Mariana Sanders and Joe Epperson married on March 7, 2017 at The Grand in New Albany, Indiana. Find out what finishing touches this couple added to make their wedding memorable.

Bride’s favorite memory: Having a first look with my soon-to-be-husband. The wedding day is hectic and goes by so fast, and our first look allowed us both to slow down and soak everything in. I remember hugging Joe and looking up at him and both of us just saying “We’re about to get married!” That’s when it really hit us that within the next hour, we would be husband and wife. Having a first look also allowed us to get authentic pictures of us that showed the emotion we were feeling.

Advice to others: If you’re trying to budget wisely when planning a wedding, pick one or two things that are the most important to you and do not compromise on that. Photography was the most important thing to me because I knew that pictures would be something we would cherish for years to come, so I made sure we hired a wonderful photographer. Because we put more money in the photography budget, we opted not to have a videographer. When what is most important to you is covered, you don’t mind compromising or even not having certain things at your wedding.

Photos by Trina Whalin 

One thing you would have done differently: It’s out of my control, but I would’ve wanted it to be a little warmer out. The day before our wedding it was warm and almost 70 degrees, and the day of our wedding only had a high of about 50 degrees. Luckily, we were only outside for an hour and a half for pictures, but my husband and I were freezing by the end.

Best planning tip: My overall best planning tip for brides is to choose a venue that includes everything and does all the setup and tear down for you. The Grand’s wedding package included everything: the price for the ceremony and reception, a coordinator, tables, chairs, linens, decorations, food, drinks, and all the setup and teardown. They even had an in-house DJ that we decided to use. Choosing a venue that included so much saved us valuable time that would’ve been spent on hiring additional vendors.

Best money saving tip: Always be willing to DIY, and look for ways to save money in every area of wedding planning. For example, my mom and I realized the cost for getting real flowers for all the bouquets and boutonnieres would be around $500. After looking at Pinterest for inspiration, we decided to make everything ourselves. Hobby Lobby has a great selection of fake flowers, and we filled an entire cart with flowers and the accessories to make them for $150. We also added silver brooches to different flowers to make the bouquets have a little sparkle. Having a bouquet that my mom and I made together made it that much more special, and something I can keep around.

Location of ceremony: The Grand in New Albany, IN

Why it worked: Although my husband and I were born and raised in Louisville, KY, we fell in love with The Grand and knew it would be perfect for us. The Grand used to be an old theatre, so it’s full of history and the décor inside was beautiful. Because their wedding package included everything we needed and fit within our budget, we decided to have our wedding here.

Location of reception: The Grand in New Albany, IN

Why it worked: Having our ceremony and reception in the same location made things so much easier for everyone. We loved the convenience of being able to stay in the same place. The ceremony and reception took place in the same room, with everything already decorated and set up. The only thing that needed to be done after the ceremony was having the food brought out. Because we had already done all the pictures before the ceremony, our guests got to eat almost immediately after we were pronounced husband and wife.

Photographer: Trina Whalin of Photo Lulu Photography

Special choices: Trina worked with us a month before the wedding to work out a timeline. I’m such a planner, so it was a relief for me to know that we had a timeline to follow. She helped us gather family members together when it was time for family pictures, and she helped everything flow smoothly.

I would have changed: Nothing. Trina was absolutely fantastic to work with! We met with her several times throughout our engagement, and she was always so energetic and excited. She is truly passionate about what she does and it shows in her work. Because of her, we have beautiful images to cherish for our lifetime.

Dress: I actually got my dress three months before we were engaged. I saw on Facebook that a Moonlight Bridal in Lebanon, KY, was going out of business, and everything they had in stock was 75% off. Joe and I had already talked about marriage and knew we would get married, so my mom and I decided to drive down there the next day and see what they had. After trying on a couple dresses, the last one I tried on was THE dress. I wanted that Cinderella ball gown that had pretty detail on the bodice and a big tulle skirt. I wanted to feel like a princess on my wedding day, and when I tried this dress on, I knew it was the one. The original price was $1,150, and we got it for $288. We also ended up buying my veil at the same time, and only paid $57 for a $250 veil. I knew I couldn’t have found a more perfect dress or veil at a better price.

Why it worked: My dress only needed a few minor alterations. We had to take the bust in a little and get the dress hemmed since I’m 5’3. My grandma is a great seamstress and she did all my alterations for me!

I would have changed: Even though I didn’t have the typical wedding dress shopping experience, I wouldn’t change a thing, because I got my dream dress for way less than we had budgeted for.

Bridesmaids dresses: For me, the bridesmaids’ dresses were actually harder to pick out than my wedding dress. I only had three bridesmaids, but a lot of the dresses we looked at didn’t have everyone’s size, were way too expensive, or didn’t come in the right color. Surprisingly, we found the perfect dresses on Amazon. It was the only dress that came in everyone’s sizes and was the right color and style. It was only $27, and the bridesmaids had extra money to use on alterations. The strapless dress was floor length in a pretty blush color in chiffon material.

Why it worked: We bought the dresses six months before the wedding, so we had plenty of time to spare. Had the dresses from Amazon not worked out, we still would’ve had time to find another. But thankfully, these dresses worked out and everyone looked amazing in them!

I would have changed: I wish the process had been easier. I had all of my bridesmaids looking online for a dress, and we went through so many options. I couldn’t justify making them spend hundreds of dollars on a dress.

Tuxes: We rented the tuxes from Tuxedo Avenue at Bridal Warehouse. The guys all wore light gray suits with blush ties and black shoes.
Why it worked: The color of the suits looked great with the blush dresses, and Tuxedo Avenue was great to work with!

Video: Instead of hiring a professional videographer, we borrowed a GoPro and had our officiant wear it so he could record the entire ceremony.
Why it worked: Because the officiant was wearing the GoPro, we got the best view of our ceremony, and all the words that we said were very easy to hear. I didn’t need a professional movie-style wedding video. All I really wanted was for the ceremony to be recorded, and we got exactly that.

Food: Lasagna, Parmesan chicken, salad, garlic bread; catered by The Grand
Why it worked: My husband and I are big fans of Italian food, so this was the perfect choice for us. We didn’t have time to eat much of it, but it was excellent.
I would have changed: I wish I had gotten to eat more of it!

Drinks: Case of various wines and a keg of beer; provided by The Grand
Why it worked: We chose to keep it simple for our drink choices. We had soft drinks available and a various assortment of wines and beer, which ended up being plenty for our guests.

Cake: (photo below) Jessica Lutz, who was a recommendation from a friend
Special choices: We had a three tier cake that was chocolate and vanilla, and a red velvet groom’s cake that looked like Captain America’s shield. For our wedding cake, I wanted her to use white icing and use the extra flowers from the bouquets to decorate the cake, along with our Mr. and Mrs. cake topper.
Why it worked: My vision for the cake turned out better than what I had in my head. Jessica exceeded our expectations, and her cake tasted amazing!

Flowers: My mom and I made all the bouquets and boutonnieres using fake flowers from Hobby Lobby.
Why it worked: It was so much cheaper than real flowers, and my bouquet will never die.

Music (both ceremony and reception): DJ from The Grand

Special choices: I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan, so I had our entire bridal party walk down the aisle to Concerning Hobbits, a beautiful instrumental piece from the movie. Throughout the night, people kept complimenting on how much they loved that I used that song. For the sand ceremony, my husband chose an instrumental version of Come Thou Fount — his favorite hymn. Our first dance was to Dave Barnes’ Until You.

Why it worked: Our music choices were a blend of both of our favorite songs, and I loved that it showed a little of each of our personalities.

Décor: We just used decorations from The Grand

Planner: Tena Edwards, The Grand

Why it worked: We didn’t necessarily have a planner, but Tena was always available to answer emails, help us with our choice of decor, and she was our coordinator for the day of our wedding. She was fantastic!

Rings: My engagement ring is a 14K white gold ring with a double halo and split shank, while my wedding band has diamonds along it. We picked the ring out together at Zales and it’s everything I wanted! Joe’s ring is tungsten carbide with a ring of black ceramic around the middle.

Why it worked: Both of our rings match our personality.

Invitations: We chose a gold design from Shutterfly that came with response cards. They were simple, yet elegant, and had all the information for the ceremony and reception on them.
Why it worked: I loved being able to choose all the fonts I wanted and everything was easily customizable, so I could really make them ours.

Makeup: April Pennington
Why it worked: April and I are coworkers, and I knew she did makeup on the side. I asked her very early on if she would be willing to do my wedding makeup, and she was so excited about it. We went for a classic bridal look that wasn’t too over the top, but I still had a little sparkle in my eyes. My skin looked like it was glowing all day, and my makeup didn’t move at all even by the end of the night. She ended up doing makeup for me, my mom, and my bridesmaids. I have never looked and felt more beautiful in my life, and I couldn’t have found anyone better than her to do my makeup.

Hair: Chasity Prophater, Elations Salon
Why it worked: My regular hairdresser Chasity worked with me to create the bridal hair that I wanted. Since my dress was strapless, I wanted only a little of my hair pulled back with the rest of it curled and hanging down around my shoulders.

Rehearsal dinner: Brooklyn and the Butcher, New Albany, IN
Why it worked: Joe’s parents took care of the rehearsal dinner, and they found the perfect place that was right next door to The Gran. We had a private room downstairs, which was decorated to look exactly like an old-fashioned speakeasy. The atmosphere was great and the food was fantastic.

Other special things: Something extra we did at our wedding was getting a photo booth, which was so much fun for us and the guests. We had guests put an extra copy of their picture in a book, and it was so fun to look through and read everyone’s well wishes once we got back from our honeymoon.

Length of planning time: We were engaged for 8 months, which was plenty of time for us to plan everything. Most of the planning was done by 5 months!

Budget/cost per person: the meal was about $20 per person