Passionate Outdoor CeremonyChelsey's Story: "Jordan and I met at church and began dating in 2003. Two years later, he proposed to me at my parent's home because he knew that I'd always dreamed of being married there. To accomplish my vision of an elegant outdoor affair, my family worked overtime to prepare for the big day. The day of the wedding, we had vendors on-hand to take care of practically everything so my family could relax and enjoy this special event. The ceremony and reception were held under a beautiful tent set in our horse paddock overlooking the neighboring pastures. Some of the most touching moments were our grandfathers performing the ceremony and Jordan's father and sister singing 'The Prayer.'"
Check and double-check with your vendors: "A week before the wedding I called each vendor to make sure they knew what time to arrive, what they needed to bring and what we needed to have on site for them. You'll still have surprises, but prior planning can reduce the stress of the big day. If working with a rental company, ask to see photos of events they've completed, also ask for their suggestions when selecting items. Most rental companies have a ton of options and it can be hard to decide, so it's helpful to see photos and get their recommendations so you can narrow down your choices. Think of everything you'll have to provide for your vendors and guests. If you're planning an outdoor wedding, don't forget things that are not exactly pretty, but very necessary, like the port-a-potties. Read over the contract carefully to be sure everything you've asked for is listed and at the agreed upon price. Also, be clear on what condition the rented items need to be returned."
Be clear with your vendors about your expectations: "Also, discuss when they should be paid. If they'll be paid the day of the wedding, which most are, then have a designated person who will handle getting the money to the vendors."
Be organized: "This is a huge event and organization is absolutely necessary to pull it off. Constantly communicate with your vendors and assign tasks to reliable people for the day of the wedding. That way you can relax and enjoy the day. I was amazed at how smoothly the day went, but I owe it all to researching and selecting great vendors and having an organized plan for the day."
The photographs are forever, so select your photographer carefully: "Before selecting a photographer, really do your research. Look at several photographers' portfolios, websites and examples. Make a list of the poses you want and give it to the photographer before the wedding. Also, designate a friend to help corral family members and the wedding party for the formal pictures; it helps the photography process go much more quickly."
Long-Time Partners Make It OfficialTom and Steve's Story: "We are a gay male couple who have been happily together for 14 years. Three years ago, during the height of the debate about gay marriage, Steve proposed to me at a party surrounded by some of our closest friends. Because we both come from traditional Catholic families, we weren’t satisfied with simply a non-recognized 'commitment ceremony,' so we looked at other options for marrying legally. The best and closest option, because we live in Minnesota, was Canada. And it seemed somewhat fitting as my late father was born in Canada. We had visited Vancouver several times and decided that would be the location."
Find a talented wedding planner you can trust: "So, we'd picked our wedding destination, but how to plan a wedding 2000 miles away, in not only another city but another country? Searching the internet for a wedding planning service, we found the answer to our dilemma: a wedding planner named Matthew, better known as 'The Wedding Fairy' (sitting between us in the last photo). He was terrific! He took care of everything from securing the perfect location (a penthouse suite at a luxury hotel in downtown Vancouver) to finding the wedding commissioner to perform the ceremony to selecting the cake, the photographer and the flowers, the license, the wedding reception dinner and making plans for our honeymoon in Whistler."
Involve friends in your ceremony and invite them on the honeymoon: "We had planned to fly up to Vancouver with just a close friend or two and have a small ceremony. But as plans developed and our friends heard how much fun it was going to be, they asked if they could come along. Two weeks before the wedding we were up to 26 people for the wedding and 7 people planning to accompany us on the honeymoon!"
Wedding fairy to the rescue: "The restaurant where we planned to hold the wedding dinner canceled on us, saying they couldn’t handle a group of that size. No worries, once again it was 'Matthew to the rescue.' He found a new venue that was even better than the first. Everything went off very smoothly. Everyone we met was so warm and gracious to us and treated us like the married couple that we are, then later that year we bought a condo in Vancouver and now consider it our second home!"
Matrimony Miami Beach StyleAriana's Story: "My hippie parents couldn't for the life of them understand why I wanted to hire a videographer or even why I wanted such a "traditional" wedding to begin with. Needless to say, they enjoyed themselves at my wedding more than anyone and were the first to ask when the video is coming in! Throughout the whole planning process they questioned many of my decisions; it was especially painful at first because I wanted their support. Then I decided to look at it from the perspective that getting married is a more permanent separation from the nest, even if you haven't lived in the nest for a while. It's a natural and healthy progression in life to learn to stand on your own and make the big decisions. No matter how much your parents may question some of your wedding choices, in the end they will probably have the best time of their lives!"
Don't take on any last-minute coordinating tasks in the days leading up to your wedding: "The day of my rehearsal dinner my bridesmaids decided they wanted to get mani/pedis with me, which meant I ended up coordinating six mani/pedi appointments for which I was the main contact. The day of our salon visit, when the bridesmaids decided to cancel or were late for their appointment, I was the one to receive calls from the salon every ten minutes. It was a HUGE amount of unnecessary stress that I didn't need."
Hire a coordinator if you can possibly afford it: "This also gets filed under 'Don't believe your catering manager when they tell you that you don't need to hire a coordinator because they will handle everything.' The catering manager at the location of my reception told me that they would handle all the details — he didn't even show up the day of my wedding! Not only that, but even though our contract specified all the necessary event details, the location's staff still managed to screwed up just about every agreed upon detail. If it hadn't been for my coordinator, there would have been no one there to advocate for me and ensure that everything was set-up as the contract specified. She spent almost the whole day running around putting out fires the location staff started and I can't imagine what would have happened if she hadn't been there!"
Hire the best photographer you can afford even if it means skimping on albums or prints. "Once the ceremony and reception have ended, your photos and videos are all you will have to remember your big day. The images themselves are what are important, don't worry about a fancy album, you can always have one made later — but you can never recapture your wedding day!"
Look over your contracts very carefully: "For some reason, my contract with the florist specified only 3 boutonnieres for groomsmen — we needed 4. I totally missed it when I signed the contract, but luckily my florist was able to improvise on the spot. I got lucky — read and re-read your contracts."
Planning PerfectedDelcie's Story: "My husband is a huge fan of classic cars. As a tribute to our dads, a special uncle and a close family friend who are all 'Ford' guys, we had a classic car processional of Fords from the ceremony to the reception. There were five total with us leading the parade in a convertible T-bird. We were followed by three convertible Sun-liners for the bridal party and the parents at the end in my Dad’s hard-top 1960 T-bird, which he finished in time for the big day. What a special memory! Even though my first reaction to his request was, 'Old cars smell like exhaust!' All-in-all there was nothing like cruising up Second Street with the tops down and people spilling out of bars and restaurants to yell, 'Congratulations!' and cheer us on."
Pick a theme, it can be anything, what's important is that it shares a little part of you with your guests: "I used a photo theme for our wedding. I love to take pictures and scrapbook so I made my own table numbers using photos from our travels. I made photo save-the-date cards and used a photo for the cover of our wedding program and for our CD favors. We placed photos from our engagement shoot on the candy buffet table and used a photo mat as our guest book. At the reception, we showed a slideshow of my husband and me from childhood until our engagement. I received so many complements on all the personal touches; it was great to know that my hard work didn’t go unnoticed."
Hire a "day of" coordinator: "The last thing you need to worry about on your wedding day is the little details. Spend the money and hire someone to take care of it all for you. You’ll be glad you did! And when your day arrives, the planning is over. If something has been forgotten, there is nothing you can do about it. You have done all you can and the most important thing is that you are marrying the love of your life. None of the rest of it matters! Have fun because it only happens once and it goes by so fast, when it’s over you’ll wonder how you missed it!"
Select your photographer carefully: "When the ceremony is over, all you have are the photos to go with your precious memories. So, do a lot of research and interview several photographers before selecting the perfect one for your special day. Also, be sure that a bridesmaid has a list of 'must have' poses so that one is forgotten, someone, who isn’t you, will remember it. Also, ask your bridesmaids to help organize family members for photos so they go quickly and smoothly."
Planned by a ProAmanda's Tips:
Hire a wedding planner: "Details, details, details! No matter how much of a micro-manager you may think you are, nothing can prepare you for managing the multitude of details involved in pulling off the perfect wedding."
Splurge on a great caterer: "They can make or break your reception because they are involved in all those little details, like dressing the tables and the food presentation."
Ask vendors you trust to recommend others: "For example, ask the event coordinator at your location to recommend florists, caterers, bakers and musicians. They will know from experience who is good and who to avoid."
"Most importantly, if you are the bride or groom, let all those potential hiccups roll right off your back and take time to enjoy your wonderful day!"
Personalize Your Big DayMadeline's Story: "We wanted to make our wedding day truly a reflection of us. So many of our friends had planned their wedding details around pleasing their parents, brothers, sisters — you name it. Instead, we focused our wedding planning on how we envisioned our perfect day and making sure the wedding 'felt like us.' From the ceremony to the reception, our guests commented that all the little details combined to create a day that felt really personalized, truly like it was Madeline and Chad's wedding and no one else's."
Hire a "day of" wedding coordinator: "While my husband originally thought this was a frivolous idea, in the end he was grateful that we had one. Having a 'day of' wedding coordinator to handle all of the small details on my big day allowed me, my bridesmaids and family to relax and enjoy the day. Rather than assigning duties to each of the bridesmaids, we were able to just hang out in my bridal suite, getting ready together and having fun. That exciting time before the ceremony, surrounded by my friends and family, was one of the most memorable parts of the day. Everyone kept remarking that they couldn't believe how calm I was, I can truly say it's because I knew our wedding coordinator was worrying about the details at that point and I could just relax and enjoy!"
Be considerate of your guests: "While the day is ultimately 'your big day,' don't forget the reason you are throwing the reception — so your closest friends and family can celebrate with you. When planning details make sure you consider your guests' wants and needs as well. Keep them in mind when planning all the little details, from the food to the speeches (keep them short!), to the location (is there adequate parking?); you will enjoy the day more if you know that your guests are well taken care of."
Take in every moment: "Everyone says the day goes by too quickly — and it does! If you have a lot of out-of-town guests, take advantage of the days they are visiting and plan to spend time with them before the day of the wedding. The wedding day is such a whirlwind that you won't get quality time with anyone. Another good tip for capturing the mood and good times of the day is to put disposable cameras on the reception tables. Sure, the photo quality isn't that great, but your friends and family will take so many pricelessly funny photos that you may have missed otherwise."