Welcome to the forum. I completely understand the cooker versus baker. That's how I started out some 20 years ago. I was terrified of baking because of the science. But now I would rather bake than cook.
Like ChesterV I am no fan of Wilton. To be honest it's about the worst cake decorating line on the market. But if you are just checking out the craft of cake decorating, then purchasing a few of their products to test the waters may not be a bad thing.
If you're just starting out you would probably benefit from taking a couple of decorating classes. I noticed in your introduction it indicated Birmingham; I'm assuming Birmingham, Alabama in the United States.
Birmingham has both Michaels craft stores and JoAnns. Both of these stores stock cake decorating products, usually Wilton, and usually offer Wilton cake decorating classes for very reasonable prices. I think these hands-on classes are fine for learning the fundamentals of piping and fondant. And it will give you an idea of whether or not you want to pursue the craft.
They try to get you to purchase their little Wilton decorating kits before you attend the class but I don't think it's really necessary. Their little booklets that demonstrate piping techniques are sold separately. The booklet and a couple of piping tips and disposable bags is really all you need for a class. Most of the stuff in their kits are junk and totally worthless.
Wilton is definitely at the lowest end of quality. However, as I mentioned earlier since you're just starting out the smaller investment may be wise.
ChesterV and I may seem snobbish about our equipment brand preferences, but it really is a matter of quality of finished product.
To give you an idea of why ChesterV and I are not fans of Wilton products, take a look at the attached link showing the difference in quality with Wilton tips and other brands of piping tips. With Wilton products no matter how your skills improve, your end product will always look like crap. The tools just don't provide for quality execution.
I'm fortunate to live in an area with a couple of well stocked kitchenware and cake decorating stores. But for those times I cannot source locally, I keep a list of online sources.
Some of these sources are competitive in pricing. Some of them actually stock nothing but higher end products so they are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. It's for those unique and difficult to get products for a special occasion.
I've purchased from some, but not all listed here. Some I learned about through classes and instructors. Others I came across in my never ending quest for that next great gadget. I have absolutely NO affiliation in any way, shape, or form with these companies.
I've either purchased from and/or learned about the sources below through pastry chefs, instructors:
Equipment, package, tools, etc
Almond products: Mandelin almond flour and paste is BEST I've ever used. When a pastry chef told me this almond flour makes a better macaron I didn't believe her. Then I used it. It's the freshness and fine of the grind that makes this flour superior.
Flour: Central Milling is the finest quality commercial flour. They supply the top bakeries in the country including Tartine, Joesy Baker, and Acme. This brand is pretty much all I stock in my pantry. I keep five different Central Milling flours on hand.
Fondant: I really like Fat Daddio. I buy locally, but for those who can't, Golbal Sugar Arts is legit.
https://www.globalsugarart.com/ssearch?q=Fat daddio fondant
Chocolate and rolled fondant: Divine Specialties has competitive prices on those occasional high end ingredients for that special dessert that you can't find locally
Extract, flavorings, food coloring
($$$ for event cakes and pastry)
Cake pan: Parrish Magic Line manufactures an EXCELLENCE cake pan. They have a cult-like following among cake bakers. Magic Line pans will not over brown a crust on a cake. Wedding cake bakers love this pan for that reason. They're also known for their square pans.
The pan produces sharp clean corners and edges.
I purchased mine locally. But they are like a unicorn-legendary, yet near impossible to find. The manufacturer does not have a website. Their Southern California plant will allow people to come in off the street and purchase. Most bakers purchase them online.
Global Sugar Art is a ligit source
I have NOT purchased from Sweet Treats Supply, but their pricing is good. Certainly better than what I paid locally.
The sources listed below I bookmarked for future reference. I have NOT purchased from any source listed below and do NOT personally know any one who has.
Equipment, tools, etc.