Posts Categorized: Advice & Planning Tips
North Carolina Florals
If you love the idea of supporting small local businesses and want to plan a more mindful wedding, consider going green – not just with your wedding greenery, but your bouquet and florals, too. There is a field-to-vase trend in the floral industry right now, so it’s a perfect time for brides to take advantage of local growers providing great, year-round flowers choices for local NC wedding bouquets. In recent years, the list of viable flowers has grown substantially. Plus, sourcing through a local grower is more sustainable and often better, fresher quality than what is available through more commercial markets.
These bouquets are all sourced from local NC growers by Durham florist, Ninth Street Flowers. “North Carolina is a great state for field grown flowers,” says owner Larry Wood. Larry makes a point to source as much as he can from local farms and growers.
North Carolina Wildflower Look
If you truly want to go local, it helps to go into your floral planning process with an open mind and more than one top flower choice.
“Many flowers are only grown as field crops, so a bride will have to accept a certain ‘wildflower’ feel to her bouquets to be happy with what is available locally,” says Wood.
Are you wondering how going local will affect your budget? Many imported flowers cost less because they come from large production farms in Southern America and are so plentiful to what’s regionally available. If you are a bride or couple who is flexible and wants to go with local and even native flowers, check with your florist to see if they buy from local growers. You may be surprised and are able to not only support the local growers, but also stay within or close to budget.
Using local flowers brings a fresher look to your wedding and comes with the added benefit of supporting our community’s economy. If you want to go local, it pays to do a little research ahead of time and keep an open mind about a couple of top flower choices.
SB&G Preferred Vendors
These days, the rules of who pays for what when it comes to a wedding are a little more in the grey area than in years past…for quick and easy reference, SB&G has provided a short and sweet list of new wedding etiquette so you know what to expect from whom!
Old Wedding Etiquette Rules: Wedding and reception expenses for a first marriage were traditionally the sole responsibility of the bride’s family. When paying, they get to determine the size and style of the wedding and reception. The groom’s family my offer to share in the cost of the reception, and the bride’s family may accept in order to accommodate a larger wedding.
New Wedding Etiquette Rules: Both families may divide the expenses as their budget allows, or each family can contribute a set amount to the total expenses. This may be supplemented by the bride and groom. As the average age of couples rises for marriage, many working duos today host and pay for their entire wedding and celebration themselves, and issue the invitation for their personalized wedding on their own. For encore weddings, the couple is always responsible for the costs.
The Bride’s Family Pays for:
-Church and reception site rental
-Cake, catering and beverages for the reception
-Invitations, announcements and stationary
-Services of a wedding consultant
-The bridal attire and trousseau
-Photography for the engagements, bridal portraits, ceremony and reception
-Flowers for the church, reception and the bridesmaids
-Corsages for special helpers
-Music at the ceremony and reception
-Limousine for the bride and family to the church, and cars for transportation
-Lodging for out-of-town bridesmaids or arrangements with friends
-Security and insurance
The Groom or His Family Pay for:
-The bride’s engagement and wedding rings
-Officiant’s fee and travel expenses
-Bride’s bouquet and going-away corsage
-Corsages for the mothers and grandmothers
-Boutonnieres, gloves and ties for the men of the wedding party
-Wedding gift for the bride
-Limousine expense leaving reception — or for the day
-Wedding night accommodations
-Gifts for the best man and groomsmen
-Shipment of the wedding gifts to the couple’s home
-Lodging or arrangements for out-of-town groomsmen
-Groom’s wedding ring
-Gifts for the bride’s attendants
-Thank you gift for parents
-Bridesmaid’s luncheon (optional event)
-Engagement parties may be hosted by each set of parents or friends
-Groom’s family or engaged couple may co-host or host the entire wedding event
-The groom’s family or friends usually give the bachelor dinner or party
Who pays for what for a wedding might be just the first of many questions that come up when planning your day. Peruse our BLOG for other advice columns, and of course, lots of inspirational eye-candy!
If you are getting married in NC, we’d also love for you to check out our Preferred Vendors. SB&G has been the trusted wedding planning resource for our region for 30 years and has the most extensive VENUE GUIDE spanning from the NC Triad, across the Greater Triangle and to the Coast. Our region has great options for DESTINATION WEDDINGS too!
Father of the Bride
Since Father’s Day is just around the corner (this Sunday!) – we thought we’d dedicate this Friday post to ideas that will make the Father of the bride feel special on his daughter’s wedding day; to show him that no matter how old you are, or who comes into your life, you’ll always be his little girl.
1. Give Him A Little Gift
Some of our favorite tokens on a wedding day are small gifts given from the bride to her father, like an embroidered handkerchief, personalized cufflinks, or a special photo opportunity. Your father will absolutely love the thought that went behind whatever gift you choose.
Photo by Fancy This Photography
2. Give Him A Bear Hug When He Gives You Away
Giving their child away at a wedding may be one of the hardest moments for a father. The symbol that passing their child to their future husband holds is emotionally tough for any dad. Let your dad know he’s still your number 1 guy with a big hug and kiss before you join your fiancé at the altar. A little display of your love and appreciation for him will make him feel so honored and may make the moment a little easier on them.
3. Let Him Surprise You With A Father/Daughter Dance Song
While you may want to be a part of every decision in your wedding planning, give your dad the opportunity to help! Let him surprise you with a song to have your father/daughter dance to. Not only will it mean so much to him, but it could also be a ton of fun to see what he comes up with!
4. Write Him a Thank You Note
As the years go by, handwritten thank you notes have become less and less customary. Nothing shows how thankful you really are more than words from the heart. Put your pen to paper and thank your father for everything he’s done for you for your entire life. It will almost definitely bring tears to his eyes.
Give your dads a huge hug this weekend, ladies, and Happy Father’s Day!
Planning the bachelorette party is one of the Maid of Honor’s most important pre-wedding responsibilities, but for some, it is also one of the most stressful. The bachelorette party conjures visions of Vegas nightclubs, but there really is no need to drag your crew across the country when there are so many local options to celebrate your upcoming nuptials here in NC’s Triangle Area.
Whether the bride-to-be prefers a late night out on the town, daytime brewery tours or a luxurious, relaxing spa day, Raleigh is full of swanky restaurants, fun group activities, and plush five-star spas. Here, we’ve put together some exciting ideas for your Raleigh bachelorette party.
Are you a brunching group? Raleigh may just be the place for you then! Head downtown and try some of the amazing establishments. Poole’s Diner, Seaboard 18, Beasley’s and Provenance all have amazing menus for your brunch needs. Chicken and Waffles are a must when down South!
Dinner and Drinks
Whether you are looking for a fancy or a more casual environment, there are plenty of amazing restaurant choices to choose from in the Raleigh, NC area. If you are on the hunt for a fancy dinner experience give Second Empire or Death & Taxes a try! Their menus are beyond incredible. Looking for a step more casual – head on over to Taverna Agora. Between their amazingly beautiful rooftop terrace and authentic Greek style cuisine, you may forget you are even in North Carolina!
Then after your meal head over for to The Architect Bar & Social House and have a drink in their secret bar hidden behind the bookshelf!
Photos via Taverna Agora Facebook and Death & Taxes Facebook (@kelseyhanrahanphoto)
Out on the Town
For a night out on the town the flourishing downtown areas has fabulous nightlife options, from delicious cocktail bars to dance clubs.
Then, for dancing in an upscale club setting, visit Glenwood South. Head to any of the many clubs in the neighborhood and dance the night away!
Maybe the bride-to-be is more interested in a quiet, relaxing day at the spa with her favorite group of girlfriends than a loud and crazy night out. Consider a weekend stay at the Umstead Hotel in Cary, right outside of Raleigh, and visit their luxurious spa for ultimate relaxation.
Check out the SB&G Beauty & Health page to get a breakdown of spas and salons – an afternoon at any of these locations is a great way to kick off any bachelorette party!
Unique Group Bachelorette Party Activities
For a classy, low key group outing, consider a tea party at our local venue that specialize in this service, The Umstead Hotel.
Another fun daytime activity is a group cooking class at Catering Works. They offer a variety of courses that can be made to fit your group — learn a new skill and add a signature dish to your cooking repertoire!
If your group wants to try their hand at something laid back yet fun, consider booking a Wine & Design course in Raleigh, where you and your girlfriends can enjoy basic painting instruction from local artists while chatting and sipping on your favorite bottle of vino. Don’t worry about your artistic experience (or lack thereof!) – Wine & Design caters to all skill levels.
For a fun daytime activity, think about taking a brewery tour. Raleigh, NC is full of options – including Big Boss, Raleigh Brewery Company, Trophy Brewing, LoneRider, Little City Brewing, – that all offer tours and events.
Or take your brews with a bit of adventure and take a ride on the Trolley Pub, a pedal-powered, pub-crawling trolley that can accommodate up to 14 people. Choose from a variety of tours featuring Raleigh’s best dinner spots, pubs, and breweries.
More of a wine group than beer? Check out Vita Vite, which is great for a flight of wine and a cheese plate to share.
The Triangle’s surrounding cities and towns are also hotspots for small, local wineries. Take your group on an afternoon adventure to tour the vineyard, get a behind-the-scenes peek at the process, and sample some delicious wine. We also have an urban winery in Morrisville – Chatham Hill Winery offers tastings and is even available for private events.
If you want to get a little more risque and break your bride-to-be out of her shell, a truly memorable outing would be a group pole dancing class. This is available at many local gyms, and there are also studios that specialize in it, such as Turn Me Loose Fitness near Brier Creek or Aradia Fitness in Cary.
You’re Engaged, Now What?
After the initial shock and excitement of becoming engaged dies down and it’s time to start planning you will probably be initially overwhelmed by how much there is to do and all the opinions coming in from everyone around you.
Pick a Date
This doesn’t have to be the exact date you end up on, but at least know what you and your fiancé are thinking about in terms of season or time of year. Depending on your venue, the exact date may change, but it’s important to know whether you absolutely do want to get married in the summer or absolutely will not choose to get married when there could be a chance of snow.
Pick a Setting
Do you know you want a beach wedding? Maybe you are your fiancé have only ever dreamt of getting married on a mountain top. Whatever the case may be, know ahead of time the scene in which you ideally want to say “I do.” This will help immensely when ultimately picking an exact venue. Need inspiration? Check out our blog for some of the most beautiful real weddings in the area! Our Instagram is also a fantastic place to get started!
Set Your Wedding Budget
It’s so important to know your budget before even deciding on a venue. Know the things that you can’t live without, the things that you would rather not live without, and the things that you can forgo for your wedding. This way you know where your money is allotted. Make sure you and your fiancé communicate and know the other’s opinions on likes and dislikes.
Decide What’s Most Important to You on Your Wedding Day
You might find when you begin planning that things are a little more expensive than you initially estimated. The average wedding in North Carolina is in the $25,000 range, but that includes all weddings and some that are very low budget. For a typical full service wedding reception, real averages are in the mid $30,000’s and up. That does not mean that you cannot achieve the wedding of your dreams on less- you just have to know where you are and are not willing to trim costs. Pick a handful of services that you want to splurge on – say, your wedding dress, photographer, food, flowers, or invitations. Budget those first, then take that into consideration when you are planning other areas.
Draft a Guest List
Use a Google Sheet and draft your guest list. Having a live document like this will allow you to share it with your fiancé, mother, father or anyone else that is helping you and that can help you down the line with addresses or that pesky uncle’s name you just can’t ever spell correctly. It’s important to have a general idea of how many people will be at your reception before you choose the venue. A good rule of thumb is to expect 80% attendance.
Consider Hiring a Wedding Planner
If you think a full service wedding planner or designer is for you, it is never to early to find this match. This person can help you define your style and vision and translate it to every element including the venue. Even if you end up just choosing a partial service package, it does not hurt to book them early and get your feedback on the big decisions. A planner will offer tips to maximize your budget as well, so an early consultation is key. If you are planning an NC wedding, check out the SB&G preferred wedding planners – all of them are incredible talented and trusted individuals.
Pick Your Reception Venue
Now that you know how much of your budget you can logically afford, shop around for venues. Southern Bride and Groom has an extensive list of trusted venues in the North Carolina Triangle Area! Schedule visits to a few of your favorite ones that fit within your budget, and pick from there. Now you have your venue and your date, Congratulations!
Ask Your Wedding Party
Now that you have the date and the location go ahead and ask your best friends to stand by your on your special day! Whether your wedding party is big or small, it doesn’t matter, choose what is right for you and your situation. Asking your wedding party early allows you a group of people to bounce ideas off of and ask advice from for your wedding planning.
Send Out Save The Dates
Some people recommend these go out a year, some 10 months, others even later – but even depending on the size of your guest list, location of the wedding, and personal preference, getting these out sooner rather than later never offended anyone.
Now relax for a moment and then get to the fun of finding your amazing vendors! Southern Bride and Groom is your trusted resource for the NC wedding vendor community!
Rehearsal Dinner Venues
Durham, North Carolina is known equally for its traditionally Southern venues as well as their new and eclectic spaces that have been popping up more and more around the city. Whether you are looking for a classically elegant restaurant, something casual, or more off the beaten path, there is a venue in Durham that will fit your rehearsal dinner vision.
NC is home to many beautiful traditional venues that will host all of your wedding parties, and some of them are nestled here in Durham. If you are in search for something that is not only stunningly classic, but also rich in Durham history, visit the King’s Daughters Inn. Want something a little more modern and with a gorgeous view of all of Durham – look no further than the University Club’s penthouse location. The Fairview is one of the finest restaurants in Durham with private areas perfectly suited to small rehearsal dinners. The Washington Duke Inn also has several smaller ballrooms and patio locations that could be utilized for small to large events of any kind!
Fairview Dining Room at The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club
Near Duke Campus and Duke Chapel 3001 Cameron Boulevard
King’s Daughters Inn
Across from the wall on Duke’s East Campus, minutes from downtown
204 North Buchanan Blvd.
University Tower Penthouse
3100 Tower Blvd.
For the more new age Durham couples there are tons of eclectic venues for you! Between the rooftop at Durham Hotel that is perfect for a gathering during the warmer months and the hip vibes that you will get at The Cookery, you are in luck if you are looking in the Durham area for a unique spot to host your rehearsal dinner!
Cookery Front Room
1101 West Chapel Hill Street
315 East Chapel Hill Street
Durham, NC 27701
Counting House at 21c Museum Hotel
111 N Corcoran Street
Durham, NC 27701
event available in upstairs izakaya
415 East Chapel Hill Street
Durham, NC 27701
Not all couples want a super fancy rehearsal dinner. If you would prefer a place where it is acceptable to throw wear jeans instead of khakis, we have some amazing options for you! The Pit’s Durham location is famous for their incredible Southern BBQ if you are looking for the perfect casual southern venue. Bonus – their rooftop view is something you have to experience! If you are on the hunt for a spot in RTP, try Mez Contemporary Mexican or Page Road Grill.
Mez Contemporary Mexican
Gorgeous Private Dining in RTP
5410 Page Road
Page Road Grill
Intimate Setting in RTP
5416 Page Road
The Pit Durham
Whole Hog and Pit-Cooked Authentic Barbecue
321 W. Geer Street
Summer Catering in NC
Summer is around the corner and wedding season is among us. That means finding the right seasonal fare to serve at your wedding! Depending where you are located, that could mean different things. We brought together some of our favorite local North Carolina caterers and are sharing some of the top Summer wedding catering trends!
If you are anywhere near the North Carolina coast you know that seafood is a must have. We have some of the best and freshest catches around! Donovan’s Dish shared with us this casual seafood boil that is sure to bring together any family. Having such an informal yet stunning way of presenting a classic meal is perfect for any North Carolina bride and groom!
Seafood Fine Dining
In the other spectrum is a more traditional presentation of a classic seafood meal. Parizade put a mediterranean spin on this seafood dish and made a summer dish just that much more summery. For the bride and groom that doesnt want to get their fingers dirty, this option is just what you are looking for!
Rocky Top Catering transformed a cold weather dish, curry, into a Summer favorite. They created an amazing shrimp curry to go with the season and accented it with bright colors to perfectly blend in with a Summer wedding. You can easily turn any dull dish into a bright plate with the help of some sauces or seasonal flowers.
Sliders are no new trend, but pulling together colorful sliders like these pork belly, portobello and crab cake bites from Southern Harvest Catering, give a non exciting dish a Summer overhaul. Using vegetables that are in season and fresh only grow your guests hunger when they see them coming around at your wedding!
Salads are a common item on the wedding menu. Spice things up by having a not-so-traditional type of salad. Catering Works created this frisee salad with a shrimp cocktail and pistachio vinaigrette. Not only is it aesthetically beautiful, it is the perfect light Summer dish.
Oysters are really hitting their stride right now. New oyster bars are popping up left and right and we just can’t get enough of them! Rocky Top Catering took their oyster presentation to a new level with these oysters in 6 different ways. These are perfect for cocktail hour at any formal wedding. You can also have raw oysters for a more casual reception.
Photography by Riley MacLean Photography
Traditions are often the backbone of nuptials, but as the next generation ties the knot, new trends continue to sprout while longstanding practices are left by the wayside. A population that now exceeds the baby boomers, millennials cherish new ideas, customization and authenticity, which is further exemplified through their wedding decisions.
Diane Tighe, who plans events for father and son properties Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club and the new JB Duke Hotel on the campus of Duke University in Durham, NC, details five elements transitioning traditional to trendy in 2017. With more than 15 years of experience at the property, Diane is a Certified Professional Catering Executive (CPCE) and active member of NACE since 2001.
Brian Mullins Photography
1. Off-the-shelf décor
From décor to photography, couples are tailoring details both big and small throughout their big day to their personalities and unique stories. Monograms are more popular than ever, appearing on napkins, souvenirs, center pieces, photos and more, and photo booths are supplementing professional photography. At the end of the night, guests are swapping in glow sticks, sparklers and even tambourines to hype up excitement to send off the newlywed couple.
Southern Love Studios
2. Formal dances and the toss itself
Traditionally, the bridal party enters the reception followed by the bride and the groom, leading into the first dance, then the father and daughter dance and finally the mother and son dance. But these days, there is less investment in these pivotal points; the bridal party no longer makes a grand entrance, less people line up for the first dances and toasts open the reception rather than a featured anecdote part way through. Similarly, the bouquet and garter tosses are being tossed out the window.
3. The chicken or the beef
Couples are taking food and wine decisions into their own hands. Rather than feeling obligated to select what is listed by the caterer on a pre-determined list, the wedding menu is turning into a longer conversation about the personal food preferences. Couples are becoming increasingly more savvy and know that chefs have flexibilities with sides and sauces, too.
Casey Rose Photography
4. Playing with the food
Don’t worry: cakes are still large in proportion to the guest count, but the dessert is there for its beauty rather than activity. Smashing the cake in the bride and groom’s faces is being phased out, as well as hoopla around the cake cutting. Colors like cream, white, gold and blush are being incorporated into the color scheme for a romantic feel.
Miss Loves Jerry Photography & Jamie Blow Photography
5. Receiving lines
Traditionally, the bride’s parents head the receiving line at the reception and are first to greet guests, followed by the bride and groom and the groom’s parents. These days, receiving lines are being omitted for a less formal set up. Guests simply enter the reception and the bride and groom make their way around the room informally to greet their guests.
Brian Mullins Photography
“During my time planning weddings for over 30 years, I’ve seen a shift from conventional ideas to modern innovations and a renewed investment in planning the perfect wedding individualized towards the couple,” said Tighe, director of catering & conference services at Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club and JB Duke Hotel. “Distinctive venues interested in helping couples plan their unique weddings are becoming increasingly more crucial. We treat each wedding like it’s our biggest event and are flexible to unique ideas. For example, while both our Durham hotels elicit southern hospitality, couples can choose to host a welcome happy hour at the new contemporary JB Duke Hotel and their wedding at the more traditional Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club.”
Diane Tighe, who plans events for Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club and the new JB Duke Hotel on the campus of Duke University, detailed five elements transitioning traditional to trendy in 2017 below. Diane is a Certified Professional Catering Executive (CPCE) and active member of NACE since 2001 with more than 15 years of experience at the properties alone.
About The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club
The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club is located on the campus of Duke University, only twenty minutes from Raleigh-Durham International Airport and ten minutes from Research Triangle Park. The Washington Duke Inn is the original AAA Four Diamond hotel in Durham, North Carolina. Nestled on 300 acres filled with tall pines and hardwoods, the Inn is known for its beautiful facility and grounds, 271 elegantly appointed guest rooms and suites, marvelous cuisine in the Fairview Dining Room — winner of the AAA Four Diamond Award, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Award and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence — the Bull Durham Bar, the Robert Trent Jones-designed 18-hole championship Duke University golf course, and its convenience to local points of interest. It is set apart from other area hotels and conference centers by unparalleled service, a gracious staff, luxurious interiors and attention to detail. The Inn is owned by Duke University and is managed by WDI Hospitality, LLC of Durham, North Carolina. For more information or reservations call (919) 490-0999 or (800) 443-3853, or by visiting washingtondukeinn.com, Facebook facebook.com/WashingtonDukeInn, Twitter at twitter.com/WashingtonDuke and Instagram instagram.com/WashingtonDukeInn.
About JB Duke Hotel
The JB Duke Hotel is a AAA Four Diamond contemporary hotel located on the campus of Duke University, conveniently near both athletic and academic facilities, as well as only 20 minutes from Raleigh-Durham International Airport and 10 minutes from Research Triangle Park. It features 198 guestrooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting and event space and is home to a full-service restaurant and two bars. For more information or reservations call (919) 660-6400 or (844) 490-7100, or visit jbdukehotel.com. Follow JB Duke Hotel on Facebook at facebook.com/jbdukehotel, Twitter at twitter.com/jbdukehotel, or Instagram at instagram.com/jbdukehotel.
Request more information about the Durham wedding venues and packages at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club or JB Duke Hotel, or contact our wedding specialists to arrange a site visit at 919.313.9618 or 919.660.6400.
One of the best parts about getting married in the Springtime is the countless options that are available for your floral arrangements and bouquets for your special day. Between the soft airy color pallets, incredibly fresh blooms, and ample amount of green accent options, there is definitely no shortage of inspiration for you and your bridal party’s floral bouquets.
We rounded up some of our favorite floral trends for this season to give you some inspiration for your Spring bouquet!
Pretty in Pink
Adding different shades of pink has always been a favorite of Spring brides. Pastel pinks and blush color schemes are a classic that isn’t going away anytime soon. Try adding a hint of green in your bouquet for a variation of the traditional look.
Add Some Rustic Accents
Adding rustic accents to a wedding is not something new, but adding them to your bouquet is definitely a unique take on the trend. Try adding darker colored vines like this bouquet for a rustic garden chic feel.
For the classically simple bride, try the small bouquet. A few beautiful blooms with some greenery will go a long way. Something so simple can really make quite the beautiful impact for a wedding.
Throw in Eucalyptus
Not only is eucalyptus absolutely stunning, it smells divine too! Try a classic one color bouquet with accents of eucalyptus to add some variety. The sweet smell of the eucalyptus leaves is just an added bonus to it’s beauty.
All About Variety
Can’t seem to decide between all your favorite colors and blooms? Good news- you don’t have to. Try a fun bouquet with all of your favorites for a very eye catching look! The amazing thing about flowers are there are few that don’t look absolutely beautiful when paired together.
Want to add just a touch of edge to your bouquet? You can keep your pastel color scheme and add dark accents like these anemone blooms. With just a touch of darker shades, your bouquet can keep the airy spring look while looking multidimensional.
Go Big or Go Home
With so many beautiful floral arrangements available this time of year, sometimes it’s hard to narrow down what you want in your bridal bouquet. With a larger than life bouquet, you can accommodate all of the blooms and accent leaves your heart desires. It’s also incredibly stunning in photographs. Just be careful when tossing this size of bouquet!
Shades of Colors
You don’t need to limit yourself to one shade of accent colors in your bouquet. Experiment with different shades of the color in your theme. For example, this bouquet below uses multiple different purples. While the colors stay in the same purple color family, it adds some variety to the arrangements.
Have a beautiful bouquet you want to share with us? Tag us on Instagram @SouthernBrideAndGroom!
Wedding planners in the Triangle warn that saying “I Do” in a local chapel takes advanced planning. Barring another couple’s misfortunes, the months of April, May and June are pretty much off the table a year in advance, as is October. Some savvy brides have already snapped up prime dates for fall 2018 and spring 2019.
“This is such a growing area and the increase we’re seeing in weddings is just crazy,” says Raleigh wedding planner Sally Oakley. “Churches and chapels book well in advance of a year, especially for Saturdays. And it’s not just local couples. We hear from a lot of people who live elsewhere but maybe grew up here or went to school here and really want to have their wedding here. It’s become a very competitive market.”
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to score the perfect place to exchange vows, but you might have to adjust your game plan. If a specific date is essential, be willing to shop around for the right church or wedding chapel much in the way a bride hunts for the right shoes: Accept a bit of a pinch if the overall match is a great fit.
Private, unaffiliated chapels offer the most flexibility. Most churches have rules that might not appeal to all couples, ranging from expectations of a faith-based life to prohibitions on photos during the ceremony or alcohol at the reception. You also might not be allowed to feature your favorite song or decorate with flowers that remind you of grandma.
Additionally, many churches and synagogues reserve the privilege of a chapel wedding for members and require couples to participate in pre-marital counseling. Permission is sometimes necessary if a person has been divorced. “A lot of people want to get married in a church because it’s pretty, or because their parents got married there,” says Amanda Scott of A Swanky Affair in Durham. Reasonably, she adds, churches with strict rules – such as Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh or The Catholic Community of St. Thomas More in Chapel Hill – “want you to believe in God and not think of their chapel as a pretty backdrop.”
Thankfully, for couples that value such aesthetics or are not actively observant, common ground can be found at many welcoming churches and chapels.
Kayelily Middleton of Raleigh, an ordained wedding minister and wedding planner, is a particular fan of Unity of the Triangle, a nondenominational community where she is a member. The church, which opened in Raleigh this year,has a contemporary sanctuary with stained glass and a reception hall with catering kitchen.
Unitarian and United Church of Christ congregations, such as Raleigh’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Durham, tend to be among the most open to couples that are not members, including same-sex partners and those of different faiths. Be sure to review each church’s wedding policy, usually posted on its website, to confirm whether it allows outside officiants and other factors that may be important to you, such as support of social justice causes.
Don’t assume that all churches in a given denomination will have the same rules. For example, some Episcopal churches require that at least one person be a member and Christian, including Chapel Hill’s handsome Church of the Cross, while the small, carpenter gothic Episcopal Church of the Advocate nearby welcomes all committed couples.
“We find that there are couples in the community who desire to be married in a church, but for a variety of reasons are not part of a faith community in our region,” says Rev. Lisa Fishbeck, Advocate vicar. “We are glad to honor their inclination to exchange their vows in a sacred space.”
Jewish centers in the Triangle, such as Durham’s Judea Reform Congregation, only allow couples that intend to build a Jewish home together to be married in their sanctuaries. Rabbi Andrew Ettin of Salisbury’s Temple Israel often travels to the Triangle to perform weddings in alternate settings for couples who want a traditional Jewish ceremony but are not actively observant.
Making their chapel more available for weddings has become a smart business move for some non-church venues. Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, an Episcopal boarding school for girls in grades 9-12, has found that its chapel and reception areas have become reliable revenue drivers. Open to all faiths, they book just one wedding a week, with a few weeks blocked out for school functions and summer residence of the Carolina Ballet. While grads get a discount on the rental fee, Kristen Monroe, director of auxiliary programs and services, says the historic chapel and outdoor rose garden attracts as many outsiders as alumni.
If the grandeur of Duke University Chapel is your dream, hopefully you, your beloved or a member of your immediate family has a direct university connection. The iconic chapel allows no exceptions but welcomes same-sex weddings and couples of all faiths, and even can make arrangements to live stream the ceremony for those unable to attend.
Know that demand for this spectacular setting is such that, as with Blue Devil basketball games, it’s not unusual for hopeful couples to camp out in order to be first in line when bookings open 12 months in advance of the desired wedding month.
There are unaffiliated chapels to consider as well, including two located in Raleigh’s historic Oakwood/Mordecai corridor. Built in 1875 as a church and restored in 2008 by Empire Properties as an elegant event space, All Saint’s Chapel welcomes all denominations. A few blocks north, Saint Mark’s Chapel offers a smaller, budget-friendly option managed by the City of Raleigh.
“It’s the best deal in town,” says Kayelily Middleton, referring to Saint Mark’s hourly rent of just $100 for city residents (or $150 for non-residents). “If you want a beautiful ceremony that won’t break the bank, it can’t be beat.”
Click here to view SB&G’s recommended chapels and officiants.
Article contributed by Jill Warren Lucas
1 & 4 Sarah Morrel Photography
2 & 3 Riley MacLean Photography