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Best Decisions Ever For The Best Day Ever

10 Tips From A Do-It-Yourself, 2018 Bride

You can plan a dream wedding in nine months – I speak from experience. After our engagement on July 11, 2017, Brad and I hit the ground running. Okay, maybe it was me dragging him a bit, but his excitement takes a little longer to build. We solidified our venue just one month later and my brain was officially in bride mode. It was all Pinterest boards and checklists – organized chaos. There are so many decisions to be made, and it can be overwhelming to say the least. But I am sharing the ones I never looked back on that really paid off. Because spoiler alert, weddings are expensive!

"Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning."

-Gloria Steinem

1. Pick a venue and caterer as a package deal. Narrowing down a vineyard from over 250 was overwhelming. Finding a location that included a caterer simplified things. Lucky for us, Bluemont Vineyard partners with one of Virginia’s best, Savoir Fare Limited. In my opinion, it is much less stressful when venue and catering staff are familiar with working together and communicating (one less thing for the bride/groom to coordinate is a total win). Plus, the caterer is obviously a wedding pro – meaning the food is customizable, unique and picture perfect. At the time of our first visit, we were able to estimate the cost of our wedding since both big budget items – venue and catering – were wrapped up in one cost.​​

2. Add grab-and-go desserts to the menu.

It is no secret that cupcakes, donuts and other small treats are currently trending. We opted for my favorite – cupcakes, paired with Brad’s favorite – macarons, and worked with the always amazing Kupcakes & Co. to create custom designs and even flavors. We ordered enough for two per guest. I had visions of towers of treats being left at the end of the night, so we had a stack of to-go containers waiting in the wings. But all that was left were crumbs. Grab-and-go treats are a huge hit! Our mini cake was just for show – we actually never cut it, we’re saving that for our one-year anniversary.

3. Design your own centerpiece.

Flowers themselves are expensive. Add in event rentals and you will quickly blow any budget. Save yourself some cash by opting for your own vases and/or display pieces. Instead of paying five dollars per vase to rent, I purchased a case of quart mason jars from Michaels for fourteen dollars (using a coupon) and provided them to our floral designer, Affordable Arrangements, who embellished them with jute. Oriental Trading is also a great source for bulk items – the burlap circles I used were five dollars for a pack of twenty-five. I set those atop the base, a pre-stained wood plaque, also, from Michaels (and used more coupons). To finish it off, I printed some of our engagement photos from MISA ME Photography, mounted them on kraft paper leftover from our invitations, and used wooden card holders to display them in the centerpiece. With a little creativity and minimal cost, you can personalize your tables – plus have some décor pieces leftover for future parties!

More to come on our DIY table numbers shown in the centerpiece.

4. Don’t be afraid to break from tradition.

We wanted the day to feel more like a party where we happened to get married. In order to accomplish that, we decided to strip away many wedding traditions. I already mentioned we skipped the cake cutting. There were also no speeches from the wedding party (you’re welcome Kelly and Brian!), but instead a quick “welcome” toast from me and Brad and a prayer from my Dad before dinner. We invited our parents to join us during our first dance in place of the traditional father/daughter and mother/son dances and then opened the dance floor. And maybe the biggest shock of all – I did not wear white.

5. Do a first look.

Rule number one of breaking from tradition – it is okay for the bride and groom to see one another pre-ceremony. Opting for a first look allows the photographer to capture raw emotion up-close and personal in a very sweet moment. As a bonus, you get extra time for portraits and cut into less time post-ceremony allowing you to enjoy part of cocktail hour with your guests. For me, getting the first round of teary-eyed, heart-racing, butterflies out of the way made the walk down the even more exciting.

6. Consider writing your own vows.

Creativity does not lend itself to formal wedding vows. Going the route of repeating after the officiant did not seem authentic to us nor our love story. So, Brad and I made it personal. Neither one of us knew what the other would say – we simply agreed on a time limit. We both ended up mixing silliness with seriousness and it felt natural. Formal wedding vows are no less meaningful, but when the words are your own the moment is unforgettable for you and your guests.

7. Have your guests “unplug” for the ceremony.

It is the age of social media – and I love it just as much you. But I also live for the moments we forget it exists. I did not want Instagram seeing me and Brad get married before we even finished our vows, or our guests missing out on the words we poured our hearts into because they were fumbling with their smartphone camera. So, thanks to a few clever words and my Cricut machine, I designed a custom vinyl chalkboard sign. Everyone “unplugged” resulting in an intimate person celebration filled with happy tears and laughter among 130 people. But do not be alarmed – photos were welcomed at the reception where the sign flipped to read, “share the love” with our wedding hashtag.

8. Reserve a seat for Mother Nature.

They say it is good luck if it rains on your wedding day – name me one bride who actually believes that, I’ll wait. Naturally, we worried about April showers. We never thought we would be wishing away snow storms hours before our big day. The snow held off, but it was a brisk 38-degrees on our supposedly spring wedding day at ceremony time. Our guests, bless their hearts, bundled up to brave the cold in coats, scarfs and gloves for our outdoor ceremony. We had to move our cocktail hour, originally planned for outside, into the reception space. The only loss – our custom and homemade yard games did not get much action. The lesson here is that mother nature is unpredictable (no matter the season), so make sure inclement weather plans are in place and do not make you feel like your beautiful day was ruined.

9. Show your feet some love.

It is a long day. You will probably dance a lot – you will definitely stand a lot. Be sweet to your feet! I assure you it is possible to find the perfect combination of comfort and style. I cannot promise it won’t take you seven pairs of shoes ordered before you find it. After a long search, I went with a medium-height, chunky-heeled, strappy dress sandal. My feel never hurt and I have totally paired them with some business casual looks post-wedding. Think about it…chances are your dress covers your shoes anyway.

10. Finish the honeymoon at home.

After a two-part honeymoon in Whistler and Vancouver we retreated home for a four-day staycation before heading back to reality. It is the best decision we made. Weddings are fun – but if we are being honest, wedding planning is stressful, the wedding day is emotionally exhausting, and honeymoons are a whirlwind. Retreating back home allows for much needed time to settle back in. Time to unpack everything you left behind from the big day, open gifts and cards, and catch back up on life – do laundry, grocery shop and watch all the things piled up on your DVR. It is simply time to take a deep breath and enjoy your new status as Mr. and Mrs.

Our wedding truly was the “best day ever.”

Wedding Details

Venue: Bluemont Vineyard // Photography: MISA ME Photography // Desserts: Kupcakes & Co. // Floral Design: Affordable Arrangements // Dress: Mac Duggal // Jewelry: Kendra Scott // Shoes: Sam Edelman // Makeup + Hair: Infinity Artistry // Suit: Calvin Klein // Bow tie + Pocket Square: Etsy // Cornhole Boards: Bmore Corny // Event Design + Decor: Peace of Burlap

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