One year ago today, the love of my life asked me to marry him, and after uncontrollably sobbing and nearly fainting, I said yes. It was an amazing, perfect day, but the best was yet to come.
In honor of my one year yes-iversary (is that a thing?)
This blog is mostly about food, health and wellness, but I’m kind of a girly girl and I love weddings and proposals and all that floofy, flowery stuff. So I wanted to share about my own wedding in case the rest of you wanted to read it, too. Plus, I enjoy reflecting back on the day of the proposal, all the wedding prep, and everything that went into promising my forever to the man I love more than anything else in this world.
WARNING: This will be a long post
(I won’t be offended if you don’t read the whole thing. In fact, I won’t ever know!)
Mid-September of last year, my husband (then boyfriend) and I went downtown to celebrate my birthday. It was a sweet time just being together, and while I’d originally had suspicions of an upcoming proposal, I didn’t think it would be that weekend. When he’d bring up the plans (for my birthday celebration) he seemed really relaxed about the whole thing and didn’t have anything formally scheduled, like a dinner reservation or a special place to go. So, I figured it would be just as it was — somewhat spontaneous, perfectly relaxed, and an overall enjoyable time spent with my love. The next day we had plans with his parents for brunch, which is something we’d done quite frequently before. I wasn’t expecting anything different.
But when we drove up to his parents’ house, I noticed a bunch of tables set up in their yard, along with at least a dozen people. I started to wonder if maybe this was like a “brunch with their church friends” type thing and panicked slightly because my hair was not freshly washed and I was wearing ripped jeans and no makeup.
When we pulled up, I realized that I recognized all the people that were there — they weren’t church friends, it was my family! Even my grandma was there, which was the sweetest thing ever. (She’s 92 years old and the coolest lady ever.) They were all dressed up (unlike me) and had white balloon bouquets as well as a giant “I do” balloon that was shaped like a ring.
If my sister and best friend hadn’t been filming the whole endeavor, I don’t think I’d have any recollection of it at all because by the time I got out of the car, I’d realized what was going on and started feeling faint. Like, I think my heart dropped into my toes and I was 100% seeing stars. In between sobs I sputtered out a “yes” and then we partied. His parents grilled burgers, someone brought a cake, we cracked open a brand new bottle of bourbon (my favorite) and it was just amazing.
Ever since I met my husband, I’ve become this sentimental/nostalgic type of person (never was before) and go completely gaga for the sweet things he says to me. I want to remember all of them and so I framed the words he said when he proposed. We’d had a number of special places from our dates together and he’d been planning to propose at one of them. But at some point he recognized that the most important thing was for our families to be together, because “things are better when they’re shared.” Then, he got down on one knee and said he wanted to share the rest of his life with me. I thought that was so beautiful and special, and so I bought a blank wooden “canvas” from hobby lobby, wrote out those words, and then hung them on the wall. Love it.
Our engagement was pretty short compared to most these days — a little over 7 months. I generally really enjoyed the wedding planning process because I love being crafty, and I really love browsing through all the inspiring ideas on Pinterest.
For us, the most important things that we wanted to take into account when planning our wedding were that we were budget friendly, made our guests feel comfortable/welcome, and kept God in the conversation.
My husband and I are both devout Christians, and we believe that our marriage isn’t just something we decided to do because of feelings of love — it’s a covenant with God to be faithful to each other. Right now, loving my husband with my whole heart feels like the easiest thing ever, but I know that as the decades pass it will require prayer, sacrifice and faithfulness to God. We wanted to set the precedent for that from the beginning.
Because we were focusing on keeping the costs low, we did most of the planning ourselves. Or rather, we didn’t hire anyone…but we received loads of help from our gracious family and friends. More about the budget approach & guest comfort below.
For our theme, we chose pastel/florals with gold as the accent. I thought gold was beautiful, and he and I agreed that florals made sense because our wedding was in the spring. Here are some pictures of what we came up with for decorations & style:
Keeping Our Guests Comfortable
I’m not a fancy person, and my husband isn’t either. What I mean by this is that I don’t do so great in “formal attire” situations, and acting prim and proper doesn’t come naturally to me. Weddings are usually formal events, and there’s generally an expectation that people will be prim and proper about it. But since we don’t value overt fanciness, we didn’t want that to be part of our wedding. Frankly, we find it stressful, so we decided to help our guests (and us) be the most comfortable and relaxed by keeping things as relaxed as possible while still throwing an elegant fiesta.
Here are some things we did to keep the atmosphere relaxed:
- Kids were welcome at both the ceremony and reception: By the time we got married, we had nine nieces and nephews between the two of us. Obviously they were invited! (We even had three flower girls and two ring bearers.) We’re very close with the kids in our family, but also close with our friends’ children. We invited all the kids because we wanted them there. We love them and value them, and think they make parties more fun.
- We encouraged pictures: Some weddings have rules against pictures. Ours didn’t. We know that folks like to take photos — it’s part of modern life. Plus, the more pictures other people take, the more pictures we got to enjoy and laugh about, later!
- No flower petals: Our (three) flower girls carried mini bouquets instead of baskets of flower petals. While I wasn’t against flower petals, if they get sprinkled down, they need to be picked up. I knew that I wouldn’t have been the one picking them up after the ceremony, and I didn’t want to ask something more of our friends and family, who were already doing so much.
- We had less bling and more people: As I mentioned, we made it a goal to keep our budget minimal for our wedding. While we are very grateful for the generosity of our family and friends who helped fund our wedding, we decided that the priority for those gifts was to celebrate with the people we love rather than to throw a fancy or impressive party. We left out add-ons that often get overlooked (like photo booths, chair covers, etc.) and used the extra wiggle room to lengthen our guest list.
- Buffet Dinner: Once again, a plated meal is the fancier option. But a buffet dinner lets people eat more food! Full disclosure, the buffet option saved money (see previous point) and it worked just fine. The food was awesome, and folks could help themselves to however much they wanted. Our reception hall facilitated the process really well and everything came together smoothly (as far as I am aware) even with the extra moving parts.
- Attire: Our wedding was not a black tie event, in case that isn’t obvious. While I personally would love to attend a black tie wedding (for the fun of it) we didn’t want the stress of throwing such a formal party ourselves. For our bridal party attire, my husband told his guys to wear a black suit and white shirt — whatever they liked. Most of them already owned one. My husband also already owned a tux (long story there) so he wore that — no alterations needed! For my bridesmaids, I took them shopping with me and we picked out the colors and cut together.
To maximize our guest list, we minimized the “extras.” For us, the people were the priority. In order to cut costs, we did a lot of the leg work ourselves (and with the help of family and friends) and tried to exercise wisdom in the purchases we did make. Here are some of the things we did to keep costs low:
- Ditched the DJ: My husband made a playlist on his iPod, plugged it into speakers supplied by the reception hall, and pressed play. He included one hour of cocktail hour music, our entrance song (“You’re The One That I Want” from Grease) and a mix of popular songs + oldies-but-goodies. His Uncle was the VIP MC for our entrance, cake cutting (donut cutting) and first dance.
- Ditched the (formal) Photographer: We were very blessed by our talented friends and family members who own fancy cameras and agreed to take photos for us. My brother-in-law took pictures at the ceremony, and he was joined by a good friend to tackle the reception. We are so grateful for them, because wedding photographers cost thousands of dollars. We also chose not to have engagement photos taken. Neither of us likes posing for photos. For me personally, I always feel frumpy, become frustrated with my hair/clothes, and end up fixating over my appearance. I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for another opportunity to critique my appearance. Also, our engagement was such that we have photos and videos of it actually taking place, which feels really special to us. I’m grateful that my husband proposed the way he did. Things really are better when they’re shared!
- Silk Flowers: I am probably the luckiest bride alive because my maid of honor somehow scored me six huge garbage bags filled with silk flowers — for free. Apparently JoAnn fabrics had made a massive donation to her school (she’s a teacher) which included thousands of silk flowers. She rallied her coworkers to dig through them and gather all the white and pastel ones, which we used for the bouquets and decorations throughout the reception hall. [For those of you who don’t have amazing, lucky friends: before I knew about the free silk flowers, I started buying flower arrangements at Goodwill. Some of them were HUGE and cost less than $5. I took them apart and threw away the flowers that were the wrong color scheme. Then, I used the vases they came in as reception hall decorations. Many of the accent flowers in my bouquets and decor along with all of the leaves came from doing this. You could easily get enough flowers for your own wedding with this method for less than $200.]
- Selective Decor Purchases: When considering decorations, we tried to be as simple as possible. For the things we couldn’t DIY for free/cheap, I decided not to buy anything unless I could reuse it. I bought a unity candle ensemble from Hobby Lobby (during the week that candles, candle holders and tapers were 50% off) that I thought was really beautiful, and we display it in our house. I also purchased the big M from our head table and a framed bible verse, also from Hobby Lobby either with the 40% off one-item coupon or when they were on sale. Both of them are decorations in our living room. It didn’t feel worth it to me to waste money on things I would only use for five hours, so if it wasn’t something I would use at home, I didn’t buy it.
- Friday Wedding: Our reception hall, like most, gave us a significant discount for having a Friday wedding instead of a Saturday wedding. I think this took about 10% off our total bill.
- Skipping the save-the-dates: Because our engagement was short (many reasons for that…ehem…) we didn’t feel the need to send out save-the-date cards. We sent out or invites about 2.5 months before the wedding to give people ample time, but because our guest list consisted of our friends and family with whom we talk with regularly, most of them knew about the date within a few weeks of us setting it.
- Second Hand Stores + Sales: Almost everything I bought for the wedding aside from the few pieces mentioned above was purchased on a huge sale or from a second-hand store. I hand painted a lot of frames and chalkboard signs, and those frames were each less than $3 from Goodwill. I also bought curtains and sheets that I used for drapes, some of which were sparkly gold, real silk, or the perfect shade of pink for our theme. I also got ribbon from an after-Christmas sale for like 75% off.
- No decorations for the ceremony: The only decoration we used for the ceremony was a framed bible verse and a pink silk table cover for the bench we used to display our wedding programs. We got married in a small historic church, and we both felt it was beautiful enough without a bunch of extra decorations. We didn’t even buy flower arrangements, which I think confused a lot of people when we were talking with them about our plans. But we were confident in our decision, and it worked out! (There were a few potted white lilies displayed in the church which were left over from their Easter service the week before. This was a surprise to us, and made the church smell heavenly!)
- Budget Reception Hall: We were very grateful to find a reasonably-priced reception hall. They charged per-person for a price we could afford, that also included beer and wine, napkins + linens, and a cocktail hour. We got a few add-ons for appetizers, and included his & her kegs (we don’t like domestic drafts) but the price per person was very reasonable. Was it trendy? No. Was it beautiful? 100% yes! If you’re planning a wedding, I really encourage you to find a place that fits your budget even if it doesn’t 100% match your style preferences. The wedding day is over in a blink, and the trendiest location isn’t the most important thing. I promise.
- Programs: I made my own design with black and white flowers that I found on Google Images, and printed them for free at work. It took be about an hour to fold them all in half (perfectly with a crisp crease) while watching Netflix, but this was 100% worth it to me instead of having them printed for $75 in color or ordering them online for $150. I think they were beautiful, and I’m pretty sure the guests threw them away immediately after the ceremony anyways.
- My Dress: I am very fortunate that my family bought me my dress and paid for the alterations. However, it was still important to me that I found something affordable, and within the budget I had set for myself which was $500. (If I wasn’t going to pay extra, it didn’t feel right to ask someone else to!) I found my dress at David’s Bridal for $450 and it was seriously perfect. It was exactly what I’d envisioned! I honestly don’t think you need to spend thousands of dollars on a dress to feel beautiful on your wedding day. As far as my shoes, it was really important to me that I buy something I would wear again. (Basically this meant something that wasn’t white and something that was practical enough to wear with something other than my own wedding dress.) I also chose to wear them at my rehearsal dinner. I found a pair of gold heels at Macy’s on Black Friday for 60% off which I paid for with an old merchandise credit. Alterations to my dress were minimal because I bought a size that fit my body, and I’d already made the decision not to lose weight for my wedding.
Some Other Things I Loved
- Our rehearsal dinner was held at the restaurant where we’d met.
- However, the dinner was on the second floor, with no elevator. The restaurant didn’t have an elevator, so my husband’s brothers, dad, and uncle carried her up the stairs in her wheelchair. It was a hilarious sight to behold!
- When we paraded into the reception, instead of pairing bridesmaids with groomsmen for the grand entrance, we invited them to walk in with their families. Most of our bridal party was already married (some of them to each other) and we wanted their spouses and children to feel loved and included, too!
- Our first dance was interrupted by our one-year-old nephew, who toddled onto the dance floor and started boogying along with us. Best moment ever.
- The day he proposed, when we were driving to his parents’ house, we got pulled over. Thankfully he didn’t get a ticket — but I still think it’s the funniest thing ever.
- I had four bridesmaids, all of my best friends, all from different points in my life: my best friend from birth (sister), and my closest friends from each of high school, college, and post-college.
- My husband’s groomsmen consisted of: his many brothers. I think that’s cool — family, first!
- My husband’s dad officiated our wedding. It was beautiful, special, and memorable.
- We used a wedding photo for our thank you cards…which as of the time I’m writing this post, still have not been sent out yet. (Oops!)
Something I Didn’t Expect About The Wedding Day
I’d expected wedding planning to be stressful, because that’s what everyone told me it would be. I think because we had so much help and support, and because we focused on doing things as simply as possible, wedding planning really wasn’t stressful. In fact, it was fun. I loved it. Truly.
However, the day of the wedding was extremely stressful. Nobody warned me about that, and I was not emotionally prepared. Getting my hair and makeup done with my best friends was fun. But my nerves got to me, and I was nauseated. By the time we got to the church, I was freaking out inside. Even though it was the most exciting day of my life and I wanted nothing more than to say “I do” ASAP, it was a very intense experience. There was a lot of waiting around for the next thing, and a lot of time to get worked up. I ended up crying a few times in the hour or so right before the ceremony. (I’m really grateful that I was surrounded by women I love and trust, who brought me water and sang worship songs with me.)
I also cried during the entire ceremony. But that one I expected, since I’d done the same thing at my sister’s wedding.
The reception was stressful. I was expecting the party to be relaxing, light-hearted, and fun. We’d planned for it to be that way. The hard stuff (ceremony) was all done, so the rest was supposed to be a breeze. As far as I’m aware, it felt this way for our guests. But I want to put it out there that I did not feel this way – and when I talked to my married friends and family members afterwards, they said they’d felt the same way at their own weddings.
I guess it’s not so glamorous to talk about the less than picture-perfect moments in a wedding, but for our wedding reception, I was exhausted. I didn’t want to dance, I didn’t want to socialize, I didn’t want to go to every table and talk with people — even though they were people I know and love. I wanted to go home, take off my scratchy lace dress, have a beer and a donut, and go to bed. I was over-tired and completely drained.
The most embarrassing thing ever…
When I got in the car with my husband after the reception was over, I cried. For like half an hour. Then I felt better, and we got on with the rest of our evening.
And every moment since then has been perfect newlywed bliss. I mean that with the utmost sincerity, but I won’t lie that the feelings of exhaustion and exasperation at our reception were real.
Ladies, if you feel that way at your wedding, it doesn’t meant there’s something wrong with you or your marriage. From talking to my friends and family, apparently the feeling is normal. I just wish I’d been warned beforehand!