An Expert Guide to Planning a Chapel Hill Wedding

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Your most pressing wedding questions, answered by the professionals

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These are the dishes – past and present – that have allowed us to retain the title of ‘America’s foodiest small town.’ Just ask these locals:

[/et_pb_divider][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text 1″ _builder_version=”3.19.3″]Fearrington Village hosts many weddings at all times of the year.Photo by Rebecca Ames

 

HOW FAR IN ADVANCE DO YOU NEED TO BOOK A VENUE?

If you have a specific date, the sooner the better! If you are interested in busy wedding months (April through June, Sept. or Oct.), I recommend booking at least a year out to secure your preferred wedding date.

Kristen Prescott, senior catering manager, The Carolina Inn

Typically weddings are booked a year in advance so that the couple has time for planning and invitations, but we can work with just about any timeline. A couple is more likely to get a specific date the earlier they book.

Alisa Rawls, events and communications director, Chapel Hill Country Club 

Booking early is important if you have a must-have date. We generally tell couples at least nine months to a year in advance, but venues like ours are already booking for 2020. Reserving your date early also ensures current year rates before any potential increases and enables you to begin your planning phase earlier to avoid last-minute stress. Our best advice is to approach your dream venue first with a few acceptable dates in mind rather than having your heart set on one date only. In the event your date is not available, a venue will work closely with you to consider other options.

Aimee Flynn and Yvette Navarro, owners, The Parlour at Manns Chapel
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WHAT ARE YOUR PRICES AND PACKAGES?

This is the top question that comes through on our inquiry forms. We understand that price is a big driver when deciding on a DJ, and we try to outline the value and expertise we provide in our services. When a customer reaches out to us, we will respond with our base prices for packages, but the real value comes when we can customize a quote based on music preferences, venue size, length of coverage time and even number of anticipated guests. By providing this information, you will get drastically better responses from DJs who can start imagining how to best serve your wedding. The best DJs know how to custom tailor a package to best fit the needs of your wedding. Make sure to describe what you envision for your big day, and any DJ worth their salt will be able to describe why their services can meet your needs.

Alex Choi, owner, Vox DJ Co.
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HOW FAR IN ADVANCE SHOULD A COUPLE REACH OUT ABOUT BOOKING A PHOTOGRAPHER?

I start booking weddings about 18 months out. If photography is important to you, I would find the photographer, find the dates they are available, then find your venue. The images, after all is said and done, are everything you will have left to remember your day.

Rebecca Ames, Rebecca Ames Photography 

I book out 12 to 18 months before the wedding date. You want a photographer that makes you feel comfortable, but also has a style that resonates with you.

Krystal Kast, Krystal Kast Photographers

A sweet send-off at The Carolina InnPhoto by Krystal Kast
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WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR WHEN PICKING A CATERER?

Work with a professional caterer who hears and understands that you have a budget and want to stick with it. You may need to call six caterers before you find one who can work within your budget. But they are out there.

Greg Lewis, chef/proprietor, 39 West Catering 
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IS THERE A PRE-SET MENU? CAN YOU CREATE A CUSTOM MENU?

We always create a custom menu for the event, but usually give some suggestions based on the type of food that they are looking for, dietary restrictions and cost. Our barbecue is our specialty, but we also like to go outside of the box, and we have done steaks, salmon and vegetarian items.

Brendan Doss, co-owner, Big Sadie Smoke Shack

A bit of both; we have sample menus showing popular items but can create a custom menu as well. We like to talk with our couples to learn their likes and dislikes and their vision, and then can offer suggestions to create something special. 

Kristen Roberts, sales & catering director, Chapel Hill Restaurant Group Catering 

Small bites from Chapel Hill Restaurant Group
Photo courtesy of Chapel Hill Restaurant Group

We use a preset menu. But, we are always available to discuss what you want at your event, and we are willing to make just about anything. We usually only do a buffet setup and have done events as family-style. We think that buffet and family-style are the best options because the guest has full control over what they are eating and the portions they are eating.

Rachel Plast, catering director, Root Cellar Cafe & Catering 
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WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT A WEDDING PLANNER TO DO?

Our job as planners is to first and foremost provide peace of mind for our couples that everything is going to be taken care of. We guide our couples through the wedding planning process from start to finish, which includes keeping them on track with tasks that should and need to be accomplished within an appropriate time frame. This ultimately relieves stress from the bride and groom and that feeling that they are missing something. You are marrying the love of your life. That should be your main focus!

Cheryl-Anne Kast, owner/lead planner, Kast Events & Co. 

 Cheryl-Anne Kast of Kast Events and a bride

 Photo by Krystal Kast

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HOW CAN A COUPLE MAKE A VENUE REFLECT THEIR PERSONALITIES?

Incorporate personal touches. Select florals that have a backstory or specific memory attached – it also makes a great added note on programs.

Jenna Armstrong, principal floral designer, Fearrington Village

Our favorite details, and the ones that truly put a couple’s stamp on a wedding, are those that are reflective of the couple and personal to them. We’ve done everything – from our executive chef recreating a five-generations-old family recipe to a surprise visit from UNC mascot Rameses to a backdrop of 1,000 hand-folded paper cranes honoring the family’s Japanese heritage. It’s these details that turn into lasting memories not only for the couple and their guests, but for us as planners as well!

Lisa Johnson, director of catering & special events
Hannah Bleiberg, assistant director of catering & special events, Governors Club

This couple had a special guest at their Governors Club wedding... UNC's Rameses.
Photo courtesy of Governors Club

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WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR PUTTING ON A BRIDAL LUNCHEON?

Don’t make it too complicated. Bridal luncheons should be a lot of fun! Use your bridal party’s help all you can. Using a theme can also help you make it easier. Have a fun drink for the girls. Music is important, and you can never have enough decorations.

Frances Gualtieri, owner, La Residence 
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WHAT IS INCLUDED FOR RENTALS?

[In our case,] tables and chairs for up to 200, choice of two bars, market lights indoors and outdoors.

Paige Faucette, senior client relations coordinator, Themeworks
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WHAT IS AN AVERAGE FLORAL BUDGET?

This question is expected and absolutely reasonable to ask. … We will take your budget and find the best way to maximize it through good planning and focusing on what is most important to you. A wedding budget for florals could range from as little as $1,000 to as much as they are willing to spend. When you get engaged, try to put together a budget. [Remember] that it can adjust. It is good to have an idea of what is comfortable for you.

Christie Cook, owner/designer, Art of Motion Events 
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HOW FAR IN ADVANCE SHOULD WE CHOOSE OUR RINGS?

Most wedding bands take four to six weeks to order, with some taking longer and some being quicker. We usually suggest buying at least two or three months ahead of the wedding. That way, if you need anything resized, you’ll allow yourself time before the big day! This is another thing to let your sales consultant know right away – if you’re on a time crunch, we know which designers can turn things around faster, what can or can’t be sized in-house, etc. 

Megan Farrell, marketing & merchandising manager, Diamonds Direct 

For your engagement ring, we recommend shopping two to three months prior to popping the question. For wedding bands, the same time frame applies. If you want a custom ring, we recommend adding an additional month or two to ensure your ring is ready and perfect in time for the big day.

David Sensinger, store manager, Fink’s Jewelers 
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WHERE SHOULD A BRIDE LOOK FOR HAIR INSPIRATION?

Our brides tend to find a lot of their inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram. We use it as a guide, but we ensure we make it an original look for them, using their vision as a guide.

Susan Ray, bridal coordinator, Mina’s Studio
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HOW CAN A COUPLE MAKE SURE THEY ARE LOOKING THEIR BEST ON THE BIG DAY?

Preparation! Visiting a board-certified dermatologist at least six months prior to the wedding day to make a plan is ideal, so there are no surprises on the big day! Avoid tanning. Additionally, there is growing data that shows how an anti-inflammatory diet can decrease edema (swelling) around the eyes and under the chin, and improve chronic conditions such as acne and rosacea.

Chris Adigun, M.D., Dermatology & Laser Center of Chapel Hill 

I think, hands-down, a couple’s massage is the way to go before the wedding day. With all the last minute to-do lists, taking an hour or so to truly relax and disconnect is such a precious gift.

Verlinda Barnett, spa manager, The Spa at Fearrington 

Many of our injectable, laser and body contouring treatments are non-invasive and have minimal downtimes. Some treatments, like Dermaplaning and HydraFacial, could even be done the day before a wedding to help makeup go on smoother and make the skin appear brighter and more hydrated. We suggest that brides plan accordingly and try to schedule a consultation as far from their big day as possible, so they have time to review all their options.

Sue Ellen Cox, M.D., Aesthetic Solutions 

It’s crucial that brides begin maintenance for their hair up to a year prior to their wedding day, as this will ensure they have beautiful healthy hair and skin. Regular facials every seven weeks for the five months leading up guarantee a clear and glowing complexion. Regular haircuts and consistent color appointments are a must, especially if a bride is growing her hair out for a more involved style. Many brides see benefits from a keratin service; this also builds the strength of the hair and reduces frizz.

Darian Thornton  stylist, Citrine Salon

Hair by Citrine Salon; Photo by Ariel Kaitlin Photography
Hair by Citrine Salon; Photo by Ariel Kaitlin Photography

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SHOULD A COUPLE HAVE WAXING TREATMENTS DONE BEFORE THE WEDDING?

Yes, 100%! The benefits of waxing not only include smoother skin, softer and sparse hair growth, but waxing also helps diminish ingrown hair issues and razor bumps. We recommend couples to start waxing two to three months before their big day to ensure all hair grows at the same cycle as well as treat any prior ingrown and razor bump concerns.

Amal Zonca, owner, Waxing the City 
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WHAT ARE SOME LAST-MINUTE DETAILS WE SHOULD CONSIDER?

We have a lot of brides come in to get goodies to fill their welcome bags. We have many North Carolina-specific products and snack items [that are] perfect, especially for those Tar Heel couples. [Consider] cheese straws, Chapel Hill Toffee and a North Carolina-shaped cookie cutter.

Lynnette Montgomery, marketing manager, Southern Season 

As one of the oldest cleaners in North Carolina, we pride ourselves on our wedding gown services and hope every bride will let us contribute in making their wedding day perfect! When cleaning a wedding gown we walk through each dress with the bride to discuss specifics on cleaning processes, pressing, needed alterations and any problem spots/stains. After a bride has said “I do,” we preserve their dress to last for decades. Once a preservation cleaning has been performed, we place the gown in a keepsake preservation box with acid free tissue paper. This is a containment system that allows you to view the gown as you please while maintaining it in a controlled environment for years to come.

Ian McPherson, McPherson Cleaners
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WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND GIVING AS A SPECIAL WEDDING GIFT?

There is nothing more beautiful than a piece of hand-blown glass from Simon Pearce. But when you add the couple’s wedding invitation engraved on a gorgeous vase you have a one-of-a-kind keepsake.

Sara Wylie, wedding consultant, SOUTH 
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No. 1 Tips For The Big Day

If you want amazing photographs, make sure you are able to get some pretty light. With either windows or just being outside,
it makes such a huge difference.
Rebecca Ames Rebecca Ames Photography

Every wedding day will have something that does not go as planned. It could be the weather or perhaps the wrong first dance song is played. You never know what will happen or why. The bride and groom have to set the tone for the day. If they are easy going and go with the flow and realize that it cannot be changed now and make the best of it, their guest will never know something was not the way they envisioned it. You set the tone for the day, make it a happy day.
Greg Lewis 39 West Catering

Planning a wedding these days brings an immense amount of pressure and stress. While there may be unforeseen hiccups and bumps in the road leading up to the big day, remember to relax and enjoy the process!
Darian Thornton Citrine Salon

Be open and honest about what music you like, and be flexible to what your guests might like.
Alex Choi Vox DJ Co

Figure out what’s important to you about your wedding, and then focus your energy and your budget on those things. I’ve photographed wonderful, meaningful weddings that range from huge and elaborate to intimate backyard affairs … the common denominator is the couple made choices that reflect their values.
Riley MacLean Riley MacLean Photography

Don’t forget to pause and take it all in! Your wedding day will fly by, so take a few moments to take a mental picture of your significant other at the altar and of all of your loved ones there to support you. And make sure you eat the food! You didn’t pick out that catering just to watch other people enjoy it.
Megan Farrell Diamonds Direct

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be shy to answer them and it’s OK to say you don’t know. Your vendors are experienced in planning and can help guide you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Kristen Roberts Chapel Hill Restaurant Group

Enjoy being engaged! For wedding preparations, set a date, budget  (maybe include the three or four most important aspects for both of you) and get organized. Start a binder or folder. Get friends and family involved so you don’t get too stressed in the planning.
David Sensinger Fink’s Jewelers
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About Us

Chapel Hill Magazine is a 8-times-a-year lifestyle magazine dedicated to bringing you the very best of Chapel Hill. Our magazine places high emphasis on food and dining coverage, the arts, and community.

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Contact Us

Please let us know what you think – the best ideas always come from our readers.

p: 919.933.1551   f: 919.933.1557
1777 Fordham Blvd., Suite 105
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

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