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This post is a bit different from my other posts. For one thing, this post is about my wedding planning while being part of the wedding industry for the past ten years as a photographer and not about my experiences solely on the job. I was an actual bride! When Todd (my husband) gave me a perfect “Love American Style” 70’s vintage ring and asked me to marry him almost three years ago, I was so excited about everything and thought my wedding planning would be a cinch. Boy, was I wrong! The easy task was picking out my vendors whom I had worked with on my past weddings. Being a wedding photographer gave me the unique experience of seeing so many different vendors work in so many wonderful venues, I really had a clear idea of which vendors I wanted for my wedding. That was a breeze. The hard part was dealing with all the stress and dedicating the time, effort and creativity in planning all the details. Was it all worth it? Well, my husband and I had a blast and we both received tons of compliments from our loved ones.’ So, yes it was worth it! But if you would have asked me the same question about one week from the wedding, I might have given you a different answer. Last minute changes, the weather and family dynamics made the last two weeks of planning a stressful nightmare. And I finally understood the benefits of a simple City Hall wedding or just going to Vegas and getting married in the Chapel of Love by Elvis. But in the end, the weather was perfect and everything came together. I learned a thing or two about planning weddings that I can pass on to my clients’ and now I fully understand what it means to plan your own wedding and to be a bride. Below are some things I learned throughout the process, and a few were total surprises! And all pictures were from my great friend, mentor and photographer, Jeremy Lawson.
Schedule enough time for any DIY projects
When I first booked my venue (a great outdoor, rustic courtyard 3 blocks away from our new house), I wanted to DIY everything! And then reality set in. The first DIY project actually took about 6 months to complete and that was really all I could handle. I DIY-ed 18 white burlap runners with different trims bought from a discounted sewing store in my neighborhood. The runners took more time than expected after measuring the material, cutting the burlap in a straight line (something I can’t quite master) and hot gluing the trims until most of my fingers had hot-glue burns. In fact, I finished the last runner a couple of days before the wedding and by that time I was so over with the whole DIY thing. I did love the completed look and my friends kept commenting on my tablescape. But, all in all, it really ate up lots of time and I didn’t schedule accordingly. My suggestion is to start on your DIY projects early, get help and work on everything every weekend, or save time by buying your décor on sites like Wedding Recycle or Etsy. Buying décor items will cost you more money, but in the end, it may save you some time.
Guests notice details!
I went overboard on my details. I had chalkboard signs, marquee signs, mis-matched vintage china and depression glasses, customized cocktail stirrers, personalized BBQ towels, vintage napkins and coasters, printed ceremony bags with confetti, white doors with hanging flowers for my ceremony and the list goes on. My overall theme was fun, rustic and artistic. And I spent so much time researching ideas on Pinterest, collaborating with my vendors and going to thrift stores to find my vintage décor items. In the end, my guests noticed everything! So for me, the time was well spent. I know from photographing my clients’ weddings, how important details are and some people think that details are less important. For me, I think wedding details bring a whole look and style together and only add to the ambiance of the night. In my 10 years of photographing weddings, I have never heard of a wedding guest complaining about the details. I have only overheard gracious compliments and appreciation.
Vendor responsiveness matters!
I hate saying this, but the email responsiveness from many potential vendors was unacceptable. Now, I am not talking about the vendors I had already chosen from the Chicago wedding industry. I am talking about other décor vendors who I contacted through a Google search or review. The response time ranged from 2 hours to 2 weeks! What was a complete surprise is that some vendors never responded at all after I had contacted them numerous times. Since planning weddings is stressful enough, I ended up choosing vendors that had a great response rate so I didn’t have to worry about hearing back from them if there was a problem or when details needed confirming. Again, a few of the vendors were pricier than the ones’ whose response time was lagging, but the extra money was worth it. The last thing I wanted to worry about was whether my linens or chairs would be delivered on time, so I picked the vendors that I could trust and the ones’ that were proven professionals.
Everybody loves quirky entertainment!
For our wedding, my husband hired a female, Elvis impersonator. Her name was Patty Elvis and she was a huge hit. She karaoked about six Elvis songs and kicked off our dancing, which turned out to be pretty ridiculous. After she was done with her performance, my guests’ stood in line to take selfies with her and the whole thing was so much fun for everyone. In my travels and work, I have seen wedding performances by college mascots, hip-hop and Latin dancers, acapella singers, Bollywood performers, or the bride and groom doing a choreographed, funky dance together. Whatever the performance, the guests’ loved every moment and the whole scene sets the tone for the rest of the evening.
Enjoy every moment!
I always tell this to my brides, “Enjoy every moment because your day goes by so fast.” And now, I really understand why it’s so important to take breathers during your wedding day and take in everything. I blinked and my day was over! My only regret is not taking enough time to look around and soak it all in. On your wedding day and especially during the reception, you are pulled in about 15 different directions every second and the whole entire time you are running around talking to everyone, dancing, running around, dancing, eating a little and then running around again. So, it’s sometimes difficult during the day to stay quiet for a little and appreciate everything that you have accomplished and the love around you. To me, this is most important thing you can do for yourself on your wedding day. And the rest will work itself out!