Brides, Budgets and Living Bars: Wedding Planning in Wichita


Wedding planning. Even typing those two words is intimidating. You’ve been dreaming of this day your entire life (or, at least a majority of it). You’ve imagined the five-tiered strawberry cream cake adorned in rose petals and sugar-coated strawberries. You’ve stashed swatches of the perfect color of red in the dog-eared Modern Bride magazine you’ve had since high school. And, you’ve had actual dreams of walking down the aisle in the most amazing ‘Vera’ sweetheart mermaid gown.

Photo by Jason Villanueva

But, now it’s time for the real deal. You’re engaged, which means it’s time to get to work. According to The Knot, the average engagement is 15 months, which means depending on when he got down on one knee, you need to start planning immediately. Where do you start? Who can help? Just exactly what does it take to plan a wedding in Wichita these days?

While we’ve hosted quite a few of these Big Days, we definitely do not know all the ins-and-outs of wedding planning. So, we asked a few local experts to help us guide the ICT bride-to-be by providing some insight, offering their checklist items and their personal philosophy in planning for your wedding. From budgets and breweries to green weddings and storm chasing, we hope to ease some of the stress by giving a bit of advice for the perfect-for-you Wichita wedding.

April Johnson has worked in event planning for more than fifteen years and started her business, Ambiance Events by April, in 2014. She provides full design planning, as well as two other packages depending on where she is needed in the process. The company motto is “I’m happy to help” and her own philosophy is equally supportive of the bride and groom.

“I always begin by asking the bride and groom what they want to feel when they look back on this day,” said, Johnson. “What will mean the most to them? Will it be the ceremony they want most to remember? Maybe it’s their first dance. I want them to focus on the feeling they want for their guests, too, as well as the feeling they want as the hosts. It’s why I named my business, Ambiance.”

Once she’s established the overall feel of the wedding, she always advises couples to select the date and pick their major vendors, since they will book the quickest. “Top of the checklist is date, venue, photographer and entertainment, whether DJ or band. Once these major items are marked off, we can move forward with florists, guest lists and everything else.”

The founder of Shay Chic Productions, Shannon Boone has been officially planning events in Wichita for almost 15 years, unofficially since her high school prom. Her philosophy is attuned with the bride and groom, as well. “It’s about the two of you. Not your mom, your sister, or your best friend. You,” Boone stated. “Your wedding day should be a reflection of the two of you and what you want.”

She encourages clients to not get lost in all the possibilities, to maintain perspective. “I always tell them, ‘yes, this is an important day in your life, but it’s not the most important day.’ That’s still to come.”

Her initial checklist items are budget (you must know what you are able or are willing to spend), date, communication, (as in with one another–talk it out, especially what you do and don’t want) and an event planner. “Not because I am one, but because talking to an event planner gives you a better understanding of what planning the wedding of your dreams entails. It can be eye-opening.”

She provides free consultations for this reason, as well as one other important wedding rule of thumb. “As a bride, you want to make sure you, your groom and your wedding planner have personalities that mesh. Outside of your significant other, your wedding planner will be the person you talk through the details with the most. You don’t want to spend all this time planning such an important event with someone you don’t gel with.”

Online wedding sites, from the Wedding Wire to Here Comes The Guide, each have their own checklists or 101 tips to planning a wedding, but we highly recommend local expertise. After all, our area event planners live in this community and have worked hard to establish longtime relationships and exceptional reputations. Plus, they know Wichita, which in turn means they know people who happen to be vendors and florists and owners of venues and caterers…you get the picture. Oh, and they know the weather.

When asked if there were any challenges to planning a wedding in Wichita, Kansas, both agreed: Mother Nature. Johnson finds spring and fall are the most popular seasons for Kansas weddings, but no matter the season she always has a plan B, C & D, especially for outdoor weddings.

“You must have a backup plan,” advises Johnson. “No matter the season, you have to be prepared for rain, snow, high winds—whatever Kansas has to offer.”

Boone agrees, “There are maybe seven days a year that would be considered perfect weather for an outdoor wedding, so always have an indoor backup.”

While neither has experienced the sounding of tornado sirens or the scramble to find the nearest shelter (although tornadoes don’t seem to strike much fear in wedding-goers in Kansas), you must be prepared for anything. 

“No one loves you enough to endure harsh winds, freezing cold or downpours–even in a tent,” Boone continues. “You really must think about your guests when planning for an outdoor event.”

Do either experience other limitations when planning in Wichita? The resounding answer is no. It seems Wichita is most accommodating when it comes to weddings. Johnson feels the city is blossoming and coming into its own, which means creativity is flowing. “The sky’s the limit in Wichita,” she says.

Boone finds in Wichita, if you want it to happen, you can make it happen, “From dunk tanks to fortune tellers–you just need to be creative.”

With Wichita’s new-found confidence, both event planners find some distinctions in ICT weddings, plus a few new trends. There is a pride and passion among local business owners that carries over into the wedding details. “There’s definitely a local focus,” says Boone. “I’m seeing more Wichita food trucks on-site for the reception, as well as requests for Kansas craft beer at the bar.” 

Johnson sees the same, “Couples are really incorporating local businesses, from donuts from Hurts Donuts to spirits from Wheat State Distilling, there is much more personalization and focus on local tastes.”

Paper bouquets and flowers by  Papers To Petals . Photo by  Justin Lister Photography

Paper bouquets and flowers by Papers To Petals. Photo by Justin Lister Photography

Outside of the local focus, Boone has seen other trends, including paper bouquets, smaller bridal parties and green weddings. Green as in eco-friendly. According to A Look at Wedding Industry Waste + Eco-friendly Wedding Tips by Botanical PaperWorks, the average wedding produces 400-600 lbs. of garbage. Boone has flowers blooming in her backyard as a result from Save-the-Date cards impregnated with seeds she created for a client. “It’s a thing. Using recyclable or repurposed items, flowers grown specifically in our region, even a living bar.”

A living bar? “It’s in line with the green wedding theme. Basically, it entails utilizing living items at the bar or as the bar. Using freshly cut greens and flowers with a laser-cut wood veneer or lattice with climbing ivy or clematis as the base of the bar,” Boone explains. “For one client, we’ll strategically place potted plants at the base of the bar and use a locally cut wood plank for the top. I’m excited – lots of new ways to get creative and be green at the same time!”

Because each believes the planning of a wedding is specific to the desires of the bride, each event can take on a personality and life of its own. From large and elaborate weddings to concise and intimate guest lists, the planning depends on the dream. Yet, there are still a few essential tidbits of advice each offers to both their clients and local partners.

With regards to etiquette and starting off on the right foot with your new in-laws, Boone strongly suggests including the mother-of-the-groom and his sisters. “Do not leave them out of the festivities. Invite them to the dress-fitting or the cake tasting. Many times, the family of the groom feels left out and while they may decline your offer, it’s best to extend the invitation.”

Johnson’s advice is for the community. She wants clients and partners to know there is enough event business for all planners, vendors and venues. “We all work very hard, together. It isn’t caterer vs caterer or venue vs venue, it’s all about the feeling or ambiance the couple is seeking,” says Johnson. “If one business cannot provide what the bride wants her guest to feel during her wedding, our local businesses will work together to ensure the bride finds what she is seeking. It’s an incredible positive about our local industry.” 

It seems our event planners also believe it’s all about you.

If you are newly engaged, here are a list of local wedding planners to help guide you to the ultimate perfect-for-you ICT wedding, beginning with our two experts who took time out of their busy schedule to provide input just for you. And, if you don’t see your favorite wedding planner on our list, feel free to share their name with us!  Happy planning!

Ambiance Events by April

Shay Chic Productions

Addison Grace Events

Bel Amour Events

Personal Touch Events

Events by Ashley

Perfect Touch Custom Weddings

Wichita Event Planner

Kansas Event Planning