Back when we were planning our honeymoon, the idea of returning to work for 10 days between the wedding and Greece didn’t seem like too big a deal. In reality: WHAT WERE WE THINKING?! This has been torture. Sure, it’s nice to have some time to reorganize everything post-wedding, but I am packed and desperate to get out of my cubicle, onto a plane, and into a sundress on the Mediterranean. To distract me, let’s talk wedding vendors.
Venue: Something I didn’t know before getting engaged: the venue you select entirely dictates the rest of the wedding decisions (date, guest count, decor, etc.) We chose the first venue we visited, The National Society of Colonial Dames, a beautiful colonial house and garden a stone’s throw from our house. It is around the corner from Rittenhouse Square and Parc, and is so stunning and well-decorated inside, we didn’t have to –or want to– do too much in the way of decor. We visited right after we got back from Paris in 2013, and even 18 months in advance, they only had two open Saturday dates in September of 2014. Adriana, the venue coordinator, takes such pride in running the space, and everything was perfect. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a venue in the middle of Center City as affordable as this one. The beauty of Colonial Dames is in how intimate it feels; our guest list totaled 88, and there was ample space in the dining room for 10 round tables and a sizable dance floor.
Caterer: We got several quotes from catering companies, ranging from $10k to $19k (!!) and one mystery quote we’ll never know, because the guy never bothered to follow up with us after our meeting. Keeping with the theme, we went with the first and only caterer we had a tasting with, Sage Catering. The food was out of this world (our photographer snapped this shot of our chicken entree, which came with white cheddar and brie mac and cheese!) and we are still talking about the cheese board station and the passed hors d’oeuvres. Lindsay, our catering manager, took all the stress out of the day for us, organizing everything from assigning us a ‘shadow’ server who made sure we always had food & drink in hand, to timing our walk down the aisle. She arranged the cake delivery, helped us pack up all the leftover alcohol at the end of the night, and basically was an absolute rockstar at handling everything. She checked in with us as we were schmoozing our way around the cocktail hour, and I mentioned that I’d be making my way to the cheese station shortly, only to have Lindsay reappear next to me with a plate stacked with everything on offer. The way to my heart is through cheese, fyi.
DJ: You know those wedding DJs that have a hype-man, usually in a shiny silk vest and some sort of hat, who works the dance floor and organizes the line dances and says cheesy things into the mic the whole night? I would have rather stabbed myself in the eye than had one of those, so it is fitting that we went with a DJ company called No Macarena. Evan, our DJ, is –and I’m not exaggerating when I say this– the nicest and most bubbly human being I’ve ever met. We exchanged a ton of emails leading up to the wedding, and not just about the playlist; we found out we have the same alma mater, and are sort of kindred creative spirits. Evan played every song we requested and some gems we forgot but that he knew fit our style, had the entire room up and dancing the whole night, and never –not once!– got on the microphone to dedicate a song to all the lovers. We are double-dating soon, that is how well we hit it off.
Cake: Cake is all that matters. After some preliminary research into wedding cakes and being shocked and appalled by how much bakeries can get away with charging for dry cake covered in drier fondant ($5-$12/slice, on average) we decided to get a huge sheet cake from our favorite bakery in town, Swiss Haus. Their three-layer Hazelnut cake is a Philadelphia staple; if you grew up here you’ve had it for at least one birthday party, and likely every occasion where cake is necessary. It’s delicious, moist, covered in chocolate shavings, and for a 17″x26″ sheet cake that feeds 100-130 (or 88 guests and leftovers for me every night for the past week+) cost only $205. I almost felt like I was stealing.
Photographer: By now, we’ve discussed how fantastic Inna of Peach Plum Pear Photo is. It’s worth reiterating, however, that her photographs are gorgeous and she is a delight to work with. If you only splurge on one thing for the wedding, make it the photography.
Officiant: Since our original officiant could not make the ceremony, she found a back-up for us in Revered Edie Weinstein, who was just incredibly lovely and kind. Multiple people commented to me how much they loved the ceremony. We kept everything short and entirely non-denominational (the only reference to religion came with this line: “Their religion is Love, that can only unite and never divide.”), and Edie really got us, right from the start. She also recommended an editor to me, once she heard I was writing a book. Seriously, we got so lucky with all of our amazing vendors.
Hotel: We stayed at The Latham Hotel, just up 17th street from the venue, the night of the wedding, and I checked in on Friday and spent the night there with my maid of honor. We were granted a 3+ hour early check-in, upgraded to an enormous suite, and generally treated like royalty (they gave us a ride home Sunday morning in their car service). We reserved a block of rooms for our guests at The Radisson Blu Warwick, also on 17th street and something like 400ft from the venue. Both are pretty swanky.
Flowers: We kept it simple and only had flowers for the ceremony. Flower Expressions near Rittenhouse Square is my go-to florist during peony season, so it made sense to use them for the wedding. White rose petals for the flower girls, and small white rose bouquets for me and the bridesmaids. Nothing fancy or expensive, which is good, because I left my bouquet at the venue. Oops.
Table Decorations: When was the last wedding you went to that you thought, “Wow, those floral centerpieces are really nice and certainly worth the $100 per table?” We went to IKEA a few weekends before the wedding and got 10 white picture frames for the table numbers, and 100 tea lights and glass votives, for $105 total. Related: if anyone wants a glass tea light votive holder, call me. I have tons.
Favors: Since I am a Crazy Candle Lady, I am always hoarding matchboxes from restaurants and bars. Who doesn’t love a good matchbox? We ordered 120 custom matchboxes with our name and date on them from For Your Party, along with 200 cocktail napkins. Little touches like that were something I eyerolled at during the planning, but I really love how they pulled everything together. FYP were great to work with, really communicative, and the product quality belied how inexpensive everything was.
Invitations: These deserve (and will get) a post of their own, because my friend Herbie created absolute magic with (and he’ll appreciate I’m using this word) the “branding” of our wedding. He designed our Save the Dates, the invitations, response, and insert cards, place cards, table numbers, napkin & matchbox logo, and cider bottle label. I gave him a moodboard last year of the style we were going for, and he exceeded my expectations, knocking it out of the park on his initial design. He kept the style and font (we went with a special font by The Type Foundry) consistent throughout every little detail. I love them, and can’t wait to show them off. We had everything printed at Replica Creative, funnily enough just up the street from the florist, meaning our wedding took place in almost a two block boundary. Stephen and the team at Replica had everything done within a one day turnaround, and the quality was flawless.
Am I forgetting anything? Probably, my brain is still fried and trying to process how perfect the entire day was. All of the planning really does pay off.