Friday, November 20, 2015

Operation Marry Me Military Mecklenburg

Operation Marry Me Military are groups of various wedding professionals throughout the state of North Carolina who unite for one reason.... to give a deserving military couple the wedding of their dreams. Alecia Davis-Geddings of Oak Island Photography & Weddings in Oak Island, NC, founded this program in 2011.  Since then, OMMM has married over 17 couples totaling nearly $600,000 in donated goods and services throughout North Carolina. This isn’t about exposure or advertising for a business; it is about giving back to a selfless individual who puts their lives on the line daily for our freedom. As a venue, Alexander Homestead was honored and humbled to be a part of this program for the 2015 Operation Marry Me Military wedding on November 11 for Kathleen and Brad Mecklenburg.

Kathleen and Brad’s Story

Brad and Kathleen met December 31, 2011 when they were introduced by Brad’s brother, Robert. Fast forward to August 28, 2014  and there love story led to the moment of Brad popping the question on the beautiful South Port beach.

Brad is in the ARMY Reserves and did an 18 month tour in Afghanistan as a cargo specialist and diesel mechanic. He worked on any kind of equipment that needed fixing for our troops. If it was broken down, Brad fixed it. Brad has a 3 year old daughter named Elizabeth (aka Diva), who is the cutest little girl ever and loves her daddy so much.

Kathleen works 24 hour shifts as an EMT in Connelly Springs, North Carolina and has 2 handsome sons, Austin who is 15 and Joseph who is 11 years old.

Brad and Kathleen originally planned to get married in 2016, but when Brad’s sister, Danielle, told Kathleen about Operation Marry Me Military and told her to apply, Kathleen was hesitant. She told Danielle “…but I NEVER win anything”. Danielle kept encouraging Kathleen to apply, and with the deadline rapidly approaching, Kathleen waited until the last minute to submit her application. Still not convinced that anything would come of applying, Kathleen still waited for the winners to be announced. On August 17, 2015, during a 24 hour shift the call came in from Alicia that their application had won!

Kathleen said it took 6 hours for her to get a hold of Brad to tell him the news! She said that she went through a series of emotions from excitement, to shock, to panic. They went from planning to getting married in 2016 to getting married in 3 months!!!!

Kathleen and Brad were connected with Heidi Crowder who began the process of planning their dream wedding. The venue was chosen and Kathleen said that when she pulled into the gates of Alexander Homestead she was shocked and overwhelmed at the beauty of the venue. She described it as breathtaking, like a dream.  After meeting with a team at the venue, which consisted of a venue coordinator, florist, and DJ, the day started to take shape. Since we are an all-inclusive venue, we were able to have our creative team provide their services for the wedding. Everything from hair and makeup to videography and s’mores bar was provided for the wedding. There were over 23 vendors involved in the wedding, just to name a few: Alexander Homestead Weddings, Heidi Crowder Wedding Designs, Carolina Portrait Designs, CPD Films, Remarkable Receptions, Musically Yours NC, Rev. Jim Lytle, Ordained Pastor, Erin Ashley Makeup, Pink Petunia Designs, Nona's Sweets Bakery Cafe ("Dolci alla Nona"), SugarPop's, Holiday Inn Charlotte University, Davis Designs, Smart Choice Catering, and Bill Bickers and Erica Childers, who donated over $30,000 worth of goods and services for Kathleen and Brad’s special day!

The day we have all been waiting for finally arrives!!!!! At 9AM, Kathleen and her bridesmaids get out of the shuttle and start the process of preparing for the wedding. Flowers, cake, decorations, photographers, videographers and musicians get in place as the anticipation builds. At 2PM Brad and his groomsmen arrive dressed in their military uniforms and begin to prepare to start the ceremony for 50 guests in the beautiful gardens of our venue!

After the wedding, the reception begins with a buffet dinner and dancing. Guests were treated to a photo booth and a s’mores buffet. Brad and Kathleen were sent off with glow sticks and flags and driven off in a 57 Chevy convertible to their new life together! Thank you to all of our service men we appreciate YOU!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

         The Venue HUNT

Helpful tools to assist in this MOST IMPORTANT decision!
My husband and I recently moved into a new home. We had ONE WEEKEND to choose the home we would hopefully be spending the next decade or so of our lives in, and the stress was overwhelming. We met with our realtor and looked at so many houses I thought my head would explode. All the homes started to blend together, but there was one tool that ultimately helped us chose the home we currently live in.
Before looking at homes we sat down and created our “MUST HAVES” in a home; 12 foot ceilings, large kitchen, and a wooded lot were on the top of my list.
Knowing my MUST HAVES helped me know if I even wanted to waste time looking at particular homes, and streamlined the process.
While many of you have probably used this strategy yourselves when you’ve purchased a home, it might not have crossed your mind to do the very same thing as you look for your wedding venue.
Charlotte has unique challenges as far as venues go. Being that this is a city of finance, there are LOTS of hotels. Hotels comprise the biggest market for wedding reception locations. There is also a large contingency of country clubs. Many brides today are definitely not interested in this option. So, if you feel the unique venue options are limited in Charlotte, you are correct.
As you embark on your venue hunt, let me give you some pointers that I believe will be very beneficial to your decision process.

  1. Make your wish list
  1. Must haves (ex. must have rain contingency location)
  2. Likes (ex. would like to have a fire pit)
  3. Absolutely nots (ex. do not want a public venue)
  1. Discuss your Spending Plan. It is impossible to choose a venue before your know how much money you plan to invest into the celebration. Many parents want you to do research FIRST, but it saves the most time to know your rough budget ahead of time. The average wedding in North Carolina is 141 guests and 26K.
  2. Do your research online before setting up a tour. Make sure every place you tour meets your predetermined criteria.
  3. READ REVIEWS before you visit any venue. Do not visit a location that has less than a 4 star rating. Over 80% of couples use online reviews as part of their decision making process. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a PERFECT venue. The point is that you want to choose the location that meets most of your desires and needs.
  4. Call or email for additional information. If you have a set date, don’t waste your time (or the time of the venue) by visiting if they don’t have your date available. Pay close attention to how quickly they respond to your phone calls and emails. If they aren’t quick about responding to you before they get your money, they will be even worse after they do. Customer service is a HUGE component to enjoying the planning of your event. 

  5. Only bring essential “decision makers” to the tour. If you have children, get a sitter so they don’t distract you from the full experience. Don’t bring bridesmaids! The decision is YOURS and their opinions will only cloud your mind. As a couple, only YOU know what fits your personality and dreams.
  6. Ask LOTS of questions during site visit. Go prepared with a list of questions and pay close attention to how your questions are answered. Remember that if coordinator doesn’t respect you BEFORE you book the venue, she won’t respect you AFTER. The chemistry between the couple and venue is a very important component to enjoying the planning process.
  7. Ask for the venue’s “Polices and Guidelines” BEFORE you sign the contract. Ask about any fees that might not have been included in quote. Gratuities and taxes are often less than clear on contracts and can add a substantial amount to the bottom line.
  8. Be gracious. When you meet with venues, know that they do not respond well to arrogance, rudeness, and the whole “bridezilla” attitude. Your kindness will most always be returned with kindness. Venues are much more likely to go the extra mile for someone that they know appreciates their hard work.
And finally…
  1. Listen to your HEART. Ultimately, choosing your venue is an emotional decision. This does not mean you are being unwise in your decision making, but you must LOVE the place you choose. For some of you this may be the first location you look at and for others the 10th. Don’t choose a venue until your heart connects with it and you can SEE YOURSELF at that location.

Enjoy the HUNT and feel free to post any questions you may have about choosing your venue!

Renee Caffee
Executive Director of Sales and Marketing

Alexander Homestead Weddings