With nearly 40 first cousins, I have been to a lot of weddings. I mean A LOT. Now I find myself the mother/step-mother of two brides-to-be and one groom-to-be. Yes, three of our five children are engaged. One is getting married in May of 2021, one in the summer of 2023 and the other hasn’t set a date. I’ve always secretly wanted to be a wedding or party planner so this is very exciting for me. The Kenton County Public Library is hosting a Wedding Dos and Don’ts with Kelsey Isles, a wedding planner, on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 7 pm via Facebook. I’m not an expert but I do have some tips for you based on my experiences:


The first step to planning any event is to set a budget. I have been to weddings that cost as little as $5,000 and as much as $60,000. They were all beautiful and unique in their own way. Honestly, some of the lower budget weddings were nicer because they were more laid back and comfortable. When creating your budget, start by talking to family who might be contributing financially to make sure everyone is on the same page, and remember that the tradition of parents paying for everything just isn’t feasible any more. My personal opinion is that no one should ever go into debt for a wedding so base the budget on what you have in cash.  Make sure you account for everything including flowers, dresses, tuxes, photographer, venue, rehearsal dinner, invitations and more.

Picking a Venue

There are a lot of things to consider when picking a venue. Outside or inside? All inclusive or not? Will the ceremony and reception be at the same location? I have found that choosing a venue that is not all inclusive ends up being much cheaper in the long run but that also depends on the vendors you choose.

I recently attended a beautiful wedding at the Contemporary Arts Center, which I was told cost about $8,000 for everything. This was a really cool venue. The ceremony was on the main floor, then we moved to the children’s floor for cocktails and appetizers, back to the main floor for dinner and then to the lower level for the reception. Everything was perfect.

I’ve been to several weddings at the Fort Thomas Mess Hall. The hall rental is extremely affordable and they allow you to use all of your own vendors. You can even have the wedding outdoors at Tower Park for an additional $100. Friends and family who have hosted weddings at the Mess Hall have told me the cost ranged from $8,000 to $15,000.

Fort Thomas Mess Hall

The most fun I ever had at a wedding reception was one held at in a church basement on New Year’s Eve. It was very laid back with traditional party foods like chicken wings, pizza and cupcakes, fun music and great company. I have no idea what this reception cost but it couldn’t have been as much as most venues.

One of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen is The Inn at Oneonta in Melbourne off of Route 8. This outdoor venue overlooks the river, a beautiful high peaked cathedral tent went draping and overnight accommodations. It does cost about $10,000 for the facility, which does not include food, beverages or any of the other extras.

The Inn at Oneonta.

There are so many other great venues in Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati ranging from hundreds of dollars  to tens of thousands. I have been impressed by events at The Weller Haus Bed and Breakfast, Drees Pavilion at Devou Park and Southgate Community Center, The Madison and many others in Northern Kentucky. I suggest researching venue prices before scheduling a tour so that you don’t fall in love with something you can’t afford. Know how many people you are inviting so you can get accurate pricing. Take your time and tour several venues so you can figure out what you really want.  One thing to remember when picking a location is that all-inclusive doesn’t really mean all-inclusive. It typically includes tables, chairs, food and drinks. You still need to pay for desserts, a photographer, music, flowers and more.


Some venues require you to use their caterers but others, like the Fort Thomas Mess Hall, allow you to choose. I’ve been to weddings with sit down dinners that are served, buffet style with several choices and cold cut buffets. Some have chosen professional caterers where others op for a Skyline Chili bar. You have to decide what you want and what fits in your budget.


Cake used to be the traditional dessert at every wedding but over the last decade I have seen cupcakes, donuts, cookies, a variety of cake bites and even candy bars. Again, you should choose what you want and what makes financial sense.


Flowers can be extremely expensive but there are affordable choices. DIY is always an option. One wedding I attended only spent about $50 for all the flowers – the ones the bridesmaids and bride carried, as well as the ones on the table. The mother-of-the-groom stopped by a local florist to purchase wild flowers and twine. It was perfect.

Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner is designed to have intimate evening with just the bridal party and immediate family before the main event. This could be a backyard grill out, dinner at a local restaurant, or catered at a smaller venue. The average rehearsal dinner cost about $1,000 but of course this could depend on the size of your bridal party.

Bridal Shower

Some people have just one while others might have as many as five or six. Sometimes the family will have one shower, work will have one and friends will have another. Typically you only invite wedding guests who you are very close to. This includes immediate family, the bridal party and close friends. It is considered rude to invite people to the shower who are not invited to the wedding. A close family member and/or the maid of honor traditionally host the showers. This also an intimate event that allows those very close to the bride to have time with her before the main event. Coed showers have become more common, especially for the friend shower.


I don’t have any tips for saving money on the DJ/band or photographer but I suggest looking at several and choose ones that fit your style and budget. Designing and printing your own invitations and save the dates will also save money. Walgreens and other photo processing centers will print them for much less than printer. If center pieces or decorations aren’t included by the venue consider DIY. You can purchase artificial flowers, vases, colored rocks, candles and so many more any items from the Dollar Tree or local craft store. This could be a great bonding activity for the bride and her bridesmaids. And don’t forget you can use the STREAM Center at the Erlanger Branch and the Maker Space at the Covington Branch for your DIY projects.

Don’t forget to join Wedding Planner Kelsey Isles on the Kenton County Public Library Facebook page for Wedding Dos and Don’ts on Sunday, Nov. 22 from 7-7:30 pm for professional tips.

This post was written by Gina Stegner. Gina is the public relations coordinator for the Kenton County Public Library, mother/bonus mom of five and member of a very large extended family. 

Book Suggestions:

A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for a Beautiful, Affordable, Stress-Free Wedding by Meg Keene

Martha Stewart Weddings: Ideas and Inspiration

Style Me Pretty Weddings: Inspiration and Ideas for an Unforgettable Celebration

Style Your Wedding with Neil Lane

Modern Wedding: Creating a Celebration that Looks and Feels Like You

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