European Inspired Biltmore Wedding at the Conservatory

Biltmore Smoky Mountain wedding | Visio Photography

Today I'm thrilled to have on the blog Emily, the lovely blogger behind Vita Nostra (Our Life) and the insane talent behind the Pookie and Pierre, the vintage-inspired jewelry shop on Etsy. I'm also thrilled to be showing off Visio Photography's work. You may remember Visio from the Summer Camp Wedding  featured last August (2010). Do check them out, their work is amazing!. Anyhoo, Emily and John wanted an intimate, European-inspired wedding close to home. The gorgeous Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC fit the bill perfectly. I am so struck by how lovely is this an intimate affair. Think about it, only with a small wedding can you actually dine in the conservatory itself. Emily share the details of this swoon-worthy wedding and some fantastic hindsight advice.

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About Emily and John's wedding:

John and I were engaged a year ago last Friday (March 18, 2010) in Rome. He surprised me with a trip to my favorite city and proposed following a very romantic dinner. The magical trip was a little bittersweet as two weeks later, I was on my own on a return trip to Europe for two months, this time without my fiancé.

Upon my return home, with zero planning completed and lots of questions flowing in from our families, I moved quickly into planning mode. We set a date for October and I began planning seriously at the end of July. Having a shortened planning window was very beneficial as I work best under pressure. We worked with a wedding planner to help pull together the details and identify vendors that would help us to achieve our vision.

We originally wanted to be married in Italy but given the timeframe and logistical challenge of getting our families overseas, we decided to forgo and refocus on selecting a venue that had a European feel closer to home. We chose a peak foliage weekend in October and selected the Biltmore Estate Butterfly Gardens and Conservatory in Asheville, a location that had special meaning for us. Once we decided on the date and venue, everything else began to fall in place. We wanted a formal event, outdoor ceremony and dancing, fabulous Italian food and gorgeous French decor. I felt like we were able to bring a little bit of Europe home to the North Carolina mountains!

The night of our wedding was an October full moon. All of the important events in my life seem to align to a full moon so I decided to go all out and incorporate it into our theme. I worked with Marie at Le French Circus ( http://www.etsy.com/shop/LeFrenchCircus ) to have this amazing illustration prepared as a wedding gift for my new husband. Our first dance was “Moondance” by Van Morrison. Dancing together under the full moon and October night sky was extremely romantic and memorable.

What are three things you're glad you did?

  1. Kept it small, intimate, simple and formal. Immediate family and no bridal party (other than the flower girls and ring bearer). Keeping it small made it all about us and those we love the most. I always wanted a black tie affair and keeping our guest list small also made this more manageable.
  2. Worked with a planner. Emily and her team at Occasions by Emily were amazing to work with and allowed me to stay sane during the process.    They kept things fun and were invaluable on the day of the wedding. I relinquished all control at that point and was able to completely enjoy my day without worrying about any of the details.
  3. Spent some quiet time with my soon to be husband prior to the wedding. We went to Asheville a couple days prior to the wedding and had some time to attempt to unwind a day or two before our family started arriving. We also did a first look before the ceremony which I would do again a thousand times over. It was very special to have some time alone before the ceremony. Set us at ease and allowed for some amazing shots! Photography was one of the most important elements of our wedding and working with James and Jenny at Visio photography was definitely one of the best decisions we made. So much fun to work with and now that it is all over we have some truly amazing photographic memories.

Three things you wish you had done: 

  1. I wish I had gotten more sleep prior to the wedding. I was so exhausted the day after. I literally crashed for a couple of days. It wasn't pretty.
  2. Finished little projects earlier. I was making flower girl baskets, dinner music playlists, seating charts, favors and welcome bags for our guests at the 11th hour. Wrap up everything a week prior and you'll have less stress and more time for rest!
  3. Drink more water. I had heard the advice a million times over and it is true.

Three things you wish you hadn't done:

  1. Just one. Getting stressed about stupid things. Refocus your energy on the fact that you are getting married and don't stress about the silly little details or about what other people are thinking. At the end of the day, it is your wedding and you will be married. No one will notice if a flower is not the right shade of blush.
  2. Okay, I have two. Send out Save the Date cards. Every single person invited to our wedding already knew about the date and location by the time they went out. I was so rushed to send them out, I didn't even like them and definitely could have saved some time and money by just letting this one go.
  3. (I actually do have three.) Since we were planning on a short timeline at a location several hours from home, we decided to make a weekend of it and meet with everyone under the sun, hold our engagement photo shoot, makeup and hair trials and menu tasting all within a day and a half. I admit, it was a super fun weekend, but all of the running around left us a little exhausted by the end. If we had more time, I would have split this up over a couple of weekends.

What do you wish you hadn't worried about:

  1.  I wish I hadn't worried about the favors at reception. We were packing up favor boxes about five minutes before our rehearsal dinner. I think almost everyone left them behind and it was a source of stress I could have done without. We had much more fun with the welcome bags for our guests at the hotel. I included a personalized destination brochure that we had printed, special snacks and drinks, CDs of our wedding music and other items that were unique for our family. We also had the hotels drop off little notes and midnight snacks from us in our guests rooms on the nights preceding the wedding.   It was a small touch that I think our guests enjoyed. The team at the Grove Park Inn where we stayed was great to work with!

What is your very best hindsight advice?

  1. Enjoy the process, attempt to relax, have fun, don't take it so seriously, incorporate things that are meaningful to the two of you, listen to other people's advice but trust your instinct completely, work with people you truly like and respect as it makes it much more fun.
  2. Trust the professionals you work with. They are professionals for a reason.
  3. Choose DIY projects carefully. Don't get overwhelmed in feeling like you need to incorporate a ton of DIY. Pick one or two projects that you can creatively have fun with and then move on.
  4. Prioritize! Probably the best thing we did is to prioritize what elements of our wedding were most important to us. In our case, amazing photography, an elegant and intimate venue with fabulous food, and the dress were the top three. Identifying these priorities from the beginning was key to establishing and working within our budget and making sure that spent our money on the areas we cared about most.
  5. Break things down. Another small piece of advice, if you get overwhelmed during the process, just break everything down into little chunks.   Individual tasks are much easier to focus on and fun to check off your to do list!
  6. Did I mention enjoy! On the day of your wedding, pause and reflect as often as you can. It will be over in a flash but those mental memories will last a lifetime. Spend time with your new husband… don't forget that this is his wedding too. We had a lot of fun planning together.
  7. Don't obsess about the Dress: Regarding the dress, once you select it, move on and don't look back!
  8. Stay true to you. Finally, don't feel like you have to do something just because it is tradition. Do what feels right to you. Nothing else matters! It is YOUR day.

Thank you so much to Emily for sharing her hindsight advice. Check out Emily's blog, Vita Nostra for more pictures of Emily + John's wedding as well as more info on her planning process and the decisions she made.

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