I feel like I’ve been teasing you guys with this post for a year. Oh wait… I have.
The closer we got to our one year anniversary, the more likely it was gonna be that my “tips for wedding planning” and recap of our wedding day was gonna have to wait until our actual anniversary. Alas, here we are. \\ I have so many random thoughts about this day, and being able to go through our amazing photographs to plan this blog post was just so lovely and nostalgic.
I had so many people before and after our wedding ask “how did you plan a wedding in the middle of wedding season?” // “what are your biggest takeaways from wedding planning?” // “what would you tell someone trying to plan a wedding on a budget?” // and of course, “how on earth did you decide who would photograph YOUR wedding?!”
So here are my tips and tricks from planning, our wedding day, and alot of personal thoughts:
Get a solid wedding planner
I used The Joyful Wedding Planner! It was the best way for me to keep all my contracts, paperwork, and ideas in one place. As well as giving me amazing tips and timelines to keep everything on a perfect schedule for wedding planning. I may plan wedding days all the time with my job, but I had no idea where to start planning the whole thing!!
Get a solid wedding planner
Yeah. I know I said that twice, but it’s also so incredibly important to have a coordinator or at least a day-of coordinator. \\ I literally had Skype meetings with my girl, Erin, from Party Belles every other month (or more) leading up to our wedding day. Your day runs so much more smoothly when you have someone behind the scenes who pulls all the strings. It was such a weight off my shoulders on my wedding day when I knew I could just STOP👏🏼DOING👏🏼ALL👏🏼THE👏🏼THINGS and let Erin take over. // Having a day of coordinator is like having a personal assistant. I guarantee you that things will probably go wrong on your wedding day, but if you have a coordinator they will take care of those things and if you’re lucky you’ll never even find out about them. You can have your day planned down to the nitty gritty details but stuff still happens!
Pick a venue that fits your vibe
AND your budget
I have seen so many brides blow their budget because the “perfect venue” was so expensive and then they weren’t able to spend important dollars on the vendors that are just as important. We chose Historic Shady Lane because we wanted somewhere that could keep our entire day in one place, was already beautiful (so we didn’t have to do much decorating!), was in our budget, and could hold our 225 guests … yeah, you read that right. We had a big one.
The more sentimental value,
As you saw above, but probably didn’t realize, we tried to incorporate so many little details that had sentimental value to our relationship, our families, and friends. Directly above you’ll see rings tied to my bouquet that belonged to my grandparents who passed when we were young as well as Jordan having his Grammy’s ring on his boutonniere. \\ I also had been writing letters to “my future husband” since I was a pre-teen that I put into a leather bound journal for Jordan the day of our wedding. \\ And the hanker-chief that you’ll see a few times was my Mom-Mom’s.
Your invitations are important, but
not worth blowing your budget over
We used Minted (oh and also, their new addressing service…it’s the BOMB) for our invitations and Zazzle - with black friday sales ya’ll - for our save the dates. I really only suggest using a discounted printing place if you or a friend can design your own with PhotoShop, which I did. And then the rest of our paper products I just designed myself and printed on card stock from home! Just don’t forget that most likely, most of your invitations will end up in your friends’ trash. Make sure you keep a set for yourself for the future! I made a shadow box with ours and included ribbons and dried flowers from our day.
have your girls dressed
before you get our gown on
You’ll see below that it makes for lovely photos when your girls are ready to go! I had my hair and makeup done very last (also because I was honestly setting up our receptions while everyone else was getting ready…) so they had plenty of time to get dressed!
Which should obviously be at the very top of the list, but I’m just going with the photos on this one. We made sure that leading up to our wedding day, Christ was the center. We were often told that “this is YOUR big day, do what YOU want!” But we never felt like that was the case. Our wedding was centered around honoring Christ and making sure that He was obvious and present during our day.
Hire your friends
&& pay what they ask
As a photographer, I have so many talented friends in the industry. Luckily, I was able to do alot of equal trades in order to make our wedding day a little cheaper. But, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to do things for cheap (or free) in the name of “friendship.” It kind of hurts my feelings sometimes, because it feels like people taking advantage and feeling like my art is not worth all the time, learning, and effort I put into it. So I made sure not to expect discounts from any of my vendors - even though some were generous enough to offer it anyway.
HMUA: Hair & Makeup by Britt
Jewelry: Marnie Lewis Jewelry
Florals: Pridmore Designs
Pick a color or scheme and let your
bridal party buy what they can afford
As you’ll see, all my girls are in different dresses and they did an awesome job picking ones that fit with my color scheme for the wedding day! I bought color swatches and said “get as close as you can to this color.” This allowed each girl to choose a flattering dress that was within in their budget! And for the boys, we had them each buy the same tie from The Tie Bar and told them “brown belt + shoes, white shirt, and navy pants.” and voila!
I was so anxious and jittery the morning of our wedding. And from what the guys told me, Jordan was an emotional mess too. Since our ceremony wasn’t until 4:00, we had lots of time. If we had waited to see each other until the ceremony, I would have been more of a hot mess. So we chose to do a first look and are SO glad that we did! It made my nerves subside and then I felt so much more ready for our ceremony.
I totally understand that a first look isn’t for everyone, that’s totally your choice! But we were able to get our photos done before and not rush at all!
Hey, Hello, Hi! How did I choose my photographer? I didn’t. They chose me. For real.
I had been following Compass Wedding Collective for awhile on social media and I had always loved their work but didn’t even consider them to photograph our day because they are from Florida and it wasn’t in my budget to fly them up here. They ended up running a wedding giveaway the winter after we got engaged so we decided to enter! We ended up getting runners-up and we got our wedding at a super discounted and unexpected rate. NO BRAINER! And obviously, they did an amazing job. Thank you again, Lane & Mia!! xo
Be prepared for inclement weather
As you’ll see, we had a rainy and cloudy day. The photographer in me was bummed that we weren’t going to get golden hour - but the other photographer in me was happy that we’d have perfect light all day long. HA! It poured the morning of our wedding, but luckily, it let up into a light mist during our ceremony so I made the call to still have the ceremony out on the lawn. Otherwise, we would’ve had to go with Plan B which would have put our ceremony in the reception tent. Having a Plan B was more for peace-of-mind for my momma than for me. I never actually planned on doing that. Let’s be honest, I would’ve rather handed out umbrellas.
I bet you have a friend who is artsy or who can at least help you make some awesome signs. Calligraphy is just a lovely hobby of mine, so I knew I wanted to save money where I could and make my own signs. I had a friend build three A-Frame signs so I could paint on both sides and we had plenty of beautiful signage for the day!
Plus, now I've been renting out the ones that don’t have personal info on them for other peoples’ weddings!
post-ceremony alone time
Once the ceremony was over, we knew there wouldn’t be much time for just “us” the rest of the day. So we told our photographer we wanted to take a few more minutes to ourselves as newlyweds before we went to our reception! She spent just a few moments with us, and then left us alone for a few while we got a quick bite to eat (this is important…cause you probably won’t eat at your reception if you’re trying to say hello to everyone) and then danced to our song in private <3
By the time we met and got married, we had lost all of our grandparents. But it was so important for us to include them so we had our parents bring photos of the family members who were not able to be with us. As well as printed photos of our relationship and engagement for our friends and family to look through!
Like I mentioned before, we chose a venue that was already beautiful so I didn’t have to put a ton of man-hours into decor. Luckily, we decided to do the basic painted wine bottle look with simple laid greenery and I had a few bridesmaids help me get that all together! The night before and morning of our wedding we were melting navy taper candles into the bottles and had groomsmen (surprise, surprise! we have the BEST friends) and some other friends helping set all the tables up! This saved a ton of money and still looked beautiful!
good food & experience
Let me rephrase: FOOD TRUCKS. We decided to nix the hassle of a seating chart and had open seating because we wanted our guests to have more of a family-reunion experience rather than a sit down dinner. Instead of a cocktail hour, we had bridal party and family cut to the front of lines so they could eat before introductions and everyone loved it!
We had Lancaster Burger Co., Forno Bova Woodfire Pizza & later on Penny’s Ice Cream for dessert! Oh, and we can’t forget an espresso bar from Passenger Coffee, which was Jordan’s donation to the cause ;)
surprises for your spouse
In the series above, you’ll see that we both had decided to reveal our surprises for one another during our first dance. I made Jordan panic when I told him mine was coming as we started dancing because so was his!
I surprised him by recording our first dance song in my brother’s recording studio (shameless plug: FreeStone Productions) which you can hear during the ceremony portion of our wedding video which you’ll find at the bottom! He was so worried whatever my surprise was would ruin his surprise that he was hardly listening to the song. When he finally realized that it was me singing, his face was priceless! It’s up there, go find it ;)
His surprise for me was washing my feet during our first dance - which if you’re not a church-goer probably doesn’t make that much sense. But it’s a symbol of servanthood throughout the Bible and he wanted his first act as husband to be him serving me. I had no idea he was planning this because he was pretending like my idea of us washing our feet during our ceremony was silly. I get it now ;)
Key to a fun reception is a great DJ. Our friend, Jon Rudy did an amazing job hyping up the crowd and keeping the party going!
Secondly, remember that cake cutting is usually done after portraits. So if you wanna get a little messy…go for it! Our cake by Snacky French was soooo yummy and we are definitely looking forward to pulling our top tier out this week to eat…maybe. Plus, how beautiful was it!? I actually suggest ordering the same cake from your baker or bakery so you can eat a fresh version for your anniversary…but I’ll keep you posted how our frozen one tastes.
Lastly, COMFORT. Jordan got us matching white and gold Under Armour sneakers (if you know, you know) for our reception and we definitely did not have to worry about breaking our ankles or getting blisters during our reception!
Video, in two senses. Or three. First of all, our friend & videographer from KGD Films, Kelsey, KILLED the game. You can see it below! When we received it back from her we probably watched it 10x in one night. And I’m definitely not exaggerating.
Secondly, our best man surprised us by bringing his Go-Pro along for the ride. Which… I have yet to see any of. Ryan? ;)
Third, taking a line from Beating50Percent, we decided to make a video recap of our wedding day from each of our perspectives when we finally got back to our hotel room that night. We are so thankful we did this because honestly, it’s hard to remember alot of the details! We are so excited to re-watch it and remind ourselves of our perfect wedding day!
Because I’m at weddings almost every weekend of my life, I wanted to do something a littler different than sparklers or confetti throwing for our last hurrah. So I bought some chinese lanterns in bulk off Amazon and we went down the hill with our bridal party to send them up. The rest of our guests had a perfect view from the reception tent which was nestled on top of a hill overlooking the lawn. It was the perfect end to our night.
Click Play ⬇️⬇️⬇️
So there you have it! I hope that if you’re in the middle of the wedding planning process, or even if you’re not, that you could enjoy a small look into a huge, important day for us.
We can’t wait to share more of our lives with you in the coming years!
xoxo, Steph & Jordan