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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the urgency of wedding planning – that if you do it right, you only get one chance, but if you do it right, you only need one chance.

I also shared that I feel confident we (John and I) “did it right” – that we honored our one precious and beautiful wedding day, and that the meaning we found in that celebration has buoyed our marriage for the last five years.

But on a practical note, how did we create a meaningful wedding day? I think the answer of what makes a wedding day meaningful will be different for everyone, but today I would love to share with you ten things that made our wedding day meaningful. Hopefully they will get your wheels turning for your own!

1. Our wedding location. We both grew up and our relationship was born on the New England shore. It’s where I feel most at home, the place from which we both set out into the world, and the landscape I find most beautiful. Getting to share one of our favorite places with our far-flung guests was very special.

2. Our ceremony venue. We chose to get married at the chapel on the grounds of the Coast Guard Academy. My Dad was in the Coast Guard and taught at the Academy for most of my life, so I have years and years of fond memories with the base as a backdrop. I’m also kind of painfully patriotic (ha), so I loved being able to share this part of my heritage with our guests, some of whom might never have stepped foot on a military base before.

3. My bridal party. I chose four bridesmaids to stand beside me – my two sisters, and my two future sisters-in-law. I loved that my wedding gave me a chance to honor these amazing ladies, to recognize them as important people in my life, and to thank them for all they have done for me!

4. My veil. One of my sisters-in-law was married just two months before me, and she and I decided to have a veil commissioned. We both wore it at our weddings, and then one year later, my other sister-in-law wore it at hers! We are eagerly anticipating the next family wedding where it will make an appearance, and I’m already hoping my daughter and nieces will choose to wear it one day! I deeply value family traditions and legacy, so it was very meaningful to me to get to create a family heirloom from scratch.

5. Our portrait location. Bear with me here :) There is a very crazy story about how we came to take our portraits at a particular home, but the upshot is that it totally strengthened my belief that dreams can come true and that most people are generous and kind, something that has changed the way I move through the world ever since.

6. Our pastor. Our pastor from our church in North Carolina agreed to fly to Connecticut to officiate our ceremony, and it was without a doubt one of the most meaningful parts of our wedding. He has played such a formative role in our faith walk, and his presence and gentle guidance helped our ceremony stay centered on Christ.

7. Serving communion. We served communion directly following our vows. We chose to see the symbolism in our first act as a married couple being one of serving others while honoring our Lord, especially since we chose to serve our parents and grandparents first. We loved seeing so many beloved and familiar faces coming forward, and it was really special to have a brief moment with each individual guest.

8. Our cocktail hour picnic. Instead of joining our guests at cocktail hour, John and I had a picnic, just the two of us! Our caterers packed up a sampling of everything that was being served that evening, and we got 15 minutes or so to simply bask in our newly-married glow. Those few minutes are an iron-clad memory in my mind, and I’m so grateful.

9. Creating an aesthetic experience. I am an unapologetic lover of beautiful things and singular experiences, and it was a true joy to plan so carefully for so long and then to see all of my dreams and plans come to fruition under that perfectly blue September sky. Thoughtfully creating an immersive experience and then getting to enjoy it alongside our loved ones was very meaningful for me.

10. Giving a toast. At our reception, both John and I gave brief toasts. I believe deeply in saying the words that truly matter, and so I very carefully considered how I would thank and honor both my parents and John’s parents. Though I’ve had occasion both before and after to do the same, I think the sentiment shared in that setting will always hold more weight than any other.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there :) Though I’m sure your list of ways to make your wedding meaningful will be different than mine, I hope my experience might help get your wheels turning! I’m cheering you on!! :)

All photos by Tanja Lippert

P.S. Want to breeze past the logistics and budget to dos so you can focus on what matters most? Pick up a copy of the Joyful Wedding Planner ASAP – hundreds of brides have used it to plan their weddings, and I couldn’t recommend it more!

emily Written with love by Emily
4 Comments
  1. avatar Mollie reply

    I love the idea of a picnic after the ceremony, but I must ask… how did you get photos done and have time for a picnic!?

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Mollie! Haha happy to offer some insight! Our cocktail hour was about 1 hour. We used 15 minutes for our picnic, then the other 45 for portraits! Then we joined our reception! :)

  2. avatar Kirsti reply

    Thank you, Emily for sharing these tips! My fiancé and I have tried to keep our focus when making decisions during our planning process for our May 2018 wedding to have a wedding that truly represents us!

  3. avatar Kirsti reply

    Oh my goodness gracious! I just read your post Dreams Do Come True and it’s like we are soul mates! This is EXACTLY how I found my wedding venue – a lot of scouring on Google and then writing letter and eventually meeting with the oh so sweet owners that are willing to let us invite 200 of our guests to their home in May!

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Some of you might be wondering why we’re even writing a post about whether you need to feed your wedding vendors, because the answer seems so obvious, while others of y’all are eager to hear the answer. And that’s part of the fun (and sometimes frustrating!) thing about wedding planning: you’ve never done it before, so almost every to do is uncharted territory. We’re here to help, with one of our main goals being to give you both the practical and the pretty as you plan your joyful, meaningful wedding day.

Photo by Whitney Neal with styling by Jaclyn Journey from Volume 8

But back to the question at hand! The short answer is yes, you need to feed your wedding vendors. A Southern bride is a gracious hostess to her carefully-chosen vendors as well as her invited guests, and in addition to being the right thing to do, it pays dividends! Here’s what you need to know:

Who should you feed? Any vendor who is “on” during your reception should be fed. You don’t need to worry about feeding a back-of-house vendor like your florist, who is setting up before your reception begins, because she’ll have the flexibility to set her own schedule and breaks. Generally, your planner, photographer, videographer, DJ or band members, and any assistants for any of these folks, will need to be fed.

Why should we be responsible for feeding them? Well, since they’ll typically be on the clock for 5-12 hours, they’ll need to eat to keep body and soul together somehow. A hot meal will give them way more energy to keep doing their best work than something they packed that morning, and you definitely don’t want them driving off-site (and missing important moments!) to find hot food. Most vendors will carry protein bars or something similar for emergencies, but you don’t want them to rely on those alone.

What should we feed them? Check each vendor’s contract, because some will specify what they need to be fed. If they don’t, many caterers offer “vendor meals” at a lower price point than what they’re charging for your guests. Ask what this consists of, because it can range from a boxed sandwich and chips to the exact same menu you’re eating. Again, it’s such a nice treat for your vendors to have a warm, yummy meal, so if at all possible, try to work that out with your caterer. If you’re having a buffet, sending your vendors through the line like everyone else is a great option.

Where should they eat? The best place for them to eat is an unobtrusive place that’s close to the action – maybe a table at the edge of the room, or a table just inside the catering tent, if it’s near the main event. You want them to be close enough so that they can spring into action, should it be required! Impromptu toast that needs to be photographed, anyone? :)

When should they eat? Generally, the best time for your vendors to eat is when you and your guests are eating. No one wants to be photographed while chewing, after all! Be sure to ask your vendors if they have a preference, or show them your proposed timeline and see if your suggested meal time works with how they like to do things. They have worked tons of weddings and will know what works best! See our tips for making a wedding day timeline.

Making sure your beloved vendors are well-fed will not only show your appreciation for their hard work, but will give them the fuel they need to finish out the night strong – a win-win for everyone! And if you have extra cake, a slice of that never hurts, either :)

emily Written with love by Emily
2 Comments
  1. avatar Cebu wedding photographer reply

    For me, the vendors should be fed. Its a common sense. It would definitely get the couple an extra mile.

  2. avatar Stephanie reply

    Thank you so much for a well written article As a wedding photographer for several years this time sometimes seems to be a point that brides don’t really understand. Thank you for making it So clear!

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Knowing that so many of you are newly (ish!) sporting an engagement ring, we’ve been working our way through wedding planning must-dos here on the blog for the past few weeks. After several rounds of budget advice, it’s time to move on to vendors: finding them, hiring them, and working with them! For all of our best wedding planning advice in one place, be sure to pick up your copy of the Joyful Wedding Planner!

For many of us, planning a wedding is the first time we’ve had to hire someone – maybe ever, and almost certainly for something creative! It can feel like a lot of pressure to get it right, because your wedding vendors are the folks who will transform your big, precious ideas into a celebration that can be enjoyed by the people you love most. We’ve got a whole roster of vendors we love for browsing, but today we’re taking it one step further and really breaking down the question “how do I find vendors for my wedding?”

Use your network. Naturally, some of the best recommendations come from people you trust. Loved the flowers at your best friend’s wedding? Ask her who she used. And remember, negative reviews can be just as helpful as positive ones!

Ask your vendors. Found a vendor you 100% click with? Ask him for other vendor recommendations. Photographers and planners, especially, work with countless vendors every weekend and can have great insight into the best options in your area.

Look to blogs and magazines. Wedding blogs and magazines can be a wealth of vendor leads, in a number of different ways. Search for real wedding or editorials that took place in your area and follow up with anyone whose work you love. Check to see if they have a vendor directory, usually a hand-picked selection of vendors that have been vetted in some way (ours is called the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory). And don’t forget print and online advertisements – if you love a publication, chances are you’ll love the vendors that care enough to advertise with them.

There’s a common belief that vendors and venues charge more for the same services as soon as the word “wedding” is mentioned. Surprise! That’s probably true – but for good reason. A once-in-a-lifetime event like a wedding comes with an entirely different set of expectations, pressure, time spent planning, service, and creativity than your average cocktail or bridal party, and a higher price often reflects that. Though it can be hard to justify the expense on the front end of a wedding, talented vendors are worth every penny in the end!

I’d love to hear: how did you find your vendors? Who are your favorites?

emily Written with love by Emily
3 Comments
  1. avatar Joseph Requerme Photo reply

    Usually your suppliers will recommend someone that they trust, so, ask your supplier. Those points you have mentioned are really helpful.

  2. avatar Christine reply

    Yes to all of the above. Also, Instagram can be a great resource to find vendors. Follow beautiful wedding accounts and check to see who they tag. You can discover many wonderful vendors using that method! I found most of my wedding vendors via wedding magazines and trusted wedding websites and blogs (like this one!). I also turned to my wedding planners and their relationships for additional vendor intros. Honestly, the vendor finding process was so much fun!

  3. avatar Bri A reply

    These are such helpful tips because there are so many options out there! I especially love asking vendors that you have a rapport with, because working with someone brings a unique perspective!

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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