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Booking Your Ideal Wedding Vendors

We spent a lot of time planning selecting our wedding vendors. Below is a summary of our vendor list and our rationale for choosing the vendors that we did.
HELPFUL TIPS FROM OUR WEDDING

August 17th, 2019 was one of the most anticipated days of my life. It was our wedding day. Every choice made around the day was intentional — from the venue to the cake. 

In the midst of all the planning, I remember thinking to myself, “sheesh, this is really overwhelming.”  There were so many options. Countless decisions to make. Seemingly endless to-do lists/things to remember. Having worked as a wedding vendor for 3+ years, I didn’t think I would be overwhelmed (boy was I wrong!).

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the process of planning our event that had me stressed (I love event planning and obviously weddings, so making decisions on vendors and planning things like the colors and flowers was a blast. BUT as humans we naturally have a million other plates to juggle outside of planning a wedding — as much as I’d like it to, the world just doesn’t stop when it comes to planning your wedding — and that is what made wedding planning stressful. My now husband, Tate, and I were long-distance, I was working a hefty full-time job in marketing, juggling my wedding season for photography up in Indiana/Ohio, preparing to move back to Wichita, all while wedding planning. Needless to say, I was crazy, God sustained me and I am so grateful that that season is behind me.

Despite the overwhelming/stressful aspects of wedding planning, both me and Tate could not be more delighted with how our wedding day went! We had a truly beautiful, SEAMLESS wedding day, and we give God all the credit for gifting us a nearly perfect day. I strongly believe that the Lord used others to bless us on our wedding day, so I wanted to share with you our vendor list and provide some insight as to why we chose the vendors we did and why we were so unbelievably happy with our decision. 

After all, that’s one of the most challenging aspects of selecting vendors — there’s so many options for every aspect of your day. We read quite a few reviews and asked our close friends for recommendations when it came making these decisions (Tate is a big researcher, which served us well!). But we also didn’t shy away from hiring our talented family and friends.

Below is our wedding day vendor list:

  • Venue: The Barn at Grace Hill
  • Photographer: Hannah Crabb Photography
  • Videographer: AI Photography
  • Day of Coordinator: Lacey Landenberger
  • DJ: Ryan Smothers
  • Officiant: Tony Burt
  • Catering: Dempsey’s Biscuit Company
  • Floral Designer: Kaitlyn Bookmyer
  • Hair: Molly Wilcox
  • Makeup: Savanna Burt
  • Invitation Suite: Savanna Burt
  • Cake: Cameo Cakes
  • Bridal Dress: Sweet Illusion
  • Bridal Shoes: DSW
  • Bridesmaid Dresses: AZAZIE
  • Groom Suit: Dillards
  • Groomsmen Suits: The Groomsmen Suit
  • Seating Chart: Emilime Designs
  • Photo Guestbook: Artifact Uprising
  • Engagement Photos: Becca Louise Photography
  • Engagement Ring: Blue Nile Diamond
  • Wedding Ring (bride): Helzberg Diamond
  • Wedding Ring (groom): Point No Point Studio, Etsy

WEDDING VENUE | THE BARN AT GRACE HILL

The big kahuna. Obviously one of (if not THE) biggest decision around the wedding day, this vendor is one you need to be certain of. Deciding on the Barn at Grace Hill may have been one of our easiest decisions. From the gorgeous architecture, to the clean, white, Chip and Joanna Gaines/Magnolia vibe, I was sold before ever visiting (which worked out well, because our parents + Tate visited the venue and put down our booking deposit while I was in Indiana!)

OUR BIGGEST CONSIDERATIONS

Aesthetic (as a photographer, this was huge for me)

  • Our photographer described our venue as the “queen of wedding barns.”
  • Tons of window light, white walls, and HOLY COW the bridal suite
  • Located in the heart of the Kansas Plains (perfect for sunset photos)
  • The decor closet was a huge bonus!

Price-point

  • Determine your budget before you start visiting venues. This will be one of your biggest expenses, and you want to ensure you aren’t falling in love with venues that are beyond what you can afford.


Capacity

  • If possible, put together a rough draft of your guest list before you start visiting venues. You don’t want to book a space that can’t accommodate your needs.
  • Pay attention to details like the size of the kitchen and the bride + groom preparation areas and parking.


Availability

  • This is pretty straightforward! When we inquired for our wedding in late February we had hoped for a September wedding but found that there were only four Saturdays left for the year: one in July, one in August, and two in December. When we realized that August 17th was the one year anniversary of the wedding we met at, it was a done deal!


Owner

  • Do you jive with the owner? Is the management sincere? Organized? Seasoned? Have they answered your questions well?
  • Amanda was amazing to work with, from start to finish. She went above and beyond to ensure we understood what the next steps were, was prompt in her communication and organized + direct.
PHOTOGRAPHER | HANNAH CRABB PHOTOGRAPHY

Probably the question I most frequently heard leading up to our wedding was, “so, who will be your wedding photographer?!”

To be honest, it wasn’t a tough decision. We live in a world that is absolutely saturated with insanely talented photographers, so it wasn’t so much a challenge to find a seasoned photographer with a strong portfolio as it was to find someone that we felt comfortable with + would actually want to spend our wedding day with!

Hannah Crabb was a friend I knew from college and someone who’s personality I could 100% relate with. She was the perfect blend of fun and professional (and her work speaks for itself). We flew her down from Indianapolis to Wichita and we were so thrilled to have her. We love our images and couldn’t be more grateful for her hard work, artistic eye and the beautiful + timeless images she gave us.

DAY OF COORDINATOR | LACEY LANDENBERGER

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to hire a day-of coordinator I’m going to give you some unsolicited advice and tell you to go all Nike and just do it. We hired a friend who has coordinated numerous weddings and it was one of the top reasons our day went as smoothly as it did.

For those of you that know me, you know that I’m a planner. I had a wedding schedule with 15 minute increments mapped out. I had ceremony and reception diagrams for the floor plan, step-by-step directions for how to optimally flip the room after the ceremony and reception table decor that was specific to every table.

Sure, I had a plan. In my head, every duck was in a row. In my head. Without a day-of coordinator, there’s no way that everything I planned could have happened. Getting married is just too big of a task — even for this master multitasker! Having Lacey there, a capable and trusted friend, managing these details was a huge blessing from start to finish (let’s be honest, when you’re knee deep into your reception you’re not thinking about making sure your purse and overnight bag gets into your getaway car but your coordinator will!).

DJ | RYAN SMOTHERS

Ryan smothers was another one of our friends who blessed us with his God-given gift of slaaaaying on the mic and dance floor. Ryan and Tate go back to childhood. I remember the day after we got engaged and were driving back from Colorado to Kansas, Tate turned to me and said, “I already have the DJ picked out. It has to be Ryan Smothers.” And Ryan was hands down the best decision we could have made — from managing all the sound during our ceremony to giving us an organized and seriously celebratory reception, I’m still humbled by how selflessly Ryan loved and served us.

OFFICIANT | TONY BURT

This was yet another easy decision for us. Since Tate and I didn’t grow up going to the same church (and were attending different churches while we were dating/engaged since I was in Indiana), selecting one our pastors to officiate didn’t feel like an option. We both wanted to know who was marrying us, and that wasn’t a possibility given our long-distance/6 month dating relationship.

So we asked my dad to officiate. He’d previously been ordained online for when he married my cousin, Chelsey and her husband, Ethan. Needless to say, he did amazing and was so intentional in his preparation and delivery. It was beyond special to be walked down the aisle and married by my dad. 10/10 recommend.

CATERING | DEMPSEY’S BISCUIT CO.

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Biscuit Co. was outstanding. Don was prepared with a plan from our initial consult. He visited our venue and met with Amanda to discuss if the kitchen at the Barn at Grace Hill would meet his needs for preparing food onsite (hellooo fresh) before we had booked. He was prepared with more than enough food, took care of transporting our alcohol to and from the venue and more than followed through on everything we discussed.

For all my foodies out there, here’s some details on what we went with:

  • The Belmont | Fried chicken, bacon, extra sharp cheddar, house-made pickles and sausage gravy
  • Pea Salad | Baby arugula, chopped bacon, local pea shoots, sweet peas, shaved radish and herb buttermilk dressing
  • Charcuterie Board | Assortment of fresh fruit, vegetables and various hard and soft cheeses. *board was not prepared by Biscuit Co.

We’re still getting compliments on the food (2.5 months later).

FLORAL DESIGNER | KAITLYN BOOKMYER

My best friend and matron of honor was responsible for all of the gorgeous florals at our wedding. She has experience working as a floral designer for one of the top wedding florists in Indianapolis, IN. As a wedding gift, she offered to design our wedding flowers and truly took my vision and transformed it into something more beautiful than I could have imaged.

I knew I wanted to use olive branches for the greenery throughout the day because of my college trips to Israel and then Lesvos, Greece (the refugee camp I served in there was surrounded my olive trees).

Peonies are my favorite flower (just smell one, they’ll be your favorite too). I’ve always loved when bridal bouquets have white flowers and greenery — there’s something so simply elegant about them. Kaitlyn added some o’hara garden roses, astilbe and dusty miller to my bouquet, and it was truly perfection.

For the bridesmaid’s bouquets, we did a simplified version of my bouquet (minus the dusty miller). We actually hosted a brunch the day before the wedding and each bridesmaid created her bouquet (this is for all you DIY lovers!). Kaitlyn created the olive branch garlands that we used to line the aisle and then for reception table decor. She also made Tate, the groomsmen’s and our dad’s boutonnieres, along with the corsages for our mom’s.

HAIR | MOLLY WILCOX

One of my dearest friends is a hair wizard, so naturally I asked her if she would be willing to style mine for the wedding. Molly is a total gem and agreed in a heartbeat. Several months before the wedding I was sending her screenshots from Pinterest of updos I was considering. She tried them on her own hair (I know right? She’s amazing!) and sent me photos and videos of how they turned out.

MAKEUP | SAVANNA BURT

My second to youngest sister is a graphic design and technical theatre double major. She’s one of the most versatile and talented individuals I’ve met.

For makeup, I knew that I didn’t want something too heavy (I tend to look like a racoon if I wear dark colors). “A nude smokey eye” was the ambiguous description I gave her (along with a few Pinterest finds). Savanna went above and beyond to make this happen — from guiding me through Target and Ulta to doing a makeup trial a few weeks before the wedding.

INVITATION SUITE | SAVANNA BURT

Please direct your attention back to the previously mentioned and talented sister of mine. She designed our invitation suite and our ceremony programs. I know that I’m biased, but I’ve also been around the block a time or two when it comes to weddings. If you’re looking for a graphic designer that’s beyond easy to work with can make your vision a reality, hire her.

WEDDING CAKE | CAMEO CAKES

When it came to ordering our cake, we were amazed (and slightly overwhelmed) at how many great options there were. We were also surprised at the number of places that didn’t answer their phone or very limited hours for consults.

Cameo Cakes was an option with lots of great reviews and hours that fit our limited schedule. So we went on a Saturday morning to do some cake tasting (one of the best parts of wedding prep!) and talk through some logistics. We ended up talking with the store owner and operator, Vicki Prathers, for about 45 minutes. She was sincere, seasoned, and the furthest thing from pushy and sales-y. Also, her cake was delicious and her pricing was more than fair.

What sold both of us wasn’t her cake or the price, but honestly that she carved time out of her day to just sit down with us. We loved her candor, appreciated her expertise and connected with her vivacious personality.

Totally recommend! We loved our cake and were so grateful that my brother saved the top tier of our cake; we 100% ate all of it within a week of getting back from our honeymoon.

WEDDING DRESS | SWEET ILLUSION BRIDAL & TUX

My wedding dress exceeded every expectation I had. From the train, to the material, to the detailed lacework, to the “illusion” open back, I just adored that dress.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t what I was looking for. Like at all.

My mom, Savanna and I walked into Sweet Illusion and I told them what kind of dresses I wanted to see. A-line, nothing strapless or with lots of bling. The store owner looked at me and said, “A-line? Look how small you are! Let’s try something fitted too.” I went along with it because everyone tells you to try something different than what you think you want while wedding dress shopping.

It was the second dress I tried on at that store and I didn’t want to take it off. I tried several dresses after that and at another boutique that afternoon, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about that dress. They say you know when you’ve found the one, and I’d say that proved true!

BRIDAL SHOES | DSW

I ended up getting my shoes at DSW for under $50. I knew I wanted something simple and comfortable, so I opted to go somewhere that I could walk around in the shoes while in the store. I ended up going with a nude block heel sandals. I also brought a pair of flat sandals that were a similar style to wear during the reception (my word of wisdom regarding shoes is to bring multiple pairs) and it was a GOD SEND.

BRIDESMAID DRESSES | AZAZIE

I chose AZAZIE for a few reasons. First, because I’ve bought their dresses for weddings several times before and have always been satisfied. Second, because they had the perfect shade of dusty blue and a great variety of different fits in that color and material. I wanted to give my bridesmaids the option to choose from a variety of styles, that way they could choose one that they felt fit them best. They all ended up going with the same dress (except for my Matron of honor) and looked just gorgeous.

GROOM’S SUIT | DILLARDS

This was really more Tate’s decision than mine. He decided that he wanted to go with a navy suit and dusty rose tie. He went several different places to look at suits but Dillards ended up having a fit, pattern and shade of suit that he loved.

GROOMSMEN SUITS | THE GROOMSMEN SUIT

Cost effective, great color and fit. What more could you ask for in a groomsmen suit?

SEATING CHART | EMMILIME DESIGNS

Oh man, where do I even begin? Emilee did a fabulous job of not only removing the stress of figuring out how to move my seating chart from excel into reality, but she did it beautifully. She took my vision and made it a reality perfectly. If you’re looking to have calligraphy signs or invitations for your wedding, check her out!

PHOTO GUESTBOOK | ARTIFACT UPRISING

For our guestbook we wanted to use something that would hold significance for us beyond the wedding day (we knew we wouldn’t look at names listed in a book more than once). We ended up ordering a photo guestbook from Artifact Uprising (one of my favorite printers). Also, shoutout to Becca Louise Photography for giving us such gorgeous engagement photos to fill this book with!

ENGAGEMENT RING | BLUE NILE DIAMOND

I referenced earlier that my husband is big on research and that was true on a whole new level when it came to purchasing my engagement ring. He says that he ended up choosing Blue Nile for a several reasons, but some of the main ones were that their diamonds weren’t as marked up as other jewelers, there were more options when it came to diamond selection and more paperwork confirming the legitimacy of the diamond.

HIS WEDDING RING | POINT NO POINT STUDIO (ETSY)

We did a fair amount of ring shopping together before deciding on Tate’s. Initially he had wanted a white gold ring, but after trying white, yellow and rose gold on, he decided that rose gold worked best with his skin tone (we highly recommend trying on different types of ring before purchasing since you don’t know what will work best with your skin tone until you do!).

From there he did some research to determine the style of ring he wanted. He ended up finding a hammered gold ring through Etsy that was PERFECT. It also came with an engraving option which you know I took advantage of!

HER WEDDING RING | HELZBERG DIAMOND

I’m not much of a girly girl, so choosing a ring wasn’t too complicated. Something simple, elegant and that didn’t take away from my engagement ring (that should be the real show-stopper, ya know?). Helzberg offered exactly what I was looking for at a competitive price. Too easy. We were both fans of not overcomplicating wedding planning).

So there you have it! A summary of our amazing vendors. If I were to give two words of advice to summarize our experience, I would tell you to (1) not sweat the small stuff and (2) to embrace spending more on the purchases that matter most to you. For us, that was the venue, photographer, catering and our rings. Only you know what that means for you!