Lately I’ve been a bit bothered by all of the “How to create a wedding for $0 while living in a tree and going to school” and “3 Tips to ensure your wedding is flawless without a wedding planner or any reputable vendors” posts that I keep seeing. It seems that every year during this season, wedding world awakens with energy and excitement and is then slammed back down as we are price-shopped and haggled with. As this weighs heavy on my heart, I wanted to share with you WHY YOU NEED A WEDDING PLANNER. Or, an Event Coordinator, at the least! And why it’s so difficult to be the bride on your wedding day without one.
This is a personal story and it makes me sad to tell it, again, but there is a happy ending and a redemption tale as well. But every business owner has their “why we started this venture” story and in the dawn of this new season, I wanted to share mine. Below is my most solid advice for newly-engaged couples and my urge for each bride to BE the bride on your wedding day!
I married a small town doctor’s son and my high school/college sweetheart. He was Mr. Popular and I was the first to get married in my family. We were both Greek in college and our guest list topped 580+. I’m an organized person. I love lists and timelines and paper and schedules and I come from a long line of Martha Stewart-type women. DIY is in my blood and it was going to be a part of the wedding. I wasn’t working with a very big budget and I helped pay for a good chunk of the wedding, but nonetheless: $35k for over 500 guests? Call me crazy.
The wedding would take place in my hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee. Everyone I ever wanted to invite made the cut and we didn’t work to whittle that down much at all. Planning began: my parents were in Cleveland and I was in Murfreesboro working full time AND in grad school AND recovering from a car wreck (I was hit by a drunk driver traveling down I-75) that landed myself and my dog, Chester, in the hospital for 11 days. My parents worked tirelessly researching vendors and scouting locations and working to take a load of stress off of me as I tried to take control of the demands in my life while recovering from lung surgery. From vendor meetings to early morning decorating, my parents were absolute heroes and tackled our to-do list without complaint. I made a dozen trips home to narrow down selections, meet with the vendor team (which was absolutely incredible!) and nail down the design details. I was, like many brides, one who wanted “help” from her creative friends and acquaintances. My best friend’s mother is a floral designer and was ‘doing my flowers’ at a price that I now can’t even fathom after my years as a floral designer. (And, holy smokes, they were gorgeous!) Although I thought at one point I wanted my uncle to ‘take some pictures’, I hired an incredible photographer from Knoxville to take on that role (Best. Decision. Ever.). Not that my uncle isn’t a keen photographer, but, as many of you know, a wedding photographer is an entirely different beast.
As the wedding weekend approached, we pulled the final details together. I made the bridesmaids’ jewelry, my mom altered their dresses, we tied the silverware with ribbons and created the boxes that would hold the favors. I wrapped all of the gifts and we were all running around like crazy people. My sister climbed a two story ladder to hang grapevine orbs in an old warehouse, while my mom hung a 30 foot draping backdrop SHE SEWED on a structure my DAD BUILT. We were in over our heads and I could feel it all weighing on me as we worked ourselves to the bone. There was no way we could enjoy the wedding day…we were just too exhausted.
I awoke the morning of the wedding at 6am to find my parents gone. Someone had to set up tables and throw the linens, right? My parents. Someone had to ensure that the dinnerware was out and available and electricity could be found if a vendor needed it. My parents. My sister and I met them at the venue about an hour later and together, the 4 of us worked tirelessly until it was time to have my hair done. We set up tables and chairs and threw linens and set centerpieces and greeted vendors. Things a reputable rental company and/or wedding planning team would tackle.
And the REAL part of a bride’s wedding day began. Hair. Makeup. Photographs. Ceremony at 6pm with a dinner reception following for our 400 attendants. The event was beautiful, guests raved, my photographs are outstanding and I don’t remember a bit of it. You see, as the bride/planner/event manager, I couldn’t keep it all straight. I wanted to have fun showers and plan the pretty details, while feeling pretty and looking amazing on my wedding day. I wanted to make sure that everything was picture perfect but couldn’t be in h/mu, at the church AND the reception venue all at the same time. Neither could my mom. Or my sister.
Things I forgot/left out or overlooked while trying to play the role of bride/planner/event manager on my wedding day.
- I forgot to assign someone to light candles. They got lit about an hour into the reception, when a friend of mine stopped to ask me about it.
- I had no one to keep us on a timeline, so my cake was cut at 9:30 pm; 3 hours after dinner.
- Hell, let’s be honest: I had no timeline! I just thought stuff happened at a wedding whenever the bride decided. HA!!!
- I forgot a cake cutting set. And my beautiful champagne flutes. We used a steak knife and didn’t toast at all.
- I forgot the final catering payment. My dad approached me WHILE THE GARTER TOSS MUSIC was playing to sign a check. HIS check, because I forgot my checkbook to pay vendors.
- I forgot tips. My vendors were outstanding and I forgot to thank them on the wedding day.
- I failed to assign the movement of guest book and ceremony items from one venue to the next.
- I didn’t communicate which door our exit transportation should look for/park.
- I didn’t have ANY ceremony details mapped out but am so thankful for the help of a friend who took the reigns at my TWO HOUR rehearsal. I had no idea how a ceremony was really supposed to flow. Sure, I’d been in a few weddings at that point, but being the bride and being a bridesmaid carry very different responsibilities.
- I didn’t think through how MUCH STUFF would have to leave the venue and how many items would need to be packed back into vehicles at the end of the night.
- I had no clean up crew. Me, my new husband, my sister and my parents. We cleaned the venue and packed everything up and were the last people out.
- I forgot to thank them. Sure, they got a gift at the rehearsal dinner, but it was a long, LONG time before I realized just how much work they put into my wedding. The guilt eats at me. (Now I’m crying. See?!)
I was so hell bent on making sure that everything was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT that I ran my family into the ground. My parents didn’t enjoy a single second and my sister was waiting for that trigger that would send me over the edge. My bridesmaids were frustrated, my new husband was stumped and I don’t remember half of my wedding day. I never once felt “bridal bliss” or felt like I was able to enjoy my day.
I don’t wish this on anyone. I would give anything to go back and spend the money for someone to take that stress from me and my parents; to allow me to enjoy having my hair done and enjoy the time with my family/bridesmaids. To ensure I remembered the little things and kept me from crying myself to sleep the night before my big day. To allow my parents to enjoy this time with their friends and family, knowing I wasn’t going to fall apart at any second. But I thought I could do it all. I thought: “If anyone can do this, it’s me”.
I was wrong. And I regret it so deeply. But like many newly engaged brides-to-be, I believed a wedding planner came in and took over. They make decisions for you and plan your whole wedding and you have absolutely no say in what was happening and I was not ok with that. I know better now and that’s NOT what we do!
Redemption, in a way
Did I mention there was a redemption part to this story? Yes, so my sister got married about 4 years ago. Although my parents had a few tasks on hand (we are crazy DIY people after all!), they hardly lifted a finger in comparison. I took it all: the frustration or complications and budgeting and design work. Anything that logistically might be an issue was something I worked through and planned for before they even knew it needed to happen. The day was perfect, the event went swimmingly and my parents and sister enjoyed the heck out of themselves! *I* enjoyed myself!
My secret: I knew I couldn’t be sister, daughter, matron of honor, wedding planner, set up crew, event management and floral designer, so, I hired a planner! Sweet wedding planning friends Katt and Austin acted as event management for the event and let me enjoy the day; my only day as a matron of honor and my only sibling’s wedding. BEST. DECISION. EVER.
This picture is me doing one of my favorite tasks: steaming the bride’s wedding dress. It’s me being a sister and a top-notch matron of honor. It’s me spending time with my only sibling and being there for her in a way that doesn’t involve crazy manual labor or circus acts. This was my act of love and one of the few responsibilities I had on the day of my sister’s wedding. My sister was able to enjoy her bridesmaids and her time that morning as she got dressed and anticipated her wedding without running around like crazy or running her family ragged. She was able to BE the bride on this special day. THIS is what I wish for every bride, every mother of the bride and every sister. THIS is why I plan weddings.