Nuptial Visions

Bridal Portraits 10

When Judge came to Oxford, England and proposed to me in May, I had a good- long time left alone in the UK to plan my wedding. It felt like an eternity, but in that 2 months in Oxford, I dreamed and prayed a good deal. And ran up a very expensive long-distant phone bill with my mother. And spent too much time on my Pintrest.

I wanted a wedding guest list of 175 people and I needed my wedding to be somewhere under 15,000 dollars.

To be honest, planning my wedding was not stressful. I know what I like. I am a visionary. I can very quickly envision what I want and WHO I can gather to make a party special. Hospitality is my number one spiritual gifting. My other greatest gift is I know how to pick talented, artistic, generous friends.

Planning my wedding was not stressful. Planning my wedding was stressful for my mother – the person I always delegate the DETAILS upon. God Bless Joy Baker. And Randall Baker. For being logistical, engineer, practical people who also financed the big-day. I was caconned by their engineer mindset.

There is a reason I called thist post wedding-visioning. I don’t plan. I vision. This gets me in trouble sometime.

The only thing I truely planned for my big-day was the music. During my stint in Oxford, I walked a lot. During this time, I would listen and pray through our wedding music while listening to Itunes. This was by far the most important part of the day to me. Each song I prayed and thought through meticolously. It was very important that music lace together the sacred moment of our ceremony with our past and our faith. As I was a member of Hill Chapel Baptist choir during college, I knew for certain, I needed my Hill Chapel family to sing during the ceremony.  I would walk up and down Banburry Road and cry imagining Judge’s face as I came down the aisle to gospel songs. I had FOUR different musical collaborations be apart of our wedding day and this is, by far, the part I am most PROUD of when I think back to November 22nd.

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If you need a wonderful band to hire for your reception, look into Grassland String Band. They were brilliant.

I knew I wanted my wedding to be stripped-down. I wanted antique, natural, bare. I wanted an old, abandoned church that few have been honored enough to be united in marriage in that space. I wanted to be made one-flesh on holy ground. I wanted the colors to be cranberry, gold and greens.  I wanted seeded euculyptus, callalillies, and golden rod. I wanted things to be as natural and simple as possible.

Hurdles to the Vision…

A. The Dress: I did, in fact, lose sleep over the dress. This was the hardest challenge because I knew exactly what I wanted before I was sure it existed.

It could not be white. It must be cream. It had to have pink undertones. It hand to have gold stitched into the lace. It needed to have sleeves. It needed to make my breasts look smaller and contained. It had to have buttons in the back. It needed to look like it could be atleast 100 years old.

I hopped on trains and went to two obscure towns in England ( A big shout-out to Jamie Gaither for spending lots of money on train fair to accompany me.)I fell in love with Jenny Peckham, Suzanne Neville and Claire Pettibone’s gowns. I lamented that these designers were twice my dress budget. I spent days on second hand wedding websites bartering for said gowns. I even was measured for a Suzzanne Neville dress at Ellie Sanderson. I decided I couldn’t buy a dress without my mom being there.

I came home to Atlanta. I went to the Say-Yes to the Dress shop. I went to the Sentimanentalist. Kelly’s Closet. In staying true to my original vision, I found NOTHING in my budget on two different continents. My whole family came to watch me fall in love at Bridals by Lori. But on the day we planned to make the magic happen – I came up empty handed and frustrated.

Then, I discovered Maggie Sotterro online. I found a dress I wanted, located it in my size and drove to Kennesaw Mountain to a glorified country-bumpkin prom-dress shop and there, found my dress in my exact size. This wasn’t even the dress I drove to Kennesaw Mountain to find. It looked like nothing special on the hanger, but I tried it on and it was perfect. The minute I put it on, I knew. And I left that shop 15 minutes later with my dress, thanks to my Aunt Jan’s generosity.

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B. The Location: This hurdle is why I ran my phone-bill up so high in Oxford. I wanted a mountain or lake wedding, originally. I pictured the North Georgia mountains or Lake Rabun in the fall. However, the fact I knew I wanted Brett’s catering and the truth my mother’s logistical mind almost suffered a minor melt-down due to my over-the-top destination wedding dream – I realized an Athens wedding made much more sense for our budget.

Then, a local photographer documented a spring wedding in an obscure, undisclosed location in Watkinsville. I showed everyone I knew the photographs. No one believed this place existed. I searched every website and went down every country back-road with Tina and Jessica. When we gave up on ever finding the Sanctuary of Watkinsville, we passed it right in the center of town. Believing the place was a functioning church, we barrelled right in bare-foot. When we heard a shower running, and saw wet laundry hanging, we were horrified to find out we were trespassing on someone’s property. After we explained to the nice lady and her husband why we were walking through their house, and I explained that I was also an educator, they agreed to let us rent the 100 year old church for whatever I paid for my dress. 1,400$. Perfect.

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Once we found my dream ceremony venue, the reception seemed too easy. The State Botanical Gardens was an easy choice as it was less than a 10 minute drive from the church. The Conservatory at the Botanical Gardens was perfectly alligned with my dream of natural and simple. The greenhouse made it so we would only have to pay for tables, chairs and center pieces for decorations.

C. Picking the Right People:

My friends made my wedding happpen, fo real.

I didn’t hire any proffesionals except my photographer, Lindsay Cox of Letters + Light and Oconee Events for the chairs and dance tent. I can’t endorse these two enough. Oconee Events saved my reception in more ways than one and is the truest, most honest southern gentelemen. Rent everything and anything from Rhett. I don’t have to write about the beauty of Linday’s work. All her pictures on this post will speak for her talent. She put her heart and soul into capturing all the details of our wedding day.

It was never a question that Brett would cater our wedding, as Judge and I both worked there after college. Just know when you plan a wedding, most of your budget is ate up by what your guests EAT. If you’re going to pay the big bucks for food, make sure James Ellis does the cookin for ya. You won’t regret it and your guest will rave about the food for years to come. All together the food and drinks alone cost us around 8,000$.

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My vendor list was mostly comprised of my Athens posse. One of my childhood best friends made this amazing cake from scratch as a wedding gift.

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Our friend, Steve Harpine agreed to DJ for us and our friend Drew Jacoby stepped in as our brilliant videographer.

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My LEAST favorite part of wedding planning was invitations. This is FULL of small details and it’s a full time job, so I opted out. SNAIL MAIL IS SO STRESSFUL! If it wasn’t for Meg Abbott and Anna Myers who designed the invites, Tina, Jessica and Kristen who addressed and mailed them no one would have shown up for my wedding because they wouldn’t have known  it was happening. Kristen monitored my wedding website like a hawk and is the only reason I actually knew who was going to show up on November 22.

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Jessica Gay is the reason I am legally married today. She made the whole day turn into a perfect symphony instead of a train wreck. If you can’t afford a wedding planner, find your most organized, driven, logistical friend and beg her to help you RUN and COMMAND your day. Jessica did all the hard communication. She point-blank told our ceremony venue they MUST move a hundred plants to the back of the church when I was on the verge of a melt-down. In an hour, there was an army of Spanish-speaking men moving all those plants with dollys. That morning, Jessica gave me no choice but to run to the court house and grab a marriage license. She printed schedules for the whole bridal party. She made lunch for everyone that day. She did a million other little things I will never know were needed. Thank you, Jessica Gay. You were a life-saver and I was so glad you were boss and made all the hard calls.

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Lee Garner is the reason my wedding looked like a dream. Dorrie Garner was my long time friend and bridesmaid, and Lee Garner is her mom. She offered to help in “whatever way she could” as she dabbled in wedding coordinating and florals before. We got together at Jittery Joes and then next thing you know, I am asking her to by my florist. I showed her a couple pictures off my Pintrest, she caught my vision and ran with her long-time friend and partner in crime, Alisha. What she pulled off for what little we could afford was seriously a miracle. I stil look at the boutineers, and bridesmaid’s boquets and want to cry. When I walked into my reception, I honestly thought it looked like what I think heaven should look like. That is because of Mrs. Garner.

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D. Reception Woes: The scariest part of my wedding for my mother was the fact that the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia doesn’t let you start setting up your reception until 5 PM when the public park closes. Uhhh…my wedding ceremony started at 5 PM.

Leah Vickeroy, aka super-woman, with very little to no-direction, made  my reception happened. She had to call in an anoymous group of Wesley directors at the 11th hour – but it happened. She placed the table settings, decorations, hot-cider, table-clothes, cake and every other thing I forgot to tell her in amazing, beautiful places. She found everything that was hidden and jumbled together and organized a heaven out of sheer chaos in 2 hours time. I’ll never be able to thank her enough, no matter how many times we go to Last Resort.

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Truth be told, The State Botanical Garden is one of the cheapest venues in Athens to host a reception because UGA is not primarily a wedding business . It cost 2,200 to rent that large space for the night. You can’t beat that price. Believe me. However,  the wedding coordinator is TERRIBLE at communicating because they are not trying to compete. The lady in charge of wedding receptions at the Botanical Gardens needs to be relocated. She was impossible to communicate with and often lazy and unhelpful.  You always get what you pay for. However, the staff outside of this one employee were super helpful and accomodating.

To succesfully have a wedding reception at the Botans you really do need to HIRE an army of help because you get such a  short window to set up. I on the other hand, just asked Leah, my 2 cousin’s boyfriends, my dad’s cousin who set up the DJ equipment and dance floor and Mrs. Garner. When I walked into my reception ahead of the crowd, I honestly imagined having to roll out tables in my dress. When I heard my cousin’s boyfriend repeating over and over into his phone, “It was a shit-storm in there.” I thought there would be no cake or food or a place to dance. When I walked into the Botanical Gardens and it looked like the most beautiful, heavenly scene I could have ever imagind, and I saw James Ellis at the bar ready to serve drinks, I ran to him, hugged him and started to cry. Somehow, all these great people made the impossible happen.

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E. Blowing your Budget WIDE open: A week before my wedding happened, I was driving to Madison, Georgia with Judge. It all seemed too easy. We had managed to stay relatively within our budget.

All I needed to find were my shoes, ear rings and a mink coat to wear for my exit. We were stress-free. and full of excitement. And then I got that fateful call…

I had made a 15 room room-block at the most lovely inn, the James Madison, in September for all my out of town guests. I had also made a room black at the Hampton Inn for anyone who wanted to go for the more economical route. I just ass-umed that the room block at the James Madison would work in the same fashion as the room block at the Hampton Inn. If people didn’t book, it didn’t matter at all. Stupid.

A week before my wedding, only 2 of the 15 rooms of the James Madison were booked. I told the concierge, “I am so sorry, go ahead and let others rent those rooms.” An awkward moment of silence followed and then I was told I would be contractually obligated to pay for all the rooms that weren’t filled. If no one rented those rooms I would be paying 5,000$.  And suddenly it seemed as if I had to sell back all my new Lenox china to Macy’s or cancel my honey-moon.

{Insert emmotional break-down here}

I spent the rest of the afternoon calling everyone I knew and convincing them to move their hotel reservation from wherever-else to the James Madison. My mom and dad kept me from losing it by agreeing to move the bridesmaid and family members from the Hampton Inn to the James Madison. Judge and I ended up only spending 1,750 on this huge mistake instead of having to return everything we received from our registry to pay this massive debt. Moral of the story: Read contracts closely. Figure out the verbiage on words like “drop dates.”

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Truely, James Madison ended up turning into the GREATEST blessing in disguise. A night before my wedding, I could go from door to door of this lovely inn and tuck in so many people I love into bed. The James Madison turned our wedding from being a 7 hour event to a luxurious weekend ordeal. Hun Friends. Church Friends. Judge’s parent’s. My family. Everyone was in one spot and could enjoy eachother’s company before and after the wedding.

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It was always my dream to get ready at the James Madison, but before we ruled it out as too expensive to have all 8 bridesmaids stay at this location. However, when we were contractually obligated to rent out those rooms – we had quite the party and all got ready in the same space. It was worth every penny we spent to have Elisa, Lucy, Royce and Mia look on as I put on my dress and veil. It was worth every penny to have EVERYONE go out the Friday before at the James Madison bar. And from what I hear, the after party at the James Madison also made the experience unforgettable.

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There are things you cannot plan for when you plan a wedding.

I couldn’t have ever imagined I would have to cash in all my bonds from my childhood to pay for the James Madison rooms.

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I never imagined my tailor would butcher my dress and make it too short so I would have to get it UN-tailored 4 days before my ceremony.

 

I didn’t imagine that Leah wouldn’t be able to find the table-cloths and would have to call in a Wesley army to help her handle the “shit-storm” that was the setting up of my reception.

I didn’t know that there would be 200 plants on the alter 6 hours before my ceremony.

The trick with a succesful wedding that does have a budget, is to invest in great people and to ask them to help you with your big day. You will be amazed by the talent and generosity of the people you love.  And thank and kiss your parents a lot. Without them, I definitely would have fallen to pieces after that call from the James Madison.

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I am so thankful for about 30 other people who I don’t have time or space to mention. If you’re going to get married, make sure you have an army surrounding you that LOVE you. Anna Linton said it best, if you want to know how much you are loved – get married. It is quite overwhelming.

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