How to shop for a wedding venue.

This past weekend was quite the adventure. As you may know, I got engaged in July. I’ve been pretty slow to jump into the wedding planning but little by little I’ve started to create a list and timeline to start pulling details together. First up was the engagement party in November. I haven’t written a blog about this yet because I’m waiting for the photos to get in. The next step for us was venue shopping. Throughout this post, I have included photos from the appointments. You’ll find out where we chose at a later time. This post is specifically about questions to ask as you start this journey: where, when, how many, and BUDGET.

Question 1: Where? Locations are very personal because the options are basically endless. You could choose your living room, a national park, a church, a mountain top, a mosque, an island etc. I suggest doing some chatting with your partner about what place is special to you both and why. For example, you could choose to have the ceremony in one place and the reception in another. This may be best for individuals following religions where it is required that you get married within their buildings. Or you can choose to have no reception at all, it’s what best fits you and your partner. Then there is the element of travel. If you want all of your family to come (and they all live in central location) it may be best to choose somewhere close to them. If you want to elope and not worry about guests, perhaps Vegas appeals to you. Choose what has meaning to you and your partner. Personally, Jay and I have family everywhere. Texas, Michigan, Colorado, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, etc. Thus, choosing a location that was convenient was not going to happen; anywhere we chose would require travel of everyone. My only stipulation was that the location was within a 3 – 4 hour driving distance of Atlanta and I had to feel a connection to the place, which is why we chose Asheville, NC. The connection part is a whole other blog post I’ll try to write in the future. 😉

Question 2: When? This question is a big one because it can affect the where, how many, and budget categories. May places have “busy seasons” for weddings. Typically those seasons are late spring, summer, and early fall. However, this will change by location. Usually, during these seasons it is more difficult to reserve already booked venues and the prices sky rocket. Venders know they are in high demand so they can ask for more money for their services. On the flip side, getting married in a not so busy season can be difficult because photographers, musicians, caterers, and florists maybe on vacations or taking periods of leave. Which leads me back to my example in Asheville. I decided I wanted a Christmas wedding. Reds, greens, golds, twinkling lights, trees, hymns, etc. My thoughts are, it’s less to decorate and people will hopefully already be traveling that time of year. So far, the idea has held budget-wise. Venders are already giving us deals because they have no other clients booked and they want the business during the slow season. The hang ups have been venders on leave for the holidays and the possibility of bad weather. Asheville snows, ya’ll. It gets cold and there is the possibility of bad weather on the actual wedding day. This led us back to the where. Are the venues on top of hills or mountains? Do they have weather contingency plans? Are they a part of a hotel where the guests could stay if they got snowed in? All of these are things to think about…

Question 3: How many? How many people do you want at your ceremony and reception? Will you allow children? How many people will actually fit in your space? Will there be elderly people or those with physical disabilities who need an elevator or ramp? Know all of this before going venue shopping. If there are children, many people decide to hire a professional babysitter so parents can enjoy the reception. Venues may have the option to hire a kid’s club staff member. Additionally, how many people will fit into the space? If you’re planning for 200 people, a space for 150 will be too tight and a space for 500 may be WAY too big. There is nothing like paying for unused space. Food also comes into play here. Most places have per-person prices for food. They will give you options and you will pay per the number of people who attend.

Question 4: Budget. Money can be an uncomfortable topic for many but (overall) weddings are not cheap. Have an honest conversation with the person or persons footing the bill. Do your research and have an idea about what ball park you are shopping in. Don’t spend all your time looking at venues that are too expensive. It will be discouraging and a waste. Again, there are so many beautiful and wonderful places to have a wedding, the venue should not break the bank. I started with my dream location in Asheville and moved on from there. I knew it was not realistic so I looked up other venues more appropriately priced for us. They all had the same look and feel as the dream but not the price tag.

In the end, I talked to 6 venues, made 5 appointments, and ended up touring 4 locations. They were all beautiful and had wonderful coordinators willing to answer all my questions. I went in with a compiled list of questions such as: Parking? Linens? China? Set up/ take down? Bridal (day of) coordinator? What’s included? What’s not included but mandatory? How many days till you need to sign the contract? Deposit? Payment schedule? Blah, blah, blah…My best advice is to do your homework and come prepared! I was blessed to have my mom there to shop with us for a third set of eyes, ears, and to share her thoughts. If you’re able to bring a third party or opinion you trust, I encourage it. Hopefully some of the things I’ve learned will help you. Remember: the most important thing is not the wedding, it’s the marriage. Whether your marriage starts on a beach in Tahiti or in your backyard, it will be beautiful because it is yours.

Pro tip: don’t schedule all your tours during a snow storm. There is high likely hood you will get snowed into your hotel and/or your AirB&B will cancel on you.

Sorry to those of you who don’t want to read about weddings. It’s the current season I’m in so, these posts will occur periodically. However, your regularly scheduled michelle. book-of-the-month and travel posts are still on the docket for 2019.

Perhaps you hate weddings? Perhaps you hate snow? You do you, boo.




November Book of The Month

I got the BEST gift for my birthday. I was told it would be “perfect” before I opened it. Mindy, you were right, I am pleased to tell you – it was indeed perfect! First of all, books and mugs are the perfect gifts for me. On top of that, I love Lin Manuel-Miranda.

The book I received and read this month was Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks For You & Me by Lin Manuel-Miranda. It only took me about two sittings, but I loved it! Each page is a tweet with a good morning message and a tweet with a good night message. There were 400 tweets over 200 days, so the read goes very quick. Additionally, there are beautiful illustrations, by Jonny Sun, on each page portraying the tweets’ message. 

My favorite day of tweets was:

You’re indescribable. We writers spend out lives trying to do you justice. And you’re always more than we can capture. Good morning.

You’re indescribable. We writers spend our lives trying to conjure you from every angle. We get close enough to keep trying. Good night. 

Here is the description from the back of the book: 

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An uplifting holiday gift from the creator and star of Hamilton, with beautiful illustrations by Jonny Sun, comes a book of affirmations to inspire readers at the beginning and end of each day.

“When the world is bringing you down, Gmorning, Gnight! will remind you that you are awesome.”—Booklist

Before he inspired the world with Hamilton and was catapulted to international fame, Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspiring his Twitter followers with words of encouragement at the beginning and end of each day. He wrote these original sayings, aphorisms, and poetry for himself as much as for others. But as Miranda’s audience grew, these messages took on a life on their own. Now Miranda has gathered the best of his daily greetings into a beautiful collection illustrated by acclaimed artist (and fellow Twitter favorite) Jonny Sun. Full of comfort and motivation, Gmorning, Gnight! is a touchstone for anyone who needs a quick lift.

I’m so excited to share my December BOTM with all of you next month! Hopefully, there may even be two! 🙂

Perhaps you hate books? Perhaps you hate fun? You do you, boo.



Virtuous Virginia (Happy Thanksgiving)

Last week, Jay and I travelled to Charlottesville, Virginia to celebrate Thanksgiving. The holiday started on Monday night with a Friendsgiving in Atlanta! We didn’t take many photos but it was so much fun. I am so thankful for all of my friends who support and love me everyday! Willow Dog had to make it into this blog at some point, she’s the best loaf 🙂

The traveling day started when I got off of work at 1pm the day before Thanksgiving. In typical Michelle style, I procrastinated and waited till the last moment to pack for the trip by starting to decorate for Christmas and watching one of my Thanksgiving tradition movies: Saints and Strangers. More than likely, you have not heard of this film. It was originally a mini-series on National Geographic Channel about 4 years ago. It is a historical fiction telling about the first years in the lives of the Pilgrims and the Native American people whose lives were affected by their migration. It is soooo interesting. I like that they give a voice to both parties, the Native peoples and the pilgrims, it’s not one-sided. Anyway, I rented it on Amazon and enjoyed it instead of packing…oops. 

After I watched the series it was time to throw things into a bag and head to the airport. I thought it was going to be super busy and crazy. I asked Jay to remind me to be patient. Fortunately, there was no need, we had a TON of extra time. Once sitting at the gate, I had to watch my other Thanksgiving tradition movie, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. 

Once we’d boarded the plane it was time to nap 🙂 We arrived in Charlottesville late and drove to Jay’s aunt’s home and crashed after a bit of visiting. The Thanksgiving crew was me, Jay, Jay’s aunt, mom, dad, sister, and two cousins. The house was full of people and fun all weekend.

Thanksgiving Day started promptly at 9am when the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started. I couldn’t miss my favorite host from The Ladygang, Keltie Knight, hosting the parade on CBS. I watched the entire parade and dog show before it was time to get off the couch and get dressed for supper. The meal consisted of all the classics: turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and more. It was delicious! Here is a picture of our smaller table since the larger table had been filled to capacity and we didn’t fit. 

After supper it was time for FOOTBALL! The Cowboys pulled off a win against the Redskins (insert fireworks here! 😉 ). Then we all played Scrabble and Clue into the wee hours of the morning. It was the perfect day. I wish I would have been allowed into the kitchen to help but they kept shoo-ing me away, so I helped through words of thanks and encouragement. 

Friday morning was a late start but finally we agreed to go visit The Monticello. Thomas Jefferson build The Monticello to be his home and estate in the 1700s. First, we hiked from the parking lot up The Trail to the visitors’ center. It was a wonderful hike, but it was cold. cold. cold. Once we got to the top, we realized that our large party was not all going to be able to tour the home that day, so we split up after a final hike up the hill. (yes, it’s up high!)

Pro tip: buy your tickets early if you plan on visiting during the holidays.

We saw his grave, the grounds, the existing buildings, and took pictures outside the house. I can be honest and say I don’t know how I felt about it. Thomas Jefferson was an amazing man who did fantastic things, but I felt conflicted. Perhaps I’ve listened to Hamilton one too many times or shed a few too many tears over the stories of the slaves he owned. However, I have the utmost respect for him as a person and I am thankful for all he did for our country. His library is one of the best in the world and I can relate to his scientific mind. Overall, I am very glad I got to experience all that was The Monticello. I encourage anyone visiting the area to go and at least experience it. Make up your own mind and have your own experience. Just make sure you’re ready to hike! (If you want the most thorough experience.)

Wardrobe: Maddie Buffalo Plaid Dress by Roolee. This dress is fully lined and very conservative. It was perfect to wear with leggings and my wool coat for warmth! 

After turning into frozen popsicles, Jay and I took a date night at Three Notch’d Brewery. It was sooooo good: the beer, the food, the atmosphere! All 5 stars! 

Saturday was football day. We watched college football ALL. DAY. I have never watched so much football in my life, but I was nice to just chill with family eating tailgating food and left overs. SMU lost…boo. But I got to watch LSU and Texas A&M go into 7 OTs, crazy!!

On Sunday we went to Starbucks, got my Been There Series mug, ate breakfast and walked the UVA campus. The university was built by Jefferson and it still holds a lot of his influences. It was very cool to visit since my Alma Mater, Southern Methodist University, was based off the same style of architecture. I’ll let you decide if you see the resemblance…

UVA Versus SMU:

After walking, watching Jack Ryan movies, and seeing Atlanta United win (!!!) Jay and I boarded the flight home. Overall, it was a fantastic first visit to Virginia. I cannot wait to go back! Happy Thanksgiving! I am so thankful for each and every one of you reading this, thanks for your support. All of my love. 

Perhaps you hate Thanksgiving? Perhaps you hate dog shows? You do you, boo. 



October – Book of The Month

Obviously I am aware that it is basically December but… I finally got a chance to finish my October Book of The Month!

I read the novel Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I first got this book as a birthday present for my best friend. I typically do not gift books that I have not read myself so… I put this one on the top of my list. I had watched the mini series on HBO last year so I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t enjoy the book. Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shaliene Woodley, and Zoe Cravitz killed it and I didn’t want to be disappointed since I already knew the ending. 

I was so WRONG! I loved the book. It was just different enough to keep my focus from beginning to end. There were 486 pages and 86 chapters but they’re short and contain a lot of dialogue, so it goes fast. 

It is a mystery with a lot of twists and turns. To avoid giving anything away, I will just include the book synopsis: 

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…
A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly? 
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

I encourage anyone who enjoys a good mystery novel to pick this one up. It’s a great read for all of your road trips, flights, and nights spent by the fire this holiday season! I personally will be picking up the other titles written by this author and putting them on my list 🙂

Perhaps you hate HBO? Perhaps you hate books? You do you, boo. 



All Hallow’s Eve

Yes, I know, Halloween was over a week ago, but I have not had a chance to sit down and blog about it yet. The Sunday we arrived home from the wedding in Hilton Head my sister flew in to spend the holiday with us.

Monday evening started the Halloween fun at Six Flags Over Georgia. Freight Fest was in its final days and the temperature was beginning to get crisp, but we were ready to ride those roller coasters! My sister and I have always been huge fans of roller coasters. It’s one of the few things we have in common, so we pretty much hit up theme parks whenever we’re together. Joining us were Jay and my friend Elliyah. The four of us had the best time running from ride to ride… until we rode the swings. They went up high and fast. Once we were done, we were all frozen popsicles ready to go home and drink something warm.

Tuesday evening, my sister and I had planned to carve pumpkins, make tacos, and watch Halloween movies. (sounds easy, right?) Well…. pro-tip: there are no carving pumpkins in stores the day before Halloween. We called and drove to about 10 stores before we got hungry and finally settled for mini-pumpkins. The night turned out fun anyway. We ate, carved our baby pumpkins, and watched Hocus Pocus & The Peanuts-Gang Halloween Special.

HALLOWEEN DAY: Wednesday morning, I put candy outside of our door, so our neighbors could take some as they headed to work. That night, I put on my Ravenclaw robe & neck tie to wear to dinner with my sister. We ate Chinese food and had a heart-to-heart chat. It was really nice to catch up with her and hear about her life in Houston. After dinner we drove to the airport and I said goodbye. Halloween was over and only gobstoppers were left outside my door.

Until next year, HALLOWEEN 🙂

Since I’m so behind, October’s Book of the Month will be posted next week, sorry for the wait! Perhaps you hate Halloween? Perhaps you hate roller coasters? You do you, boo.






Hilton Head Happily Ever After

Last weekend, Jay and I were invited to attend the wedding of one of his college friends. It was held in Hilton Head, SC which is about a five-hour drive from Atlanta. I can be honest and say I was not too thrilled to have to make the trip. I was VERY tired after the week and the thought of spending five hours in the car Friday night seemed unbearable. But I have the best fiancé in the world because he got me Taco Bell and drove the whole trip, so I could stuff myself with a bean burrito and sleep the entire way. We arrived to our Air B&B around 11pm. The condo was super cute, right on the beach, and the perfect size to share with some of Jay’s other friends. Saturday morning was a bit of a slow start on my end. I was tired, and I really just wanted to lay in the hot bath, shave my legs, and put on a sheet mask for hours… but I settled for 30 minutes.

After we finally got out the door (sorry housemates), we went to get brunch at a cute place called A Low-country Backyard Restaurant. It was DELICIOUS! I’m not a food blogger but this place was amazing, and I ate way too much. Next, we decided to do some window shopping at the Hilton Head Coligny Plaza Shopping Center. It was basically a big strip mall with fun shops where you can buy candles and oils. Eventually we found a wine tasting place that we were all thrilled to try. After the wine tasting, we passed the fish pond and strolled back to the car.

Post morning adventure we still had some time to kill. Naturally our condo was steps from the beach, so I couldn’t resist the urge to put my feet in the sand and breathe in the sea air. Wardrobe: SMU was playing Cincinnati that afternoon, so I was supporting my ‘stangs!

The wedding look place at the Long Cove Club Clubhouse. It was GORGEOUS. It is hard to put into works how fancy, beautiful, and fun the entire night was. The moment we opened the Clubhouse doors there were greeters there to hand us a glass of wine. We then made our way out to the said yard where the ceremony took place at sunset next to the golf greens. Wardrobe: I wore a dress from Francesca’s that I got on Clearance for $15! I was perfect for the occasion I felt comfortable and confident all night. There is still a blue version on the site available.

After the ceremony we had cocktail hour by an outdoor fire with an open bar a guitarist and plentiful appetizers. Every time we turned around there was more food to eat. I feel like this never happens at a wedding. Food is EXPENSIVE, so I feel like a lot of ceremonies feed people just enough, this was totally different. I ate WAY WAY too much that night.
The reception venue was inside. The centerpieces towered over the tables while candles and twinkle lights lit up the dance floor. It was truly a magical night. Jay and I danced so hard that I was sore for three days. I forgot to take a picture with Jay before my hair had fallen out, but I was glad I got one before we lift.

Sunday morning came, and all of the wedding guests were invited to a farewell brunch at Alexander’s Restaurant at the Palmetto Dunes Pavilion. The food was (surprise) delicious! After filling up on coffee, we said goodbye to the bride and groom and headed back to Atlanta. This time I drove so Jay could sleep. I was so excited to get back and prep the fridge and apartment for my sister’s visit!

My sister flew in that night and spent the next few days celebrating Halloween with us: Next week in the blog 😉

Perhaps you hate weddings? Perhaps you hate the beach? You do you, boo.






October Cabin Trip!

This past weekend, 8 friends and I drove up to Blue Ridge, GA to enjoy a weekend in the mountains. We rented an AirB&B a few months ago and the trip organizers put a lot of work into planning our meals and activities. I arrived late Friday and the party had already started. We hot tubbed, ate snacks, danced, and I was able to surprise my friend with a cake for her birthday.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Saturday morning was a beautiful day to relax on the porch and catch up with friends. After we got chilly, we moved inside and ate a huge brunch while sitting by the fireplace. I was a dreamy – picturesque morning. Wardrobe: My new Lady Gang sweatshirt was the perfect way to keep warm and comfortable on the porch during the chilly morning.

After relaxing around the cabin all morning, we finally started to get “cabin fever” so we all great dressed and headed into town. First, we went to Grumpy Old Men Brewing to try out some local beers. The place was very crowded, but we found a table and had a wonderful time playing Catch Phrase.

Afterward, we had a photo shoot on a truck that sits outside the brewery. Wardrobe: I wore a brand-new jumpsuit that I just got from Albion Fit.  I am obsessed with it. It even came in petite!

Once we left the brewery, we went to get Blizzards. As we pulled up to the DQ we noticed the cutest little Halloween decor outside of the restaurant. So, of course, we took more pictures…

After the Blizzards, we went rouge. I made a wrong turn and we ended up coming upon a national forest trail. We decided to walk the trail a little. It was honestly the best part of the trip. I love hiking and spending time exploring our national parks and forests. We pay for them through our tax dollars. Utilize them!

Saturday evening was full of board games and movies. Over the weekend we watched Heredity (2 out of 5), Blazing Saddles (5 out of 5), and The Conjuring (4 out of 5). If you’re looking for a scary movie, The Conjuring is a great choice, Heredity not so much. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t at all good. 😦

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Sunday morning, we all packed up and headed home. All in all, it was an awesome weekend in Blue Ridge, GA!

Perhaps you hate cabins? Perhaps you hate the mountains? You do you, boo.