Grandeur in a Gated GardenNatalie's Story: "Aaron and I were married at a grand, gated estate in Point Loma. Our wedding was a late afternoon garden ceremony with dinner at dusk, under the soft glow of luminaries and amber lights."
Consider your wedding’s environment: "Ask yourself, how do I want my environment to feel? Warm and inviting? Cool and refreshing? Elegant and plush? Rustic and ecclectic? Ornate and royal? That will help you hone in on what you really want. For us, we wanted our environment to be a big green field in the fall with leaves and a crisp autumn breeze, all with a dash of elegance. We had to make some compromises to get that in San Diego and still be near the beach (for photos) but we were able to work it all out."
Comfort is key: "Choose a dress that you are comfortable in. Make sure it doesn't squeeze you too much, that you can walk, that you won't fuss over it at all; same thing with shoes. Make sure they're comfy. You don't want to spend your wedding day worrying about anything but the loved ones around you and the love between you and your fiancée. Same goes for the groom, he should be comfortable too. Get a tux, suit, kilt, whatever, that he will be comfortable in. He should be able to forget all about what he's wearing when his beautiful bride-to-be comes floating down the aisle."
Sentimental SweetheartsSimone's Story: "When I walked down the aisle, I only looked at my soon-to-be husband, not at the wedding guests along the aisle. Tim took one look at me and started crying. It was sweet."
Focus on what is right, not wrong: "Everything will not be perfect. Something will go wrong. You have been planning all the tiny details of your wedding for so long and are so close to it that only you will notice the imperfections, we had plenty of them. Everyone else will have a ball, so don’t sweat it. Just smile and keep moving and laugh at it later."
Remember to eat: "You’re so busy milling around you may forget!"
Practice your smile and remember to smile all day: "The photographer and all of the guests are snapping away, smile because you don’t want any photos with weird faces. Also try to eat gracefully because people are taking pictures literally all day long, like paparazzi!"
Keep track of wedding cards and gift money: "When you receive cards containing cash at the reception, write how much was given on the back. We did not do that and now wish that we had. We got hundreds of cards at the wedding which we assume contained money, but now we are not sure who gave how much."
Give each other gifts the morning of: "I gave Tim a monogrammed pocket watch with a quote from our favorite song, and he wrote me a love letter. It was cute to get a gift the morning of the ceremony to center me. I was nervous before!"
Classic Elegance in Chocolate and BrownCaroline's Story: "Casey and I both wanted our wedding to be a classic, elegant affair. It was magnificent, in chocolate brown and ivory, with a touch of ice blue details. It was beyond what I could have ever dreamed my wedding would be."
Make sure you can dance (and walk!) in your dress: "Mine weighed almost 17 pounds, and I think I got the best work out of my life dancing all night in that thing."
Get along with parents and in-laws: "Planning a wedding can be very stressful for some brides. Keep things in perspective and understand that you may have to compromise on the little things. Try your best to be flexible and creative."
Take pictures before the wedding ceremony: "I know many people would argue with me on this one, but I was so happy that I took this advice. My husband, Casey, and I met in a private room before pictures began, so we were able to have that tearful, emotional moment of the first glance at each other. We then went into two hours of pictures while my makeup was fresh, and our smiles were strong. I didn't feel right making guests wait in between the ceremony and reception, nor did I want to miss half of the reception by taking pictures. We were so pleased that we could spend every moment of the wedding and reception with our guests."
Culturally Astute in ChicagoLaurie's Story: "Mike and I had our reception at the Chicago Cultural Center. We had cocktails in the GAR Rotunda and dinner and dancing in Preston Bradley Hall, which is home to the world's largest Tiffany stained glass dome."
Do a receiving line: "As cheesy as you may think it is, it will allow you to enjoy your reception instead of making sure you stop and speak at every table."
Present something to each of your mothers during the ceremony: "Mike and I presented an antiqued ornament with a black and white photo printed on the ceramic to each of our mothers. The photo was of our mothers' mothers on their wedding day. It was very emotional but well worth the sentiment."
Take dance lessons: "Originally, we were doing it mostly for fun and partly because my husband was concerned that he couldn't dance. By the end we felt so comfortable dancing that we decided to 'wow the crowd' with a surprise choreographed number that went from waltz to swing!"
Love is the ThemeAbby's Story: "Our wedding took place on Feb. 11th, 2006, so I wanted it be themed around 'love' but I did not want the wedding to be Valentine's Day theme-y. I decided to go with the colors pink and brown."
Show your personality: "I think that I am a very creative person, so I wanted that creative side to show in my wedding. My mother and I did all the planning and came up with the decorative ideas ourselves. For example, traditionally a wedding reception has a single centerpiece duplicated on every table, but I decided that I wanted to come up with a different centerpiece idea for each table. It took a little more time and energy for both the florist and me, but the outcome was spectacular. I also didn't want to have a traditional layered wedding cake, so instead I opted for a cake buffet, where I designed each cake myself and we got to have six different flavors of cakes! The guests loved it and most wanted to sample more than one flavor."
Keep your perspective: "We had numerous little things go wrong during the planning stages, which you should expect to happen. However, when I got sick and ended up in the hospital with appendicitis exactly one week before the wedding, all of a sudden everything was put into perspective. The goal of the week leading up to the wedding became getting me strong enough to stand up and walk down the aisle, instead of worrying about whether or not we were going to line the aisles with flowers. I think the fact that I had to stop, relax and de-stress made our big day easier to handle, because I actually did take time to 'stop and smell the flowers' instead of stressing over if they were the right color of flowers!"
Guard your memories: "I wanted to remember every little thing about my wedding, but as it is often told, the day goes by in such a blur that that becomes hard to do. A friend gave me a journal which I wrote in all through the engagement, and I took it with me on our honeymoon. During the long flight to Thailand I got a great start in documenting every little detail of the day that I could remember, and by the time we returned from our honeymoon I had finished my memory 'novel' of our special day — almost 30 pages! Yet even now, only one year later, as I go back and read what I wrote I am so glad I recorded my thoughts right away because there are so many little details and feelings that would've slipped through the cracks if I hadn't."
End with a bang: "Unbeknownst to us, my brother had spent all day making a rickshaw to take us to our hotel after the wedding. The seat collapsed when we got in and it took six guys to fix it. And my brother basically dragged us six blocks to the hotel, but it was an hilarious ending to a day we will never forget!"
A Reception With SurprisesStephanie's Story: "Both Todd and I have always loved the beach, so when we were deciding on where to get married there was no question about it being anywhere but the beach. We wanted it to be a memorable, elegant affair but with a beach setting where our out-of-town guests could also enjoy a mini-vacation."
Surprise each other: "Without even knowing it, both my husband and I both had planned a surprise for each other to be revealed at our reception. I surprised my husband with a Fireman Groom's cake, which is his occupation. I knew he would think that was special and there were several of his coworkers at the wedding that I knew would think it was neat, too. For his surprise to me, my husband wrote and recorded a song for me to be played during our first dance song as husband and wife. Beyond that, he had been working with our videographer in making a professional music video of him singing and recording the song which is what he surprised me with as our first dance at the reception. It was so special and such a surprise that I cried through the whole thing. For your big day, plan on doing just a little something to let your honey know that he or she is special; it will make the day even more memorable."
Go crazy with color: "We used a lot of color in our wedding: From the invitations to the flowers, everything had color. It just made everything pop! We had so many comments about how beautiful everything looked and it was because it all stood out in vibrant color."
Spend time with out-of-town guests after the wedding: "Have a lot of out-of-town guests? If you do, plan your wedding not just as a 'day' but as an entire weekend. We planned our rehearsal on Thursday evening and our wedding on Friday evening, which left us with Saturday and Sunday to relax and spend extra time with our family and friends. We waited until Tuesday to leave for our honeymoon so we could enjoy a few days to relax, repack and not feel rushed to get out of town."