This is the second part of a series of articles about Mack and Pastor Casper’s wedding, The Corder Merger.
As I previously mentioned, much of the last year of my life has been spent planning our wedding, better known as The Corder Merger. We were finally wed in April, and it’s still surreal. It was a whirlwind of a day, and I’m still taking it all in (and writing thank you notes, lol). Here’s an inside look our most special day, and some tips we learned along the way.
Vendors are a huge part of a wedding, as they tend to handle the most important pieces of your function. We chose not to have many because we didn’t want them to be a huge part of the budget.
The first vendor we secured was the venue. Repeat after me: You don’t have a date until you have a venue. Nashville is growing at light speed, and as a result, is a popular destination for weddings. This means the markup on venues and other services is astronomical. We were torn between the ease of an all-inclusive venue and the price of an a la carte` situation. Our initial research on all-inclusives yielded venues in the high five-figures – more than our total budget for our 165 attendees. So, we booked the agriculture center in my husband’s hometown and decided to piece everything together ourselves. It was dirt cheap and convenient to our church location at the time. My husband had been to the place many times for various events, but I had never seen it before. The advice I had been given was to book the venue at least a year ahead of time, so we put a deposit down, sight-unseen.
Storytime: We booked our venue shortly after our engagement in May. Trying to go see it proved difficult as the office was only open Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm, and the venue is popular during the week. I couldn’t see it while I was working due to the distance, and they couldn’t show the building while it was in use. When I called to schedule a walkthrough, it was several weeks before I could get a date. The Monday I was scheduled to see the room, I drove 40 minutes only to be told the place had caught on fire the weekend before. I was irritated, but I booked another time in October. When I finally saw it, I was underwhelmed by the room and its limitations and overwhelmed by the amount of time and money that would be needed to make the space useable. I had been having the itch to explore other options, but after seeing the venue we had booked, the yearning wouldn’t leave me alone.
We made a firm decision in December to start shopping for a new venue. My precious hair stylist mentioned that she had gotten married at a hotel. Now, we had ruled out hotels at first because we thought they would be way too expensive. Understanding how much the all-in costs would be at the other venue, we put in some RFPs to hotels closer to our new home. We received a response from DoubleTree by Hilton Murfreesboro, and it was a game-changer for our entire wedding. Not only were we able to have our wedding and reception in the same room, our package included catering, linens, tables and chairs, space for the wedding party to get ready, space to stage our decor, sound system and centerpiece options, and a room night for my husband and I. The biggest added bonus was the courtesy block for our guests. Most of our guests were from out of town and they loved being able to have all the events in one place. We ended up having to change our date as a result, but all-in-all, it was worth it.
One of my favorite parts of attending wedding shows was sampling the food! I got to sample so many great cakes during the shows, ranging from grocery store cakes to luxury confections. We ended up choosing Imagination Creations as our baker. My favorite thing about this cake is that we didn’t have to compromise flavor for beauty or price. We froze the leftovers, and I’m grateful because they are still delicious.
Next to catering, photography tends to be the most important-and most expensive-vendor to secure. We initially booked the photographer who shot our engagement photos, but the date change was a conflict. A friend of ours who does not typically do weddings graciously agreed to shoot ours. He did a phenomenal job. Also, because weddings are not his specialty, he gave us some beautiful touches that we felt were unique and special.
One of my dearest friends used to plan and coordinate events, and would occasionally call me in to help. In the process, she taught me a great deal about flowers. As my husband wooed me with floral arrangements during our courtship, I grew to love them even more. DIY-ing the flowers was a no-brainer. I spent the year practicing at church and at home.While sourcing a wholesaler, I was blessed to stumble upon Nashville Flower Market. Once I decided what kind of arrangements I wanted, they allowed me as many consultations as I needed to determine how many stems I needed and the total cost, and adjust my quotes from there. The day before the wedding, my mom and my bridesmaids were able to go to Nashville Flower Market and arrange the larger centerpieces and bouquets under the direction of an awesome florist. It was a priceless experience for such beautiful arrangements.
Among the three things that were most important to me about our wedding was my attire. I was never the type of girl that dreamt of my wedding. Quite frankly, I never thought I’d have one – but that’s another story for another day. Anyway, I ended up going with a priceless custom satin gown with a splash of purple, made chiefly by my grandmother. I asked the ladies to choose their own floor-length dark purple dresses and silver shoes. They each carried feather fans in lieu of flowers. The guys wore their own grey suits, with matching teal ties.
The ceremony was the most important piece of our wedding experience. Taking seriously the sanctity of marriage and the gravity of what we were doing, we were sure to incorporate elements that represented Christ as the center of our marriage. We completed pre-marital counseling with our officiant, Pastor Jim Kubic of Launchpoint Church in Lebanon, TN, and he gave an awesome word for the entire room. He was instrumental in helping us get through rehearsal. My husband arranged a special saxophone solo of a classic worship song, “Total Praise.” For our unity ceremony, we wanted to incorporate my bonus-daughter, so we chose a soil ceremony. It didn’t quite go as planned due to technical difficulties, but I still love what it represented.
Our reception had a few hiccups, but all in all, a great time was had by all. Our venue was so accommodating in terms of meal choices. We ended up having four entree choices – Jerk Pork with Peach Chutney Sauce, Stuffed Chicken Roulade with Spinach and Red Peppers, Panzanella Stuffed Mushrooms, and Chicken Fingers and Fries (for the kids). With most of our guests coming from out of town, it was so important to me that they were well fed, and everyone seemed to be pleased. I just wished we had had a chance to enjoy it too!
We were served and ate a bit, but flowing through the reception caused us to be up and down so much we didn’t really get to eat. Speaking of flow, my favorite part of the reception was probably the anniversary dance. We choice the anniversary dance in lieu of the traditional garter and bouquet toss, and my mom and dad won. It was encouraging seeing all of the married couples cozying up and keeping the fire burning.
One thing that didn’t work so well was greeting our guests. We opted not to have a receiving line in order to keep the night moving, and instead chose to go to each table and greet our guests. This idea has worked at other weddings, but our guests didn’t recognize the flow from table to table. We kept getting pulled to other tables, stopped for pictures, etc. In the end, I’m not sure we made it all the way around.
Looking back, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Although it was not without mishaps, there wasn’t much I would have done differently. I’ve never felt happier, and certainly not more beautiful than that day, and I will cherish it forever.
Next month, I’ll be sharing details about how I designed the look of the wedding and the DIYS, with tips about how to be a budget bride and have a beautiful day. Stay tuned!