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Planning Your Big Day

flowers I chose

Planning your own wedding is no joke. Don't get me wrong, I loved it, but it was a lot of decision making that really only I could do. I wanted to share some tips for you that will hopefully make the process a little more understandable. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions that I may have missed! Make a cup of coffee and enjoy, it's a long one!

1. Set a Budget & Picking a Day: Before you go ahead and start planning your 200 person dream wedding, know about how much you have to spend. This seems like it would be an easy thing to figure out but it is quite difficult reaching out for help sometimes. I'm not saying to reach out and ask for enough money to support your ideal, huge wedding. This means to get an estimate from your family members on about how much they can help you with so you know how many mouths you're feeding, then you can get into the details of your wedding.

Once you announce your engagement, you may think that people would be flying at you offering to help out, but this may not always be the case. Don't be afraid to reach out. Don't wait too long though, the sooner, the better. If it is too much for your families, talk about everyone saving up for about 6 months and then start planning your wedding. Once you have an estimate on how much your wedding can cost, you can start with the details.

This brings me to picking a day. I had NO idea when I wanted to get married. A lot of it had to do with time of year. I either wanted a fall, winter or spring wedding. Indecisive, I know. Basically, I live in South Florida so summer was out of the question. Dave and I were visiting my family in Massachusetts and we were talking about our wedding together and I basically took a calendar and started deciding. I chose a spring wedding because I love pastels and wanted to have a lighter colored wedding opposed to bright. I felt like spring was a good time of year in Florida to get married, and the pastels just go really well, too. If you have a significant day picked out, then more power to you!

Dave and I chose to have it on Earth Day. I thought it was adorable, I loved the idea of it and a million of ideas starting coming in. I was excited and my family was, too, so I knew that was the day.

When I was picking a vendor, I kept an open mind about them not having that day available. Earth Day was on a Friday that year and that day is pretty popular for a wedding. If your day is specific, then this is something to consider when looking at venues. Also, it was cheaper to do it Friday opposed to having it on Saturday, so that was good.

2. Pick a Theme: Celebrating your engagement is one of those milestone moments in your life where you can't wait to get started and is super overwhelming all at the same time. Those are the best kind of moments, right? Well, don't let that feeling of having to do a million things scare you away. Start small. If you are one of those girls that likes an array of things, like me, try narrowing down your ideas first. If you have a Pinterest board (you probably do, if not, get one) for your wedding, start there. Do you notice a theme in your board? Do you keep going for one particular look more than others? That is probably your gut talking to you saying, "You love this theme the best, stick with that.". My theme that I kept envisioning was more of a vintage setting. The engagement ring that my fiancé picked out for me has a vintage design to it, my heart always goes to that antique, unique design. There are so many different ways you can go with a wedding. There is no one way of doing it. Mix themes up. Like that vintage look but with a whimsical feel.

3. Buy a Wedding Planner: Now that you have an idea of what kind of theme you'd like for your wedding, and a budget, you can start to narrow down specifics. A wedding planner is a great thing to have because you can use it as a solid, final copy rather than a collaboration of ideas. You want your wedding planner to have almost final ideas because it can become confusing if you still have too much going on (indecisiveness is what your Pinterest board is for). I kept important things in my wedding planner such as contact information (vendors and guests), floral arrangement ideas, color theme, bridesmaid dresses + color, wedding dress ideas (one or two styles + brands), budget for each category, tablescape ideas (one or two ideas for long, farm style tables, in my case), stationary options, seating arrangement for day-of coordinator, etc.. Having a wedding planner for budget was the best thing in my opinion. I kept all my contracts to my vendors in it so I knew exactly how much I owed to each vendor. Some vendors want you to pay them at the wedding, some allow you to do it after the wedding, some you have to have it paid before your wedding day. This is a good place to keep track of all that because boy, it added up. I linked the wedding planner I used below. Thanks, Jan ;)

4. Picking Your Vendors & Wedding Party: For some reason, this one was fairly easy for me. Fairly. As far as the venue itself goes, I knew what kind of theme I wanted so that narrowed it down. It was a vintage theme with a whimsical feel so I knew I wanted a historic building with lots of charm and an amazing outdoor setting. I didn't want a beach wedding or to be inside of a ballroom hall either. This narrowed my search down. I searched on the internet for historical venues in my area and came across a few options. I looked up reviews, photos, whether they catered themselves or if I had to get an outside caterer, what the venue would provide as far as plating, linens, chairs and tables. My venue has a time and noise restriction so that was another thing. Does your venue provide a venue coordinator, a day of wedding coordinator and how much extra? The biggest thing to look at is pricing. What was included in the total package? If you are getting married outdoors like I did, make sure they have a backup plan and what it looks like if the weather takes a turn for the worse. Also, how far in advance do they contact you to let you know? Will it be extra?

Picking the photographer was the biggest for me. I am obsessed with photography, so I already knew what kind of "look" I wanted for our wedding photos. When you look up different photographers, you'll know what I mean by that. Every photographer has a certain way they take their photos, and edits them. I like that bright and airy look so I focused on that when looking at their portfolio, and of course, their price point. How long are they going to stay for? Planning this out was based on what kind of photos I wanted. Paying from the getting ready photos all the way to the exiting photos is a LONG time. Since most photographers are by the hour, I chose to do getting ready photos until the cake cutting. I am not a huge fan of nighttime photos and I didn't have a grand exit of any sort so I knew I could save money on the photographer by not worrying about them being there for the full duration of the wedding. This is something to consider. This way I have until the cake and also a bunch of people dancing on the dance floor ;)

The florist was also fairly easy. I have a thing for flowers and already knew what kind of flowers and style I wanted. My florist offered some free things as well like a separate bouquet to toss. I told my florist what kind of flowers I wanted to work with and she sent me a powerpoint of them so I could confirm (pictured above). I told her the different shades of pastel that I wanted and that I wanted peonies, succulents, garden roses and black and white anemones to be included. I knew I wanted long tables as opposed to round tables so I had eucalyptus garland with flowers as a runner down the long tables with small vases of flowers throughout instead of a larger, single flower arrangement in the center.

At this point you should know how many tables you will be needing so they know how many arrangements/flowers they will need. Your venue will let you know how many people to each table if they are the ones providing it. It is definitely something you can look into easily. She suggested using the bridesmaid bouquets and repurpose them for the decor on the tables that will be in the courtyard of the venue. I love these high tops for a place for people to eat their hors d'oeuvres. This is specific to our venue but it might trigger an idea for something similar. For example, decorating a mantel, cake table, card/gift table. When picking flowers, go for ones that are in season. This will save you money.

For food, my venue has its own catering service right in the venue so I did not have to look elsewhere for food. It was a separate price but only because of the options we could choose from. The caterer also provided the liquor and beer which was included in the final price. Food was VERY important to me. It's one of the biggest things your guests will remember too...crazy, huh? "The bride and groom were fabulous and that meal was excellent!" means it was a great wedding! I didn't meet with a lot of my vendors beforehand, but we definitely did a food tasting. Picking a wedding cake was one of the easiest things I did. I didn't really have a huge idea on what I wanted, I just knew I wanted a classic, three-tiered cake with flowers. Luckily, my florist and my cake artist knew each other so it was easy for them to communicate on the look of the cake together. We chose a banana nutella wedding cake with buttercream frosting! YUM! My sister-in-law is Gluten intolerant so I made sure I have a separate cake for her to enjoy! Something you want to consider if you have anyone with allergies attending your wedding. This goes for your dinner as well!

Other vendors to consider are your DJ (or band) and whether they will be doing your ceremony music as well, or if you need to hire someone else to play at your ceremony. We did a string quartet for our ceremony so the DJ didn't take over until the hors d'oeuvres were being served.

For our stationary, I did it myself on Our Save The Date, Wedding Invitations, Thank You Cards, Escort Cards and Menus were all done online. This saved me a ton of money. I got a copy of the final menu from the caterer and just designed it myself online on Minted. Our place cards on our reception tables were the only thing that I did not do. Our florist also does calligraphy so she hand wrote our place cards for a more formal look. You can hire a calligrapher to do most of your stationary but it is more pricey.

Hair and makeup was a big decision. Some girls opt to do their trial the day before to get their money worth to use for the rehearsal dinner. Whatever you do, make sure you know exactly what you are receiving for you and your girls. For example, lashes. Are they included? Will they stay to do touch-ups? Do they do air-brush? Have photos ready of hair and makeup to show them! Take photos of your hair and makeup after the trial so they can duplicate it the day of. I wore a button down shirt for my trial so I didn't have to pull my shirt over my head after.

Keep an open-mind about picking vendors. There are SO many different ones you can choose from, depending on where you live of course. Keep in mind that they do book pretty far in advance from your date so leave time to book them. Pick a few that you really like in your budget and go from there. Do they provide the flowers and theme you are looking for? What are their policies? Look at portfolios and reviews!

I wrote down a few vendors I liked from each category I needed and then dug a little deeper until I picked one. My husband did the same thing for the DJ and I did everything else.

We asked our wedding party after we booked our venue. We had some people that lived further away that we wanted in our wedding so we waited to make sure that they could attend before we asked everyone else. You can obviously approach this anyway you'd like, but I wanted to share how we popped the question to our wedding party! We made them gifts as a way to ask if they'd take on the responsibilities as bridesmaids and groomsmen, MOH and Best Man, and accept our "Will you be my..." gifts. The gifts are pictured above. They items were meant to be used on the day of the wedding as a more meaningful way of celebrating with each other! Clink!

5. Choosing a Wedding Dress and Bridesmaid Dresses: Do not wait to buy a wedding dress, do it while you are picking your vendors! You may not know this but it takes MONTHS for your wedding dress to come in. If you wait too long, you won't have enough time for it to come in or get those alterations that you'll probably need. Picking my wedding dress was the most difficult thing for me. I ended up picking one and then begging for them to let me switch it! I went with way too many people the first time and it was just too many opinions. I knew what I wanted and what I didn't want but I couldn't find it all in one dress so I compromised. Pick a dress you feel beautiful in and you can move in. I knew I didn't want a strapless dress because I can't stand the idea of having to hike it up all night so that narrowed it a little bit. I am very petite so I didn't want a ball gown either. Don't try on too many dresses, pick a style you really like and see if it looks good on you. If you don't like it on you, move on to a different style. Sometimes what you imagine in your head is different than what it looks like on, but your gut is usually right. Look around online at dresses that you can find in store and call to see if they're available first! I didn't know what "brand" I wanted my dress to be, just what I wanted it to look like. Searching the brand of the dress that is in your price range will allow you to search bridal shops in your area to see if they carry that brand. Then you can ask them if they carry the dress you are looking at. You want to do as much as possible without going to a bunch of stores and trying on a bunch of dresses, basically. I knew what I wanted my bridesmaid dresses to be before almost anything else. I wanted that vintage look to match the theme and something sparkly! I chose one dress in different shades of pastel to compliment the whimsical feel I was going for. Best decision. Your bridesmaid dresses don't have to be the same. Have fun! Mix and match different styles or colors. Pick one dress in different shades or different dresses in a similar shade. Since I was doing the same dress in different shades, I searched places like Poshmark and Ebay for discounted dresses and let the girls know where they can get it for cheaper. I found out their sizes and did some research for them. They all bought their dresses at a much cheaper price than retail except one girl who bought it full price. The dress I chose is very popular for a bridesmaid dress so it was easy to find it at a discounted price! Doing a different dress in a similar shade is perfect for this as well because there isn't one particular dress your looking for so it allows you to have more options. Since I did the same dress for all my girls, I wanted to do a floral crown for my maid-of-honor so she would be different. I also thought about doing a pastel, floral print dress with the colors of the other girls dresses in there, but I went with the floral crown because she LOVES the dress I originally picked out (so do I).

6. Husband and Groomsmen: Having your dress and girls dresses picked out, getting all the major vendors booked, and having more of an idea of what your wedding will look like is the biggest stretch. My husband and I discussed what we wanted the guys to look like, we agreed, and he chose everything for him and his groomsmen. This saved me a lot of stress as well. He was in charge of his guys and the DJ. Delegate, girl! I didn't know what the tuxedos would look like until just recently! I trust him though. He went with BLACK by Vera Wang! I am so impressed. We agreed on a classic black and white look for the guys. My husband will have an all white button down shirt, white tie and white vest combo as opposed to his groomsmen who will have a white button down shirt, black tie and black vest. I was concerned since my girls will be in pastels that it would clash with the black and white, so I chose to incorporate the black and white with a flower in the bridesmaid's bouquet. The black and white anemone flower is a classic choice and ties everything together!

7. The Little Things: There are so many fun details you can do with your wedding! From DIY projects to different food stations, the possibilities are insane. At this point, you'll have a better idea of how much money you have left to spend on the details. I went with a vintage key that is also a bottle opener as wedding favors. I found them in bulk on Etsy (love) and they are inexpensive and useful. Personalizing your wedding is really up to you. Keep it simple and save money wherever you can. Don't have too many projects though because trust me, you'll have enough to do already. I had one of my bridesmaids help me with my DIY project. I bought those inexpensive flip flops from Old Navy in white in different sizes (a couple in each size), marked the size with a sharpie, and tied them together with a piece of string and stuck them in a basket. I want the women to be able to take off their heels if they want to without getting their feet dirty while dancing. This DIY project only cost me $30. Another thing I did was buy my bridesmaids and MOH mini champagne bottles as a way to ask them if they'd be my bridesmaid (pictured above)! I tied a straw to them and we will pop them open while we are getting ready the morning of the wedding! They are little enough to celebrate, but not get tipsy! Perfect! I decided to do a wedding globe as a guestbook. I only have a 55 person wedding so this was a good option for me, and my wedding is on Earth Day so it was meaningful. I found a white, vintage looking bird cage at Michael's for our card holder. Super cute and I am sure I will keep it afterwards as well! I used for some other details. I bought our cake holders, flower girl baskets, vow books, wedding dress hanger and bride and groom chair signs from here. I bought the ring bearer pillow and the unity candle (we are doing it) from Michael's. I didn't incorporate much more since our venue has so much character. I have chalkboard signs that I bought from Michael's as well for our guestbook globe, bird cage card holder and the DIY sandals for the ladies. Our florist that is also a calligrapher will hand write the signs on our wedding day really quick for free! She's so sweet. I made a card for each chalkboard sign and taped in on there so she knows what each will say. I also bought some chalk for $1 and stuck all those items in the same bin...which brings me to my next topic, BINS!

8. Organization is KEY: You already know that your wedding day will be filled with celebrating, getting ready, greeting people and having fun so the last thing you want to do is worry where all your stuff is that day. Since I am planning the wedding myself, I decided to go for a day of wedding coordinator. This is different from our venue coordinator. She will set up on the day of and make sure my soon-to-be husband and I are taken care of! It does cost extra but after planning everything else yourself, you don't want to do anything else the day of! I have a bunch of different bins that are organized with wedding items according to where they will go in the venue. I went over these items with my day of coordinator so one, she knows of them and two, I get them back! Having these plastic bins will keep everything organized and easy to transfer back and forth. Things that are going to the hotel with me are in one bin and things that are going to the venue are in others. We are doing the wedding rehearsal the day before so I will drop off all the bins that belong in the venue then with my day of coordinator. This is something to look into. I marked on the bins what goes where so it's all ready to go for the day of. These bins consist of all the details I have mentioned above!

9. You're Almost Done: The biggest tasks and decisions are done and you can finally semi-relax. If you have a day of coordinator, she will contact your vendors to make sure everything is on track as it gets close. Go through your checklist in your Wedding Planner and see if there is any little things you're missing. Little things like, sharpies or pens for your guestbook, signs you are using, unity candles and holders, garter belt, getting ready robe and shoes, food to eat the morning of while getting ready, etc. This i a day you will always remember. Have fun and don't stress. You are the only one that knows the details. No one is going to miss anything you may have forgot...only you know you forgot it! Hope this helps and congratulations!

Wedding Dress: Essence of Australia

Wedding Shoes: Badgley Mischka

Bridesmaid Dresses: Adrianna Papell

Tuxedo: BLACK by Vera Wang

Cake: Earth and Sugar

Photographer: Vitalic Photo

Floral and Design: Julia Rhode Designs

Catering: Bill Hansen Catering

DJ: Vision DJ

Stationary: Minted

Vow Books: BHLDN

Hair and Makeup: Hey Gorgeous

Venue: Villa Woodbine

Guest Globe: Etsy

Vintage Key Bottle Opener: Etsy

Wedding Planner: The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner

Bridesmaid Pink Champagne Bottles: Pommery POP Extra Dry Rose

Groomsmen Box: Empty leftover cigar boxes found at Total Wine. Check your local stores for leftover cigar boxes. They will sell them for really cheap or free!

Labeling for Groomsmen Gift: You can find different versions of this on Pinterest. Search for free labels to print out and DIY!


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