Last June, I married my best friend in an apple orchard and it was the best wedding day I could have imagined. I was over-the-moon excited to marry Dan from the moment we got engaged (which, incidentally, was about seven years after our first date and many years after I decided I would like to marry him). But, the whole “wedding” thing can be overwhelming. I never felt like everything had to be perfect, or like I had been dreaming about this day since I was a little girl, but I did feel like I really wanted everyone to have fun (including us! and the wedding party! and all of the guests!). And, with that being our primary goal, I think we had an incredibly fun wedding (and no, I am not biased). Here’s what I learned along the way, what I’m so glad we did, and what we would have done differently in retrospect.
1. We got an excellent photographer. Having your photo taken by a stranger can be sort of off-putting, and finding a photographer that made both Dan and me comfortable, and had the eye to capture all of the moments that go in to such a big day, made all the difference. Our photographer captured photos of us that I love, but beyond that she made sure to capture moments and details that I never would have remembered (or even seen) if it weren’t for her eye. I have already looked through all of our wedding photos more times than I can count, and I know I’ll spend countless more hours looking at them in the years to come.
2. I bought an incredibly comfortable dress that cost less than $350. I loved my wedding dress—it felt like I was wearing pajamas, it moved well, and it did not cost as much as my first car. The trick is that my dress wasn’t marketed as a wedding dress—it was a formal Tadashi Shoji gown in ivory. If you’re getting married and don’t want to spend a small fortune on your dress, I highly suggest searching the evening gown section at stores like Nordstrom and filtering by ivory or white. They typically don’t have dramatic trains like many wedding dresses do, but that would have been a huge pain at our apple orchard wedding, anyway.
3. We had delicious and healthy food. Food was one of the splurge items at our wedding, and if you’re in the market for catering in Minneapolis I cannot recommend Chow Girls highly enough. The food was incredibly delicious (and made from high-quality ingredients, which is important to me) and it was also healthy and didn’t leave people feeling sick or sluggish when it came time to dance. We also did a family-style dinner and I loved that approach—it let people eat more or less depending on their appetite, and I didn’t have to track meal choices for 225 guests. Plus, they’re a rockin’ women-owned business, which I love.
4. We loved our venue, and we made the most of it. One of the things I loved about the orchard was that it had a huge lawn and on-site lawn games for the cocktail hour. This went perfectly with our easy-breezy-please-just-have-a-fun-day theme, and people really bought in and played horse shoes, croquet, and bocce ball between the ceremony and dinner. We also got to bring our own alcohol on site, which saved us a TON of money. We chose our wine, beer, and liquor at Total Wine, hired bartenders to serve it, and had plenty for everyone (plus leftovers we enjoyed for about six months). The pretty backdrop also meant we didn’t have to do a lot of decorating, which made everything a lot easier on me. And we used their fire pit to make s'mores after dinner, which was messy and delicious and lighthearted.
5. We ordered our flowers from Costco. I wanted flowers on our tables and for the bridal party’s bouquets, but I did not want to spend a fortune on fancy arrangements. Luckily, my very talented maid of honor has some background in floral arranging and helped me put together some gorgeous bouquets. I ordered some dried components and faux succulents to accent the bridal bouquets, and I absolutely loved them. Again, saved a ton of money.
6. I put extra time into the day’s schedule, and I made sure tons of people had the schedule and knew when things were happening. I’ve been in a lot of weddings, and there’s nothing more stressful than running late on your wedding day. Plus, the getting ready and taking pictures and hanging out before everything starts is fun—get that phase going early, so you’re not running into your ceremony while one bridesmaid buttons up your dress and another touches up your lipstick. Also, when something goes wrong, you’ll be glad you have the extra cushion (in our case, Dan and the groomsmen thought that a shuttle was picking them up at the hotel to take them to the orchard for the pre-wedding photos. Not so much. But, they realized no shuttle was coming, and got themselves where they needed to be, and we still had plenty of time for pictures.)
What I Would Have Done Differently
Honestly, I have to start this section by saying these items are really minor. The key to loving your wedding day is to just know that not everything is going to go perfectly, but you’re going to come out on the other side married, and that’s really the whole point. That said, even as someone who was as low-stress as I could possibly be about everything leading up to the “I do,” I got pretty overwhelmed in the last few days. Between trying to catch up at work so I could be out for two weeks for our honeymoon, actually getting ready for our honeymoon, and then making sure all of the wedding details were taken care of, it was a lot. I totally lost my appetite the week of our wedding, and that never happens to me. Two days before the wedding I thought I lost our marriage license, which is a pretty key document, and I’m not really the disorganized type. It’s an overwhelming time, so don’t make it worse on yourself by getting bogged down in the details. Stay high level. Ok? Great.
1. Made sure our DJ and officiant knew about our videographer. We had a dear friend do our wedding video and she knocked it out of the park. But, she couldn’t do much about the fact that our officiant didn’t hold the microphone up for Dan and I while we were saying our vows (which also means our guests didn’t hear them) and the DJ either unplugged her sound or turned it off for the speeches, so the audio for those isn’t great, either. Totally accidental on our officiant’s and DJ’s parts, but it’s a bummer that those moments weren’t captured, especially because the speeches were SO. GOOD. In general, it’s good to connect your vendors to each other so they can sort things out on their end—you’re really busy on your wedding day, so you can’t coordinate like you did during the planning.
2. Gotten a gel pedicure. I’m laughing at myself for putting this on the list, it is so minor. But, I had peep-toe shoes that I LOVED, and didn’t realize that they would push the polish right off my freshly-pedicured toes. Totally not a big deal, but silly to get your nails done just to have them ruined before you even walk down the aisle (I got the gel manicure on my fingernails, and just went with regular polish on my toes. Under normal circumstances, probably fine—but especially if you’re wearing new special wedding shoes, just go with the gel.) In this picture, our awesome photographer was like "oh don't worry, I'll just hide your toes in the grass."
3. Check your passport rules for the honeymoon more than a week ahead of time, and give your marriage license to someone else (like your mom, or your very responsible made of honor) as soon as you get it. Guys, I am a pretty serious traveler. I’ve lived in Europe, I’ve traveled extensively as an adult, and I plan my own trips. And I NEVER knew that your passport had to be valid beyond the dates of your travel. Because, I guess, passports don’t expire very often so this doesn’t come up a lot? I don’t know. Tell everyone. Thanks to a Facebook post from a college friend who ran into this problem the week of our wedding, I found out that my passport needed to be valid for six months past our date of entry into Thailand, even though we were only staying for ten days. Our trip was in June, my passport expired in December (eight days too soon). It’s possible that we could have gone on the trip and no one would have given it a second look, or it’s possible we would have been turned away at the gate and missed our honeymoon. Luckily, Minneapolis has a passport office and I was able to do an emergency application and get a new passport the week of our wedding. Honestly, it still gives me heartburn to think about it. Also, I put our marriage license “somewhere I wouldn’t lose it” after it arrived, and I promptly forgot where that very special place was. Between getting everything packed for the honeymoon and getting everything together to go to the hotel/wedding venue, it just got lost. I lost a night of sleep looking for it and eventually found it (somewhere between 3 and 4 am, after bawling like a baby for several hours while I tore our house apart trying to find that damned piece of paper). Again, such a traumatic experience that I don’t even remember where I found it. I’ve totally blocked it out. Just do yourself a favor and give that document to someone who isn’t getting married that week, but who will definitely be there. Like your mom.
Other things that are going to be tough when you’re planning a wedding are sort of just unavoidable. It costs more than you would like it to (and our wedding was not cheap by any measure, but the day of/after I was so happy we’d spent what we spent. It was just such a great day.) The guest list is so tough—we wanted the whole world to be at our wedding, which wasn’t feasible. Making cuts to the invite list totally sucks, and there’s not a lot you can do about that unless you have an unlimited budget. But, it really does all work out in the end. Hopefully, what you’re left with are a lot of great memories and a warm, glowy feeling about the start of your married life. That’s what we walked away with, and even though we know marriage is hard and imperfect (because dating for eight years before “I do” was hard and imperfect) I know that looking back on that day will always make us smile.