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Planning a Wedding in Western North Carolina

a man standing in a field with a mountain in the background

by Mike Scow, Ecotour Guide for Asheville Hiking Tours – and he planned a successful wedding near Asheville, North Carolina!

My wife and I began planning our wedding about a year before we got married. We started with a gorgeous rural location with trees, water, farm, and cows. Then we focused on the cake and food. Talk about starting with the fun stuff. We often found ourselves with our planning notebook at a local Asheville brewery or on quick hike up our favorite local waterfall or mountain bald, just enough to clear our minds. We played songs from our playlist while driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway all year and collected glass jars for a personal touch on our flowers/centerpieces. We had so much fun! We also had some tough moments eventually turning into trust and compromise. Not every little thing matched perfectly, it was just us. Finding a few common threads to tie together so many things we love about living in Asheville, in Western North Carolina, felt like a perfect way to share that love with our family and friends.

You’re getting married!

To begin with, Congratulations! You’re getting married!

You’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful, welcoming, and rejuvenating place to tie the knot than western North Carolina. Done right, it is a destination wedding to rival any tropical locale. Many admire the majestic Blue Ridge views and the rich history of Asheville. The energetic downtown vibe set against the background of an outdoor paradise can lend to several days of activities to celebrate your wedding. In fact, Asheville Hiking Tours has been known to host some fantastic tours for wedding parties!

While planning my own wedding, I drew from several experiences of leading hiking tours in the Blue Ridge Mountains to ensure my guests had an unforgettable time. Asheville Hiking Tours produces some truly moving custom experiences for our guests. We consult with clients who are interested in hiking around Asheville. By having a conversation and learning more about our guests, we are able to produce some truly moving experiences, tailored to almost any occasion, ability, and group size. Connecting with new friends on a hike, on a mountain drive, the surprised breath of an unexpected view. One second, one view is all it takes to make a memory.

Good news! You don’t have to go far to create your own unforgettable occasion in Asheville. This is a town that knows pastoral beauty, history, outdoor activities, rich food, and craft beer. These are some key aspects in many memorable weddings, or at least they should be. This region, with Asheville at the heart, is the perfect backdrop to elevate the ceremony of marriage. There are professional and efficient planners who can help you on this journey, or you can explore these options and discover what you like for a truly unique event.

My wife and I live in Fairview, NC near where we wed in September 2019. After we got engaged, the idea was, “we live in a gorgeous place that is unique and charming 12 months of the year, let’s make everyone else come to us!” So we found a venue right down the road.

a person standing in front of a mountain

Grassy fields high in the mountains are great off-the-beaten path places for wedding photo shoots, or even your all natural wedding venue

There were a few aspects of the region we wanted to highlight:

Knowing how we wanted to highlight where we live was a great head start on the big decisions for the big day. This is quite an undertaking; do not be afraid to ask questions! Unless you are a professional planner, you are going to be relying on the expertise of others in a city with a healthy wedding industry.

  • Mountains and their essential waterways
  • Access to locally produced goods
  • Southern hospitality
  • Rich Food and Beer culture
  • Greenery! Fertility and biodiversity of the area

Most important wedding elements for a successful big day:

  • The Look

Set the tone, style and energy with what you and your partner wear. It’s a good idea to ask for advice to get a balanced perspective. More importantly, go with your gut; how you feel in something is as personal as it gets. A little research online can go a long way. Image searches and online services can help you quickly narrow down themes that work for you. Be open-minded for new things to spark your interest. Attention to detail can go a long way here but you can’t put too much pressure on any one decision. After all, this event is only a moment at the precious start of a tandem voyage.

a bench with a mountain in the background

The Blue Ridge Mountains are a gorgeous backdrop for your outdoor wedding venue

  • Guests

These are people who are excited for you to take the next step in your lives. They want to be there to support you and you want their support. No matter if you have a small wedding, a big wedding, or you elope, there’s no wrong way to share the joy of such a momentous occasion. Allow yourself in some freedom here, and don’t get too hung up on all of your guests having the best time of their lives. I guarantee your family and friends are going to remember the joy of the happy couple. On the business side, your guest list, or more specifically the number of guests, will determine several other aspects of planning and eventually how much the event will cost. Asheville has no shortage of accommodation regardless of price range. Many local hotels can provide blocks/discounts for your guests. You should also consider your guests’ transportation needs, utilizing rentals, rideshares, etc.

  • Décor/Theme

A theme doesn’t mean everything has to match. Consistency of a few colors, even textures, is enough to provoke the feeling of cohesiveness in your big items. You can find this in attire, table settings, centerpieces, and activities for guests. Deciding on these early will help the best options show themselves throughout the process. Don’t put too much pressure on one aspect of the planning. If you can’t fit one element into the ceremony, remember to highlight it at the reception or even at the rehearsal dinner.

There are several farm-themed wedding venues available in the North Carolina mountains

  • Invitations

You’ve got to get the word out! These are endlessly customizable, with many reasonable options to be found online. Asheville is also home to makers of all types that can be commissioned for various stationary. This is a great place to start finding a cohesive theme, color, and design for other aspects of wedding. Invitations can be paired with save the dates and thank you cards or you can go with an eclectic mix that shows off your personalities. Something hand-made provides a loving touch that sets a romantic tone for your big day. We used Cotton Blossom Press!

  • Venue/Tent/Rentals

The venue should echo the vibe, values, and vision you have for relationship and future. We chose to have our ceremony outside because big green trees and a rippling creek are things we hold dear and wanted our family to experience as we joined together. Went went with Double Creek Ranch!

a dining room table in front of a building

Consider an indoor barn wedding reception to add character but prevent weather-related issues

  • Outdoor vs. Indoor

There are pros and cons for outdoor and indoor weddings. You are definitely at the will of the elements outside, but the climate of Asheville and the weather in western North Carolina is generally milder than the rest of the state. Some call that worth the risk. We had a thunderstorm…followed by a rainbow. Indoor venues can enhance a traditional ceremony with grandeur and of provide literal and metaphorical shelter. Indoor receptions venues can come with a host of services to make the planning even easier. Keep in mind when choosing a location: electricity, potable water, space for guests and how they will arrive. Knowing the venue and what is available play a big part in what other rentals are needed such as tableware, signage, layout, and possibly most importantly, restrooms.

  • Music

Good tunes are imperative in my family. Whether driving the Blue Ridge Parkway with the windows down, or dancing with my wife like no one is watching, music can set the mood and uplift the spirit.

This is the perfect time to show personality and make your wedding feel just right. After all, what is music if not Good Vibes! Many people appreciate the elegance of strings while others want the funky improve of a live band. Personally, I’ve imagined wedding songs since I was a kid, there were very specific songs I wanted grove to, move to, and just generally get down. A playlist for a DJ was critical. There are options for just about any attitude and flavor. Consider Carolina Music Planner! If you know some songs you’d like to incorporate into the ceremony or reception, try playing them in throughout the lead-up to your wedding, whether it is weeks or months.  A road trip, cleaning the house, spending time together. Music can stir deep emotions within us, flooding your mind and heart with all those good times.

Outdoor wedding reception

  • Food

People get hungry, it’s just what we do! While American cuisine has many influences especially in the southern US, feeding loved ones is best done with rich tasty food. This part, cake tasting, and maybe trying out signature cocktails, are just plain fun.

Cuisine in Asheville and WNC is thoughtful and heartfelt. Name a style of food and I bet you can find at least one local/regional example. You can find local ingredients, sustainably managed farms, restaurants, and caterers. It’s important that there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Make sure to represent those with diet restrictions while showing off some funky local Asheville flavor. Different caterers will provide different levels of support ranging from food prep/delivery to coordinating/helping set rentals on the big day.

Have a local spot you love? The rehearsal dinner is a great way to showcase a favorite local restaurant that might not provide more intensive wedding plans.

  • Drinks

Let’s start with water. We love it, we need it, lush wooded waterfalls are breathtaking. Inside, outside, winter or summer, hydrated guests are going to have a better time. We are only human.

Now for the fun stuff: Asheville and WNC has a burgeoning craft beer scene, partly because of the incredible water quality (see above). For some, that’s all the local flavor you need. For others, you can find plenty of local ways, from liquor, wine, to tea, lemonade, and soda to refresh your guests and keep them having fun while you attend to the important stuff…like dancing.

Add thoughtful, small details add extra planning but make all the difference!

  • Something You

You do you. Once again, your guests are there to celebrate you and your partner, the people you love and the things that give you joy. Remember to show off a little bit. Asheville appreciates your quirks.

  • Honeymoon!

Almost as important as the wedding. Probably more important. This is your reward for working hard to get to this point! If there were elements you weren’t able to insert into the actual wedding/reception, you can celebrate those here. They’ll more special now that you can share them with your spouse. Take another deep breath and relax.

Wrap up the wedding with your special song and dance

12 Quick wedding and event tips to work smarter, not harder, and to give yourself a little break:

  1. Start with one task, take a deep breath. You can do this.
  2. Get a cute notebook that can slowly become a unique scrapbook.
  3. Do this stuff together. This is for both of you; share the work, relish the rewards.
  4. Make planning fun! Having a small ritual like going to your favorite hang out spot, get a cocktail, have a tasty snack, chose a save-the-date.
  5. Many vendors will even offer suggestions and connections freely. This is a great indicator of who will go the extra mile to make planning your wedding that much smoother.
  6. Cake tasting. Food tasting. Signature-cocktail tasting. Enough said.
  7. Highlight local flowers, foods, drinks. They will be easy to source and add AVL flavor.
  8. There are a lot of choices out there, don’t overdo it. Research two or three options for every big item on your list. Pick your favorite and trust it.
  9. Flea markets, yard sales, even Etsy are fun, unique ways to source décor or even essentials like flatware at a bargain. Wedding festivals can show you exactly what you are looking for.
  10. Don’t forget to ask advice from family and friends who’ve done this before. Feel free to ignore said advice, too. It’s your day after all.
  11. Embrace some spreadsheet action and Google docs or other doc share is essential for keeping multiple people in the loop.
  12. Remember that your wedding is just the beginning of your marriage, the first stop on a journey of loving, living and growing together.

Consider a special wedding farewell after saying goodbye to your guests

Natural Notes is Asheville Hiking Tours’ blog about nature, history and travel in the Appalachians. Asheville Hiking Tours offers day hikes, waterfall tours, and firefly tours, guided by naturalists, in the mountains around Asheville, NC. For more info visit www.AshevilleHikingTours.com.