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Wedding Planning Tips & Tricks From a Real Bride

Behind the Scenes Wedding Planning at The Cookery Durham, NC

Real Durham Bride-to-Be, Sarah Guizard Spills All 

Working in the wedding industry, I thought planning my perfect day would be a dream. Boy, was I wrong. Wedding planning is hard. It’s difficult to choose details that reflect you and your fiancé while staying in budget (and keeping to it). Heart of NC Weddings has been our most visited site throughout this process. It’s helped guide us and sparked inspiration for our Durham wedding at The Cookery next month. We’re so lucky to have such a great resource focused on our community. Below I break down some of our favorite wedding plans and dive into why we chose Durham, NC!

Sarah and Paul NC Engagement Behind the Scenes Wedding Planning at The Cookery Durham, NC Joanna Sue Photography
PHOTOGRAPHER Joanna Sue Photography

Sarah Guizard & Paul Voran NC Love Story 

I am the Marketing Manager for the Cast Iron Group in Durham, NC. Cast Iron Group is a family of locally owned businesses including The Cookery, Dashi, Ponysaurus Brewing Co., and Soomsoom Pita Pockets. I work closely with our team to execute social media, marketing, and honestly, whatever else needs to be done. Paul Voran is the Production Manager at Imurj in downtown Raleigh. He produces and records music in a three room recording studio and coordinates sound in Imurj’s live venue.

Paul and I met in 2013 and fell for each other very quickly. We both had been crazy enough to decide to spend our summer working at a resort in rural Maine. Our summer crush turned into a long distance relationship (that all our friends thought was nuts). Paul then took the leap and moved to North Carolina six months later. Since then, we’ve travelled to 13 countries, lived in two apartments, had jobs in Raleigh and Durham, and got engaged. Both growing up outside of the Triangle, when we got engaged we were uncertain where to tie the knot.

Outside Warehouse Wedding Venue Behind the Scenes Wedding Planning at The Cookery Durham NC Katherine Miles Jones
VENUE The Cookery | PHOTOGRAPHER Katherine Miles Jones

Picking a Venue – Behind the Scenes Wedding Planning at The Cookery Durham, NC

Starting out planning our wedding day, we were a bit gobsmacked. There is so much information and so many places and choices to be made. Do we want to get married in a church or a mansion or a barn or a roadside shack? (Well clearly not the roadside shack, unless it was super cute.) We realized that we wanted to stay close to home. We knew that North Carolina was the best place to celebrate our love. One decision – done. 

For us, once we made one decision they started falling like dominos. Working at The Cookery, I knew that this Durham wedding venue would be the perfect place to get hitched. I definitely have some bias but it has everything we want:

 – a beautiful outdoor garden adorned with greenery for the ceremony

– a spacious ballroom for wining and dining our guests

– a good bar with amazing craft cocktails, local beer, and fantastic wine

– a sound treated Front Room that’s perfect for a band

Warehouse Venue Ballroom Reception Decor Behind the Scenes Wedding Planning at The Cookery Durham, NC Connection Photography
VENUE The Cookery | PHOTOGRAPHER Connection Photography

Planning our day, we knew we wanted to throw an unforgettable party, and for us that starts with a cocktail. The Cookery has the best NC wedding venue bar program. The multiple bar package tiers feature some of our favorite spirits and the bartenders are superb. The square footage of bar top in this Durham wedding venue is impressive at 41 feet between the 2 bars. No long wait times for booze (period). The expansive grounds consist of the Front Room, courtyard, ballroom, private garden, and dressing suite. These multiple rooms and spacious design allows for us to create unique experiences throughout the celebration. 

We are excited to have our dearest friends and family experience this wonderful wedding venue and also explore Durham. Durham, NC has a little something for everyone: a top-notch food scene, natural beauty, and history galore. We’re happy to share this spectacular city with the people we love.

Front Room Bar Industrial Chic Behind the Scenes Wedding Planning at The Cookery Durham, NC Megan Kerns Photography
VENUE The Cookery | PHOTOGRAPHER Megan Kerns Photography

How Hiring a NC Wedding Planner Saved Our Butts

Hiring a wedding planner was the best decision I have made to date (other than saying ‘yes’). Planning a wedding is A LOT and without prior experience it’s extremely difficult to make sure everything goes smoothly. When deciding on an NC wedding planner I was given the best advice.

“There is no gold medal for ‘Bride Who Did the Most Work’. By hiring a wedding planner you will have 75% less stress. They will fight for you and make sure that you have the best wedding day possible. Just do it.”

Our planners, Juli and Alex Richani, catch mistakes and cost breaks I didn’t even know were there. They are a wealth of knowledge and share so many additional tools with us as we navigate this day. Do I know how long it takes for my guests to eat dinner to perfectly time the speeches? No. Do my planners? Yes. 

They know how to expertly assemble a timeline and layout so that each miniscule detail is accounted for. I thought I was a Type A person, but this is a whole new level of organization. I know they are triple checking the details so that I can stress less. We’re lucky to have smart, talented, local planners making sure that Paul and I have a perfect day.

The Cookery Ballroom Reception Warehouse Venue Behind the Scenes Wedding Planning at The Cookery Durham, NC L'amour Foto
VENUE The Cookery | PHOTOGRAPHER L'amour Foto

Finding the Absolute Dream Dress at Gilded Bridal 

With our venue, bar, and wedding planner all done, it was time to start focusing on the really fun parts. I’ve never been the type of girl who dreams about her wedding dress. So, admittedly, I wasn’t incredibly excited about trying on wedding dresses. All of that changed when I stepped foot into Gilded Bridal

I felt like a real-life fairytale princess. 

This Raleigh bridal boutique carries some of the most beautiful gowns I have ever seen in my life. Chalk full of tulle and lace and silk and adorned with beading and embroidery, I wanted them all. It is an experience I would do again and again. Getting married in a warehouse wedding venue with exposed brick and industrial accents, I wanted my dress to reflect that. Since the bride’s dress is traditionally supposed to be a surprise, I won’t give too much away. But if you peruse Gilded Bridal’s selections, you know, that it has to be stunning. It’s the perfect fit for our wedding at The Cookery.

Boho Wedding Sweetheart Table at The Cookery Durham with Love Signs
VENUE The Cookery | PHOTOGRAPHER Katherine Miles Jones

Staying Local and How to Find It

It is important to me to have our wedding reflect our values. We both work for locally owned small businesses in the Triangle. We know first-hand the passion and dedication these North Carolina entrepreneurs have for the services they provide. As we’ve been planning our wedding, we have used vendors that we know make an impact in our community. Each element is incredibly important to us and for our money to go towards businesses we care about. Resources like Heart of NC Weddings are a great place to start when looking for quality local vendors. Each part of our wedding has a larger story or meaning that is special to us.

Head over to The Cookery’s blog to learn even more about our wedding planning process. Read about our decisions like décor, florals, bar package, bachelor and bachelorette party plans, and more.

Meet the Heart of NC Weddings preferred vendors
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