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Well, belles, here we are! Two days away from my wedding. John and I are both in Connecticut with our parents, and the weather looks beautiful for this weekend (praise the Lord!). Our siblings are set to arrive tomorrow, and the rest of our guests will follow on Friday. I am ready — we are ready. The projects are done, the vows are written, the welcome bags are ready to be delivered, our amazing vendors all have their instructions, and the tent is going up soon. Would you like to take a walk through the past year of planning with me, for old time’s sake?

On June 25, 2011, on a little beach on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, John and I were engaged! A fun staff meeting followed when I whipped my newly-bedazzled hand out from under the table midway through updates :)

Once I was ready to chat all things wedding, I thought it best to introduce you to the main characters first! Later, you got an up close and personal look when we shared our engagement photos by Gina Zeidler.

We started with the most basic building blocks: where and when we were getting married.

Personal photo

Next, I reported on my first two dress shopping experiences: in South Carolina and Connecticut. Hint: I didn’t buy any of the dresses I tried on in either of these trips, but my wedding gown DOES make an appearance in that post! :)

Personal photos

Later, I talked about my accessories and hair and makeup inspiration. We also can’t forget about the gents! John got a post all to himself, chatting about classic tuxedos.

A Bryan Photo

We also discussed bridesmaid dresses — one of the most challenging parts of wedding planning for me! We eventually decided on long and charcoal gray. I know my gals will look lovely!

One of the most important decisions to me was our photographer, and I was so excited to introduce you to Tanja Lippert. I can’t wait to meet her in just a few days!

Not long after securing Tanja we booked Inkspot Crow Films, a duo I am equally as excited about working with!

My love for mini food is well-documented, and it will, of course, make an appearance at our wedding. We discussed cake and sweets, too!

Mini chicken and waffles by Cru Catering via Southern Weddings (photo by A Bryan Photo)

We talked tents (SO excited to see those Sperry flags waving!). Y’all don’t even KNOW how thrilled I am to see the weather forecast for this weekend!! (Okay, maybe those of you also planning outdoor weddings do!) We also talked about different music options, and I introduced you to our band.

Photo by Cramer Photo

I adore our florist, and loved telling you about our bouquets and reception florals almost as much as I loved picking out the perfect shade of ribbon for my bouquet wrap.

Photos by Stephanie Williams and Thayer Gowdy

I told you about a few of the DIY projects I’ve been working on, and we discussed nitty-gritty details like timelines and day-of coordinators and our registry.

I am an acknowledged paperaholic, so it was with great pride and excitement that I unveiled our save the dates and wedding invitations. Minted, Magpie Paper Works, and MM Ink all did me proud!

Personal photo

Last but certainly not least, I loved sharing my thoughts on our ceremony (in two posts – here + here). Of all the things I am excited about for our wedding day, saying our vows has got to be at the top!

Personal photo

After today, I will be signing off SW duties for the remainder of the week and our minimoon next week (more about that soon!). You’ll see a (non-wedding-related) post from me on Friday, but rest assured it was written earlier this week! :)

Before I sign off as a Miss, however, there are a few thank yous I need to hand out.

First, to the darling vendors I get to work with every day: Y’all, I can’t tell you how many photographers, planners, florists, stationers, and cake bakers have taken time of out their busy days to offer a tip, to answer one of my questions, to volunteer their expertise, or to just be excited with me! It’s amazing how many people even remember I’m getting married, let alone take the time to offer a sweet note of encouragement. I love y’all!

Second, to you lovely readers: It has been one of the greatest joys of my engagement to plan alongside y’all, to see your excitement over our choices, to get your feedback on decisions we were weighing, and to learn alongside you. Sharing this experience has made it that much sweeter!

Finally, to my beyond-fabulous Southern Weddings ladies: You guys are the best. Seriously. For being overjoyed and excited from the first news of my ring, and through the end, oh-so-understanding. For letting me work from New England for three weeks this summer (which made long-distance wedding planning much easier!). For throwing me the fanciest bridal shower known to (wo)man. I can’t thank you enough! Lara, Marissa, Nicole, Kristin, Whitney, Sierra, and interns Melissa, Caitlin, Anna, Emily Alice, and Alexia (because all of them worked at SW at some point during my engagement!), I will be carrying your best wishes with me on my wedding day! Love y’all!!

Y’all know I’ll be back after the big day to recap and share! In the meantime, feel free to offer your best last-minute pieces of wedding day advice in the comments!!

Inkspot Crow Films, Cru Catering, and MM Ink are all fabulous members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
15 Comments
  1. avatar Jessica Thornton reply

    Since I’ve now been married for one month and one day, I’m practically an expert! Enjoy your day. So much has gone into it. It will FLY by. (People told me that, but I didn’t realize how true it was!) Soak up every detail. Again, the time passes so quickly. Just remember to breathe and smile.

  2. avatar Emily reply

    Simple + excellent advice, Jessica! I’ll do my best to follow it :)

  3. avatar wtg reply

    Typo on the engagement date! I believe it was 2011, unless you planned a spectacular wedding in 3 months (which I’m sure you could do!)

    • avatar Emily reply

      Haaaa!! You are so right! Yes, definitely did not plan this wedding in three months :) Fixed!

  4. avatar Lara reply

    We love you and are so happy for you! I’m pretty sure I’ve cried more than a few sappy tears already this week just thinking about you walking down the aisle! Enjoy every moment : )

  5. avatar Madi Reid reply

    Sending you my best, Emily! Know that I will be sending prayers to you and John on Saturday. This wedding is bound to be the epitome of beautiful and I am so excited for you!

  6. avatar Emily Alice reply

    Emily I’m so excited for you in the next few days! I can’t wait to hear and read all about this weekend! Congrats on finally making it here! I will be eating mini foods in your honor down here in South Carolina!

    Love,
    Emily Alice

  7. avatar amanda reply

    I CANNOT wait to see the wedding pictures! It’s going to be THE event of the fall! ;) Loved going through the process with you since I got engaged July 6, 2011 and am getting married November 10th so it’s been fun to enjoy the process with someone even if it’s on the internet.

    PLUS I think I know what designer you choose for your gown because I got my dress at Nitsa’s in Winston too! :) CONGRATULATIONS and we can’t wait to read more from your as a MRS!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Thank you so much, Amanda! It has been great fun planning alongside you, and I can’t wait to see how YOUR big day turns out!

  8. avatar Lily Tatum reply

    I’m planning a southern theme wedding in Oakland California. It’s outdoors and it’s a rustic elegant decor. My colors are guava and celedon green and ivory. Can you give me some suggestions for flowers and should I add another color? My wedding is in October. Thank you.

  9. avatar Kat reply

    Emily I have LOVED reading about the wedding planning process with you. I am so SO excited for you! I feel as if I KNOW you from the blog haha! Sending you blessings and wishes of beautiful weather (as another outdoor reception bride I know the fear!!). Enjoy your beauitful day :) I cannot WAIT for the follow-up post!!

  10. avatar Laura reply

    Gracious, I’m almost as excited for your wedding as I am for my own! Congratulations! And many blessings for you and John as you begin your new life together!

  11. avatar Kate reply

    Emily, thank you for sharing your heart and your special journey. The best piece of advice I received was to “pause” at the beginning and the end of the aisle. Take a moment for yourself before you walk toward John and then a moment for both you and John to share as you walk back down it together. Best wishes for a beautiful day!

  12. avatar Shaniqua reply

    I love the cones, they look so good. Would bamboo cones work with the fruit?

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Friends, I struggled with today’s Emily Plans a Wedding post! I knew since the beginning that I wanted to post about DIY projects, but the closer the wedding has gotten, the less I’ve wanted to reveal. Not because I want to keep y’all in the dark, so much; more because I know many of my family members and friends — those who will be attending the wedding! — are Southern Weddings readers, too, and I want as much as possible to be a delightful surprise for them on the big day.

Because why do we have “details” at our weddings? Because they look pretty? Well, yes, but for me, it’s more than that — by looking pretty, details act as cues to let guests know, Hey! This is a special occasion! This commitment and this day is so important to us that we’ve taken the time, energy, thought, and, yes, money, to make it a night to remember! We are so happy you’re here, and we care enough about you to want to make it a special and memorable occasion! YAHOO! Details should also say something about the couple whose wedding is being celebrated — who they are, what’s important to them, what they find beautiful. Maybe that sounds a little farfetched or lofty, but we are the home of the Sweet Tea Society — we think about these things!

Cheese cart by Calder Clark Designs (photo by A Bryan Photo via Southern Weddings) and band backdrop via Ritzy Bee’s instagram feed

John and I have tried to keep all of this in mind throughout the planning process, and today, I wanted to offer a few tips to y’all. A few stories from the last several months are sprinkled in, as well!

1. Decide what projects are most important to you, and focus on them. My definition of “project” — and “DIY,” for that matter — is pretty broad. Not the crafty type? Then by all means, purchase from Etsy or leave it to your vendors! Even if you could care less about what your cake topper looks like, I know there’s something that matters to you, and I bet there’s a project tucked somewhere in there. Is showing your guests amazing hospitality your highest priority? Then collect a stash of you and your fiance’s favorite treats and make the best. welcome. bags. ever. Focused on the ceremony? Craft it with your officiant, or focus on writing personal vows. Love beautiful bouquets? Spend time searching for the prettiest ribbon.

Now for you crafty types who want to take it all on, my best advice is to edit. Sure, I can appreciate all sorts of real weddings and all sorts of clever ideas, but when it really comes down to it, there are very few details that are really a perfect fit for who John and I are and the type of celebration we’re planning. Be ruthless about what is a good fit and what is not, and which projects ultimately get added to your to do list.

Chalkboard menu by Simplesong Design (photo by Kate Headley) and poppers photo by Katie Stoops via Southern Weddings

2. Start as early as possible. We’re in the last few weeks before our wedding day, and those first heady months of engagement seem a long ways away. This tip is a reminder to me, as well, though there’s not much I can do about it now! I tried so hard to check projects off early — and did succeed in getting a few complete — but there’s only so much you can do without knowing all the details of your wedding day, or your guest count. That being said, try to do as much as possible as early as possible.

3. Set a schedule — and a cut-off date. Once you’ve figured out your tentative list of projects, group them in a tentative order — i.e. designing your ceremony programs will have to be near the end, but perhaps making table numbers could be closer to the beginning. Then, build each project into your schedule. Assign each a month. Unless you are SUPER disciplined, know that some projects will just not happen in the month they’re assigned to – I’m still working on projects I thought would be finished in July! And that’s where the second part comes in — set a cut-off date. I don’t care if it’s a month before your wedding or 24 hours before your wedding, but give yourself a little breathing room — and a little grace — to say, I’ve done all I can do, and now I’m going to enjoy it.

Wine bottle photo by Amy Arrington and flowers photo by Lisa Lefkowitz

4. Think ahead and be as efficient as possible. This goes for time AND money. When I’m planning a trip to JoAnn or Michael’s, I look at my project list and try to see if there are any upcoming project needs I can purchase for at the same time (helpful to avoid stopping at a craft store four times a week… not that that’s ever happened to me). Likewise, if I know I’ll be placing an order with an online retailer like Paper Presentation or UPrinting, I try to look ahead to see if there’s anything else I might need from them down the road. You can usually save on shipping that way (or qualify for free shipping!), and sometimes there are even discounts for placing an order over a certain amount.

5. If money is an issue, be realistic about the true cost of DIY. I know handmade items can sometimes look expensive (especially when you start thinking, I could do that!), but when you’re knee-deep in glitter, going on DIY hour three, and starting over on your fourteenth reception sign, that Etsy offering might start to look mighty reasonable. Yes, you can usually buy supplies for cheap, but you usually have to buy in bulk to get a good price. If you’re not the type of person to use the remaining five pounds of feathers after you’ve extracted the two you need for a hair flower, is that really money saved?

Rice toss packets from Martha Stewart Weddings and welcome bag photo by Jen Huang

6. Likewise, be realistic about your expectations — and taste level. Y’all have probably heard me say I have champagne taste on a beer budget, and I’m sure the same goes for many of you. We see beautiful photos every day, and it can be extremely frustrating to finish a project, and have it fall short of our expectations. If you’re going for a homemade look, this can work out wonderfully! If you’re going for a high-end look, though, be realistic about what you will be able to achieve with minimal skill. For example, I did the calligraphy on our invitation envelopes, but I went with a pro — Moya Minns — for our names on the invitation itself. I knew I would never be able to achieve the look I was after by myself, and that was a place where perfection really mattered to me. The envelopes? Eh, I was happy with what I was able to cobble together.

7. Know when to let go. Once upon a time I thought it would be a brilliant idea to make a crepe paper hair flower for each of the female guests at our wedding. Did this fit with the vibe we were going for? No, not really. Was I able to make a few beautiful hair flowers? Yes, absolutely. I even had a crafting night with a friend, and over two hours, we made about 15 flowers. At the end of our crafting session, though, I wasn’t even that excited. I realized that even though I could persevere and fol 45 more flowers, I didn’t really want to — and sometimes, that’s enough of a reason to stop. Luckily, I was able to repurpose the materials elsewhere!

Cocktail sign photo by Jose Villa and floral letter photo by Matt Blum

8. Accept help when possible. This is a tough one for me, y’all! I am a perfectionist when it comes to projects, and I am totally guilty of the “I’ll-just-do-it-myself-because-it-will-take-longer-to-explain-to-and-supervise-someone-else” mentality. But you know, people really do want to help, and in many cases, many hands really do make light work. If you break down your projects step by step, you’ll probably find that there are parts even non-crafty types can help with. Over the last few months, my Mom and John’s sister have cut ribbon (they were both very accurate!), and John himself has stuffed, licked, and stamped envelopes. I’m saving a few projects specifically to do with my family the week before our wedding that I know will go quick assembly-line style.

I hope these tips don’t come off as discouraging, because I am a HUGE advocate of DIY projects! Obviously — my list of projects for this wedding includes but is not limited to boutonnieres, our wedding website, our menu board, welcome bags, invitation calligraphy, our vows, our slideshow, reception desserts, our marriage certificate, our guest book, favors, ceremony programs, and about eight billion pieces of signage. I think DIY projects can make a wedding so personal and heartfelt and unique, and I absolutely encourage you to take a few on. Hopefully, with a little patience and planning, it will be a positive experience for everyone!

Now tell me: Would you consider yourself a DIY bride? What projects are you taking on for your wedding?

In case you missed a post…
The main characters | Where we’re getting married | I go dress shopping | We choose a photographer | I ponder bridesmaid style | Mini food! | The music | We’re renting a tent! | We discuss bouquets + boutonnieres | We send out our save the dates | I gather hair and makeup inspiration | We talk cake and sweets | I introduce you to our videographer | We create a registry | We buy a tuxedo | We style a reception | I choose accessories | We take engagement photos! | We plan our ceremony | We discuss ceremony music and readings | We firm up wedding day details | We send out invitations

Amy Arrington, Jose Villa, and Katie Stoops are fabulous members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
7 Comments
  1. avatar Sharon @ Red Poppy | Pink Peony reply

    Great advice! I’d call myself a semi-DIY bride. I DIY’d my cake topper, map/direction cards, programs, printed out coloring books for kids, put together all the escort cards and favors, had a photo guest book made, printed all the menus, etc. It’s fun and special to add a personal homemade touch, but you have to know when it’s too much!

  2. avatar Christina S. reply

    Love LOVE these words of advice. I am in the exact same boat, just over a month before my wedding, and I keep telling myself “There’s so much out there, you can do more!” I think there should be a point, maybe 2 months before the wedding, where you have to tell yourself “I know what I like, time to stop browsing and make it happen.” My vision hasn’t changed in the past few months anyways, so unless its something totally necessary (like the seating chart or programs you still need to design) then you should start putting your energy into bringing those projects to fruition. Following that thought, its time for me to get to work!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Best of luck with your final preparations, Christina!! I’m sure your projects will turn out beautifully!

  3. avatar Stephanie reply

    Just what I needed to read, Emily! I am currently waist-deep in DIY projects right now, and I keep having to be realistic about what I can do on my budget and time. I did give my sweet fiance ONE huge job, so that helps me out and gets him involved. So many people ask me what they can do to help, and like you I am a perfectionist so it is hard to accept their offer! I have small tasks that they can help with, but how do you suggest I make this “one hour project” into something to where they feel like they are making a huge difference?

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Stephanie! In my experience, people don’t necessarily need or want to feel like they’re making a huge difference, just that they did SOMETHING to help you out. Just choose the project carefully (so you can both be happy, not frustrated, with the process and outcome!), try to make the work fun if you’re doing it together (have music, snacks), and thank them profusely at the end :)

  4. avatar What You Need To Know About Wedding Planning | WeddingDates Blog | reply

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Friends, if there is one thing you know about me, it’s that I love paper. Love it! One of the highlights of my professional career has been covering the National Stationery Show three times for y’all, and invitation samples are always placed on my desk in the office. So I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that I was thinking about our wedding invitations from Day One!

Actually, I suppose you could say I was thinking about our wedding invitations from Day One minus three years, because 2009 is when I fell in love with this invitation, a collaboration between I Am Always Hungry, Birdie Birdie, and Battery.

My friend Emily Ley had warned me that this sort of invitation (particularly its light type on dark stock, which is nearly impossible to achieve with letterpress) would be very difficult to produce, so even though I dabble in graphic design, I knew that I would be enlisting professional help with this project.

But which one? Throughout my time at Southern Weddings I’ve had the great privilege of working with so many talented paper artisans (for lack of a better term!), but two immediately stuck out in my mind as being a perfect fit for my and John’s style. The first was Jess from Magpie Paper Works, who I worked with on the Williamsburg shoot from V4. Jess created the custom wine labels and coasters, and even though it was a fairly small project, her cheerfulness, passion, and classic-with-a-twist style shone through.

Let me tell y’all, I am SO happy I chose to work with Jess! She took my inspiration and delivered a final product that was more than I could have hoped for. Before I reveal our final invites, I thought it might be fun to see Jess’s first sketches and brainstorming board:

So fun, right? Once Jess had fleshed out our design, it was time to bring in the second artisan I mentioned above. Y’all, I cannot say enough good things about Moya Minns of MM Ink. She has worked on countless SW projects, from the very first photo shoot I ever contributed to, to the Williamsburg shoot, to our first Fearrington shoot, to one of our cover finalists from V3. Her work is classically beautiful, but always with a little surprise twist. I love it so, so much.

But enough chatter – let’s get to the real thing! Our invite, like my inspiration invite, was a trifold, and this is what guests saw when they pulled it out of the envelope:

Jess hand-drew the little heart and the vine/boxwood pattern. Amazing!

Open the next flap, and you’ll see this:

Oh my goodness, y’all, that boxwood wreath (with the little heart worked in!!) combined with Moya’s calligraphy monogram? Be still my heart.

Let’s take a closer look at that inner flap…

Why, it’s a verse from one of our ceremony reading possibilities!

At 9×18 inches when fully unfolded, our invitation certainly makes an impact. I can’t wait to frame this beauty and hang it in our home!

Here’s a closer look at Moya’s amazing handiwork. I told her I was particularly a fan of her “Lola” and “Burgues” styles, and she kindly combined elements from both just for me. It only took her one try to knock it out of the park!

Here’s the whole suite together:

Though it doesn’t hold a candle to Moya’s work, I was pretty pleased with how my envelope addressing turned out. It sure gave me a renewed appreciation for professional calligraphers, though!

So there you have it, friends! A look at our invites, which set the scene for our upcoming big day. I sure hope the actual celebration lives up to this teaser! :)

Next time: A peek at a few of the DIY projects I’ve been working on!

In case you missed a post…
The main characters | Where we’re getting married | I go dress shopping | We choose a photographer | I ponder bridesmaid style | Mini food! | The music | We’re renting a tent! | We discuss bouquets + boutonnieres | We send out our save the dates | I gather hair and makeup inspiration | We talk cake and sweets | I introduce you to our videographer | We create a registry | We buy a tuxedo | We style a reception | I choose accessories | We take engagement photos! | We plan our ceremony | We discuss ceremony music and readings | We firm up wedding day details

Moya Minns is a fabulous member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
8 Comments
  1. avatar Emily Alice reply

    I’m DYING over these, Emily! They’re sooo beautiful!

  2. avatar Moya Minns reply

    Emily, it was such a pleasure doing the calligraphy for you and John! I walked away from my desk several times after doing the lettering and every time I came back to it, I had the biggest smile on my face – I knew it was just right for you! xoxoxo

    • avatar Emily reply

      You’re amazing, Moya! The invite wasn’t complete until we dropped your lettering in!

  3. avatar Theresa reply

    Love the color combo of the light and dark!

  4. avatar Madelynne Moulton reply

    SO MUCH sass and personality! I absolutely love it and the calligraphy work is truly gorgeous. The pink envelope is such a great pop of color too! Very preppy and beautiful!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Haha Madelynne, no one’s told me they have sass yet, but I love it!!

  5. avatar Jess reply

    Oh Emily, it was such a delight collaborating together with you and John! (I’m still happy-dancing!) Your ideas really made the design sing — and your guests are in for such a stylish, delightful and most of all, meaningful celebration. Thank you for opening your heart & sharing your love story with me. Blessed & honored! xoxo

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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