While others hunted for toys and electronics on Black Friday, I braved the unpredictably crowded Jo-Ann Fabrics on a hunt for the burlap I'll need to craft table runners, lace and ribbon for wrapping the glass jar collection currently overwhelming our small dining room and twigs, too.

Thanks to a generous 50% off coupon, I snagged 12 yards of burlap for $23, plus several yards of beautiful lace. I left without fake twigs because I decided I would go gather real twigs in the park across the street.


Gluing lace to jars and cutting strips of burlap seems well within my crafty abilities. But I asked the above question because I wanted to know what people regretted tackling on their own. There was no shortage of advice here:

*No one disagreed with Jenn, my culinary school-trained friend: Leave the food to the professionals.
*Many, though, recommended making your own centerpieces (we are!) and your own favors. A number of my Facebook friends said they simply wrapped candies or made donations to charity for their guests. Another said she created mini storybooks showcasing her hubby and her as part of their centerpieces. A third mentioned his wife and he put together bowls of water with colored stones and floating candles.
*People also recommended that we leave alterations to the professionals. This is a must-do, given that the sewing machine my mom gifted me three or four years ago remains unopened as of yet.
*The response regarding invitations was mixed. Some were happy that they did their own invitations and saved money doing so. Another woman, however, was quite adamant that her decision to DIY the invites was not the right one: "I did my own invitations ... huge mistake ... wayyy more difficult than I thought they would be ... leave those to the professionals!!!!"

*Finally, a piece of advice with which I do agree: "I would have gotten my makeup done as mine didn’t last well throughout the evening," one former bride said. "I’d actually leave anything related to your appearance to the pros – dresses, hair, makeup – you will be able to see the impact."
 
 
This post didn't drum up a whole lot of advice (maybe because those who get married in a church have less choice in the matter and subsequently less advice overall). Interestingly, a number of people mentioned they wished they would have had one of their friends be registered (if that's the right term) to marry them.

Others loved their priest/pastor/officiant because they led them through the planning process, from who would give the bride away to how s/he would pronounce the couple man and wife.


I feel adamantly that an officiant should pronounce names correctly. I was at a wedding once where the officiant said the names absolutely incorrectly, and I was disturbed. Of all things to get right, aren't the names most important?

Finally, another of my friends noted: "Finding that trust is very important -- I’ve seen priests go a little rogue and end up talking about bizarre things (like camping ... at a wedding)."

Lucky for us, we've found someone we DO trust. Watch the blog this week for more about her!

 
 
If it did nothing else, my 30 Days of Wedding Questions cemented this for us: We would not cut corners when it came to wedding photography. Too many married people said poor photography was their greatest regret of the day. And, my friend, Nick, put it this way:

"Picking a photographer is one of the most important decisions you'll make. The day itself is a blur and the quality of your images helps you remember and be able to share your day with others for many years to come."

Doing your research is paramount, most told me, and bridal shows can be the place to get started because you can see portfolios and talk with photographers. There are two shows in Northeast Ohio this January, by the way: the Today's Bride show at the I-X Center in Cleveland and the Boutique Bridal Bazaar in downtown Cleveland.

Most of the respondents to this day's question said they chose their photographers based on portfolio. I chose Cavanaugh Photography for the same reason. There were images of theirs that made me CRY. That's true talent: capturing the emotions of a day in such a way that a stranger to the bride and groom can feel them.


Others said they chose to work with friends (recall that I'm a reporter, and many of us reporters know plenty of photojournalists). One also said she chose a younger photographer to save on price.

Here's a snapshot (woo, I'm so clever!) of the other advice offered:

*Give your photographer a list of must-have photos, that way you know you'll have the shots you know -- going in -- that you want.
*Ask who will actually be shooting your wedding. Some teams have more than one photographer, so if it's a particular photographer with whom you're impressed, you'll want to make sure it'll be him or her shooting your big day.
*One former colleague of mine discouraged me from having the officiant stand in front so guests can see the couple's faces. The reason: Front and center in most of her pictures was the pastor's butt. Another friend of mine, though, noted that they did the same but used steps to put them at a higher elevation, so it was less noticeable.
*My recommendation: Make sure to ask about rights to the photos. I wanted them so that if, in 10 years, we want to print a whole bunch of our wedding images for an anniversary party or for display above our mantel, we would have the rights to do so.


Some specific photographer recommendations for my betrothed readers from me and my peanut gallery: Cavanaugh Photography; Graham River Productions; Making the Moment; Marty's Studio; Paul Floyd; oh, and did I mention, Cavanaugh Photography?!


Here's a really helpful infographic; it presents 10 questions you should ask prospective photographers, plus a list of shots to request be taken. One image I know I want is a shot taken from behind Steven and me, aimed into the crowd of our guests, while we sing a karaoke song together. We love to karaoke, and we love the people we're inviting. The image would be magical, I think.

What's a must-have photo for you?