In a former life, I was paid to plan events and weddings. I know, so glamorous. But not at all. So when it came to planning our own wedding, I wasn’t the typical bride. To me, it was a never-ending checklist of things to get done and bills to be paid. Planning was soon underway, but not with the usual enjoyment of a first time bride. Doing anything professionally can take the fun out of anything you do for yourself.
I wanted our wedding to be a fun party at which we just happened to get married. I mean, let’s face it: That day is special to you and your spouse. Maybe even your family. But it will not be the best day your friends will ever have. They just want free food and an open bar.
Even though I had planned over 100 weddings, it was interesting to learn about planning a wedding from the bride’s perspective. Here is a list of things I learned and like to pass along to friends I know who are planning their own big day:
1. It’s YOUR day. Do what YOU want.
Every bride struggles with the unsolicited opinions of their friends and family. Sometimes it is a matter of who is paying for what, who prefers one color bridesmaid dress over another, etc. But remember- it’s your day as a couple. Do what makes you happy- from the menu to the ceremony, to a DJ or band. In the end, it’s your special memory. I am sure your best man won’t care if you made him wear a rental tux or asked him to wear a suit. And if your guests drink enough, they might not remember anything at all. 😉
2. Make it YOUR Wedding.
Personalize, personalize, personalize. We chose a location that spoke to us as a couple- a 100 year old farmhouse inn, complete with live sheep on the premise. It oozed charm, but even if you are getting married at the Marriott ballroom in East Hanover, New Jersey, you can personalize your day to make it special to you as a couple.
Rather than the standard wedding march, I walked down the aisle to a custom instrumental arrangement of “The World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies written and composed by my brother in law. As a couple we walked back down the aisle to Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick In the Head”.
We also chose to skip the standard ceremony and vows. Instead, we chose to have family members and friends read selections that spoke to both the importance and challenge of marriage. Not all rainbows and puppy dogs, but we still think of those readings to this day and how they speak to our marriage. My oldest brother read an excerpt from “Tuesdays with Morrie”:
“I’ve learned this much about marriage. You get tested. You find out who you are, who the other person is, and how you accommodate or don’t…..there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike…I think marriage is a very important thing to do, and you’re missing a hell of a lot if you don’t try it.”
3. Make friends with your local paper store:
Whether it be a store like The Paper Source or an arts and crafts mega-chain like Michael’s, if you can use a printer or rubber stamp set, you can handle all your own wedding stationery needs. We printed our own envelopes with a calligraphy font from Microsoft Word. I also printed all the escort “cards” (glass coasters with small frame openings), place cards (personalized round paper coasters on which we placed round printing labels with guest’s name), table numbers, etc. You can do it all yourself for very little.
4. Think about your Guests:
You are the hosts after all of a rather large party. Don’t forget about your guests! We had lots of little ones at our wedding, so we made sure to include different kinds of entertainment for the under 12 set. We provided coloring books, crayons and lots of lawn games. (I covered the coloring books and crayons with matching paper so they could be part of the place setting):
And of course, we couldn’t forget about our more “mature” guests. I surprised Kase with a box of nice cigars placed at the bar, which were definitely enjoyed later in the evening:
5. Think outside the Florist:
Think about your wedding flowers as rentals: you use and enjoy them for about 6-8 hours. If your guests or florist picks them up at the end of the day, the fact remains. You are essentially renting the decoration for a few hours. Most florists also charge for vases, candles, etc. Familiarize yourself with sites like Jamali.com (a floral supply store in the flower district in NY used by most NYC florists) and eBay. You can buy vases and votives for much cheaper than a florist will charge. Sure you have to do some of the legwork yourself, but you can save a lot of money and have creative control. For instance, I found the following votives at Pottery Barn back in 2007 and used them to hang from the arbor under which we were married, and from the trees surrounding our reception tent:
6. Enjoy Yourself.
It’s true what they say- it all goes by fast, so take it in, enjoy yourself and don’t sweat the small stuff. On our wedding day, the weather forecast called for sunshine and 70 degree temps. So imagine my surprise when it began to pour buckets the morning of. We had no back up plan, so we just had to sit and wait to see what happened. It ended up being a beautiful day- exactly as weather.com had promised. But boy, did it go by fast.
PS- The Knot featured our wedding in print and on their site. Photography by Lauren Rutten Photography.