Before I got married, one of my favorite ways to find inspiration and procrastinate on homework was to look at blog posts about weddings. Country weddings, modern weddings, super quirky and traditional – I’d absorb them all. I appreciated the play-by-play commentary about the vendors, what went well and what was weird.
I made a mental note to do the same with my own wedding, once I got our official photos in my hands. Guess what? I do now! So, you brides-to-be and brides-who-were, maybe this will be helpful,or just a really great time-killer. Either way, I’m eager to share. And at the bottom: 5 Things I Learned While Planning My Wedding. You might need to read this in a few sittings, or get a really comfortable chair. We’ll be here a while.
I woke up early the morning of the wedding, as I had the past few days. My friends Sandy and Danae were at the house with me, and we headed to the church around ten to start hair and makeup. It was drizzly and grey, and the whole week prior called for scattered thunderstorms. A little unnerving when the reception was planned to be outside in a tent held up by metal poles…
Being around my best friends helped calm my jitters, and I was excited to get the day rolling with their company and some green tea. And the Pitch Perfect soundtrack on Spotify.
As for my attire, I got my dress in Terre Haute. It’s an Allure gown, and I felt lovely, though I never cried and knew it was “the one.” The shoes were ModCloth, as were my earrings. The necklace, headpiece and garter came from Etsy, bracelet from bridesmaid Emma (saw it that morning and decided it would be my “something borrowed”) and the handkerchief was my great-grandmother’s.
Around three in the afternoon, we were ready to start pictures with our amazing photographer, Chloe Jennings. The skies weren’t exactly blue, but the rain had stopped, and I was thrilled. Thomas and I decided to do a first look for a number of reasons. First, having an evening ceremony, it made sense to not make our guests wait for us afterwards. Also, we liked the idea of talking about the day and being able to spend more of it together. My nerves were immediately settled when I saw him.
I really liked the wildflower look, and tended to pick flowers that were technically weeds. So we rolled with it.
I thought my bridesmaids looked gorgeous. Their dresses came from ModCloth, and I suggested nude/neutral shoes. I also wanted them to personalize their own look through jewelry, belts and cardigans and LOVED the result.
There were two things that Thomas really cared about: the music and what the groomsmen would wear. We chose to purchase grey suits from The Men’s Wearhouse while they had a Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale. Oh yeah we did. It was practically the same price as renting! The shoes came from one of the department stores, as did Thom’s tie. Suspenders were cheap at H&M.
We wrote letters to each other that we read a few hours before the ceremony. I’ve kept all the letters we’ve written over the last five years, so these will be fun to look back on.
Our ceremony was held at 7pm in the church that we grew up in and still attend. It just made sense. We had our current pastor officiate, along with the pastor who confirmed us into the church in 7th grade. It was so special to have them both there.
For the pre-ceremony music, we had a playlist of some of our favorite worship songs. Bridesmaids walked down to a instrumental version of “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran that I found on YouTube. I walked down to “Come On” by Rend Collective Experiment. Now I get shivers whenever I hear it.
Instead of having my dad “give me away,” we decided to do a family blessing, where both sets of parents stood up with us and accepted the combining of families. We also decided to write and recite our own vows. While we drafted them separately, we came together and refined them a bit, repeating certain phrases and being sure to include a few common promises. It was my favorite part of the ceremony and an easy way to personalize it. I really tried to focus on the ceremony, not wanting the memory to fade away too soon.
The only time we got teary was when we were leaving the sanctuary. In many ways, things felt the same. But there was still the knowledge that life would be different, and seeing my older brother get emotional when I saw him after reinforced that.
Our reception took place in a giant, circus-looking tent right outside the church. I liked the idea of hosting a relaxed evening, so having it outside was nice and casual. We opted for dessert and a coffee bar, staffed by Coffee Grounds – a result influenced by our shared sweet tooth and, frankly, how many people would be attending.
Emma designed beautiful chalkboards for us, as well as the “M” in our logo. She’s so talented.
Don Morris acted as our DJ and musician. Don is the dad of one of Thom’s high school friends, and we love listening to him play. He learned renditions of The Avett Brothers’ song “Laundry Room” for our first dance, “My Girl” for the father-daughter dance and “Your Song” by Garth Brooks for the mother-son dance.
The tent was a big, blank canvas and took a load of work, especially for our dads. Though the tent was put up for us, the dads set the dance floor into the ground and strung up rows of gorgeous lights as a ceiling. Mom also potted some plants to mark the entrance of the tent. I am so appreciative of how hard they worked because I didn’t have to worry about a single thing. Trust is a great thing, and I’m so fortunate that I was able to let go in the process (eventually) and hand over responsibilities to someone else. Because of it, I enjoyed the entire weekend.
The rest of the decor was helped by our wedding planner. For the centerpieces, we had a collection of jars, bottles and votives on a navy runner and two dollar store frames with engagement photos in them. Also, some of the flowers that lined the aisle in the church were doubled as centerpieces. The lesson? Resourcefulness is a good thing.
A note on wedding planners: they are extremely helpful the day of the wedding. I did not have to coordinate all the vendors or worry about timing at all because she took care of that for me. You pay her to take the stress off you.
After most of the crowd had gone, and just our family and bridal party remained, we had a little musical surprise. A few nights before, we decided to perform “Boat Song” by JJ Heller just for kicks. No one knew it was coming, which was most fun of all.
Thom’s friend Ross David finished off the reception music. For my 18th birthday, Thomas arranged a private concert on a dock for me, with Ross being the main performer. It was so fun to have him there and hear the love songs that took us back to high school.
It was an amazing day. Yes, it had its quirks (like the spotlight that went out in the ceremony whenever Coffee Grounds plugged in their latte machine and blew a fuse). But I absorbed the entire day, willing myself to remember my emotions, my joy. That morning, before I even left home, I listened to some Hillsong and prayed that I would be able to see God that day.
And I did. I saw Him when the line of storms headed towards Terre Haute broke and circled around the city, making it a rainless evening. I saw Him in the ceremony as I hung onto every word Thomas promised to me. And I saw Him while dancing with my friends and family and realizing how much support we had.
So what did I learn through all this? Many, many things. Some small, and some that changed my whole experience of wedding planning. Here are my top:
1. The number of guests determines EVERYTHING. Venue, number of tables/chairs, amount of food, number of invites to print plus postage, etc., which means a higher cost to you. Be aware, and weigh the pros and cons. Something really appealed to us about having the intimacy of a small wedding. But you know what? By the time the evening ended, it really felt as if we got the best of both.
2. Pick your battles. I had to have many conversations (and, embarrassingly, a few tears) with my mom to gain the courage to stand up for what I wanted, even if it wasn’t the traditional way of operating like the wedding planner was used to. Our styles were a little different, but it was worth speaking up for. An understated cake and no sparkly runners? That mattered to me. The exact shape of tea-light holders on tables? Not that important.
3. Don’t let pride get in the way of reality. Reality for us was that a big wedding is never cheap, unless you serve guests pretzels and water. Which we didn’t. For some reason, all my research on budget weddings got me thinking “I can have an awesome wedding for under X amount of dollars. Just watch me.” But those weddings had 50 people, not 300. I needed a reality check, pronto.
4. All those weddings you see on Pinterest – they just look like the neatest weddings on the planet. All the little chalkboard food identifiers and floral wreaths make us think our wedding won’t live up to those beautiful pictures. But what I found is that photographers do a really good job, and everything looks fancier and cooler and more creative in a great photograph. Your wedding will be beautiful too. And everyone will gush over your photos.
5. It’s all icing on the cake – a big, delicious cake that you get when you spend a year+ planning for a 30-minute ceremony and 3-hour party that lands you a husband. The details don’t mean anything in comparison to the act of being married to your best friend, which everyone will tell you. At least, that’s what everyone told me. But I believe it. So keep your perspective. And don’t talk about the wedding all the time with your fiancé. He really just wants to marry you and not worry about color schemes, and you can respect that. After all, he’s your other half – that big cake of yours.
We made it. This even took me three sittings to write. I hope that it served some purpose to you, whether you’re planning a wedding currently (with or without a ring) or find yourself nowhere near the process. Planning anything and entering a new stage of life has its difficulties. But the journey has prompted so many ponderings out of me, and I’ve been challenged because of it.
May you, too, keep perspective, respect the challenges, and enjoy your cake.
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