Q&A: Wedding Venues, Planning, Photography & More

Now that I’m on the other side of our wedding, I am able to say it was alllll worth it. As stressful and time consuming as the process was, our wedding day was truly wonderful. So I’m here today to tell you that if you’re going down that path instead of eloping (which we definitely considered!), it will get better! I also want to be a resource for you if you’re planning a wedding, so I asked my Instagram followers what I could answer about this process. This list covers wedding venues, what I’d do differently, how to start the process, whether you need a videographer and MORE.

You Asked, I Answered: Your Questions about Planning Our Wedding, Wedding Venues, Photography & More!

If you had to start over with planning, would you do anything differently?

YES. OMG. YES. The biggest sticking point was our budget. After committing to a wedding venue that would hold 125 guests, we essentially had to re-assess our entire budget. I don’t want to get into too much personal detail, but basically we needed to cover the expense of the wedding ourselves so that meant we needed to cut back… a lot. I wish we had known that info from the start so that we could have used those 3-4 months to plan the wedding we actually ended up having!

How do you even start the process? I just got engaged and feel like I can’t make a decision.

One word: Pinterest! The very first thing I did was start saving images of what I liked to a secret pinboard. I used the sections function to organize each idea, so there was decor, wedding dresses and accessories, food and dessert, etc. I wasn’t really strict about what I pinned in the beginning. It was more about saving what I actually liked. Then, after a month or so, I went in actually looked at what I had saved for each category. That helped me to see trends of what I was most drawn to. From there, I could remove anything that didn’t feel cohesive.

I also urge you to check out this post about planning a non-traditional wedding. I wrote it with my actual wedding planner and she shared sooo many helpful tips that I think you’ll like.

Do you like a big wedding or small and intimate one?

Originally, we both wanted a big wedding with 125 guests. It felt like the perfect opportunity to really get everyone we love in one spot. Things ended up changing because of budget, so ultimately our guest list was 42 people… and it was perfect! We got to spend time with each and every guest, which I’ve heard is rare for a bride and groom. I think a more intimate wedding headcount is good for destination weddings, too.

How did you find wedding venues?

I’m really lucky because I worked with an AWESOME wedding planner. They assembled a deck of about 10 options based on our parameters and sent it to me. Sean and I visited the ones that were our aesthetic. Then, when we had to reassess for our budget, we actually went an unexpected route… Airbnb! Since we got married on top of a mountain, we only needed a reception venue, so a large cabin was perfect.

Videographer, yay or nay??

This is a big fat YAY from me. Sean recorded our engagement, so we knew from day 1 that having a wedding video was the biggest priority for us. If you’re in the market, I cannot recommend We Are The Parks enough. I’m SO excited to share our video with you guys!

Did you ever write that post about how to navigate family drama during weddings?

Yup! Here’s the post about setting boundaries.

Which details did you slave over and which did you say “meh” to and outsource?

I sort of obsessed over everything… it’s a problem that I have as a very Type A creative. This literally felt like I was producing the most important photoshoot of my life. Neuroses aside, I did relax on a few things. One good example is our favors. I opted for the traditional Greek wedding favor called bombonieres. Basically, it’s 7 Jordan almonds and each almond symbolizes something in a marriage. I wanted them to be in ice dyed pouches that I DIY-ed… and they ended up SO BAD. Same with the napkins. Literally everything was just blue and getting blue dye on everything, no matter how many times I washed it. So I ordered kraft paper boxes off Amazon and put the almonds in there. Barely anyone even took them, so I feel like I made the right choice… as for the napkins, we ended up renting them.

Did you start with a strict budget or follow your heart?

Our planner was awesome in helping us estimate what things would cost up front. So I made a spreadsheet with those numbers, then as we booked things, I plugged in the actual numbers. That helped me compare the expected cost to the actual cost. I do have to admit though… for the last month or so leading up to the wedding, it was a bit of a free for all. We approached it with a ‘get it done’ attitude and just threw money at any issue that arose. Even with that, we ended up coming in below what the original estimate was!

Do you recommend getting married on a mountain?

Only if you are able to commit to leaving no trace and preserving the environment of the alpine as much as possible. We were VERY clear with guests about how carefully we needed to treat the surroundings and didn’t even have chairs, decor or anything up there with us.

How much was your overall budget and did you partner with any brands for the day?

I think all told we spent about $20,000 which is a number that blows my mind. It feels like SO much, especially given that, yes, I did partner with brands for our wedding. Most of that was for photography and video because that was the most important priority for us. I also ended up buying two wedding dresses because I changed my mind about the first one… that didn’t help. But then you add up food, renting tables and chairs, booking a reception location, flowers… and it adds up.

Did you have a wedding planner?

Yup, read about that here! I was a very… involved bride though, so mostly I used Everly as a sounding board and for researching vendors and sources when I simply didn’t have the time to do it myself. Plus, she had some AMAZING built-in planning tools that I could never have made myself.

Did it rain at all on your wedding day?

Our wedding day was the day there were CRAZY thunderstorms all through Washington. Being up at 7500′ feet, we definitely saw the storm come closer — our photos even have some lightning in the background! After the guests left to go to the cocktail hour, we took portraits on the mountain and there was some drizzle, but definitely not a downpour. When we joined the guests, the storm was rolling in but never actually rained until about 3 am! We were wrapping up with some friends, so we sat, drank, snacked and watched the storm. It was truly incredible and such a special addition to our day we didn’t expect!

Loved your mountain wedding! Did you have to get any permits?

So… I wasn’t sure whether to put this on the internet or not, but here goes. We tried repeatedly for MONTHS, maybe even close to a year, to get ahold of someone in the parks department about this. No one had an answer and eventually someone told us to just do it and keep it small and quiet and ‘leave no trace.’ If you want to get married on a mountaintop, I will urge you AGAIN, please be aware of the environment and PLEASE be respectful.

BTW don’t miss my other Q&A posts… there are quite a few:

To submit more questions about wedding planning or our wedding, leave them in a comment on this post, shoot me an email, or DM me on Instagram!

Photography by Meghan Klein.

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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