Working on When, Where, and Who

Based on my email archive from last year – yes, I just checked it – Jon and I had more or less settled on a wedding date by the weekend after we were engaged on a Tuesday. We had narrowed it down to the last two weekends in May, before it gets too hot in Atlanta to get fancied up, and the main debate was holiday weekend vs. non-holiday weekend. The latter won out, which had the added benefit of giving us an extra day (Memorial Day) for travel and/or recovery at the end of our honeymoon. Score!

The next order of business was a location. The ceremony was a no-brainer – I am a staff singer in a local church choir and I had officially become a church member there a few months before we were engaged. I made sure our rock-star organist was free on our date and got my name on the books right away.

Finding a reception spot was surprisingly easy as well. We knew we wanted some place in intown Atlanta, and we didn’t want getting from the church to the reception to be a total nightmare – if you know Atlanta traffic, you know that this is a definite possibility, even on a Saturday evening. Ideally there would be no need to cross from the west side of town to the east, and the venue would be able to accommodate 200 to 250 guests, by our best estimate. With help from venue websites and local wedding magazines, I started to develop a list of potential locations.

The first place we saw was the former Biltmore hotel in midtown Atlanta. Every photograph I’ve seen from events here has been stunning – the venue’s two ballrooms are infinitely photogenic, with ornate ceilings, stately columns and huge crystal chandeliers. Mom, Jon and I visited on a lunch break and quickly concluded that, while it was indeed a lovely space, it was definitely too fancy for me and Jon. We’re just not fancy people. (Though I do love to dress up and pretend to be fancy on occasion!)

Biltmore-Georgian-BallroomImperial-Ballroom-Biltmore-Atlanta
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Next on our tour of possible venues was the Foundry at Puritan Mill, a former soap factory on the west side of town operated by the same company that runs the Biltmore facilities. I had never heard of it before, but I liked the look of it from the website. It was the total opposite of the elegant ballrooms we had just seen: concrete floors beneath a ceiling of exposed wooden beams and steel supports, brick walls, skylights and lots of tall windows. We loved it immediately. It was a blank slate, unpretentious and, though the room was quite large, intimate. Where we potentially would have shared a lobby with another group at the Biltmore, here we would be the only event in the space. I liked that privacy. That it had a parking lot that was secure, free and could accommodate more than 200 cars was merely a bonus.

foundry at puritan mill
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Not long after our meeting there, and after having seen only two venues, we put down our deposit at Puritan Mill. Armed with their list of preferred caterers, I started emailing around for proposals. Photographers I was talking to – the ones I knew I wanted, and one other for the sake of comparison – sent us galleries of weddings they had shot there. With two big items checked off our list, we were starting to hit our wedding-planning stride.

We booked Jesse and Whitney Chamberlin of Our Labor of Love to be our photographers a couple of weeks later, despite some wedding sticker shock from my dad. (“Do we get to keep the cameras after the wedding?” he asked.) Wedding dress appointments, catering meetings and cake tastings started to take over my weekends, evenings and lunch breaks. Jon and I debated the great question of band vs. DJ and concluded that getting a DJ was right for us.

After a very productive month of planning, things took an unexpected turn. My mom went on a church trip to Russia, as she had done several times before, and the day she was supposed to return she felt so ill she was unable to board the plane. Long story short, she had to have emergency surgery in Moscow (YIKES), which necessitated an extra week in Russia. When we finally got her back stateside we checked her into Emory University Hospital, where she underwent another surgery and stayed for more than a month. She’s fit as a fiddle now, but wedding business definitely took a backseat during the summer. In terms of planning (since I’m writing this from a wedding-planning perspective), we were pretty well off: the most important things for the wedding had been booked by the time mama left for Russia, so all we really had to focus on for a while was helping her get better.

What obstacles have you encountered during your planning process?