[Note: We just celebrated our one year anniversary… which means that this post has been in the works for a long time… I might even edit it periodically as I remember helpful tidbits you can learn from (or laugh at). Enjoy!]
So, it’s your big day. That’s what everyone tells you. What are your colors? Bow ties or ties? Indoor or outdoor? Rustic or classic?
Our biggest fortune was that my husband and I wanted the same type of wedding. We talked through all the details together (we got one of those binders that makes sure you cover every single detail… it was actually pretty helpful! But you can find a lot online; I just like organize-y things, and now it serves as a scrapbook of sorts).
Pinterest: To tell you the truth, I got a Pinterest years ago when my cousin invited me (was it invite only back then?) and she had a “wedding ideas” board. And then I had a wedding ideas board. Nope, I wasn’t even dating anyone. That’s when it started. Country, rustic, hay bales, and mason jars were in. And I loved them. Fortunately that style lends itself to a very DIY approach. (Which also translates to “you can spend a lot of money for Etsy to make things or you can do them yourself and enlist a lot of help from family and friends). Fortunately the DIY look is still very much my style, and still trending, which was good because I still wanted it to be DIY and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money.
But we did. We did spend a ton of money (not in the grand context of weddings, but more than we thought we would). In the wake of [finally] paying off what we called our “wedding credit card” after about 8 months, here is my timeline, tips, and what I’ve learned:
SET A BUDGET (and decide on guests):
We didn’t. We sort of did. But didn’t really. We had an idea of how much big things cost (music, photography [thank goodness for family friends], venue [WAY more than we realized… just pray you have a friend with a barn who knows someone in catering who will supply linens, tableware, chairs, and tables…]) and we felt like we knew where we could cut corners (ideas from Etsy, but designing invites and fans ourselves), but things add up really quickly (guest gift bags at the hotel [not necessary, but cute]; bridesmaid gifts [I think they’re necessary… these girls are spending money on you as well]; groomsmen gifts [to point them in the right grooming or stylistic direction]; trips to Michael’s for thank-you cards [and 20 other cute wedding details that end up in your cart]; fake candles [and batteries!]; stamps for invitations; etc.).
This was probably the most stressful part. If I invite this friend, why not invite that whole group of friends? If I invite this family friend, the others are going to wonder why they weren’t invited. If I don’t invite this family member, shit might hit the fan. Brian and I made a really hard decision to let my big, close, and geographically closer family take up most of our invites. We thought we were going to fly out East and do a mini celebration with all of that side of the family since they’re all within a few hours of travel from each other, but… finances didn’t work out and we never did that. This is still one of the harder parts, but looking back, we did what we thought would be best and easiest for everyone. And it was still an amazing group. (And we would have needed a bigger venue and budget to invite everyone we wanted to!)
There are a bunch of good resources out there to help you determine who you should invite to the wedding (1. Have you talked to them recently, 2. Would they invite you to their wedding, etc.) (Plus ones are harder… we customized our reply postcards to make it as clear as possible that you have one line to write your name because we only have one chair for you).
Invite girl friends to your pinterest board.
Pro Tip: actually go back through and look at your board or else you’ll end up like me and go “ohhh that was a better idea than [insert less cute idea here].”
Picking a date:
We got engaged in early August. By the time we called our parents later that day, we already had a tentative date picked out. DON’T FEEL PRESSURED TO PICK A DATE. EVERYONE WILL ASK YOU. Just say “Sometime next year, maybe in the fall” or some season that sounds far enough away to not make you sweat too much. Or just say “we’re still caught up in the moment–we’ll keep you posted.
Picking the month: We picked July because it was during my summer break and I would have June to do last minute things. This was great. If you can, time it during a slow time of work for at least one of you. For teachers or people in education, I’m guessing you’ll enjoy a summer wedding as well. Unless you want to do a precious snowy ceremony. Obviously you need snow for that.
Then we picked the day we did (Saturday, July 9) because of the following factors:
1) Couldn’t do near a holiday as lots of folks who work retail have those times blacked out. No one can take vacation. And a lot of people have holiday plans that they don’t want to miss (but they might if they REALLY like you).
2) Consider the cost of flights for people if half of your family (or pretty much everyone you know) is going to need to fly. Are you planning during a peak travel season for your city/area? Is there a major airport or is everyone going to need to fly and drive? Will everyone need to rent a car? (more on this below). If someone flew out that morning due to work or lower flight costs, could they make it?
3) Afternoon wedding: Although it was more expensive, we picked the afternoon option because we didn’t want people to get drunk at 10 am and have the party over by 2 pm. It works for some. It works for church weddings. But it wasn’t what we were going for. We also realized if people wanted to, they could fly in that day and make it to a 6pm ceremony (and I didn’t want to wake up at 6am to start hair and makeup… because, let’s be real: ew.) (This was actually the best decision we made; we were running around the night before until 1 am and actually ate Taco Bell for second dinner at around midnight. We were STILL running around doing errands the next morning. No, we did not have a wedding planner.. it just wasn’t where we wanted to spend our money.
4) We also picked July 9 because that was when the venue was available. Brian found the most perfect site, we loved the venue, distance from our home/airport/the city, and wanted to make it work.
July 9 in the afternoon it was!
More on picking the venue:
You can’t really pick the exact date before the venue because of availability, but you can go in with ideas. I told people we wanted a July wedding and everyone said “OMG YOU NEED TO BOOK NOW; IT’S PROBABLY ALL BOOKED OUT ALREADY!” People freaked us out so we went venue shopping. Online of course. Brian found our place. It was a golf course with a barn and an old white shed against which you can take pictures. They also had an on-site prep house for you to do finishing touches and get ready. We only had that space two hours before to get ready, per their event contracting, so we got ready off-site starting at noon (I’ll put my day-of timeline in below). But two hours was just about enough. (More on what went on to make it happen below; again, DIY meant it necessitated lots of family/friend help with details day of.)
Breakfast with Parents. This didn’t happen: I was panicking about technical difficulties with getting the music from my computer to my iPod and Brian was picking up the sound equipment with my dad.
Actual 8am: Hotel Breakfast: Waffle, eggs, potatoes, coffee, and seeing some of the guests! This was actually the perfect thing. I gave gifts out to the folks who had helped along the way (“I Do Crew” tank tops) and relaxed before heading back to transfer music from my computer to the iPod.
[10am: This was unscheduled meltdown #1: I sent a text to my bridesmaids and all it said was “I’m in my hotel room. Help.” When they arrived, I broke down crying because I couldn’t figure out the music and I’m normally the one people go to in order to figure exactly these types of things out! I hadn’t freaked out at all yet at any point of the process, so I think a lot of this was just pent up and channeled into the first small hiccup. Don’t worry… Brian got the music onto the iPod in approximately 1.3 minutes].
Noon: Hair, Make-up, and Food. We ordered food to be delivered and drank champagne from sippy cups. We went to a blowout salon as they do hair and makeup and it was SUPER cute). I started my up-do at noon to be done first (as my friend was doing my makeup back at my hotel room) and staggered times with the other stylists for my mom, MIL, sister, and bridesmaids to start at 12, 1, and 2. I think everyone was done around 2:30 since the staff was amazing. It doesn’t hurt to double check that they know they are doing your hair first… my sister got called up with the last available stylist and I started to panic. I didn’t say anything. When the food arrived, I was about to go bridezilla when a stylist saw me silently tearing up and she said, “let’s see what we can do” and undoubtedly performed some black magic because within 5 minutes I was being pampered in the styling chair. Phew!
2PM: Make-up in my hotel room. This is where I finally got to relax. We had done a trial run and I felt like the makeup was too heavy, so I said, “do a little less eye. But I trust you.” Honestly, when everything came together, the make-up matched the dressiness and the occassion, whereas my trial was done in a t-shirt and jeans on a Tuesday. It was perfection.
3:30PM: To the Venue. ProTip: Check out what traffic might be like at the day and time the week before (Google will actually let you project forward to a specific time, but you can also just map your route a week in advance using an app). For us, there was traffic. It was stressful. The guys showed up late. And my mom got lost. But it was okay.
4PM (ish): Arrive at Venue. Bridesmaids got dressed (maybe at the hotel… memory is hazy). My mom finally arrived and she helped me into my dress. Then we took Bridesmaids & Bride photos on the bed. So much fun 🙂
4PM-literally the last minute: Set-up the reception space, outdoor sound, and little details. See below for a description of the madness.
4:30PM: Guys Get Ready. I don’t know what they did, but we had picked out boutonnieres and matching socks, so presumably they helped each other put these on. There are really cute photos of them all spiffed up. It’s pretty precious.
5PM: First Look. I am a big fan of the first look… mostly because I don’t believe in the “it’s bad luck to see the groom on your wedding day” (since he came to the hair salon to get my laptop and iPod from me and solve the music dilemma, he actually saved the day… I don’t see any bad luck there!).
5:30PM: Guests arrive.
6PM: Ceremony. WE DO!
6:30PM: Cocktail Hour & Photos. THE PHOTOS TOOK WHAT FELT LIKE FOREVER. I do not have a ton of suggestions on how to make it go more quickly, but maybe if I had told our families the plan and we didn’t have to find people, it would have gone more smoothly… but hey, I had wedding brain and things turned out fine. (We had a list of photos we wanted and had given it to our photographer/day-of-planner slash amazing wedding savvy friend beforehand).
Romantic Alone Time. HAHAHAHA. This didn’t happen. We signed our paperwork, made our marriage basically official and then realized we needed to make our entrance because we were all starving.
7:15: Formal Introduction & First Dance.
7:30: EAT. We started the buffet and then our band announced tables (I think?) Pro-Tip: Have someone make sure you eat. I was chatty Kathy and only had half a plate of our delicious food. And maybe have someone make sure you always have a drink in your hand and that half of the time it’s water.
8:05PM: Speeches. I don’t know if this happened on time. But they happened and they were great. However… I remember crying the next day because my mom told me my brother wanted to say something during this time but we neglected to even ask if any other family members had anything they wanted to say. Still sad about that.
Warning: If you do open it up for toasts, beware of the weird relative who tells a bad drunken story. This is when you turn to your spouse of one hour and say “I’m sorry. Mom said we HAD to invite them.”
8:25 pm – Father/Daughter Dance and Mother/Son Dance
THEN DANCING. Friends, this was seriously the best part. Our band (The Shy Boys: if you’re in the Tacoma area, BOOK THEM). We spent a good amount of money on them, but it was worth every penny.
9PM: Cake Cutting
9:30PM: Bouquet Toss
9:35 pm – Garter Toss
10:30 pm – Formal Departure… we probably did this closer to 10:45
10:30 pm – Bar closes
11:00 pm – Clean Up Begins / Music Stops… We had already left, but so many of our friends and family helped clean up. This was such a help. This was definitely a piece I hadn’t thought about.
We also had a one-way shuttle arrive to take people back to the hotel in case folks had been drinking (we figured everyone is an adult and can figure out how to carpool or get back to the venue the next day).
11:15PM: Hotel After Party. Totally unplanned, but Brian and I were like… what do we do now? We were amped up and I hadn’t had much to drink and I wanted a beer. So I got one from the convenience store in the lobby. And as our friends and family arrived, some in cars, the rest on the shuttle, we greeted them and actually got to hang out with them. It was a great unplanned part of our big day.
Day of set-up:
I am so glad I didn’t have to help with this. Although I was asked a few times where certain decorations went, I simply replied “I don’t care: artistic license.” Brian and the boys however helped set up the sound equipment. They got a little sweaty, but cleaned up nicely.
ProTip: if people ask if they can help with anything day-of, say YES. I did and enlisted the help of “the nurses” (my mom’s old coworkers turned best friends of hers and mine) and they HANDLED IT. I had labeled most of the decorations and had drawn out what the centerpieces should look like (wood circles with lanterns and decorated mason jars with cut baby’s breath… style however looks best).
They apparently finished setting up as the first guests were arriving. My aunt and Co. even did chalk art! I am glad our photographers got photos, because I didn’t realize that this would be something that, although I put so much thought into every little detail (from spray painting and decoupaging mason jars, to making cute signs from reclaimed wood, I would not have time to really take it all in.
Fortunately, I had all of June to use how I wanted to spray paint pallets to my heart’s content. But things always take longer, so make sure you make the time (and space) to store everything).
Otherwise your spare square footage (and your parents’ garage) become your storage units.
The End Result:
You get married. Hopefully it was to the right person. And you’re broke for the next year. And maybe you decide to have a kid. We decided that being broke didn’t make us unhappy, so we’d just keep pursuing things that made us happy and kept us broke.
Stay tuned for our parenting chronicles: Coming August 2017.
In case you want more photos…
Favorite DIY Details:
My mom took engagement photos for us and we sent postcards (cheaper than envelopes) as Save the Dates