Wedding

Yes, It IS Possible To Keep Your Bachelorette Budget-Friendly!

The time has come. It’s almost springtime, the weather is about to warm up. Your best friend is getting married and her last wish as a bride-to-be is to have all of her closest gal pals with her to celebrate. The only problem? It’s a destination bachelorette weekend and cost is shaping up to be about $2,000 a person. Not only does your budget not allow for that, but you also can’t afford to take two full days off of work to travel.

How can we remedy this? How can we make it so everyone can afford to celebrate you without breaking the bank? I’ve been invited to a few destination bachelorettes that ended up being pretty costly, and while I enjoyed every minute of the trips, there was an underlying stress of finances the entire time.

The truth is, I love any excuse to travel, especially with a group of friends. In fact, I am doing a destination bachelorette of my own! But I am also doing everything in my power to make sure it’s affordable for everyone.

If you’re hoping to do a destination bachelorette, be okay with less-than-swanky accommodations. Keep in mind that your friends are already shelling out some major dough on travel alone, and if you’re hoping to partake in some fun activities wherever you go, cutting corners when and where you can is ideal. AirBnB and VRBO are great go-to’s for finding a place to stay. Remember that you will probably only be at the house or in your room for sleeping and getting ready, so you and your friends should be more than okay with any place that’s clean and liveable.

Compiling a list of things you want to do during your bach is a new norm, but that doesn’t mean everything on your to-do list has to be crossed off. If you have girlfriends planning the weekend, be sure to stress to them that you don’t expect everything to be done. Again, everything costs money! And we’re approaching an age where the friends who can’t afford to do stuff will actually refuse to participate due to cost. It’s no fun for you or your friends if not everyone can afford to be in on the fun!

Even though you are the bride and your friends want to pamper you, take any and every opportunity you can to offer to help pay for things. Your friends may not let you, but at least you tried – believe it or not, this gesture will be hugely appreciated by the women in your life.

As ideal as a destination bachelorette would be, it’s totally okay to find something fun to do closer to home. You could do a spa night at someone’s home, complete with brand new bathrobes, face masks, manis/pedis, massages. There are crews you can pay to come to your home to do all of that! And at a cost that’s much cheaper than a weekend getaway. It’s the perfect way to pamper yourself right before your wedding. You could rent a limo and go wine tasting for a day. There are tons of options to keep it close-to-home and still lots of fun [scroll to bottom to see my list of bank-account-friendly bachelorette ideas]!

If you can’t part with the idea of going out of town, try heading to a place within a couple hours drive of your hometown. It cuts down on travel costs for your gals, which provides a little more cushion for being able to afford doing fun activities over the weekend.

Matching bachelorette tanks are all the rage right now, but it’s a completely unnecessary expense. Instead of making everyone pay $20+ for a custom screen tee [that, let’s be honest, nobody will ever wear again], tell your buds to hold onto the cash for brunch and mimosas on the town, or an Uber ride home from the bars. [Or, offer to pay for the shirts yourself].

If having some sort of bachelorette weekend memorabilia is a non-negotiable for you, try treating your friends to a fun souvenir like wine glasses with their initials, or travel cups with their names. I’ve also seen custom beach towels, which would be really fun for a bach weekend in San Diego, or a poolside spot in Palm Springs [check Etsy! tons of great ideas].

One of the best ways to cut down on cost for a destination bach is to bring in your own food. This will really only work if you’re renting a house or a hotel room with a kitchenette, but if that’s the route you go, definitely plan on cooking at home one night. This can be turned into a fun game night, and the evening when the bride opens her lingerie gifts.

Remember that your bachelorette weekend isn’t about topping other girls’ trips, it’s about making memories with your best girl friends. Keep that in mind when you’re trying to decide what to do for your big event. Regardless of where you go or what you do, if you have all of your friends there, you will have the time of your life.


Bachelorette On A Budget:

  • limo rental + wine tasting for the day
  • at home spa night – hire a company to come in and give manis, pedis, facials and massages
  • brew bike
  • 3 day cruise [there are tons of these through Carnival and they are very affordable!]
  • food tour of your local city
  • cooking class
  • hiking
  • wine + painting class
  • travel to destination locations during off-season when prices are lower
  • ski/snowboard day
  • rent a pontoon boat on your local lake and tool around listening to music and making memories

The Search For “The One” [My Wedding Gown, That Is]

Prior to getting engaged, I’d never even looked at a single wedding dress. Nope, not even on Pinterest. I always thought, How can you legitimately plan a wedding when you don’t even have a groom?

The second Mitch and I returned home from Seattle [read about our engagement story here], though, I dove deep into everything wedding.

I never imagined my wedding day growing up, but my style has always been a bit more casual and boho. Lots of bright colors, flowy dresses, you get the picture. Naturally, I figured I’d be more drawn to a hippie style dress. And with my consistent love of heat and warm weather, spring or summer was inevitable for my wedding day.

At least, that’s what I thought.

When Mitch and I started discussing wedding dates, we both agreed we wanted sometime in the fall [shockingly, I realized I didn’t want to be sweating all over my wedding dress, nor did I want to risk it raining on our wedding day – that immediately eliminated any spring or midsummer dates]. With this in my mind and my iPad in my hand, I started scouring Pinterest for wedding gowns. I was immediately drawn to long-sleeved ball gowns [yes, like a Disney princess!], and figured that if we were having a fall wedding, there was a 50% chance it would be cool enough for a long sleeved gown. After consistently finding photos of dresses I loved by the same designer, I finally checked out her website and found a bridal boutique in Sacramento that carried her line. I was elated! While Sac may be the capital of CA, we don’t have the luxury of having very many fancy, designer stores, nor do our stores carry much designer apparel. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find any better-known designers here, so finding a boutique that carried one that I liked was like finding a needle in a haystack! A golden needle, at that.

And just like that, I had an appointment scheduled for mid July [yes, fourteen-and-a-half months before my wedding date] – I honestly couldn’t want any longer to try on dresses! And I kept picturing horror stories of not having enough time to have my dress hemmed and fitted, so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to find a dress, order it, and have the measurements done.

When my mom, sister and I popped into the boutique for my fitting, I was so ridiculously excited. I had heard from so many friends that they loved trying on dresses, that it was their favorite part of the whole wedding planning process. And all of them found their dress at the first store they ever went to. With these experiences in the back of my mind, I was feeling pretty confident that I’d find my dream dress that day.

I tried on probably ten or fifteen different dresses in the 90 minutes we spent at the shop, and each of them was pretty and unique in its own way. I felt pretty damn special and beautiful, even in the dresses that weren’t very flattering or I just didn’t end up liking. In the end, I nixed the long sleeve gown idea. Though they were gorgeous dresses, even inside the air conditioned boutique I was uncomfortable and sweaty. I knew that would not work for a fall wedding in Sacramento. It’s just too warm. And with layers and layers of tulle for my skirt, I already knew I’d be miserable if I settled for long-sleeve. So, instead, I found a dress that was thin strapped, very different and pretty and stood out from the others [and was by the designer I loved]. But I wasn’t sure it was the one. I couldn’t really picture myself walking down the aisle to Mitch in it.

I left the store feeling extremely deflated and bummed. I thought for sure I was going to find THE dress! And, even worse, I was already burnt out on shopping for wedding dresses. I started to think there was something wrong with me – not only did I not find my dress, but I didn’t really enjoy the process. Was this a bad sign? Did this mean I was marrying the wrong person?

After the disappointment of not finding my dress and feeling like I was a failure as a bride, I put the dress shopping on hold and decided to focus on other aspects of the wedding. After all, I was still 14 months from my wedding. I still had more than enough time to find a dress. I thought, I’ll get excited about it again after a couple of months goes by.

As 2017 drew to a close and I still wasn’t looking forward to trying on dresses, I realized what was keeping me from being excited about the process: I was so afraid that I wouldn’t find my dress and that I would feel horribly deflated and let down again. So instead of trying on thousands of dresses and using process of elimination, I completely avoided it entirely. Yup, like a big ass baby.

I couldn’t avoid it forever, though. My mom had been pressuring me to nail down another try-on date, and the longer I waited to find my gown, the smaller the window to get my dress fitted and hemmed in time for the wedding. I finally found a boutique in greater Bay Area hosting a trunk show for my favorite designer, and decided to make a weekend out of it. I invited my best friend [matron of honor] to be a part of the weekend, hoping she would be my good-luck-charm.

After my prior experience, I went into my appointment with no expectations. I was excited to try on more dresses, but prepared myself for the possibility that I may not find a dress that day. And that if I didn’t, it would be okay. I would figure it out.

As it turned out, I wouldn’t be leaving the boutique empty-handed that day. I found my dress! It’s more beautiful than I ever could have hoped for or imagined, and I am beyond excited to marry Mitch in it on our wedding day.

It wasn’t a perfect process to find my dress. Far from it, actually. I had a lot of emotions and not a whole lot of excitement to go through the try-on process. Every experience is different, though, and I think it’s important that every bride-to-be remembers that little tidbit of information. It’s okay if you’re not excited about gown shopping, it’s okay if it takes you six months to find your dress, and it’s okay if you burst into tears [or don’t!] when you find your dream gown [if you want some wedding dress shopping tips, read my post here!]. Your experience is your own, and I can personally attest to the fact that regardless of my disappointment after my first dress appointment, I ended up having an amazing afternoon with the three most important women in my life. Even if I hadn’t found my dress, it came down to my experience at the salon with those women which totally made my day.

Tips For Shopping Wedding Gowns, From A Bride-To-Be Who Wanted To Avoid This Entire Process

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I was on top of my shit when it came to planning my wedding. I had all my ducks in a row a year before my wedding date. Except for one teeny tiny detail: my wedding dress.

For some reason, trying on dresses and hunting for my perfect gown was the one part of the engagement and wedding planning process that I was not stoked about [read about my experience here]. I avoided dress shopping like the plague, and became focused on the most minuscule of details for our wedding in order to not have to deal with the dreaded dress debacle. But, unlike the other pieces of the wedding puzzle, finding the dress is not something that can be thrown together last minute [at least not if you buy from a wedding dress boutique where your dress has to be made-to-order]. So, this January, I had no choice but to finally restart the process of finding “the one.” If you’re newly engaged, it can take anywhere from four to nine months to have your dress made and fitted for your body. Better to have more time than less!

Before I’d ever even gone to try on a dress, every bride I’d spoken to couldn’t stop gushing about how that was their favorite part of planning their wedding. They loved trying on dress after dress, even the ones they knew they’d never buy. And nearly every single one said they found their dress at the first place they ever went. And it was love at first sight. When I didn’t have the same experience, and actually ended up feeling like a complete let-down and failure of a bride [because who doesn’t find their dream dress at the first store they ever go to?!], I realized that I couldn’t be the only person out there that had had a not-so-exciting experience hunting wedding gowns. Because of this, I wanted to share my tips to you newly engaged gals out there who may be just beginning that whole process.

My first bit of advice to you is, don’t go to your first appointment with the expectation that you’re going to find your dream dress. You may actually find it, but if you don’t have the expectation, you won’t feel so let down if you don’t happen to find it that day. I made the mistake of imagining myself finding my dress the first day at the first shop; and when I didn’t find it, it gave me all the wrong emotions about finding my wedding dress.

Even if you know what your style is day-to-day [I believe this is referred to as “street style”], I would still be sure to try on all different styles of wedding gowns. I never imagined myself being drawn to poufy ball gowns [in fact, I believe I deemed them “cupcake dresses” prior to getting engaged], and yet, I ended up falling in love with that very style.

Although I wanted to be organized and get my gown shopping done earlier rather than later in the planning process, it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t find my dress right away. My style and what I wanted actually morphed and changed from what I originally had in mind. My advice to you is to wait as long as possible before you choose your gown. Even if you find your dream dress, don’t put the deposit down or purchase it until you absolutely have to. Unless for whatever reason the gown will be discontinued, the store should still carry it. When I started looking at dresses in July, I wanted a long-sleeved ball gown, which then changed to a ball gown with a plain and simple bodice, which ended up being completely different from what I ended up choosing.

Don’t feel pressured to invite your entire bridal party and all the women in your family to try on dresses with you. A lot of women like to be the center of attention and feel like their experience wouldn’t be complete without all of the wonderful ladies in their life around them. I, however, am the opposite. I want my dress to be a surprise for everyone at the wedding, including my bridal party.

On the flip side, if you are a gal who wants your future sister-in-law, both grandmothers, your aunt, your bridal party, your mom, your step-mom, your soon-to-be mother-in-law, and any other females in the family with you while you’re trying on gowns, just remember to hold your ground on what you want. This is your wedding day and your wedding gown, not theirs. Your mom may be helping you purchase your gown, but that doesn’t mean she gets to choose it. If you feel beautiful in a gown that other people don’t love, who cares?! It’s not about them, it’s about YOU. And everybody’s tastes and styles are different. While I personally don’t love the mermaid-style gowns for myself, there are some beautiful ones out there and all of my friends who have worn that style of dress have looked absolutely gorgeous. Oh, and if you don’t think the women in your life are opinionated – just you wait..

If you find a designer you love that’s out of your price range, just do a little research on Instagram and Pinterest to see if you find a comparable designer without the staggering price tag. Believe it or not, there are some incredible gowns out there that aren’t exorbitantly expensive [I fell in love with a designer whose gowns run in the $3000 range]. I was in a wedding several years ago where the bride wore a $10k dollar gown. Oh yeah, it was beautiful, but I tried on an identical gown from a different designer and it was $2000. I mean, yeah, you may not be wearing your dream designer, but truth-be-told, if you find a gown you feel sexy and like a princess in, who gives a flying EFF who the designer is?

And speaking of price tags, know your dress budget before you go shopping. All professional bridal stores will ask you this when you arrive for your appointment, and they will easily be able to find you 10 dresses in your price range in the style that you like.

You know the girls on “Say Yes to the Dress” who break down in tears and hyperventilate when they find their dream dress? I was expecting that reaction and I did not have it. If you don’t have a radical reaction when you find your dress, it’s okay! I fell in love with my dress when I tried it on but I didn’t shed a single tear over it. You’ll know in your heart when you find the right dress, and whatever your reaction, it’s okay but it’s yours.

Finding your dress should be an amazing and magical experience and the last thing you want is to feel like I did – dejected, depressed and let-down. I hope these tips help you to have a better experience than I did the first couple of times I tried on gowns [after using my own tips on myself, I was able to have a fun and amazing time at the appointment where I actually found my dress].

Want to see my dream dress and the one I chose? We’re getting married on September 29, 2018  so keep an eye out for photos after that ;)

Will You Be My Bridesmaid?

When Mitch and I got engaged, I knew immediately who I wanted to be in my wedding party. After being in a wedding years ago where the bride and I’s friendship ended up fizzling, I didn’t even want that to be an option for the gals in my group. I don’t want to look back on my wedding photos one day and think “It’s too bad we aren’t friends anymore!”

Most brides-to-be these days give a little gift of some sort when they ask a friend to be a bridesmaid. I was no different. Although, I may have gone a little crazy.. I just love the gals in my life so much! And gift-giving is seriously one of my favorite things to do in life.

If you’re engaged and looking for some fresh, new ideas to give your gals when you pop the question, here’s what I gave my wedding party:

Custom Cuyana Toiletry Bag Set – my sister got me turned onto these a couple of years ago when she gifted them to my mom and I! They are amazing quality, and you can really add a personal touch if you get your friend’s initials stamped on them. Plus, they come in a variety of colors which makes it even easier to customize for each friend. They are on the pricier side, but the quality is top-notch, and you know your gals will use the shit out of them. I’ve had mine for two years and it still looks brand new! I got each of my bridesmaids a different color with their initials stamped on them.

Alex + Ani Charm Bracelet – these are the BEST if you’re shopping for any woman in your life – even one who doesn’t really wear jewelry! There are a million options, and even the less bling-y girls can still throw one on without feeling too “girly.” Plus, they come in gold, rose gold and silver, which is great because not everybody likes or wears the same color metal. I ended up getting three gold and three silver for the gals in my wedding party, all with different charms, of course. I linked the company’s website, but you can also find them at Nordstrom and on Amazon.

alex and ani

Miniature Galvanized Hanging Letter – I always like to “embellish” the outside of a gift. Whether it’s tying an ornament on a Christmas gift, or a little dog bone on a doggy gift [yes, I do give dogs gifts], it’s a fun little addition to the the top or front that, to me, just adds a little “something”. For my girls, I found these small, ornament-sized galvanized metal letters that I hung from each bag, with their respective initial of course. I linked a larger version, but you can also find a similar product at Hobby Lobby. It’s an inexpensive way to add flair to a gift, and, something your gal can either hang on her Christmas tree, or prop up somewhere as home decor.

galvanized s

Miniature Alcohol Bottles – this is kind of a “well, DUH” gift addition. Unless you or your girls aren’t drinkers, a tiny bottle of your gal’s favorite drink is a fun and cheap gift option [although, in lieu of this, you could do mini coffee or tea, or mini juices – if you keep your eyes peeled at the store, you can literally find anything!]. I know a lot of women go this route, and put custom labels on the bottles which is super clever! I wanted these to be an addition, not the main attraction, but what friend doesn’t appreciate a free tiny bottle of their cocktail of choice? I found the drinks I was searching for at BevMo [linked], but Total Wine, World Market, and some grocery stores carry them as well.

cooks

Athleisure – what gal doesn’t love a comfy pair of workout pants? The answer is: none. Everybody loves comfy clothes! Especially when they can double as lounge wear and athletic wear [aka: athleisure]. I splurged a little bit with these because I didn’t want to buy crappy quality pants for my friends. May as well pay a little more for something that’s going to last a little longer, right? For two of my friends, I got pants from Lulu Lemon, for two more, I got pants from Goldsheep [this brand is great if you want fun prints and patterns!], and for the other two, I got bottoms from Carbon 38 [which, in addition to carrying its own brand, also carries a bunch of others]. I ended up getting fun/funky prints and patterns for all the girls in my bunch. Even though they may not end up wearing them as much, I did follow a theme for each girl and wanted the pants to coincide.

goldsheep

In addition to all the little gifts I gave my bridesmaids, I also wrote each of them a poem which inevitably asked them to be in my wedding. I wanted to stick to my theme of doing something personal for each of them, and I thought what better and more clever way of doing that then writing a poem? Granted, I am a writer and I enjoy doing those types of things – I know writing, especially poetry, doesn’t come easy to most people [poetry really isn’t my cup of tea, usually]. Just a nice, short, personal note to your girls would be the perfect and sweetest way to let your friends know how much you mean to them.

I am so happy to say that all of my bridesmaids said YES! I am ridiculously fortunate to have six beautiful, original and amazing women who will be standing by my side when I say “I do” to the man of my dreams. Each step of this wedding planning process has brought me so much joy, and even more excitement for my wedding day. And I’m so lucky to have a dream vendor team, the best bridesmaids a gal could ask for, the perfect fiancé, and the ideal date and location. Counting my lucky stars, and counting down the days until I become a Higgins! [267, to be exact!]

Engagement Photoshoot Tips + Tricks [From A Rookie]

LOCATION: Glenbrook, NV | PHOTOGRAPHER: Juliana Aragon | FLOWERS: Thistle and Honey


Recently, my fiancé and I took our engagement photos with our wedding photographer. Trying to follow the “timeline” for the wedding process [according to The Knot], I was aiming for October [in Glenbrook] to have our photos taken. We weren’t quite able to get the date that I wanted, but as it turns out, we lucked out even more with the roulette date we ended up with. [VENDOR TIP: if you’re in the process of selecting a wedding photographer, I highly suggest going with one who offers engagement photos as part of their whole wedding package. Not only did we not have to pay extra for engagement photos, but we also had the opportunity to get a feel for how our photographer works and what kind of lingo she uses (come the wedding day when we don’t have 3+ hours to kill for photos, knowing our photographer’s likes and dislikes will come in handy to keep the events of the day on schedule)].

When choosing a location for photos, take into account the time of year and the weather that may or may not effect your pictures. Mitch and I totally lucked out with the weather in Tahoe for our photos. Considering it was November in Lake Tahoe, we were actually hot when we started shooting at 1 pm in the straight sun. But the weather could have ended up being stormy and freezing like it was the night before our pictures. We came prepared for anything, and hoped for the best. Always keep an eye on the weather, and when in doubt, consult your photographer ahead of time for outfit and location ideas for the time of year you’re aiming for!

If you plan on having dogs in your photos, be prepared with toys and treats for your photographer to use to lure their interest. Also, be sure to get them plenty of exercise prior to the photoshoot. The more tired your fur babies are, the less inclined they’ll be to act up or squirm around. And don’t set your expectations too high for those photos, especially if you have more than one dog. The chances of getting the photo of your dreams are relatively low when you have that many moving parts. Just be sure to get these pictures out of the way first, so you aren’t frustrated and trying to make it work after 90 or more minutes of already shooting with each other. And remember to stay relaxed and to go with the flow when shooting these photos – there’s only so much you can control when taking pictures with animals! Plus, you may just end up loving one of the silly outtakes.

Using props is a great way to break the ice and add a little dimension and complexion to your photos. When I booked my photographer, she had initially suggested to me that I have a bouquet made for our engagement photos. My initial thought was “no way, not my style,” but then another friend of mine, who took her engagement pictures in Europe and used gelato in some of her photos, said she loved the “prop” because it loosened them up and eased the awkwardness. I did end up having a florist put together a bouquet last minute, and I’m so glad I did. It gave me a place to look when my photographer asked me to, and it was a beautiful complement to the photos without taking away or distracting from my fiancé and I. The dogs were also inadvertently a prop, since we shot with them first and it got us loosened up. I’ve also seen wine or champagne, coffee mugs, mistletoe, signs.. The list goes on! [PROP TIP: if you decide to add a little something extra to your photos, choose something that will be easy to hold on to and won’t get too heavy. As much as I loved my bouquet, it got to be extremely heavy and uncomfortable to hold up in certain poses.]

Be sure to eat a healthy and energy-boosting meal prior to your photoshoot. Believe it or not, posing for pictures when you aren’t accustomed to it is actually exhausting. You’re holding your arms at weird angles for long periods of time, standing or leaning in unnatural positions.. Before you know it, you’re tired! Mitch and I made the mistake of not eating before our shoot, and we both regretted it. I was afraid of bloating and looking like I was going to have a food baby, and we both assumed our shoot would be done in 90 minutes [never assume that the time your photographer tells you will be accurate! We happened to have amazing lighting and a great location and we ended up shooting for an extra two-and-a-half hours!]. Both of our energy levels were depleted by the time we were done. And for the ladies, keep in mind that your photographer won’t pose you in a way that will be unflattering. I was so worried about looking “fat,” but I was forgetting that my photographer is a professional and would not pose me in a way that I would later despise.

When choosing the outfits for your photos, be sure to select options that you will be comfortable in. You will likely do a few sitting photos, but for the most part you will be standing. Shoes that double as cute and comfortable will be a major bonus and you will thank yourself for this later. This also goes for your clothing choices – remember that you will be standing and sitting in unnatural positions, so you’ll want the outfits you choose to be easily moveable, breathable and light. [STYLE TIP: keep your selections timeless, classic and simple. Flannels and plaid are fun for fall, but they can be very busy. Instead, stick to a solid color or a bold statement piece that makes a statement but doesn’t take away from the two of you. As I mentioned before, you can always add flair to your photos by using props. Also, stay away from trendy styles that you will eventually look back on and regret.]

Ladies, be sure to do a hair and make-up trial before the day of your shoot. Whether you’re doing your own or hiring someone to do it, it’s important to get an idea of the look you want ahead of time, especially if you’re worried about your make-up clashing with your outfits. I ended up doing my own because of our location and the time of year, and because I knew I could do just as good of a job as any professional [not to toot my own horn]. I did not do a trial run, however, and I definitely regret it. I did end up liking how my look turned out, but had I done a test day, I probably would have gone a little bit lighter on the eye make-up. Oh well, you live and you learn, and you pass along the knowledge! [BEAUTY TIP: if you want lip color, be sure to find one that stays on! You’re going to be smooching your guy a lot, and you do not want that color coming off of you, nor smudging all over him. Kat Von D and Kylie Cosmetics make some great longwear colors. The only gripe I have is that both really dry out your lips.]

Overall, just remember to have fun! Don’t take the shoot or yourself too seriously. Your photographer is the pro and will direct you the entire time. It really is such a fun and cool experience, and I will personally remember and treasure the time my fiancé and I spent together that day forever. Also, ladies, do something super nice for your guy afterward. I literally don’t know a single dude who actually enjoys the part of the engagement and wedding process that involves picture taking. He was a trooper for you, so send some love and appreciation his direction!

Wedding Planning: What I’ve Learned So Far – Part II

The last six months of wedding planning have been a whirlwind! While it’s definitely been a fun process so far, it’s also felt like I’m climbing an extremely steep mountain with no peak. I never realized how many little details there are! It seems like every time I check something off my list, something else adds itself to the bottom.

Right off the bat, I was lucky enough to be able to book my venue, my photographer, my DJ, and get the food lined up, as well as a wait staff and bartenders to help with drinks and food. I was feeling pretty confident in myself, and admittedly had myself on quite a pedestal, and then I ran into some snags.

The thing about the wedding circuit is, things are trendy, just like in the fashion world. And, as it happens, I don’t actually like what’s in “style” for weddings right now [read: whispy, wildflower-y bouquets and arrangements, and mermaid-style wedding gowns, just to name two].

I have been STRUGGLING HARD to find a florist. I’m not kidding you, I’ve emailed somewhere between 20 and 30 florists to try and find somebody who shares the same style as I do, and who is also in my price range [I received a $10,000 minimum quote from a lady – I was absolutely speechless! who spends that much money on PLANTS?! plants that are inevitably going to DIE. apparently some people can and do..]. I have found a few, but it’s been extremely hard to keep track of them. One of the biggest things I would suggest to you is to not email vendors through their websites, if you can. If they have their email address listed on their site, email them directly! Some websites have a bounceback email that lets you know they’ve received your inquiry, but most don’t. I didn’t hear back from a good chunk of the vendors I messaged, and when I kept running into dead ends and had to go back to the drawing board, I couldn’t remember who I’d already emailed and who I hadn’t [I initially tried to keep an Excel spreadsheet to house all the vendors that I’d been in touch with, but that was way too time consuming and was taking a big chunk of my time that I really didn’t have].

In my last wedding post, I made a point of noting to get your Pinterest boards organized. Since that time, I’ve actually pulled photos from Pinterest and made an “Inspiration Board” that houses all my favorite pics in one. Creating an Inspiration Board is a great way to streamline your vision into one small [ish] space [if you’re anything like me, you have 20 wedding boards with hundreds of photos in each – that is way too overwhelming for a vendor to hunt through]. My coordinator was actually the one who suggested I do this; at the beginning of my planning process, I knew what I wanted for a venue, but I didn’t have a design direction. I had thousands of ideas on Pinterest, but nothing really flowed. Putting my inspo board together really helped to get my ideas to flow, and then I fell in love with my design plans! On my board, I included florals, table decor, a wedding gown, color palette and the aisle and arch/altar. It was long overdue, but in the end, that is what ultimately helped me to give florists an idea of what I wanted. This also gave my wedding coordinator a vision to go off for suggesting vendors to help with planning my big day.

Before you get in touch with vendors, RESEARCH exactly what it is that you want and expect the outcome to be. I ran into major roadblocks and communication gaps with florists because I didn’t know anything about flowers, let alone the ones that are available in the fall. I kept receiving proposals with flowers I hated – I felt like I was getting my point across to them during our meetings and discussions, but I clearly wasn’t. When I finally took some time to look up the flowers they were proposing, the flowers that are in season, and eliminated the ones that I didn’t like, I finally started connecting more successfully with the vendors. The same was also true for my coordinator – I explained to her what I wanted for my vision, and she has been doing everything in her power to make that happen.

I highly recommend hiring a coordinator of some sort. Or at least be sure to have a friend or acquaintance who has experience with combing through contracts and siphoning out little details. I have been so thankful for my coordinator throughout this entire process, but especially in the last few weeks – we ran into some HUGE glitches with the owners of my venue, and luckily my coordinator was able to break down the contract and keep things according to agreement. Vendors can be sketchy AF! They will often times try to pull the wool over your eyes, and it’s in your best interest to know what you’re signing when you come to an agreement with them. If something in the contract seems odd, don’t sign it! Things are always negotiable, which is something that I’ve really had to learn throughout this entire process. Another bonus about having a coordinator: you don’t have to worry about anything on they day of and leading up to your wedding day. That, to me, is worth every penny.

Wedding Planning for Newbies: What I’ve Learned So Far

I’ve been engaged for 42 days.

I have already seen [and booked!] our venue, been in touch with three photographers, called two local bridal boutiques and made appointments to try on dresses, emailed three florists, two videographers, four food/dessert vendors and five coordinators for month-of details and finalizing.

Did I mention my fiancé and I’s tentative wedding date isn’t until Fall 2018?

Yes, you did your math correctly. That gives me roughly 16 months to plan this thing.

#confessionsofaplanaholic

So, why the rush?

Going into this, I knew basically nothing about weddings. I was the maid of honor in a wedding a couple of years ago [almost to the day], but I wasn’t involved in any of the planning process. The bride lived in San Diego, had a venue picked out in Malibu, and with me all the way up in Sacramento, there wasn’t much I could do. Also, up until recently, I really wasn’t even a huge fan of weddings. I mean, I totally thought it was great to celebrate other people’s love, but the forced mingling with people you have never met..? Well, I’m an introvert and can be extremely socially awkward, so, you get why weddings weren’t my fav.

BUT, that said, now that I’m engaged and planning my own special day, the tables have turned a bit.

Even though I have nearly two years to plan, I knew that I wanted to get my venue and my photographer booked as soon as possible. Although I don’t know much about wedding planning, I do know that these two vendors book up the quickest [my potential photographer already has a September wedding for 2018!].

The first thing I did when Mitch and I got engaged was to sign up for Style Me Pretty, The Knot and Wedding Wire. They all give you the opportunity to browse vendors local to your city and/or your general area [for example, we live in Sacramento, but some of these vendors encompass all of Northern California – Bay Area, Sacramento, Chico, South Lake Tahoe, etc.]. While I didn’t end up choosing a venue from the list, it did give me a great starting point for photographers, florists and coordinators. Instagram has also been a really good friend of mine – once I figured out the photographers I liked, I would follow their profiles and find other vendors they’d tagged in their photos [I actually found ALL but one of my potential vendors from this method].

Create a new email address that’s for wedding stuff ONLY. I can’t even tell you guys how helpful this has been. You never realize how many emails you get every day until you’re trying to pilfer through them all to find the ones that relate to your wedding. Having a separate email for our big day has been a life saver. And, bonus, I can easily remove it from my phone and computer after it’s all said an done and I’ll never have to see a wedding email again! [Although, if I’m being totally honest, I would 100% consider a career in wedding planning after this].

Don’t wait! Regardless of how far out your wedding is, get in touch with your potential vendors so you can get your name on their radar. Even though the florists I’ve contacted don’t promise their services until a year before the wedding date, at least they know I’m interested and my day is now in the back of their minds. And if you don’t want to go through the legwork of planning all by yourself, hire a coordinator!

Don’t get your heart set one one single vendor for each category of your wedding. For example, I only saw one venue [which we got extremely lucky in booking], and I really only love one of my potential photographers. We almost didn’t get our venue, and if I don’t get the photographer I want, I will be absolutely crushed [not ideal!]. The moral of the story: have some backups. Don’t narrow it down to one place or one person if you can help it. Have an idea in mind of what you like, and see as many places and interview as many people as you can before you settle. You will be much happier if you start planning your wedding with an open mind.

Get your guest list done early on. We ended up having to do this in the beginning by default due to the fact that the venue we wanted only accommodated 200 people max. It was painstaking and there were lots of disagreements, but ultimately that is the most difficult part of planning, and once this is done it will be smooth sailing afterward. Better to get this out of the way as soon as possible.

Work on your inspo boards! YES, I mean Pinterest. The best thing I ever did was sit down and organize the heck out of my wedding-themed Pinterest boards. It was so easy for me to go in and print out dress styles, floral arrangements, décor styles, etc. Whether you’re a DIY-er or you’re hiring a wedding planner, the best way to let your vendors know what you want is to give them something to go off of. Most vendors will ask you what kind of ideas you have, so having something to go off of is always a good idea!

Stay in touch with your vendors and potential vendors. Let them know what your timeline is and where your head is at. While I was working on our guest list and trying to figure out how to make our venue work for us, I wasn’t just sitting idly – I was emailing potential vendors and getting pricing, availability, etc. I couldn’t nail down a time to meet with anybody since I didn’t have a venue, yet, but I made sure they all knew what the case was and that I would reach out once our venue and date were secured.

All in all, make sure you find that ultimate wedding dream team to work with. Finding vendors who mesh well with you as a couple, as well as each other, is a huge necessity. And also, don’t forget to have FUN. Being engaged and planning a wedding is supposed to be one of the most fun moments of your adult life. Enjoy every moment of being affianced and planning your big day. At the end of it all, it comes down to just the two of you – don’t forget that! And if planning and decision-making has become all-consuming, take a step back, take a night or two off and enjoy some time together just being engaged, in love, and not worrying about wedding details.