January 11, 2018

How I Planned My Wedding • Destination Wedding

Well it’s only been a year and a half since I [Catherine] married my best friend [Matt] but this post has finally arrived! I’m so excited to dive into How I Planned My Wedding and share all the tips, tricks, and of course what NOT to dos for all those currently in the throws of wedding planning bliss!

First, Congratulations!!!!

Before you throw on that planning hat and lose a bit of that newly engaged excitement, take the time to enjoy your engagement to the fullest! Have that Engagement Party, take that extra time to celebrate with your family! This is a big deal, you’re getting married!!!

Ok, after you’ve popped that champagne bottle, let’s jump into those first steps for planning your amazing day!

Step One : Budget

The First thing I did when planning my wedding was discuss the budget with both my Fiance and our parents! We sat down and had a very realistic chat about what would be included and what we could afford WITHOUT going into debt. A wedding should be a joyous occasion, not financially crippling. Yes, you can have a beautiful day and splurge in certain areas, but be realistic and don’t set yourself up for disappointment after the wedding (thank you Dave Ramsey and The Total Money Makeover Workbook!)! Also, I realize this is not the most enjoyable conversation to have with those helping you fund your wedding, but jumping into planning blind will lead to more confusion than you bargained for!

The one vendor that can absolutely help with this is a Wedding Planner! I can’t stress enough how vital a Wedding Planner is for making your day the best it can possibly be while also helping with the planning process from day one! My planner, Natalie with The Bridal Solution LLC, is a long time friend and someone I trusted wholeheartedly with my wedding dreams! She was a lifesaver in so many situations, we’ll get to those later, but for now know a Wedding Planner can and should help you when narrowing down that budget!

True story : We actually booked a venue before we had a set budget and had to cancel/move venues once we realized it did not fit within our budget or our family’s budget for travel! The budget may not be the most fun part of planning your day but it will certainly save a few headaches down the road if you plan early on!

How I planned my Wedding, Catherine Rhodes Photography, Wedding Planning Tips, Destination Wedding

Step Two : Local or Destination Wedding

The next big step we had when planning our day was the choice between a local or destination wedding! I had always dreamed of a destination wedding but there were so many wonderful family and friends that we wanted to invite who couldn’t make the trip. So we compromised and had a Destination wedding in Florida plus a more intimate Church/Afternoon Reception back in Missouri to cater to both! I’ll touch on our Missouri wedding in another post, for now let’s talk about the main event!

Once we decided on Florida, we were on the hunt for the perfect venue. From the start of our planning process, we knew we wanted a venue that was fun, laid back, and on the beach! There are so many beautiful venues that I could have chosen from being in the industry myself, but I wanted something that fit Matt and I’s personalities and really stayed true to who we are as a couple!

We landed on a quirky 1960’s surfer vibe hotel in the heart of St. Pete Beach Florida! With it’s lovely courtyard for the reception and beach ceremony space, this was just the perfect venue! And since our wedding would be in Florida, we knew we had to pick a venue with a backup indoor location (or at least the option for a tent). Luckily we had both here and it was the perfect setting for our day!

If you plan on having a Destination Wedding know there are a few things you want to keep in mind! Destination Weddings are a bit smaller than the normal 200+ person wedding. Some family and friends just won’t be able to make the trip and you have to be prepared for a few “Can’t attend” responses. On the plus side, this helped our budget significantly when planning our day so we were able to splurge in other areas! Also remember that vendors travel, so if you don’t know anyone in the area, don’t be afraid to ask your dream photographer or planner if they travel, most will come back with a very excited YES!

How I planned my Wedding, Catherine Rhodes Photography, Wedding Planning Tips, Destination Wedding

How I planned my Wedding, Catherine Rhodes Photography, Wedding Planning Tips, Destination Wedding


Step Two : Prioritize Vendors

Before you put that deposit down on your beautiful venue, be sure that your date works with the vendor(s) at the top of your priority list! Our most important vendors included our Wedding Planner (The Bridal Solution LLC), Wedding Photographer (Diamond Eyes Photography), and our Florist (2Birds Events)! Be sure to sit down with your Fiance and chat over which vendors or parts of the wedding are your priority when it comes to booking and budget!

True Story : While switching venues, I had to evaluate the date and double check with our vendors that they were still available! Luckily everything worked out and we ended up moving the date a few days earlier! That made our wedding on a Thursday (cheaper!) which works so well for a Destination Wedding for family and friends who want to make a vacation out of the event!

How I planned my Wedding, Catherine Rhodes Photography, Wedding Planning Tips, Destination Wedding

Step Three : Wedding Photography

Out of all the questions I get asked about my wedding, “How did you pick your photographer”, is by far the most frequent! Well friends, it wasn’t as difficult as you might think! When it came to photography, I wanted Matt to be a part of the process as well. I wanted the images from our wedding to represent our day; fun, vibrant, and full of moments!

So when I started my search for a wedding photographer I tried to not only find a photographer who focused heavily on moments, but also a photographer who’s editing style fit the venue and our style as a couple! I absolutely loved a few photographers who had a darker edit, but didn’t see their style fitting our colorful beachside wedding day!

We also didn’t limit our search for photographers to St. Pete Beach! We asked friends and fellow photographers for their recommendations and went with the best photographer for our day, Matt Miller with Diamond Eyes Photography! Not only did his work match the style of our day, but we also had a second photographer which was so important to capturing all the moments we love looking back on now!

True Story : When choosing a photographer for your big day, be sure to also “click” with their personality! Matt (our photographer) was super laid back which was perfect for our laid back wedding day! I’m also a little Type-A at times so it helped that most of our vendors had that laid back mentality and really helped us relax on the big day!

How I planned my Wedding, Catherine Rhodes Photography, Wedding Planning Tips, Destination Wedding

How I planned my Wedding, Catherine Rhodes Photography, Wedding Planning Tips, Destination Wedding

Step Four : Wedding Design | Guest Count

The Florist was a big part to my wedding day design! I have always loved lush gardens and fresh flowers, so I knew that I wanted my wedding to feel like a garden! The Wedding Design was such a fun part to get creative! From the flower garland on the head table to the hanging flowers from the trees, it was more beautiful than I could have dreamed!  This was thanks to the help of  both my Planner and my Florist (and many many hours of work!) that I am beyond thankful for!

You may think I broke the bank during this part of my wedding planning process, and although I did spend a chunk of my budget on floral design, I did find ways to cut back and stay on budget. On guests tables, instead of one large design in the middle, we incorporated greenery, candles, and a single flower on every place setting to add color! Flowers during the ceremony were simple with petals lining the sides of the aisle and small bouquets tied to the chairs! And the Bridesmaids bouquets were another shortcut we took when it came to floral costs with a beautiful white rose/baby’s breath/greenery combination that looked lovely! Be sure to ask your florist and/or wedding planner for tips on creating beautiful pieces but also staying within budget!

Outside of floral design, I made sure to keep the extras to a minimum! I spent so much time on etsy and it’s easy to overwhelm yourself with all the beautiful ideas out there today. My best advice, pick a few ideas that fit your day/venue and then stop looking at pinterest and etsy! It’s easy to get carried away and some of those little things won’t even matter an hour into your day! A few of my favorite additions : a postcard holder with postcards of places we’ve visited as a couple that we used as a way for guests to leave us notes (the kids loved this), photo collages of when we were kiddos sitting on a table leading into the ceremony, and popcorn holders that also acted as our wedding program!

We also had the guest count to keep in mind when planning everything from the tables, linens, gifts, etc! Figuring out a guest count isn’t for the faint of heart! This was by far the most challenging part to planning our day! We simply had to take the amount of guests invited and assume that only 75% would be able to attend! Luckily our planner also helped us with this and organizing the tables to make sure everyone could fit even if we had a few extras attend!

True Story : Matt and I tried to use a “have we seen them in the last year”rule when it came to inviting guests! Of course cutting friends from the list is hard to do, but you do have to keep in mind that the larger the guest count, the more you’ll be spending on rentals, food, and drinks! Again this all comes back to what is most important to you and your fiance when it comes to the budget! If you want to have that 300 person party, then go for it!

Ok, we’re going to end PART ONE of the “How I Planned My Wedding” post!  PART TWO of our Wedding Planning adventure will be posted in the weeks to come!!!

© Catherine Rhodes Photography 2018 | How I Planned My Wedding | Destination Wedding Photographer









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