Verge Events is a wedding planning studio, owned by Nicole Riley and based in the beautiful mountains in Asheville, North Carolina. Nicole’s team consists of skilled wedding planners + designers that can help you plan a mountain wedding of your dreams. Whether you have always dreamed of a traditional wedding, a vintage wedding, something completely over the top, or somewhere in between, Nicole and her team can help take your ideas and dreams for your Asheville or western North Carolina wedding and make them come to life.
Here are some highlights from the interview
Tip for finding the right vendors:
- Hire wedding professionals that know each other and has worked together before.
- Ask other wedding professionals who they like to work with.
- Feel free to check out Studio Wed, a complementary wedding planning studio
Other hot topics:
- The difference between a day-of coordinator, a venue coordinator, an event stylist and a wedding planner and how to determine what you need.
- How to know if Asheville is the right place for your mountain wedding.
- Seasonal differences, weather, and other things to keep in mind when you’re planning your Asheville wedding.
Nicole Riley is a wedding planner and owner of Verge Events, based in Asheville. Nicole is also recognized for her love and support of top vendors. Along with her hubs Ian, she created and developed StudioWed, a boutique planning studio. although based in Asheville, we have opened studios in Atlanta, Denver, and Nashville.
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Christie: Welcome to another episode of the Mountainside Bride Podcast. I’m Christie O, the editor and publisher of the Mountainside Bride and I’m here with Nicole Riley from Verge Events in Asheville.
Verge Events is based in the beautiful mountains in Asheville, North Carolina, and Nicole’s team consists of skilled wedding planners and designers that can help you plan a mountain wedding of your dreams. Whether you’ve always dreamed of a traditional wedding, a vintage wedding, something completely over the top or somewhere in between, Nicole and her team can help you take your ideas and dreams and make them come to life.
Nicole has a true passion for delivering events that exceed all expectations. Her work has been featured in top wedding blogs and magazines, including Style Me Pretty and Weddings Unveiled. Nicole is also recognized for her love of the wedding community of vendors. Along with her hubs Ian, she created and developed StudioWed, a boutique planning studio. Although it’s based in Asheville, she’s also opened studios in Atlanta, Denver, and Nashville.
Verge Events has also been honored with the Wedding Wire’s 2012 Bride’s Choice Awards and was a featured member of the prestigious Grace Ormonde’s Platinum List in 2009.
Welcome to the show, Nicole.
Nicole: Thank you for having me.
Christie: It is so such an honor to have you. I’m just so happy to have an Asheville wedding planner on the show, especially a top-notch one, because I love Asheville.
Nicole: Wow. It’s a great place to be. It’s a great place to do a wedding for sure.
Christie: It is. Nicole, let’s start off by talking about what you’re known for in the industry.
Nicole: In our local market, it mostly is the planning and design of the weddings that we do. We do about 40 weddings a year here in Asheville, just depending on the size and the scope of our work for each one, but it averages about 40. We have definitely our core services of the planning and the logistics, and then there’s design, which we do a lot of for most of our weddings, which is how I like to call it the look in the field of your wedding and then, of course, connecting brides and grooms with their wedding team, as we like to call it, their vendors that they’re going to hire to help execute the day. Those are definitely our 3 main elements of what we do in planning.
Then more on a national level, it’s definitely our wedding collectivity, like you mentioned StudioWed that we’re known for, which is a super, super fun way for brides to connect with the vendors.
Christie: How does that work? What is a boutique planning studio and how does it work for brides and vendors?
Nicole: Sure. It’s a resource that couples can utilize in so many different ways. It’s a place to get inspired. It’s a place to get advice. Most importantly, it is there to for a couple to find their team of wedding professionals and have confidence and the fact that they really are going to be taking care of in the best way. All of our vendors go through an application process and are vetted and so you know we’re referring someone to you that they really are the best in their field, in their market. They exceed all expectations. It’s a complimentary service for couples to use so I definitely would highly recommend it for someone looking for their team.
Christie: For brides who have never walked into a planning studio, what can they expect when they walk through the door? Am I going to walk the door and just see a whole bunch of vendor brochures? How does that work?
Nicole: No, no. That’s a great question though. It’s definitely like planning your wedding at your girlfriend’s house to be honest. It’s very casual. There’s sofas and meeting areas and tablescapes with colors and inspiration and fun linens, just a whole lot of inspiration for you to be able to really draw from and pull from. We definitely do have vendor information available for you, but that’s not what you’re going to … you’re not going to walk in to just rack card after rack card.
It’s a place to be comfortable and to be able to say, “These are the people I need. I don’t know where to start. How do I plan my photographer? How do I plan my florist? How do I plan my baker?” We really get to know you and what you’re looking for in your wedding. For these specific vendors and do some of the live work, do the research for you and say, “These are the people that are available that are really what seems like what you’re looking for.”
Then we actually even schedule all the appointments for you so that you can just come in and have fun. You can have coffee in the morning and lying in the afternoon if you need it at that point. Everybody just comes to you and it makes the planning process a lot more fun and you get to enjoy it.
Christie: The vendors that are in the work with you for the planning studio, you have personally vetted them, correct?
Nicole: Correct. Every single vendor has been personally vetted in each studio. They are people that we have worked with. Weekend after weekend we know their work, we know that they do and they are going to take really, really amazing care of you.
Christie: One of the biggest questions that I get from readers constantly over and over and over again, brides who signed up to get emails from me I asked them to take a survey. They don’t have to but they do and they’re like … How do I find these top-quality vendors? Of course, as you know Nicole, many, many, many brides who are getting married in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina are coming out of Atlanta. There are so many vendors out there. I don’t know who is refutable, who’s not, who is going to deliver on their promises, who has the ability to deliver on their promises. What I hear you saying is this complimentary planning studio could be a first step in sorting some of those questions out.
Nicole: Yeah, it is. It is and I think along with … StudioWed is obviously an option, but I think that my biggest piece of advice for any couple getting married is when you’re looking for your team, that wedding team, is to hire wedding professionals that know each other and have worked together before. It really does matter. It matters a lot. If and when something happens on the wedding day, having a team that knows how each other work is invaluable.
You found your photographer but you haven’t found your florist, chef. Ask your photographer, “Who do you like working with?” You can ask for references from brides for these vendors. No one is going to really give you a bad referral, that’s like giving the name of a scorned ex-boss on a resume. The best thing to do is ask other wedding professionals who they like to work with. That’s how you’re going to find your great team.
Christie: That is such good advice. I had not heard anybody say that but it makes perfect sense. Nicole, you said that you and your team does a lot of design work as well. Where do you find your inspiration for weddings?
Nicole: Oh, gosh, everywhere. I love soaking everything in. I love seeing different colors and different textures. I really don’t limit myself to wedding magazines or blogs or, I don’t know, spending 3 hours on Pinterest looking at the latest trends. Pinterest can be a deep dark hole which I am addicted to. I limit myself to just wedding-related things. You can find inspiration everywhere you look.
My husband and I love to travel and so looking at architecture and exploring new cities and just soaking in the colors and the culture, you never know what’s going to strike you as inspiration. I think that when you do that and when you let your imagination go and just soak yourself into your surroundings, that’s when my creativity is really at its finest.
Christie: I would say also that’s when you get the most original and authentic ideas is when you’re not looking at somebody else’s wedding but you’re looking at your life and things that you’re attracted to.
Nicole: Absolutely. A florist and I just have this conversation not too long ago because so many times we get couples come to us and say, “With their Pinterest page, I like this, this and this.” It’s great to be able to get an idea of what the couple likes and what direction they are heading, but we really like to take that and make it their own. It is my worst nightmare to do what we did last weekend.
To really say, “I understand that you love this, let’s really make this you and make it about you as a couple,” and that to me is the fun part because you want your wedding to be representative of who you guys are as a couple, so that’s definitely an amazing part of our job is to do that.
Christie: You said you didn’t want to do what you did last weekend. What happened last weekend?
Nicole: I think it just mean on more broader scope. We don’t want to do the same design element weekend after weekend. We wanted to always be different and we wanted to be unique to each couple. If we did 1 element last weekend or the weekend before that, we don’t want to repeat it the next weekend. We wanted to be unique to the couple.
Christie: I’m glad you clarified, Nicole, because I thought that you had like a bride [inaudible 10:47].
Nicole: No, no, no, none of that. None of that.
Christie: Describe for us, you said you do design, you do planning, you’re pretty much a soup to nuts team. What is a typical day for you at a wedding?
Nicole: I love wedding days. I really, really do. It is so amazing to see everything come together and what we’ve been planning with this couple. The typical day, depending on the event, our team is going to arrive in ample time to make sure all of the design elements are taken care of and being implemented. Sometimes this means we’re on site a few days in advance for an install or sometimes it means that we’re there on the day-of because we have hours to complete this install.
I love seeing when all the wedding professionals start to arrive and getting set and ready for their role in what they’re doing. I remember a wedding this past May, I literally like stopped in my track and looked around and there was nothing short like 50 wedding vendors, like just bustling around, getting ready, everybody smiling and high fiving. It was just so fun to see.
As the day progresses, things are getting sad and getting ready and then at hour before the ceremony is what we call the golden hour is that time when everything is ready, the bridal party pictures are wrapping up and we’re doing all the final checks and getting ready to line everybody up for the ceremony as well as for the processional. Being with the bride and the groom, the moments before they walk down the aisle, is such a special time. It’s such a special time for us. Then to be the ones to be able to first congratulate them when they come back down the aisle it’s really amazing.
It really is the day I’ve really … It’s about making sure that everything we’ve discussed with the couple has been executed and is being delivered the way we planned. We try not to bother a couple as the night goes on. We just roll with our plans and adjust as needed based on how the night is unfolding. We do stay the entire night. We do not really believe in leaving midway through. We like to see the couple all the way through to departure and that’s an equally as fun moment to be able to send the couple off. There’s definitely always lots of hugs and love in that moment as we tell them goodbye.
Christie: I didn’t realize that some planners with leave early. I was always under the assumption and I’m sure many brides out there also are under the assumption the planner does stay the whole night. Is that something that a bride should be aware of or ask her potential planner about?
Nicole: I would definitely ask. I think it varies per market. When you have someone who is more of like a director, who is like directing the rehearsal and then directing the ceremony, that person doesn’t necessarily stay the entire time. I would definitely ask that question. Depending on your needs and your budget and what you’re wanting if you can have someone who’s there all day, by all means.
Another way, some planners leave after cake cutting. It gets you guys through the majority of the day and the remaining part of the reception is that’s left. It is an option so I definitely would just be sure to ask and verify that they are there for all day.
Christie: Why do you personally … Why did you make the decision as a planner to stay the entire event?
Nicole: I just think a lot happens, a lot happens after cake cutting for us. Our job isn’t over then and we really want the couple to be able to just let go and to be able to enjoy it and nothing to ever fall on the bride and groom or the family or the bridal party to maybe get things done. There’s things like the departure car is going to be coming, what you guys are going to be riding often and your luggage has to get into their, any suit for the evening. So many times you don’t get to eat so we try and pack food for you at the end of the night.
If you do have guests, a lot of times for destination weddings they are mailed in advance, but sometimes you still end up with guests. Loading those up and knowing what room that goes to and whose car they go into, just really so there’s a true peace of mind for the whole day. It’s just really our mentality.
Christie: There are different types of wedding planning, wedding coordination, event stylist, event design. Can you talk a little bit about the difference between a day-of coordinator, a venue coordinator, a wedding planner and an event stylist or designer?
Nicole: Sure, sure. A day-of coordinator which, by the way I think is so mis-appropriately named, because they get a better rep because you think that it’s just the day-of. It doesn’t mean they’re just working day-of. They’re typically going to start anywhere from 30 to 90 days out and helping you fold together all your final details and being on site and directing at the rehearsal and, of course, on the wedding day. We were talking about earlier. Sometimes they’re not there all day, so that’s just something you want to ask.
A venue director or your banquet manager is someone who really is over the venue. If your venue offers food and beverages that is their goal is to make sure that everything with the venue food and beverage is going correctly. Some venues do have on-site coordinators that can help so that’s definitely a question, but I would definitely ask them what their job is that day just to ensure that you are getting exactly what you are needing for your wedding day.
Christie: It has been my experience with the venue coordinators they are not setting up your escort cards, your place cards, your center pieces. They’re not arranging your dessert table. They’re just handling the food and beverage and maybe the rental items. Is that near experience as well?
Nicole: It is. That’s their job. That’s what they’re getting paid to do is that venue food and beverage piece and you want someone who is managing that piece, so it’s not an easy job to make sure all of that is being carried out in the way you planned. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing all those other things that a planner would do.
So the trick is to have a planner and your venue coordinator who have worked together before and they know how each other work and then it’s seamless. The planner is communicating with the venue coordinator about timing and food and beverage and when the cake is going to be cut and all of that. Then at that point, once we left the venue coordinator know that’s their piece to make sure that’s being executed well. Of course, we’re overseeing it making sure it’s all of like what we’re talking about. That’s their piece to handle that you want someone there managing.
Just to answer your question about an event stylist or designer, that person is really focused on the overall look and feel of your wedding. I think that a good designer will really listen to your needs and get to know who you are as a couple and work in those elements or representative of who you are in your wedding without it being cheesier over the top. That person is really going to pay the attention to the detail when it comes to the linens and the color and the lighting and the layouts and all of those little personal touches.
It’s just a matter if you need a wedding designer or event stylist based on your comfort level as to where you are and what you feel that you can do on your own versus outsourcing and needing some assistance.
Christie: Break that down a little bit further in terms of how to figure out what you need. What kind of bride are you if you just need a month of coordinator? What kind of bride are you if you need a full wedding plan? What kind of bride are you if you might want to avail yourself of an even stylist or designer?
Nicole: I always ask clients when I’m talking to them and really try to figure out what services they need. I ask them, “What are the elements that you just can’t wrap your head around? What scares you in the planning process?” I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this and whatever that is, it’s what really helps me understand what’s most concerning to the couple. My recommendation is, as a couple, ask yourself the exact same question. What is really worrying me? What am I scared about? What do I feel the least in-control off?
I just want to make sure that my family in my bridal party are not having to work and they get to have fun on the wedding day, then you’re looking for someone who is more of a coordinator that can just come in, tie up the details and execute on the day-of. The look of the wedding is really important to me and I have a few ideas but I haven’t quite noted down and I have so many ideas that I don’t know how to narrow it down.
That’s when you really should look at an event designer or stylist to be able to help you with those pieces. So many times people haven’t done this before and there are so many great ideas. A great event designer is going to really get to know you as a couple and ask you questions like, “If you’re going to shop for a couch, where would you go? Where’d you go to clothing store?” Those type of things can really help develop and give you a great wedding design that suits you as a couple.
Christie: My biggest problem when I was planning my wedding was figuring out my budget and wrangling my mother-in-law when it came to not inviting every single person that changed my husband’s diverse to the wedding. I would have needed a full service wedding planner to help me from the beginning stages all the way through. Correct?
Nicole: Sure. If you really feel that you just need a lot of assistance and guidance through the day, then it’s worth it to hire a planner. It’s worth it to have someone to be your voice that can really advocate for you and make sure that your needs and your wants are being heard throughout the planning process. When you’re dealing with family, it is tricky and you don’t want to hurt feelings and it’s such an emotional time and everybody wants to be a part of it. If you really feel that that’s a balancing act that’s going to be tough to juggle, then bring someone in to help moderate and keep things on track and moving forward in the way it should.
Christie: A lot of mountain brides across the country or also destination brides, it’s just that it is what it is. Mountain areas are rural and most people wanting to get married in mountains are from somewhere else. The brides that I interview on MountainsideBride.com, they either have a regret that they didn’t hire a wedding planner or they are glad that they hired a wedding planner because I think that wedding planners are key for destination brides to have boots on the ground to organize all of those details for finding vendors, booking vendors, making sure vendors are all on the same page.
What’s the near experience with working with destination brides to help them find the best vendors? Is that true if you’re a destination bride, hire planner, done, full stop end of story?
Nicole: I’m a little bias so yes, hire a planner. Most of our clients are destination. I think last year the 40 or so weddings we did, we have 2 couples that live in Asheville that was it. It’s a combination. You need somebody to be your eyes and your ears in Asheville or wherever that destination wedding market is who works with these vendors day in and day out. With hiring a wedding planner, I told people all the time it’s not rocket science. It really isn’t, but it’s overwhelming when you factor in that you haven’t done this before, 9 times out of 10, and you’re also trying to do it while working a full-time job.
Hiring a wedding planner makes sense because wedding is our business. It’s all we do. This isn’t a side job. This isn’t a hobby for us that we do in addition to a job. This is all our team does. It really can take some of the stress off of you and help guide you through the journey of finding your wedding vendors, finding your voice and what you’re wanting to see happen, because it really should be a fun a process for you.
Christie: Let’s talk a little bit about Western North Carolina wedding specifically. Can you just talk a little bit about the typical bride that chooses Western North Carolina to get married? What does she like?
Nicole: Oh, that’s a hard one because I don’t know if we have a typical client so to speak. I think that a lot of people who come to Asheville to get married really appreciate all that our city has to offer and the local flavor that is there so to speak. I would say that most ceremonies are outdoors on some level just because it really is lovely and couples want their guest to be able to experience what our city has to offer. It really is a beautiful, beautiful town. We have amazing weather and we have great mountain views.
I think a lot of our clients … Asheville is a great meeting point between the north and the south from the East Coast. We have clients who have family in DC or New York or they live in DC or New York. We have family in Florida or Georgia, so Asheville just geographically makes sense for a lot of our clients to bring everyone together, too. I think that’s why some of clients are destinations.
As far as style and design-wise of our clients, we definitely see a lot of different styles going on and ideas, which is awesome and we love it. We don’t get stuck in this rite of all the same type wedding over and over again. Definitely a typical client has family spread on the East Coast I think because Asheville would just makes sense to bring everyone together, too.
Christie: You have such a variety of venues as well. You have like the super high-end elegant Biltmore Estate. You have the rustic Claxton Farm. You have the more casual elegance of Old Edwards Inn. It doesn’t matter what style you’re into. There’s definitely something in Western North Carolina that will accommodate you.
Nicole: There definitely is. There definitely is, whether you’re wanting a barn and a field or like the Biltmore or Old Edwards Inn which is just lovely, there’s so much to offer that you really can find what you’re looking for. You really, really can and I’m not saying that just because I live here. I’m saying it because it’s the truth. There are so many different options. You don’t come to the mountains. I love the mountains but I don’t want barbecue and bluegrass. I want a more upscale wedding. That’s perfectly fine. You can do that here, too.
Christie: Are there any special considerations for getting married in Western North Carolina, such as weather or seasonal differences or transportation logistics or anything that a bride just needs to keep in mind if she’s planning a Western North Carolina wedding?
Nicole: Sure. Asheville is such a destination town for weddings and for tourists. I would really just keep in mind that any holiday weekend, Memorial Day, Labor Day, those weekends are going to book first because it’s a long weekend for your guests to be able to travel when they have that Monday off, so be very aware of those holiday weekends.
The other thing is just to be aware of October because it definitely is leaf season here in Asheville with the mountains. It’s a busy time in Asheville as a whole. It’s definitely tourist season. Those dates tend to book up rather quickly for October.
Christie: What about something like Bele Chere?
Nicole: Bele Chere and different festivals, such as the Beerfest; Asheville is Beer City, USA, so it’s a great place to have a local brew, but there’s definitely Moogfest and the beer festival. Check www.exploreasheville.com, that’s the Convention and Visitor Bureau and they’re going to be able to give you that listing of festivals and activities going on in our market to be aware of. If you have guests that are coming here and you’re needing hotel rooms and hotel blocks, which we highly recommend you doing, you need to be aware of what else is going on that weekend so that you make sure that those options are available for your guests.
Christie: That’s good advice. Exploreasheville.com is like my favorite travel website.
Nicole: It’s just rich, full of information so it’s a great place to check out.
Christie: Awesome. I want to shift gears a little bit here and talk a little bit about the StudioWedBox that you have, which is like a Birchbox for brides and I actually contacted you a couple of months ago and requested to review one and have reviewed it and it’s on the site. This thing is so amazing. You put samples of things that you think brides would useful for either their wedding day or their bridesmaids. My particular box got the high heel things that keep …
Christie: Yes, to keep your high heels from sinking into the ground which is amazing for mountain brides, many of which get married outside, like a stain remover for a wine. It was just such a well-thought-out box, but I only got 1 box. Can you talk a little bit about the whole StudioWedBox program and what brides can expect and how brides can use it?
Nicole: Yeah, I would love to. We just really follow a great need and opportunity to bring wedding planning and curated items to the couple’s front to wear literally. It is a monthly subscription service. You can do monthly, you can do 6-month, you can do 12-month; 12-month is the longest. Each month, every item is really well thought out and it also comes with a planning tip that coordinates with the items, where you are in the process and what goes with it with a wow.
Some of the companies and items you may have heard of or have seen around and some may be not, but that’s the fun part is that you can receive these items that just are really going to inspire you or you haven’t heard about that would be great for you, for your wedding or to give as a gift to your bridal party or family. We’ve just had such wonderful support from our wedding community, including Mountainside Bride, and it just has been really well received. We have great partners, creative partners such as Chic and NewlyWish and Nordstrom Wedding Suite. It was an idea that we had about a year and a half ago and it’s been amazing just to see it come to life.
Christie: You do you have planning tips in there as well, which is really great because you are a planner. You do know the insight scoop. You do know what kind of tips are relevant and what tips aren’t relevant. Sometimes I know that and I do this as well, brides and bloggers will look to wedding magazines and blogs to get advice and that’s fine that’s what publishers do. We research things and then we write about it.
You actually are on the ground working 40 weddings every year and you actually know that you have the insight track about what brides really need to know and what types of products are really useful. You’re not just doing some online research and guessing, so that’s what I found just the best part of the StudioWedBox. I feel like you show up in my home and you’re like my best girlfriend steering me away from dumb decisions.
Nicole: That’s awesome, I love it. I love it. It’s a great little combination of curated items that just make sense for your wedding.
Christie: They really do. They really do. You have different things in the StudioWedBox in it. When I opened the StudioWedBox, it reminded me of maybe things that a planner or bride would have in her emergency kit. Can you open up the kimono a little bit and tell our listeners what you carry in your emergency kit for a wedding?
Nicole: Sure. It’s everything under the sun to be honest. We have Tums for those with an upset stomach. We have chalk in our emergency kit, and people say why do you carry chalk. It’s a great thing to be able to just disguise a stain a little bit without leaving a water spot. So many materials of gallons you can’t … You don’t want a big water spot on the front of your dress. You can take a little bit of chalk and it disguises it a bit.
We use Hollywood fashion tape, a small little sewing kit, oil blotting sheets, let’s see, bug spray in the summers you never know, mints and gum and deodorant and lip rollers and scissors, super glue. You never know what you’ll need. We always, always and I recommend this for couples as well to just have on hand some Advil and some Band-Aids and Bobby pins and some tissues, your basic things that you really would need on a day-of.
Christie: That is created by [Steve 33:55]. Also carry like hammer and nails for when staging starts falling down.
Nicole: We do, we do. Actually, we did a 3-day install last summer of a private property up in Highlands. We seriously had every tool you could possibly imagine going up the mountain, because you just never know what you’re going to need and once you get up there we want to have everything at our fingertips. We do take a lot with this on the wedding day.
Christie: That is awesome. We’re winding down. We’re coming to the end of the podcast here and we’ve talked about so much in terms of brass tacks and logistics and how to choose a wedding planner and some of the things that a bride will find in Asheville and just everything, what you’re carrying in your emergency kit. We talked a little bit about what you do in terms of planning the wedding and you can handle all of the logistics and you can handle a lot of the details.
We also talked about how for your brides you’re really focused on making sure that they don’t have to worry about the logistics on their wedding day that you and your team take care of all of the details. To that point, what advice do you have? What is the most important thing a bride should remember to fully enjoy her wedding day?
Nicole: I think it’s really just don’t forget why you are there. You are there to marry your best friend and your partner in life and not to get so caught up in the details that you can’t let them go when the day comes around. Hopefully, at this point you’ve hired some amazing wedding professionals that you trust. Let them worry about the details that’s what you’re paying them to do. Let them do what they do best and you just focus on getting married and remember why you were there and that you’re starting a new life and just to really soak every moment and that you can.
Christie: And let your team do the rest.
Nicole: And let our team do the rest for sure.
Christie: Nicole, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.
Nicole: Thank you for having me.