter.

2. DON’T give your email to every vendor. I’m guilty. I have a tendency of putting my email down on everything. The caterer who said their packages start at $5,000– pass. You’ll just get extremely confused once that email ends up in your inbox.

3.  DO take a flyer from each vendor. If you’re just not sure if you should take a flyer, take one. When you get home at the end of the day, dump out your nifty tote you most likely received at the door and start organizing your flyers. Put them in piles of: vendors to contact, vendors to research, vendors to throw out.

4. DO come ready to eat. You may think that you won’t eat much at a bridal show, but trust me you’ll leave feeling stuffed. From hor dourves to cake samples, there will be something for every taste bud possible.

bridal show2

5. DON’T go it alone. Grab your mom, sister, cousin, friend, bridesmaid, fiance, whoever. This is supposed to be a fun experience. Being engaged is something you shouldn’t do alone. The people you take along are there to have fun with you and scope out possible vendors. They are a shoulder to lean on when you get confused and an extra arm when your bags get heavy with free stuff.

So start looking for bridal shows near you! It’s never too early to go, so here are some upcoming shows in the Lynchburg, Roanoke, New River Valley areas:

November 16, 2013– 16th Annual Bridal Showcase, Lynchburg,VA Kirkley Hotel & Conference Center

January 19, 2014– Greater VA Bridal Show, Roanoke,VA Roanoke Civic Center (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvP146cQ7cU)

January 26, 2014– Greater VA Bridal Show, Blacksburg,VA The Inn at Virginia Tech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvP146cQ7cU)


January 5, 2014– Great Bridal Expo, Washington, D.C

The Great Bridal Expo is a HUGE traveling bridal show that goes all over the U.S. Tickets can be ordered online at greatbridalexpo.com for only $16.

A Walk in the Park… With Cameras

Things have been so busy here lately in Radford. I’ve been slammed with projects, papers, pictures, and work.

Speaking of pictures, Ian and I have received most of ours back from the photographers! How much did we pay you ask? Well, we paid a whopping $0. And how much are we going to pay for wedding pictures? As much as I want. Yep, you read that right.

Ian and I went to high school with a guy (ironically named Ian) who also attends Radford University as a Graphic Design major. He’s done quite a bit with photography and even introduced us to one of his design buddies, Zack, who also is fantastic with a camera! As if that wasn’t enough, one of the girls I work with has a photography-inclined girlfriend, Hayley, that agreed to take pictures as well. Hayley and Zack have been gracious enough to be our wedding photographers, and I am stoked! Of course I’m not going to let them do it for free.

I had our whole photo shoot planned (thanks Pinterest) with the perfect poses. Once we got to the site for our pictures, a beautiful public park here in Radford called Bissett Park, all of our photographers huddled around to look at the pictures I wanted. The last time I had my picture taken professionally was for my senior photos in high school and I was directed on exactly how I should pose. It was completely opposite on this occasion. At first it was extremely awkward. How do I pose? Does this look awkward? Am I awkward? Eventually Ian had to take over because I was too scared to tell my photographers what I wanted. Let me tell you, he was a pro! At one point he even told me, “Heather you’re the one who wants all of these pictures done in a certain way, speak up!” Once he took control though, it was the most fun I had had in a while.

Just like anything else in wedding planning on a budget, you’re going to have to compromise. You can either spend thousands upon thousands of dollars and receive top-notch direction for your photos, or you can pay close to nothing, hang out with great friends, act a little awkward, and still receive beautiful (REAL) pictures.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Is she just going to send us on our way without some sample engagement pictures?” Of course not! I would never!