The Wedding Series – A Wedding Retrospective

NOTE: As we near the end of the Wedding Series, which I began in April 2015 (with some interruptions for holiday and other timely entries), we are winding up with retrospectives from my daughter, the former Lyn Nelson (who has kindly guest-posted on professional topics for The Three E’s from time to time) and me, as the Bride and Mother-of-the-Bride, as we just happened to experience our own family wedding while writing this series! ~ Jeanne Nelson 

Guest Post by Lyn Leis

As you have read for the year leading up to it, my wedding took place this past October. And it was a whirlwind! But after 15 months of careful planning, and a lot of luck, we ended up with a truly beautiful day that captured our personality and provided a wonderful guest experience.

As soon as people find out you’re engaged they have a lot of advice – from their own experience, or from their cousin’s friend’s experience, or from a bridal magazine. Some of this advice is actually quite valuable, but it is easy to get bogged down in a lot of suggestions that have nothing to do with your situation or preferences. So I am not using this space to advise; but rather to impart some of the things I am glad I did, some of the things I wish I had done, and some of the things I learned, in case they resonate with you or your loved ones who might be starting the wedding planning process.

For this post, please consider vendor mentions and endorsements; all were wonderful and deserve the referral!

I am very glad that I…

Hired a wedding planner. After months of searching for the perfect venue, my groom, Paul, and I settled on a beautiful historic site that offers venue space but no wedding planning services. While I possess a skill set in event planning, I am not well versed in weddings. We also were not familiar with the vendors in the area, which was about 1 ½ hours from our house. After some brief Googling, I found a wedding planner in the area who offers reasonable wedding planning packages, including a la carte services. One introductory phone call later and I was ready to hire Every Little Detail to help plan our wedding.

I was most surprised by the affordability of hiring a wedding planner. It seems like a luxury service, but it ended up being a small percentage of our overall wedding costs, and truly invaluable to the process. Our wedding planning team really felt what we were going for early in the process. They made fabulous suggestions, came up with wonderful alternatives when things went awry, and nudged us gently when we needed to make decisions and keep up with the timeline. As two working people with distinct busy seasons, this was so helpful.

As a result of our wedding planners’ experience and personalized recommendations, we hired the perfect vendors and venues for us, including our caterer, cake designer, photographer, florist, rental company, honey jar favor distributor, hotel, DJ, rehearsal dinner and farewell brunch restaurants, and portable restroom company. (Protip about Upstate New York: you need portable restrooms at an outdoor venue! But ours were akin to real restrooms and actually got rave reviews!) Our wedding planners’ relationships with vendors meant that they could personally endorse our wedding team, that each vendor had an added incentive to work hard for us, and that in some cases we were offered discounted services.

Every Little Detail operates throughout New York State and I cannot give them a higher recommendation.

Ordered swatches early. As soon as we had settled our venue, I ordered stationery and fabric swatches from a number of companies, large and small. Bridesmaids’ dresses and invitations were two things that took much more time to finalize than I had anticipated, and I was glad to have begun looking at colors early on. Though we knew from the beginning that our mutual favorite color, royal blue, would be our primary color for the wedding, colors vary widely by designer. Having swatches to compare throughout the planning process made the final design and selections easier.

And, once I settled on a bridesmaid dress vendor, I ordered about 10 more sample swatches in our color, which came in handy when shopping for fathers’ suits and mothers’ dresses.

Used The Knot, WeddingWire, Pinterest, and Etsy. Don’t laugh; I know those are probably the top four wedding sites to use. But I did not consider myself “mainstream” enough to use them (except Etsy, I do love their vendors). I started with A Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride. I used them until the end, too, their advice and stories are much more my speed. But the organizer in me caved to the rest of these sites and I’m so glad I did. Using Pinterest boards helped me share bridesmaid dress selections, favor ideas, cake designs, and the overall mood of the wedding with ease. The Knot’s organization tools, such as their checklist and budgeter, proved to be the best that I could find. WeddingWire made filling in the rest of our vendors a breeze. And of course I followed the ProwessWorkshops wedding series very closely!

In the beginning I ordered The Knot’s planning binder and took it with me to every visit. It’s a pretty good planning tool, especially in the beginning. But it ended up being redundant with my planners, and I am ultimately a more digital person, so I ended up abandoning it a few months in. But I don’t regret starting with it.

There are many other things that went right for our wedding, but these are some of the major decisions that contributed to the overall success of our day.

I wish I had…

Thought about marriage license logistics earlier. I knew that we had to apply for our license within a week of our wedding, so I had that on the checklist for the month of our wedding and put it out of my mind. I wish I had looked more closely at the process and gathered the required documents at least six months prior to our wedding. That way, when we had to find certified copies of our birth certificates we wouldn’t have had to fly into a panic (and send our parents into a panic) looking for them at the last minute, and we would have had time to order copies, if necessary. All worked out in the end, but we caused ourselves unnecessary stress.

Started planning the wedding program earlier (like my mother advised). I felt that I had time to do this, and that I wanted to wait and solidify all the details before developing the content of our program. But when I finally got this together I had run out of time to have it designed by a professional, which was my preference. Instead, I wound up printing them myself. They were beautiful, but added to my already huge to-do list for the week leading up to the wedding.

Started looking for hotels sooner. We did not realize when setting our date that it was the weekend of an extremely popular festival in which attendees tend to book their hotel rooms a year in advance. Luckily, our wedding planners caught the problem in time and everything worked out in the end, but booking logistics and pricing were a major source of stress for a while. And, my dream of having our guests stay in charming bed and breakfasts had to change.

I learned…

To go with my gut. I tend to make decisions that way anyway, but wedding planning involved many details and moving parts, and many personalities. It is easy to get bogged down and overthink the right thing to do. At the end of the day, the major decisions we made were based a combination of what felt true to us and what seemed right for our guests.

What was important. We knew going in that the setting was the most important thing to us. We didn’t want a typical venue. Ideally we wanted a historic site that captured the splendor of Upstate New York in fall, overlooking the Hudson River if at all possible. This meant that we spent months hunting for our venue, and visited at least 20 sites before we found ours. We also knew that the food was second on our list. To this end we splurged on at least one very expensive tasting to find the right chef and company for us. And we discovered along the way that some things were more important to us than originally expected. I found myself much more invested in the invitations than I anticipated, which meant working with the right wedding invitation designer to get the result I wanted. And while Paul originally said he didn’t care about the cake, he ultimately regretted not coming to the tasting (which meant a second tasting to make sure the groom was happy). We also found ourselves letting things go when they became impractical or less important (I did not end up hand knitting a scarf for each guest’s favor, but they were perfectly happy with their local honey jars). It’s important to go in with a plan, but I figured out what was most important to me along the way, and spent my time, money, and energy in those areas.

You don’t have to cry. Many brides will say they cried when they found their dress, or when they walked down the aisle. And I’m a happy crier, so I told my makeup artist to lacquer my mascara to my face, expecting to cry my way through the day. I didn’t at all. I knew I had found my dress the second time I put it on and both my mother and I loved it. Walking down the aisle with my father, surrounded by loved ones, was joyous but I didn’t cry. And you don’t have to; it’s okay to be all smiles! (My parents, however, did cry out of sentiment, and that’s all right, too!)

Ultimately, everything came together and I followed the most important piece of advice I got throughout all our planning – I enjoyed every minute of my wedding.  People tell you it flies by and you hardly remember a thing, but I remember every minute of my wedding day.

And now comes the fun part – changing my name in 1,000 different places! Just kidding – I mean the marriage!

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