My Wedding Experience and Vendor Recommendations

I’ve planned one wedding, It certainly doesn’t make me an expert wedding planner. However, I did learn a lot along the way. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview, hire, and learn from the best. Just over a month since our big day, I’m compiling some helpful tips and sharing the details from our experience.

Our affair was a glammed up summer cocktail party with a mixed metal theme. Taking place with beachside views that spanned the Atlantic and overlooking the Virginia Beach boardwalk. We served our favorite foods like burger, crab cakes, and gelato in stations. Two bars were available and trays of passed signature spirits like margaritas and our take on a French 76 pleased our guests! Blush Champagne was served upon seating and a brass band was on hand for the ceremony through cocktail hour. Simple, yet careful details left lasting impressions and set the tone for a dance party that we didn’t want to end. We had a fabulous team of top professionals that are responsible for fulfilling our epic vision. 

I had no idea what type of wedding I wanted… until I got engaged. Soon after popping the question, Jason and I talked about the type of celebration we wanted. Along with my parents, we narrowed down a few places that may be able to showcase the overall vibe we thought would best express our wedding style. A benefit to being an older bride, was that I am extremely aware of my style and taste. I don’t mind taking my time to plan and can make decisions quickly. This proved to be worthwhile in our year long planning process. Pinterest was the best resource for me to stash pics of things that sparked joy. I spent many evenings showing Jason choices and gained his input. He was the perfect amount of involved. Chiming in on things that were important to him like cake flavors, menu options, music, and of course his wardrobe. He left the other decision making details to me. By the time we said I do and took our first look in the reception space, we were amazed at what came to fruition. Nearly speechless, we were pleased! 

Emily giving Jason and I our first look at the decor!

First things first, pick your venue and lock in your date. Once we decided on the Virginia Beach oceanfront, we began by setting appointments to visit 3 sites. Before booking the appointments, I visited the venues website to view past events, I viewed their menus, and checked their capacity. I even scrolled instagram and used hashtags to search for some of their recent weddings. No need looking if your desires, budget, and vibe isn’t something they can even carry out. Mom and I got our notebooks and took a day to check out each space. Hilton was the last place we visited and honestly I was feeling a little lack luster from the other two vendors. But as soon as we met Emily, we knew this was it. She as warm, professional, helpful, and accommodating. We toured the entire property and talked through many options to utilize the different features of the hotel. After the appointment with her wrapped up, Mom and I went downstairs to toast with champagne. This was it! Our correspondence with Emily was often and detailed. She was timely, helpful, and went above and beyond through the entire process. She took time to accompany me and our wedding planner for a linen meeting. The day of the wedding she escorted me through the venue for pictures while carefully guarding my margarita. How’s that for service? The Hilton was able to carefully craft each detail of our casual menu request and matching signature cocktail selection. A one of a kind menu with all of our favorites. When working with your venue, take time to enjoy those tastings, speak up, make thoughtful decisions that suit you and your fiancé. Our wedding food and bar was a HUGE hit! 

Carrie and I mid reception

Do you really need a wedding planner? I’ll leave the answer up to you. It’s different for every bride. For me, Mom and I didn’t want to do anything on my wedding day except show up, get pampered, and relax with my best gals. If this is what you’re looking for, let me tell you about Carrie and the Happy Hour Hostess Team. I can’t say enough about her as a person or as a professional. This entire post should be dedicated to her. I met Carrie a few years back when we both were working on a grand opening corporate event for a new business in Norfolk. I was able to see her in action during a high level event and I was impressed. As soon as I was engaged I knew she’d be one of the vendors I’d interview to handle our affair. From the time we signed our contract, she was all hands on deck. Over the course of 10 months, we met with her 4 times. My parents fell in love with her immediately. With so many moving pieces in our big day, we never worried about a thing. At each meeting she came over prepared with timelines and to-do lists. This completely eased my mind. She aided in correspondence with our vendor team throughout the entire process and attended and ran meetings with a few of them as well. My vision became hers, and she could somehow see it. She brought forward details I didn’t even know to think of and guided me through a process that kept our wedding vibe front and center without deviating. She’s a visionary! The day of the wedding I never batted an eye for any detail. She kept food on my table, drinks in my hand, and perfume on my wrist! After saying I do, I danced the night away and never even thought about what was happening behind the scenes. That’s the sign of a successful event when the client is carefree. The entire day came together better than I could have ever dreamed of. The epic wedding Jason and I dreamed up became reality and that was all Carrie.

On the way to say I Do!

I’m a fresh flower girl. Luckily so is my mom. Our spouses get it too because Dad and Jason each bring us flowers regularly. This was really the only decor I wanted. Being June, it was the season of my favorites. Hydrangeas, peony’s, garden roses…and NO GREENERY! Nothing rustic. Shannon at Palette of Petals blew us away from the initial meeting. Her sweet, kind enthusiasm matched our energy completely. Mom and I love Shannon! When we met with her, she wanted to know all about the overall vibe, the dress, the aesthetics. This helped her build a fabulous palette that complimented it all, including the bridesmaids gold gowns, and the guys gray suits and vans. It all worked! She was fantastic and nailed our mixed metal theme with centerpieces, votives, stands, and color palette. I wanted a homogenous look. Blushes and whites in metallic vessels. And in our last meeting I asked about the possibility of a boxwood panel photo opportunity. It was a show stopper! The flower choices and colors were mine, but the design work, talent, and lushness of it were all Shannon and her team.

The amazing Shannon

The dress! After an unsuccessful but fun trip to Richmond I was feeling a bit discouraged. On a random weekend afternoon I stumbled into Ava Clara. I shared my experience, frustration, and concerns for a gown. Being older, petite, and curvy it was difficult to find something tasteful that expressed my style. I wanted a little sexy, a little sweet, I wanted a low back and I am obsessed with tulle. Shortly after, Jamie produced this Waters Gown in a titanium shade that knocked my socks off. Whoa!!! The unicorn gown was a reality. Proof that the right consultant will listen to you and pull from their stacked inventory to fit your one of a kind request. She rocked my world with this dress. This tulle off color choice was one I didn’t want to take off.

Who knew linens were so important? Initially I had left this detail up to Carrie and Emily to sort out. But after some encouragement, they had me sitting in the Waterford Rentals office crushing on some pretty gorgeous textiles. They even attended the appointment with me. The gals at Waterford rock! Their eye is so good. You tell them your theme and your style and in turn they produce samples of linens that may work with your parameters. It was a blessing for me, the had just received a new mixed metal fabric that could not have been more perfect. The combo we opted for was stunning and nailed the glammed up…by not formal look I wanted! 

Let them eat cake. Other then knowing we needed it, I had no clue. I sent several emails to set up appointments and the only one to respond was Incredible Edibles. There’s a reason they’ve been #1 in this space. Jason and I set up a cake tasting. Whoa! We settled on 3 tiers with 3 flavors and found ourselves booking the custom gelato cart along with our sugar filled fantasy! Incredible Edibles was kind enough to host us for an additional tasting where my parents joined the fun and we picked our gelato flavors as well. I opted for a simple cake design with fresh flowers and gold fleck to compliment the theme. Cake flavors included strawberry, almond, and hummingbird. For gelato we choose tangerine, strawberry prosecco, oreo, and cherry crumble. 

Holly of Sirens Salon

An after thought for me was makeup. I knew my dear friend Holly with Sirens Salon would be on deck for hair, and thought they could manage makeup. After some consideration and kind of on a whim, I sent an email to the legendary Kim Wadsworth to see if she was even available. I couldn’t believe that she was! If you’ve read Vow or Distinction magazines, you’re familiar with Kim. Chances are, any major marketing shoot or spread happening here she’s on set. She offers years of experience from some pretty major arenas. This allows her to achieve your unique look. During the booking process, we chatted in detail on the phone. We set a trial for mid April and Mom and I loved every hospitable minute we spent in Kim’s home that morning. She nailed my request for minimal, natural glam. The soft colors let my dress speak for itself. The day of the wedding, Kim was kind enough to assist me into my dress and checked over details of my final look. Her calming, yet enthusiastic personality is what you want on your big day. My tribe looked beautiful and everyone was ecstatic with their look. The pictures speak for themselves. I believe we made a new friend with Kim and hope to work with her again soon.

DJ Rodney

When it came to music, Jason and I had a lengthy playlist and some interesting requests we hoped to incorporate. Music is a big thing for us and we have a love for tunes that span many genres. Could we mix our love for Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, and Rage Against the Machine that our crowd would appreciate? We wanted the music to go all night! No breaks! I spent months working on our song choices. DJ Rodney was repeatedly recommended and the obvious choice. It was a no brainer to book him ASAP! As our day got closer we chatted about the out of the box entrance choice, father daughter dance off, and party tunes. He carried out the sound perfectly and when he went rouge later in the night, the glow sticks came out and the party went off! I literally was sore the next day from dancing.


Father Daughter Dance to Led Zep

Photography is my jam. As you know, I love posting pics. When we got engaged, I convinced my friend and fellow entrepreneur Heidi Calma to come out of wedding retirement for our engagement session and wedding day. She has captured my business photos, engagement, and now wedding! You need to feel comfortable with whoever you hire. The photographer is someone who is up close and personal with you that day and can witness some pretty intimate moments. After it’s all said and down, you hope you get a handful of keeper shots. She captured everything including these amazing wind blown portraits and some epic King Neptune shots.

In line with that was our videographer. Again an afterthought once planning was complete, but so glad we opted to have this. We eagerly await the work of Justin Gibby so we can relieve the entire night !

Venue: Hilton Virginia Beach

Wedding Planner: Happy Hour Hostess

Floral Design: Palette of Petals

Gown: Ava Clara

Linens: Waterford Rentals

Cake and Gelato: Incredible Edible

Hair: Sirens Salon

Makeup: Kim Wadsworth

DJ: Astro Entertainment, DJ Rodney

Photography: Heidi Calma

Videographer: Gibby Visuals

Wedding Wellness: The Fit Petite

Brass Ensemble: Members of the Virginia Symphony

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