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Some of the very best posts in our archives are the ones written by real brides actively planning their weddings and sharing their thoughts along the way. We want to bring you more of that! Today’s guest, Grace, was actually married this spring, but close enough :) We met her at one of our photo shoots for Volume 10, and when she told us she used our Joyful Wedding Planner throughout her engagement, we were tickled pink! Since we’ve been talking about all things ceremony for the last few weeks, I asked her to come on over and share more about hers. Take it away, Grace! – Emily

For about a week after getting engaged, my time was mostly spent daydreaming about our engagement day and gazing at my beautiful ring (ha!). Once I shook off the “engagement high,” I dived into planning our wedding — I could hardly wait! My excitement quickly turned to frustration, though, as I was overwhelmed with the number of options and decisions there were to make, as I’m sure y’all can relate to. I needed a solid guide that would come alongside me and my husband as we created a wedding that was uniquely ours. Thankfully, the Joyful Wedding Planner came to the rescue!

From the very beginning stages of wedding planning, my husband and I knew that we wanted to get married in the mountains, a place we both love and where we’ve made wonderful memories. We also knew that we wanted our wedding day to glorify and display the love of Christ, and for this reason, the ceremony was the most important part of the day for us. It was not only the part of the day that we would officially be declared husband and wife, but also a chance for us to show our family and friends that we did not take marriage lightly and were making a serious commitment to one another. It was also a chance to show the power of Christ’s love in our lives and the power we would rely on for our marriage! Lastly, we wanted our marriage to signify the joining of our two families into one.

After having a solid handle on what we wanted for our ceremony, I worked through my planner to help figure out exactly what I wanted for each detail:

— For the officiant, we knew that we wanted an individual that displayed a strong love for the Lord, was eloquent in speaking the beauty of the Lord’s love for us, and had mentored us through our relationship.
— We also decided to include two wedding rituals. The first was the lighting of the unity candle to represent our new life in Christ, our two lives becoming one, and the joining of our families. I just loved the imagery of two flames merging to become one! The second ritual we took part in was communion.
— We picked readings (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Ephesians 5:25-33 and 22-24) to show that we were choosing to love each other in our marriage and to illustrate the roles that we were promising to take up.

The planner encouraged me to come up with a Plan A and a Plan B for the ceremony in case of weather, and to make sure that we could be happy with either outcome. Thankfully, our venue gave us the option of holding our ceremony outside or inside of the barn, giving us two beautiful settings (one rain-proof!). If it was held outside, it would be held in front of a large tree with arching branches. If it was inside, the barn setting would be accented with twinkle lights and draped cloth, fitting for our mountain setting. We ended up having our ceremony inside of the barn because of a high forecast for rain, and it ended up being intimate and beautiful!

My husband and I both agreed from the start that we would recite traditional vows (writing our own would have been too much pressure for us!). That was an easy decision to check off the list :)

For our processional music, we chose two favorite songs to display both of our personalities: one of my husband’s favorites (“Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel) for the family and wedding party entrance, and one of mine (“A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri) for mine. Our communion song was “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.” Our ceremony music was played by dear friends on piano, flute, violin, and oboe.

When the ceremony was finished, we wanted to end on a joyous note and decided to have a bluegrass band play a lively tune and have our guests throw flower petals in the air to join in the celebration with us as we walked out as husband and wife!

Thinking back on it, the ceremony was the sweetest and most joyous moment of the day (and probably my life!) and everything my husband and I valued and loved was displayed perfectly through it. I am so thankful that the tone for our marriage was set on that day. Planning for the ceremony was so sweet but being married now is even sweeter!

All photos by Blue Ribbon Vendor Ally & Bobby!

emily Written with love by Emily
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Though most of us have attended several wedding ceremonies by the time we need to plan our own, the basic structure can still be confusing! I distinctly remember worrying that we’d somehow leave some important element out (like the kiss!!) just because we’d somehow overlooked it! Thankfully, our officiant was on hand to make sure everything important was included, and I’m sure yours will be, as well.

Photo by Blue Ribbon Vendor Nancy Ray from Whitney and Cory’s wedding

Depending on whether you’re getting married in a church and/or with the blessing of a certain denomination, you might have more or less latitude in designing your order of ceremony. Here, we’ve outlined the basic elements in a Christian ceremony to get your wheels turning on what might be included and where there are opportunities for customization (and so that you don’t forget anything truly important :)).

Don’t worry too much about how long or short your ceremony is – your guests love you, and if each piece of your ceremony is purposeful, they’ll see that. That being said, be sure to take your guests’ comfort into consideration – don’t make them sit outside in the sun or stand for an hour-long ceremony!

One final tip? Make sure you confirm with your officiant how you two would like to be announced for the first time: as Mr. and Mrs. John Thomas? As Mr. and Mrs. John and Emily Thomas? As John and Emily Thomas? It’s a big moment, and one you want to make sure and get just how you’d like it! :)

Looking for more ceremony tips? We’ve got a whole slew of them in our wedding planner, and I’d also recommend checking out our posts on how to write your own wedding vows and nine of our favorite romantic wedding vows for inspiration!

emily Written with love by Emily
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  1. avatar Savannah Fannon reply

    Love it! Are there any suggestions for music in an outdoor ceremony?

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Savannah! I love that idea! We haven’t written that post yet, but I will put it on the calendar :) In the meantime, I think you can’t go wrong with live string versions of modern songs for an outdoor ceremony!

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One of the MOST common questions I receive from readers is what gift I gave my husband on our wedding day. And I totally get that – if there was ever a time to gift an heirloom, or something that will become part of your new family’s lore, it would seem like your wedding day would be the day! Exchanging gifts and letters to open before your first look (if you’re doing one) or your ceremony can be a wonderful way to reflect on what your wedding day is really about, celebrate your history, create a family heirloom for your future home, and build anticipation for seeing each other.

Sometimes coming up with a great gift idea that will tell the story of your relationship or surprise your fiance is easy… or maybe you need a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing, and that’s okay, too! Today, a few of our friends and readers are sharing what they gave their husbands as wedding day gifts, and they are as sweet, meaningful, and thoughtful as you could hope for. We would LOVE to hear from y’all in the comments, too, and really make this a helpful resource for the next gal who emails me! :)

P.S. I gifted my husband an original framed oil painting of a sand dune that reminded me of the area in Michigan where his family has a home. It now hangs in our bedroom!

Photo by Jen Fariello from Priya and Tom’s wedding

My husband and I actually conspired together and gifted ourselves a post-wedding day spa trip that was scheduled for IMMEDIATELY following the wedding! After changing out of our wedding clothes and driving off from the reception venue, we headed straight for a luxurious spa in downtown Atlanta and treated ourselves to some serious decompressing after a SUPER long day! It was SO needed and it allowed us to decompress and giggle about what just happened in the past 24 hours. CRAZY – yet super romantic!
–Lacoya Heggie of Hello Love Events, @HelloLoveWeddings

Throughout our engagement, I had been secretly writing in the Southern Weddings Memories of Us Journal, and this was part of my wedding gift to Rob. I’d chronicled our engagement and wedding planning journey, as well as writing and reflecting on all of our most vivid memories together, our favorite dates, when I knew he was the one, and so much more. I also gave Rob a pair of cuff links with an “S” on them, which were passed down from my maternal grandparents. My parents gave these heirloom cuff links to me last summer right after my grandma passed away and when they knew that Rob was the one. My mom’s maiden name began with an “S,” and our last name begins with an “S,” as well, so it was only fitting that Rob become the next owner of this treasured family heirloom.
–Stephanie Shaul of Stephanie Scholl Events, @StephanieShaul (See Stephanie’s wedding planning process!)

My husband’s Pawpaw died from cancer before we ever started dating, but I knew just how much his Pawpaw meant to him and how close they were. For our wedding, I wanted him to know that he was still with him in spirit. I got my husband a wooden cutting board with an elephant engraved on it. Elephants were his Pawpaw’s favorite animal, and he collected them. I got his Nanny to give me an old card from his Pawpaw, and I got his signature engraved on the board, as well.
–Katy Osborne

I got a huge custom wooden frame from Hobby Lobby with a thick mat, sized to fit a wedding picture in it eventually. On the mat I hand wrote our wedding vows! I filled it with an engagement picture for now, and it will eventually go over our bed. I just got married a month ago and still smile a ton every time I see it!
–Avian Nuckolls

Photos by Esther Louise from McKara and Brandon’s wedding

I got my husband an embossed Bible and a lapel pin of his Scottish family crest. Nothing major or crazy expensive, but they are very significant because the two most important things to the two of us are our faith and our families, and they are two of the things we want to carry into marriage with us.
–Pamela Bunten

My husband and I travel a TON (we move to a new city every four months!). When we travel, we each take on different roles – I do a lot of planning in advance, and then once we’re there, he is the directions guy. He is amazing with maps and has a great sense of direction, so he is always leading us around on our adventures. For his wedding day gift, I got him a Tiffany sterling silver compass. I had it engraved with our wedding date, our initials, and “Our Adventure.”
–Emily Yates

I ended up giving my husband a valet box filled with a few smaller, meaningful goodies. I designed the box myself, and asked my dad to build it using wood from some family land that I own. Then, I had a trophy shop make a plaque for the top with my husband’s monogram, and one for the inside of the lid with a personal note from me. I told my husband it was my way of bringing my past (family land) and present (my dad making it) together for something for the future (our marriage). My husband loved it and I’m hoping this will be something that will become a legacy piece that will be handed down to our children at some point.
–Christian Howell

Since I was fifteen years old, every month I have written love letters to my “future husband,” telling him about my life, my heart, how much I already love him, and how I am already praying for him. I continued writing throughout our courtship and engagement. The day of our wedding, I put the letters in envelopes and tied everything up with pretty ribbon. There was one he was supposed to open before I walked down the aisle, and the rest of the letters we read together on our honeymoon and are still reading today. He said it was the best gift he has ever received and that the letters are still so precious to him.
–Caroline Willis

I bought the vows print from the SW shop and had it framed for Bradley. It now hangs in our bedroom next to a huge canvas of our favorite wedding portrait and serves as a reminder of the vows we took that day.
–Jennifer Cantrell

Photo by Mandy Busby from Elise and Paul’s wedding

As my gift to Robert, I needlepointed a classic, black and white cummerbund. I designed the pattern before we were even engaged, and I spent our whole engagement year stitching in secret. It brought me so much joy to give a gift that I know my husband will treasure forever!
–Caroline Jones

I gave my husband a large, framed picture of a sunrise we watched together while camping on top of a mountain before we got engaged. It was a favorite memory of ours and a gorgeous image. The photograph had been stored on our laptop for years and would probably still be in a folder on our desktop if I hadn’t printed it as his gift!
–KJ Boyer

Joining our money was a topic of ongoing discussions throughout our dating life and engagement. (I’m a spender and he’s a saver.) For his gift, I had a money clip engraved with “The joining of bank accounts. Zachary & Olivia. April 28, 2017.” I filled it with some cash just for him, but I think he ended up buying souvenirs for me on our honeymoon! My dad always carried a money clip, and I thought gifting my new husband one was a sweet nod to my past and Zach’s new role.
–Olivia Denhoff

Friends, I’d love to hear: if you gave your husband a gift on your wedding day, what was it? Please chime in below!

emily Written with love by Emily
2 Comments
  1. avatar Melissa Mackvick reply

    My husband and I LOVE to travel and have been to a number of places together, so I knew from the moment we got engaged that I wanted to give him something related to our travels but I had no idea what! After months of researching and gathering ideas, I ordered a large custom map of the world that said “World Travels of the Mackvicks” at the top. It also came with pins in different colors that you could put into the map to indicate your next destination, your favorite trip, where you’ve been together, etc. It now hangs in his office and surrounding the map are photographs and pieces of artwork we’ve taken or collected from our trips!

  2. avatar Kathryn Widman reply

    My husband and I would have never met if it wasn’t for Clemson University. We both went to college there, only a year apart, with a ton of mutual friends, but we never met. We didn’t meet until we had both moved to Washington, DC for jobs and were introduced at an Alumni Football Watching Event at a local bar, became friends, and months later started dating. I’ve had my Clemson class ring since before I even graduated, but he never got one. I’ve known for almost the entire 5 years of dating that I was going to gift him this on our wedding day. Almost all of his guy friends have one and Clemson is what brought us together, so I always knew. Over the years, I thought he would either buy one for himself or guess that he would get it from me eventually, but he was totally shocked (and emotional) when he opened it up at our First Look. It’s one of my favorite memories from our Wedding Day. Now we both have our Clemson rings. And our photographer got some great shots! {We also wrote each other notes for that morning to read and he gave me a lovely gold necklace from a family-owned jeweler in Charleston, SC where I’m from to remind me of home}. It wasn’t about the gifts, but what they meant to us.

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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