While it's still fresh in my mind, I wanted to write down our wedding experience. The lessons learned, the things we would do differently and the things we are glad we did. After all, hindsight is 20/20.
Overall, we had a wonderful wedding. We were able to enjoy a beautiful evening with our favorite people in the world, and most important, we were officially married. Truly blessed.
1. It's true what EVERYONE says: the day goes by so fast!
My three bridesmaids and I met at our venue at Noon to begin hair and makeup. I was also able to walk through the ceremony space and make sure everything was just how we wanted it, which was a huge benefit for a perfectionist like me. However, the afternoon whizzed by and before I knew it, it was time for our ceremony to begin (6:30).
Allow yourself a moment to reflect on what you are about to do. Making a lifetime commitment is not something to take lightly. I didn't have a full appreciation of this in my early 20s, but as a 30 year old bride, I now know what this level of commitment means.
taking a moment in front of my mom's photo
2. Don't be in a rush!
I felt like my dad and I flew down the aisle, because I literally blinked and was at the altar. Brides: SLOW DOWN WHEN WALKING DOWN THE AISLE. Savor the moment. Take it all in. Look at your friends and family, but make sure to focus on your groom. The expression on Justin's face was one I will cherish forever.
Although you may have butterflies in your tummy the day of your wedding, you must eat something. I start every day with a green smoothie and my wedding day was no exception. I also ordered gourmet pizza for my bridesmaids and I to enjoy while we were getting ready. Your going to be emotional and the room will feel very warm as you are standing up in front of all of your guests. An empty stomach is not a good combination with this.
I followed my green smoothie up with peppermint tea, which always helps soothe my tummy. After that, I stuck to Sprite and water. Enjoy a glass of champagne or better yet a mimosa if you must, but don't drink too much before the ceremony. Although the day will go by fast, you will be exhausted by the end of it. The emotional highs, the typical heavy wedding dress, dress shoes (especially high heels) and lack of food will take it's toll. Alcohol just exasperates this.
4. Make sure the bridal party and family knows what to do after the ceremony.
We went through the pre-ceremony and ceremony schedule. However, we didn't really discuss what our families and bridal party should do after. Once Justin and I kissed and walked down the aisle together, we immediately posed for some photos with our photographer. Our bridal party ended up spread out. We had to corral everyone upstairs. No big deal but it will save some stress and time if the before AND after plan is discussed.
What I'm Glad We Did:
1. Have a Sweetheart Table
For one, the majority of our bridal party was married. With a bridal party table, it meant that their spouses would be sitting at a random table. Because we have family and friends from all over the country, not everyone knew each other. We didn't want to separate couples or stick one single at a table with couples that all knew each other.
* I adore this picture of us during my Maid of Honor's speech. We have been best friends for over 25 years, and she delivered the most beautiful, sweet, funny toast. We laughed and cried!
2. Take Photos Pre-Ceremony
Our ceremony began at 6:30 and lasted roughly 30 minutes. We had a 30 minute cocktail hour, while the room was being flipped. Then, we immediately started dinner and most people were served by 8pm. If we had waited to take photos until after the ceremony, we wouldn't have started dinner until 9:30. Plus, we were on such a high after the ceremony and anxious to chat with our guests, it was nice to immediately jump into the cocktail hour and mingle.
It's worth mentioning that this in no-way impacted Justin seeing me for the first time in my bridal attire. In fact, it made it much more intimate. Our photographer was able to catch some close-up photos of our reactions.
3. Personalize Our Ceremony
We did not marry in a church, which allowed us to personalize everything from our music selection to order of events. I absolutely understand the sanctity of a religious ceremony and in no way am opposed to that. However, I did appreciate the freedom that we were able to have when planning our ceremony.
It was important to us to have a personalized and meaningful ceremony, so we searched for unique ideas. We both fell in love with the 'Ring Warming' tradition. Our wedding bands were tied together and passed around to every guest to hold for a moment and say a silent wish or prayer for us. By the time it came for us to exchange rings, they had been 'warmed' by the love of our family and friends.
We also opted to do a group blessing during our vows and asked our guests to participate. Because we had a small wedding, just 90 guests, it felt very personal and intimate, which is exactly what we wanted.
Our minister has known Justin since he was 3 years old and is the father of Justin's best friend. He delivered a personal sermon, where he talked about Justin as a child and watching him grow into a man and now marry. I never cry. I just don't, but I couldn't fight back the happy tears at our wedding.
This makes me laugh every time I look at it. The moment where it becomes 'official'! Ahh!
I wore comfy glittered gold flats, purchased for $7 at Payless. Shh! Don't tell anyone.
We paid for our wedding ourselves, so we had to budget where we could. I bought a sample dress, I made our wedding invitations and we stocked the bar with liquor from Costco. Guess what? Our wedding was just as fabulous as we could've ever dreamed. Decide on your splurge items or your must-haves. Then, identify areas where you could save. It is NOT worth beginning your marriage in debt for a one-day celebration. In 20 years from now, you will not remember the upgraded linens, the favors or how may tiers your cake was. You'll remember how you felt...and maybe what your dress looked like.
5. Customize the Music
Justin and I are huge music lovers, and we ended up hand selecting every single song that was played from pre-ceremony to the last song of the night. We loved selecting songs that fit each stage of the wedding perfectly.
The families walked down to Elvis Presley's 'Can't Help Falling in Love'
The Bridal Party walked down to the Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows'-
As soon as we were pronounced husband and wife, we walked out hand in hand to Stevie Wonder's 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours'
These were some of our favorite songs and they meant something to us. Every now and again, my husband will play our song list from the wedding and it brings us right back to the big day.
6. Have a band...a GOOD band!
We had The Stolen Winnebago's perform, a local cover band. They were our one big splurge item and WELL worth the expense. They kept the dance floor packed all night with popular 80s, 90s and current hits and even some rap covers. Amazing!
It's easy to stress about the guest list, the budget, not offending any relatives and incorporating all of your closest friends. However, your wedding is about the start of your marriage. Nothing else. It is not worth putting undue stress on yourself, your partner or your family. Everyone commented about how laid-back I was throughout the entire wedding planning process and even the day of. Ultimately, it was because I stayed focused on the 'bigger picture', marrying my very best friend.
Justin surprise me by showing up clean-shavenHere are a few more photos (because I'm an excited newlywed)
My almost 87-year old great aunt and my mother-in-law helping hook all of the buttons down my dress
My dad stealing a look
Some of my beautiful girlfriends...and my crazy uncle up front
first official family portrait
ceremony all set
I will be back soon with a post about all of my DIY wedding projects and all the details!