As wedding photographers, Chris and I pretty much live and breathe weddings. So when it was finally going to be our turn, we were more than a little excited to get started with planning our own! Possibly even a little too excited? The first step in our wedding planning process actually began before we were even engaged!
Our relationship moved a lot more quickly than most, and even when we started dating, we had a pretty good idea of our timeline for taking the next steps together. Neither of us has ever wanted to just date around for the fun of it, and we began dating each other with the intention of getting married one day. So once we were sure we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, we didn’t see the point in dating for years before taking those next steps! When you know you know, and decisions like that just become easy!
Choosing where and when to get married, however, was not as easy. SO many things went into the decision, and it changed a few times along the way!
We thought it would be fun to bring you along with us on our planning journey! In some cases, we have a slightly different perspective on wedding planning because of our jobs in the wedding industry. But when it comes down to it, we are struggling just like you to pull off what we hope is a beautiful, Instagram-worthy wedding on an impossible budget, and we have been learning so much along the way!
Read on to find out how we set a location, a venue, and a date for our wedding, and what we learned from it!
Since I’m from Canada and Chris is from Florida, the first thing we had to think about was where we would get married. This was probably the easiest decision we made, because at the time we were under the impression that Chris’s mom couldn’t travel to Canada since she just has a US green card, not a passport. We’ve since learned that it’s possible to do so, but at the time, we knew that we had to include her no matter what, so Florida it was!
Even after making that decision, however, Florida was the clear best choice for our formal wedding. Chris had been in business a lot longer and had a lot of wedding connections that we knew would make our day amazing (some of whom were willing to work for trade, which was a major help with our budget!)! And once our venue was set as well, we knew there wasn’t a better choice out there! More on that in a moment.
The only other thing we had to think about that most couples don’t is where we would get legally married. After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to have a small legal ceremony in Canada before the wedding in the US. A courthouse wedding in Florida would technically have been cheaper than one in my hometown. However, in Ontario, Canada, there is a tradition called the reading of the banns of marriage, which entails announcing the wedding for three weeks in church and cuts out the need for purchasing a marriage license! By doing that in my home church and having my pastor officiate the ceremony there as well, getting legally married in Canada would be literally free! Woohoo!!
This was one of the more difficult parts of the wedding planning process, because I am a perfectionist and I had something very specific in mind. I was dreaming of a small private stone house with beautiful grounds, where all the events of the wedding could be held in one place—something like Roseville Estate, a venue near my hometown.
Roseville Estate, photographed by Jess Collins Photography
Unfortunately, that style of architecture doesn’t really exist in South Florida, at least not as a wedding venue. As I was searching, I found a few beautiful southern plantation style wedding venues, such as Cypress Grove, but the ones I liked were all closer to Orlando, and they were all way beyond our budget. I searched for an Airbnb, but found nothing that looked like what I wanted, and the closest I found were either crazy expensive, had a very long minimum stay, or didn’t allow events on site.
Another idea I had was an orchard wedding; I had always thought it would be adorable to get married between rows of apple trees or cherry blossoms! For Florida, I thought an orange grove might be a nice alternative, but somehow I couldn’t find anything at all that was actually a wedding venue or would allow us to host an event there! (If anyone knows of one, hit me up, because I want to shoot there!!)
Early on in the search, Chris had suggested Robbins Lodge, which was where we shot our first wedding together. The building on the property was nothing like what I was looking for, and the surrounding grounds weren’t exactly the dream either, but the price was insanely good, and it had sentimental value for us. It took me many days of looking up every possible alternative to then return to the possibility of Robbins Lodge and realize that, a) it’s actually a very beautiful venue with many, many photo locations, and b) if I wasn’t going to find the exact venue I had in my head anyway, it was SO worth saving money in this area so that we could splurge in others, like on the photographer and on decor that would make this venue look as beautiful as anything I had been picturing!
Here are some of the factors we had to think about when making our decision:
This put our possible dates somewhere between mid October to the first couple days of November.
Throughout this whole process, my family kept giving their input about how difficult it would be for them to schedule a trip to Florida, how expensive it would be, how they had no place to stay for free, how we had more family to travel than Chris did, etc. Neither of our families have much money, and we did completely understand where they were coming from, but it was difficult to deal with their comments since we couldn’t really help them. We didn’t have the money to have a wedding in Canada, and we were already doing our best to work with their requests!
For example, my siblings created an issue since they would all be in school and were worried about midterms around that time. At first, out of courtesy to them, we scheduled the wedding for October 26, which was during my sister Isabela’s reading week and would allow her to travel down while she was on break from university. We were going to plan our entire wedding around her availability because she kept saying that she wouldn’t be able to go unless she was on vacation.
Unfortunately, our venue was hosting Halloween events every day that week and was completely unavailable! Like I said, it was the cheapest possible venue that we could find, and if we’d changed the venue to work around my sister’s break, we would have been out at least a couple thousand dollars, when our entire wedding budget was only a few thousand to begin with!
We toyed with the idea of having the wedding on October 19th so it would fall just before her break, but we had to shoot a wedding on the 20th, and we really wanted to avoid that. The 12th would be pushing it with the weather, as we were worried about the end of hurricane season and hotter temperatures as we got closer and closer to September, and all my siblings would be in school anyway.
Finally we realized that no matter what we did, we couldn’t please everyone and we had to do what was best for us! If they could come, yay! If not, we’d still get married and have an incredible day celebrating our love together, and they would just have to be happy with seeing the photos rather than taking part in the wedding. At that point, it was easy to set November 2 as our official wedding date!
These were the most important lessons we learned from choosing a date and location for our wedding!