I always hear from my recent brides about the little things they would have done differently as they reflect in hindsight on their wedding days. It's usually less time or worry or money put towards certain items or remembering to eat more or drink less.
So, I chatted with four of my 2015 brides about what they loved and regretted; what they'd change if they could and what they wish someone would have told them. Today's part will talk about the planning process -- their engagement and their vendors and much of a Bridezilla they said they were (honestly!). In our next section, the ladies will reflect more on their day and favorite memories.
Let's meet them!
Married: 8-1-15 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania
Married: 8-30-15 in Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania
Married: 9-6-15 in Hackettstown, New Jersey
Married: 11-21-15 in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania
Tell us a little bit about your wedding day!
McKenna: It was perfect! I could not have asked for a better day. The weather was beautiful -- not too hot, not too cold. The location was special to us. The ceremony was held where we attend church camp every year and our reception was held in a family member's backyard. Nothing fancy, all laidback and exactly how we envisioned. We had a big wedding party -- eight bridesmaids, seven groomsmen, one flower girl and one ring bearer. We wanted those who were close to us to stand by our side.
MaryAnna: Our wedding was located at the Shawnee Inn. This place was significant for us because my grandparents had a timeshare there since before I was born and Ian used to go to camp there as a child. We had three flower girls, four bridesmaids, a maid of honor, a matron of honor and six groomsmen with two best men. (I was worried about the lopsidedness, but it wound up being really cute when two of my cousins walked out with a guy on each arm!). We had 170 guests, pretty much even for each side. In terms of twists, our minister used "beer pong partners for life" as part of our vows (That's how we met) and I dis as many of the decorations, cake topper and favors myself. Ian said to mention that we had a First Look twist -- originally we weren't going to do a First Look, but I changed my mind at the last minute and he went for it. I am sooo happy we did because we got some of my favorite pictures then and it rained after the ceremony. Also, one of our flower girls announced that she peed her pants during the ceremony and nearby canoers yelled, "Don't do it!" during our ceremony, but Ian and I were blissfully unaware of that until after the fact. While we were having our first kiss, people threw beer pong balls at us. I had no idea that was going to happen but my mom and aunt are sneaky!
Mallorie: My wedding day was the most beautiful day my husband and I could have asked for. The weather was calm, the sun was shining and the ground was dry -- which was important for our outdoor ceremony at Rutherfurd Hall in Allamuchy, NJ. We had 115 guests watch us say our vows to each other, each of us with our four best friends next to us, before joining us for an awesome party at David's Country Inn in Hackettstown, NJ, a 19th-century building that was kept in excellent repair. There, guests were asked to sign a caricature of the two of us for our "guest book" and spent the next five hours dancing, drinking and laughing. It was fantastic.
Megan: Our wedding took place in my hometown at my church I had attended since I was a child. After our ceremony, we went to the groom's family farm to take pictures with our bridal party and then danced the night away at our reception which also took place in my hometown. Ben and I both grew up in a "small town, country setting", so it was important to both of us to have it in an area we knew and where our family lived nearby. Our wedding party included six bridesmaids and six groomsmen. We both didn't want a large wedding, so we invited about 185 guests and ended up with a total of 145 coming. It was the perfect-sized wedding for us. Ben and I chose not to do the First Look before our ceremony, but I did surprise him with a book of boudoir pictures of myself. Before the ceremony, I had him blindfolded and sitting in a private room, and I walked in and handed him the book from behind. It was a nice little surprise for him and just a romantic moment for both of us.
For how long were you engaged? How organized were you in wedding planning?
McKenna: We were engaged for a year and five months. At the beginning, I wasn't on top of things because I was finishing college, but when it came down to three months before the big day, I whipped myself into shape.
MaryAnna: We were engaged for a year and a month. I would say I was pretty organized because I love both Microsoft Excel and Pinterest! Keeping a binder was really helpful as well. THe best idea we had for staying organized, I stole from my parents -- Make an index card with each family's name and address on it. I put check marks to keep track of who was sent what, as well as wrote the gifts given on the back. I also had an Excel spreadsheet of our guest's names, and this made it so easy to personalize thank-yous (that I'm still working on almost two months later).
Mallorie: Eric and I were engaged for one year and one month, though it seemed like it was only a hiccup. Wedding planning was intense -- we only had hand-me-down knowledge from our other married friends and a copy of "Wedding Planning for Dummies." It got a little out of control at one point, but we managed to get back on track. Biggest word of advice here: budget. Not to an extreme, but it's so easy to just buy things without thinking. Oh, that's only $5, let's buy four of them. Oh, look at this! This is what I've been talking about -- it's only $25! Let's get one for mom and one for grandma...
Megan: Ben and I were engaged for less than a year! Approximately 10.5 months! I felt that I was fairly organized throughout the whole process of wedding planning. There is so much involved in planning, it's impossible to stay completely organized. You just have to take it one step at a time, and make reminder lists. That's what helped me a lot. Anytime I thought of something I needed to complete, I wrote it down right away.
Do you recommend an order of lining up your decisions and vendors? Was there something you wish you had spent more time on or something that wasn't as important as you thought it was?
McKenna: I think it's all in how you feel things should be done. But make sure photographer and venue is at the top of your list because they book quickly. At first we struggled with our venue but it all worked out. I spent way too much time on favors because hardly anyone took any.
MaryAnna: We looked at the one venue and that was it! Ian even mentioned the place the day we got engaged. We booked about 11 months in advance, and decided on Sunday because it was 20% cheaper and the guys would have time for a golf tournament on Saturday. I wore my mom's dress, so I started getting that altered about nine months before the ceremony and it was actually finished four months before. It was a little nerve-wrecking trying to not lose or gain any weight in that time, but it kept me from doing any crash diets, so that's a plus. I waited until the last minute with the cake decorator because I didn't like the style of things on her website and people complained that the icing was glittery. Read: My cake had glitter, too, but it was beautiful and it was free, so go with the people your venue has! Make sure that your vendors guarantee that they will be there because our DJ had said that he would be there and then he sent his son, who could not get the names straight and complained to the bartender that people kept making him take requests. Don't just go off of ratings.
Mallorie: I recommend knocking out your venue first, both ceremony and reception if you're planning on two separate locations. You can have everything else in place, but if you don't have anywhere to have the ceremony or reception, you could definitely run into some problems. From that point on, everything should kind of fall into place. I ended up taking care of most of my vendors before even going dress shopping and I bought my shoes the week before I said "I do" (on sale at DSW!!!). Don't agonize over finding your "perfect" dress -- please, please, please. You'll be stunning in whatever you decide to wear that day.
Megan: If you are planning a wedding that is two years away, it's fairly easy when it comes to booking stuff. For me, I only had 10.5 months, so it was a little more difficult. I started with the venue and DJ first. Making sure both things were available for the same date was harder than I thought. So I would definitely start with those two. Then I suggest photographer and cake lady next. And then the rest kind of just falls into place. There wasn't anything during the planning process that was really hard. Just staying organized and trying to keep within my budget I had set for myself was the most important. One thing I recommend is do not spend a lot of money on invitations. I got mine on clearance at Hobby Lobby and spent a total of $70. I printed them myself, and although that took some time, it was worth it.
How involved was your significant other in the planning process? Were you surprised by any of his requests or his role in the decisions?
McKenna: He was fairly involved but he mainly wanted me to be happy.
MaryAnna: Ian was very involved in the process. He's amazing! He was the one who wanted a big venue with lots of people and I didn't dare even ask for that, so it was the best day ever! I told him we could get married in a field with a keg, but he didn't go for that.
Mallorie: I tried to involve my husband as much as I could during the planning process. There were a few times when he actually got involved and put his foot down on certain things (we had a cheesecake instead of a regular wedding cake because it was "him.), but for the most part, it was me presenting him with options and him telling me which he preferred. He really flourished, though, when I assigned him the task of making our registries! I did nothing in that area, it was all him! And now we have really cool stuff!
Megan: My significant other was not very involved. There were about four things he was involved with and that was it. He was raised Catholic and after discussing together, he compromised and said we could get married in my church. One crazy request he had was if his dog could bring the rings down the aisle. So, I did take time and ask my preacher (and surprisingly he said it was OK), but in the end that ended up not happening (thank God!), haha. He was involved with picking the tuxes and picking the cake flavors. He was also involved in the song selections. At first, I did not like the song he chose for our first dance, but I decided to compromise and dance to what he chose. That is the one advice I give you ladies: Although the significant others aren't involved much in the process (which can be frustrating and stressful because you feel like you are doing EVERYTHING on top of working full-time), when they do give their input and suggestions, try to listen and compromise. It is their special day, too.
Let's be honest: On a scale of 1 to 10, were you a Bridezilla? Would you do anything differently as far as managing the stress and all of the details?
McKenna: 5 or 6. I wish some bridal party helped me more to help manage stress.
MaryAnna: My bridesmaids kept telling me I was being too nice, so I guess a 1? I had a Main of Honor-zilla (in that she's very assertive), so I didn't need to be. I found out that my mom was sick a couple of months before the wedding and she was in the hospital the week before, so I felt like there were more important things to stress about than every detail of the wedding. It was still absolutely magical! Definitely pace yourself if you're going to be doing things ahead of time. I was done about two months before on the majority of the stuff, so it wasn't really stressful right before.
Mallorie: To be perfectly honest, I'd say I was a hard 2 on the Bridezilla scale, but only in when it came to the pressure of getting things done. I let my bridesmaids pick whatever dresses they wanted, the guys got to wear pieces out of their closets and all of the decisions were very easy to make as I didn't have a vision in my head since I was 7 years old. It was the instant anyone started making me feel like I wasn't taking my wedding seriously because I hadn't bought a dress 11 months in advance or I didn't want roses in my bouquet or because we wanted cheesecake and no one gets cheesecake at a wedding, that's kind of when I snapped. Do not let anyone tell you what weddings are supposed to be. It's your wedding.
Megan: I would give myself a 2 or a 3. I felt that I was pretty happy and easygoing all day! The only time I may have been frustrating to someone was a week before the wedding. I went to do my hair trial with my hairdresser and was there for four or five hours because I wasn't liking anything. So we finally found something I liked. Well, then the actual week of the wedding, I went back because I changed my mind and wanted something totally different. But I never cried or got mad or anything. And my hairdresser was so fabulous and understanding through all of my indecisiveness. In the end, I'm glad I went back and had her re-do it. I may have frustrated her, but I was so happy with my hair on my wedding day. I felt that I managed my stress well. I turn to exercising when I am feeling stressed. So no, I don't think I would change anything when it comes to managing my stress.
Did you overlook anything? Regret anything you did or didn't do?
McKenna: The only thing I forgot was my memory window I wanted to put our of family members who have passed.
MaryAnna: I wish I had had more time to get to talk to everyone, but there were so many people there that know I love them, so I'm sure they understand. I was really against having a wedding videographer, but now I wish we had one just for the ceremony because I wish I could have seen everyone's reactions when my flower girl yelled that she peed her pants!
Mallorie: I don't have any regrets about that day in regards to the decisions that we made. I do wish, though, that I had just stopped, just for a minute, slowed down from going 100mph. I didn't really give myself a chance to look around and take it all in. The entire day was a whirlwind, even now.
Megan: I may be wrong, but I don't think I forgot anything that day. I made plenty of lists so I didn't forget! Haha! The only thing I regret is not asking to have a taste testing and not coordinating with the musicians to hear the music that they were going to be playing. The music they played was beautiful, but our timing was off when we made our entrances.
Enjoy a glimpse into four beautiful wedding days below and stay tuned tomorrow for more information on the ladies' favorite parts of the ceremony and reception and why a photographer is such an important decision. Plus, the bit of advice they wish someone had told them.