07.01.17 // #whattheHiltzshesaParker
In my last post, I wrote a sort of letter to future myself with marriage advice and expressing the kind of wife I hope to be. Today I’m talking to other future brides/grooms – who may or may not (yet) be engaged and sharing our top 10 most worthwhile wedding decisions.
[This might seem like slightly different content than my usual, but I love using this blog to also cover lifestyle topics that are important to me. Marriage plus all-things wedding is certainly one of them! It was obviously a huge part of our lives over the ~6+ month engagement so I wanted to reflect on all of it while it’s still top of mind.]
Without further ado, here they are…
ONE: Private Last Dance
When I first heard this notion of doing a ‘last dance’ as bride and groom, after all the guests have cleared the reception room, right before the exit; I was interested but I didn’t think much of it at the time. For us, it ended up being one of the most emotional parts of the evening (and there were a lot of them!). Dancing in private to Amazing Day by Coldplay, under the string lights, at the end of what was (our kind of) perfect evening was truly the icing on the cake. It was as if time froze and we were able to pause and take in everything that just took place. Highly recommend!
TWO: Choosing Our Paper Products (Save the Dates, Invites, Thank Yous)
After considering various local vendors, I couldn’t help but go with minted.com. As a communications specialist and quasi-designer, I probably had too much fun selecting and customizing our invitation suite. It’s a big decision because it really helps set the tone and theme for all your wedding details that are to come. We wanted it to feel modern, but timeless; romantic and true to our style. Minted’s options fit the bill perfectly. Not to mention – free recipient addressing? Yes, please.
I did, however, choose to DIY our wedding programs and print them at FedEx. I loved the way they came out and enjoyed knowing it would be a keepsake I’d have to proudly look back on.
THREE: Vendor Selection
We really went for a mix of professionalism, industry expertise, & personality when it came to selecting our vendors. We always knew we wanted a DJ over a band (we LOVED Freddy from Astro DJ!) and a photographer that understood us as a couple. We wanted to feel as authentic and comfortable as possible. Courtney Timms Photography blew us away in every capacity. She took command of the day, never failed to meet my additional requests, and has so much heart! I adore that girl.
Having a month-of wedding coordinator was also a must. Katelyn Hadder of Haddy Ever After Events was a God-send. She helped make the perfectionist-planner that I am, able to completely relax on our big day. She also managed to still feel like a true friend in the process. She put out fires without ever needing to bring them to my attention and ensured every detail was in place.
We were fortunate enough to have some talented friends, Noah Kight & Addi Parker, assist us with videography. We’re still waiting on that footage but are so grateful we listened to other’s advice and hired a videographer!
Our florist, Karen of Aleen Floral Design, and cake baker, Cindy of Cindy’s Cakery, also helped make the entire day a dream come true. I’ll never forget walking into that reception room to see our vision, actualized. I can’t say enough positive things about these talented, kind-hearted women.
Other vendor contributions included the gifted and cool-as-can-be hair + makeup artist, Christina Crespo, who made me feel my most beautiful — ever. Wood signage was graciously crafted by Ashton of It’s All Wood Treasures. All other catering, drinks, rentals, etc. were provided by our venue — the beautiful Williamsburg Winery. Their team is a joy to work with and I’m so thankful we were able to spend our wedding weekend there.
I could go on with more vendor praise, but I’ll stop there for now!
FOUR: Not Worrying About Little Extras & Letting the Experts Do Their Jobs
Despite playing a large role in the planning process, I completely stepped back from it all by the time the week/weekend came around and trusted our vendor team to do their jobs. We also chose to invest more in extra food/drink and big-ticket items rather than small favors or little extras, and I’m so glad we did! We had tons of the personalized cocktail napkins (and even programs!) leftover, and honestly, I don’t think I would have even noticed or cared if we had additional customized details floating around.
Advice: The day is about the two of you. Unless a detail contributes to your love story, the ability to focus on each other, or an experience you want to share with your guests, forget it.
FIVE: Going All Out on the Dress & Accessories
I loved my dress when we first bought it. And still, like most brides (I’d assume), there were times I wondered if it was “too much”. I mean it had like a 6-foot train, all the razzle dazzle on the front, and dressy shoes & accessories. I started to wonder if something more simple would be better. Looking back on the day, I’m so glad I went with a fuller gown. Every bride’s style is different, but don’t be afraid to go big for your day. You wear a dress like that once in your life and every girl deserves to feel like a princess. Choose whichever dress will do that for you!
SIX: Buying Bridesmaids Gifts Well in Advance
I searched high and low for a robe/romper sort of ensemble my bridesmaids could get ready in. I knew I wanted that to be part of my gift to them. I ended up ordering some from Piyama on Etsy and couldn’t have been happier with the look and quality. They can take a long time to make and ship, so ordering in advance is a smart tip. Depending on how many bridesmaids you have, the gifts can also be a bigger cost. You’ll want to get it out of the way early on so you can focus on other details like your honeymoon, and new house items without stress! 🙂
SEVEN: Calling to Upgrade Our Honeymoon
Speaking of the Honeymoon, the week before our trip we decided to call our resort and inquire about additional vacancies and upgrade options (#yogmo -you only get married once) :). They generously worked with us and our budget to place us in a villa fit for a King & Queen. You never know until you ask, people! It was so worth it!
EIGHT: Marriage Counseling
You could probably ignore all the other seven things I’ve said so far and just do this one. Marriage counseling was so essential to us and all the more rewarding to do it with a Pastoral couple we deeply admire, respect, and believe in the value of their leadership.
We were also able to plan out our ceremony with our Counselor/Pastor/Officiant and trust he’d lead us through it beautifully. Communion was such a special moment between the three of us, as our guests listened to Wonder by Bethel Music. It was hot and we were all a bit sweaty, but that’s to be expected in July on the East Coast!
NINE: Doing a “No Look First Look” + Letters to Each Other
I got this idea from my older sister and Matron of Honor, Liz. She and her husband did this at their wedding and I loved the idea and the photo they had of it so much, I knew it was something I wanted to do, too. I love the tradition of not seeing each other before coming down the aisle, and was more than fine with all the anticipation. Having this one little moment to exchange a few words and grasp hands gave me all the assurance I needed.
The rest of what we wanted to say to each other? It was contained in letters we exchanged and read aloud shortly before the ceremony.
TEN: Zola – Registry & Wedding Tools
I have been shouting Zola’s praises from the rooftops ever since I first discovered it. It started as a universal registry, allowing you to essentially ‘pin’ items from anywhere on the web to add to your registry and keep it all in one place. It also has an entire inventory of high-quality, stylish, competitively-priced items and assists with registry planning, making it all less daunting. The best part? Free shipping and often no tax on purchases! Plus, all couples get a 10% discount on all orders after your wedding date. We loved our Zola registry!
Advice – They now also have a whole host of tools like a checklist/planner, websites, and more. If you ask me, Zola is the way to go!
I could honestly keep going, but I think that provides more than a general jist! Planning a wedding is such a blessing no matter what or how you do it. Despite the stress and overwhelm that comes with it, do everything you can to truly enjoy and trust the process. Spend time together and take moments where you don’t talk all things wedding. At the end of the day, you’re marrying your best friend and sharing that occasion with the people that matter the most to you.
It’s about what’s meaningful over beautiful, because what’s meaningful to you will be beautiful, too.
Let me know what you think in the comments below and if you want to chat more, I’m all ears! Drop me a line on the contact page.
Kaitlyn (Hiltz) Paker
all photos by CourtneyTimmsPhotography.com