I am no longer The Bartering Bride.

Because I am a wife! Fourteen days ago, Steven and I made it official right around 3:30 on Sept. 1. It drizzled on our guests a little bit right before our outdoor ceremony, then, the rain stopped and our processional started.

I'm not going to share too many pictures quite yet because we hired (and bartered for) a professional photographer for a very good reason, but here's a picture that our day-of wedding planner, Kim Lehman, captured of the ceremony in progress:
I would publish my reviews of our wedding vendors today, but I'm a journalist, and there's a rule in journalism: When possible, a writer should SHOW readers something, not tell them. So, I am waiting on images we should receive within the month before I tell you all about how pretty our florist's simple arrangements turned out; before I tell you how incredible our DJ's karaoke system sounded and how fun it was to see so many of our guests brave the stage; and before I share how cohesive and warm the venue looked, thanks to the linens that were delivered and steamed on-site, the burlap runners and jars my mother and I made and the decorating by our wedding planning team.

Can't wait to share many, many details, but I will tell you this: There is not one vendor we hired that I wouldn't rehire again in a heartbeat. They did their jobs and they did them well. 

In exchange, we paid them or bartered my writing skills for them, fed them the same buffet our guests were welcome to, tipped them (where wedding web sites recommended it) and tried our best to show our appreciation where we could. (I even emailed all of them while on our honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.)

What did we -- and our vendors -- eat? Here was our menu:
One might think the bacon-wrapped meatloaf -- and our deviled egg appetizers -- seem nontraditional. But, like the karaoke entertainment, the craft beer selection at the bar and the football-related surprise that capped off our ceremony, the food reflected us. We didn't throw a wedding to try to impress anyone. We didn't throw a wedding to keep up with the wedding Joneses. This was the wedding of Steven and Michelle. Steven wanted bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Michelle could eat capers out of the jar (hence the juicy chicken piccata). Michelle has slowly convinced Steven of the merits of delicious deviled eggs.

This brings me to Advice No. 1: Do you. Not everything is going to go perfectly. (Things got a little behind for us during pre-ceremony photography, and there simply was not enough time to do everything we wanted. Plus, it spitted rain off and on, which was concerning since we were to be married outside. In the end, though, it all worked out, which leads me to Advice No. 2: Smile. Laugh at the things that go awry. Do your best to not only look pretty, but BE pretty. I had one small zilla moment, and I regret it.) 

Back to doing you, though: Not everyone will like your food selections. Not everyone will appreciate how much time and effort went into the day (because Lord knows I didn't until I actually planned a wedding). The best feeling, in the face of all of these truths, is knowing that you threw a party that reflected you two.

I gathered from our caterer all of the recipe specifics for the menu sign (which was placed at the beginning of the buffet) because I thought it elevated the experience a tad. At the conclusion of the buffet was a station for slathering one's mashed potatoes, announced by this sign:
My friend and colleague, Lauren, designed every one of the signs for our venue, keeping with the design my sister set with our invitations. By the way, here is the full invitation we sent to our esteemed guests, which I haven't shared until now to ensure our event's privacy. (This blog did have 3,060 unique visitors since Aug. 16!)
The responses we received on our mad lib RSVP cards allowed us to order three vegetable lasagnas for those guests who wouldn't eat chicken, meatloaf or pork chops, and also enabled us to request that Something New Entertainment make certain that songs our guests said they wanted to dance to or sing would be available, at the very least. (Due to the number of rock stars who ended up wanting to sing, not every dance song could be played. We karaoke fiends were happy to have that be the case.)

We also sent the following map and information. I'm not sure if placing our honeymoon registry information on a card that we sent with our invitations was in bad taste, but I'm comfortable with the decision. One: We made it clear that our guests' attendance, period, was their gift to us (and we meant it), and two: why force our guests to go look for a web site to find the registry? As a wedding guest, I would rather have it right there in front of me rather than need to log on to XYZ web site in the name of some form of propriety. Maybe that's just me.
The above card brings me to Advice No. 3: Make your commitment to the comfort of your guests indisputably clear. Vermilion, Ohio is a pretty remote place; we drove around for four or five hours one afternoon, writing down directions with landmarks, researching things our guests could do and visiting restaurants. I was pretty stoked to hear from at least one guest that her boyfriend and she used our suggestions to enjoy some breakfast in town. 

I also was irrationally happy on the night of our wedding to see women slipping on some flip flops from the box of flip flops we provided so they could keep dancing comfortably.

From my perspective, it matters that the bride and groom demonstrate that they aren't the only important people of the day. Our wedding planners placed at each place setting this note we had printed to share our gratitude:
Advice No. 4: Understand, if you're doing a lot of do-it-yourself stuff, that you may need to tear down, and even if you don't, you'll need to account for who can take and keep hold of everything until you return from your honeymoon. This is one detail I don't feel I adequately prepared us for, and it meant that Steven and I were helping to tear down and now are needing to track down where all of those pretty little jars, tree trunks and more ended up.

If you have your wedding at a place that decorates using its own items, I have to presume you avoid this complication. That said, I don't regret doing DIY. The jars on each table were jars I made with my mother. That makes them priceless, and that makes them us. The same goes for the burlap runners.

Advice No. 5: Hire a limo. If you are having a time in your day when the presence of multiple people at multiple sites is necessary for the photographs you desire, a limo is a must. I am not exaggerating. I can only imagine the mess that would have been made of our timeline if we had five or more vehicles all trying to navigate an unknown town to get to the beach, to the boardwalk, to the venue. 

Advice No. 6: Speaking of timelines, understand this: Yours will have hiccups. Ours had a few, mostly for the pre-wedding photography, and it was the reason I had a mini-zilla moment. Before you think that yours is super detailed and it won't happen to you, behold the timeline I sent multiple times to all of our vendors. It just is what it is: When you have a number of people needing to do something together at various places, things can fall behind.
I will suggest this: Brides, don't get your hair and makeup done last. Have yours done more in the middle. I thought waiting would mean my look was "freshest," but I ended up feeling (and probably unnecessarily so) rushed. To be clear, our on-site hair and makeup stylists were incredible. Kind. Talented. Funny. And really listened if a girl wanted something changed or wanted something super specific.

Advice No. 7: Use multiple wedding countdowns as the day nears. In the final two or three months, I was reviewing a total of three timelines at least once every two weeks to check my progress and to remind myself of things that needed to be done. My timelines came from The Knot, a photographer I didn't end up hiring and a Today's Bride magazine. Using more than one helps to ensure that you're covering as many bases as you can. 

And remember my first advice: Do you. When a timeline told me to order the unity candles or to book ice sculptures, I ignored it. They weren't necessary for OUR day. That's not to say they aren't for yours.

Advice No. 8: Eat. Because we regret not eating more than one mini cupcake each when our guests RAVED about them, I've actually ordered the same flavors for a mid-October delivery from SweetPea Sinsations. By the way, here is the Story of Your Life I bartered for Jenn's scrumptious treats:
My final advice for now, Advice No. 9: Put a good amount of effort into your ceremony, too. The reception and all that goes into it is all-encompassing, it can seem, but the ceremony is really what the day is about. Steven and I worked to make every part -- from the way we introduced our mothers to our personally written vows to the surprise football toss at the conclusion -- meaningful and fun to listen to and interesting to watch for our guests. 

In the end, it is the ceremony that was our favorite part of the day. When we rehearsed, we chose not to rehearse anything but the processional (where the bridal party enters) and the recessional (where everyone exits) because we wanted the ceremony to be experienced live by the friends and family we love most, just as it would be by the rest of our guests.

Mind you: Our officiant, Harleigh, already had provided us a private link for us to listen to her reading through the ceremony we'd drafted, so we trusted she was ready. And she was.

Other questions for a woman who just married her best friend 14 days ago? Ask, and you shall receive.
10/8/2013 05:08:55 pm

Congratulations for your wedding... And thanks a lot for sharing such beautiful advice! I liked the point mentioning hiring a Limo! And the reason cited is appropriate! Thanks again for the share!



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