October 23, 2012

Top 10 Lessons Learned

Now that we are successfully on the other side of wedding planning, I present to you my advice and the (few) things I would have done differently.

1. Confirm ALL vendors. I can't stress this enough! I called two weeks before the wedding to check my makeup appointment and they had no record of me, even though I had booked 4 months in advance. I've heard stories of limos that never arrived and restaurants that lost rehearsal dinner reservations, so please make sure you follow up to avoid disappointment.

2. Make a photo list for your photographer. Include specific details or locations you'd like to see in your wedding photos as well as all the important people you want in formal portraits. Identify the main players as this will be the first time your photographer meets your bridal party.

3. Give your photographer a heads up about where special or important guests will be sitting at the reception. Your photographer will be trying to figure out who to take candid pictures of, especially at a large wedding. It sounds a bit crazy, but giving her a heads up will keep you from getting shots of your cousin's date or a work colleague who you may not want captured forever in your wedding album.

4. Friends who contribute to your wedding are beautiful creatures who should be appreciated for their efforts, so be sure to thank them! However, use caution when choosing friends for professional services that really matter to you. Is it worth the resentment or strained relationships when things don't turn out how you expected?

5. Be in the moment! The day will go quickly and I'm so glad that I took the time to look around and appreciate all of the love, support and beautiful moments we had that day.

6. Try to borrow as many items as you can. Not only is it budget friendly, but you'll have a special personal connection to things at your wedding. Wearing your mother's veil, cutting the cake with the set your grandma used at her wedding or toasting with your aunt's crystal gives you warm fuzzies!

7. Make life easy for your bridal party and those with special roles in your wedding by providing a detailed schedule a few days before. The Type A personalities you know will appreciate having a plan for the big day, and it keeps you from nagging or having to contact people in the busy days leading up to the main event.

8. Take time for yourselves. I really wish that J and I had some time alone just after the ceremony (or really, at any point in the day) to privately share how awesome it was to be newly married. It's tempting to spend all your time visiting with guests, but do remember to eat and stay hydrated throughout the day as well. All that smiling and hugging is hard work!

9. I also wish that we gave our camera to a close friend or family member to take pictures with it at the wedding. Obviously, the bridal party weren't able to take our own shots and it would have been nice to enjoy images from the day right away, instead of waiting many weeks for our pro pics or hoping that guests would share their pics with us.

10. It's all about the two of you. Develop a clear vision of what you both want for your wedding and use lots of pictures to clearly communicate your ideas to vendors. Focus your energy on a few top priorities and trust others to handle everything else. Aside from the whole marriage part, I felt like J and I became a team of adults when planning this wedding because it taught us to made decisions together and then own them. We never apologized for our choices or compromised on our vision and we stopped worrying about pleasing everyone.

Happy planning, future brides!

October 20, 2012

Vendor Reviews

Even though I included a lot of DIY elements in our wedding, the day wouldn't have been possible without our vendors. For all of you future Vancouver brides, here's a quick review of the pros we worked with.

Day of Coordinator: Devon from Fairy Godmother Weddings
Devon was a huge help with everything logistical. She worked with us the entire month before our wedding to make a detailed timeline, confirm with all of our vendors, guide our MC, and keep us on track with the final leg of planning. Our wedding day went smoothly and on time thanks to Devon and her assistant Robyn. They did an amazing job of setting up our ceremony and reception decor, organizing our bridal party for the reception entrance, solving little problems (like the tossing bouquet, corsages falling off and getting my bustle done) and making sure we ate dinner. This was one of the best wedding planning decisions I made!
Photographer: Amber Hughes
Amber was a pleasure to work with, from our engagement photos to coordinating and shooting our wedding to designing our photo album. She deftly wrangled our families for formal photos, gave us some direction for portraits but allowed everyone to still be natural and was very careful about getting all of the shots I specifically requested. She arrived 45 minutes early and stayed for the full 8 hours we booked and was never obtrusive. I would highly recommend Amber for her flexible and professional attitude and insanely great photos!

Flowers: Kat from The Flower Factory
I am in love with this florist! Kat really listened to my wedding vision and the types of flowers I was looking for. She took detailed notes, worked within my budget, set up a mock centerpiece and bouquet for me to approve a few weeks beforehand and really knocked my socks off with her beautiful designs. I was really impressed with the service from this florist. Kat was very accommodating working with and storing my 14 terrarium jars and even called on the wedding day to check that we were happy with our bouquets.

Church: Canadian Memorial
I feel a bit odd reviewing a church, but we weren't completely satisfied with our experience. The church requires couples to attend pre-marital counselling and has numerous paperwork and strict deadline requirements. Although they were very flexible with crafting our ceremony and our minister did a good job of our ceremony, it was frustrating that the wedding coordinator messed up our processional and didn't inform us that the minister would be different (so I had to wait at the end of the ailse for J to reach the altar and our programs were wrong). If you want music with your rehearsal, they charge an additional fee.

Reception: Diamond Alumni Centre
The DAC and coordinator Vivian were such a great venue to work with. They had lots of options for food and bar selections, friendly staff and excellent service. This was by far the best buffet I've had, with interesting food choices and everything cooked and served at the right temperature. The main room was a perfect size and the two outside decks with a beautiful mountain view were popular with our guests.

Chair Covers: Absolute Events and Rentals
This is one of the few companies that provides chair covers for the DAC uniquely shaped chairs. Beggars can't be choosers, but I was so pleased with the service and quality of product. Everything was set up exactly how we discussed and staff arrived promptly at 12am to pack up the covers.

Transportation: Elite Limo
Our limo was on time, which is really the most important part of their service. Our driver was friendly and took the time to dry off the outside so my dress didn't get wet entering the limo. He was confused about how to get to the church, and their iPod cable was broken, but the free champagne was a nice bonus.
DJ: Ian from Anything Audio
Our guests really enjoyed our reception music and Ian did a great job of reading the crowd. He wasn't embarassing or intrusive and I loved being able to communicate our timeline and music selections online.
Hair: Suki's South Granville
Our stylists Natalya and Chelsea worked their updo magic on me and MOH K the morning of the wedding. I skipped a hair trial, but came prepared with specific inspiration photos. We arrived early and our stylists began right away. Natalya listened carefully to what I wanted, was very meticulous about the details of my style and gave me something unique that held up through all the primping, posing and dancing.

Makeup: MAC
MAC is my go-to place for pro makeup and my artist Mindy gave me exactly the style I was looking for. Booking an appointment gets you the private back room, and her friendly attitude was just what I needed to relax and calm my pre-ceremony jitters. My makeup was natural, comfortable, lasted all night and looked awesome on film.

Clothing: Moore's
The staff here was very helpful and patiently walked us through all of the vest and tie options. They showed us mock-ups of different looks and J was pleased with how quickly they took measurements. J picked his tux up 5 days before our wedding. The quality and fit of these tuxes was impressive for the reasonable price and our guys looked very handsome.

Clothing: Bryan's Bride
A huge selection of dresses at reasonable prices brought me in, and the awesome service lead me to buy my dress here. They stored my dress at no charge for 8 months and indulged my frequent visits. Their seamstress was very professional and did an exceptional job of giving my dress a custom fit and putting in a secure bustle that was easy for my ladies to figure out.

Gift Registry: The Bay
The Bay gift registry has a good selection of products, is easy to create, update and manage online and has outlets nationwide so it's great for out-of-town guests. However, there is a major communication gap between the online registry and the actual stores and this caused many headaches for us. Items that were supposedly ready weren't in stock when we arrived to pick them up, guests purchased duplicate items (um, isn't that the whole point of a registry?!) and my sister waited 2 months for her gift to arrive only to be told it was actually discontinued and would never show up. Also, we found many many of our registry items were discontinued in only a few months and they recommend removing discontinued items, so be prepared to make frequent changes to your wish list.

October 16, 2012

We Dance the Night Away

After cutting the cake, we opened up the dessert buffet to our guests and hit the dance floor for our first dance as a married couple. Some newlyweds choose to have their first dance when they enter the reception, but it seemed more natural for us to use ours to open the dance floor after dinner. J isn't a confident dancer, so we taught ourselves a simple turn and dip to jazz up our basic moves. To avoid being the center of attention for 4 long minutes, we also opened up the dance floor to others about halfway through the song. This was actually a great way to visit with our guests! J picked Brad Paisley's Then and it was a really sweet moment.

We then had a mother/son dance to the Rainbow Connection by Sarah McLachlan.

And the dance floor was officially open! I knew our families would spend most of the night visiting with each other, but we heard from guests that the music was great even for those who preferred chair dancing. J isn't much of a dancer and spent much of the evening talking with our guests. I chose to do my visiting on the dance floor :)

PS satin doesn't breathe very well and after 8 hours, your dress will get heavy. It was a good way to burn off my dinner calories!

The final hours of our reception flew by and we soon found ourselves breaking down the room with friends and family who generously stayed behind to help us. It was pretty surreal to see our beautiful party dissolve into empty tables and cardboard boxes.
Overall, our wedding was so much more than we ever hoped for. Stay tuned for reviews of all our vendors and some advice from a new Mrs!

October 12, 2012

Reception Decor DIYs

One of the first things guests saw as they entered the Diamond Alumni Centre for our reception was the escort card display. Seating charts are a very popular way of directing guests to their assigned tables, but I wanted something casual that fit our colour scheme. Each of the different coloured cards were decorated with a DIY tissue paper flower. I painted an inexpensive bulletin board from IKEA, pinned on the escort cards in alphabetical order and set it up on an easel in the entrance lobby.

Creative table names are an excellent way to personalize your reception. They could be important places or dates in your relationship, or things that relate to your favourite hobbies or interests. J and I are big fans of The Simpsons so we named each table after a location in the show. For those (living under a rock) who don't follow the show, I included a brief description of the place and a quote. Some of our tables were The Kwik-E-Mart, Springfield Gorge, Itchy & Scratchy Land, Moe's Tavern, Duff Gardens and the Nucleat Power Plant.

Each guest table was decorated with a different apothecary jar planted with a terrarium. We placed the centerpieces on top of a 2" thick log round and surrounded them with votive candles and fabric flowers in different shades of blue. The stretch cotton chair covers with blue satin accents really brought the whole look together.

Dozens of those handmade blue fabric flowers made an appearance at the head table as a 14 foot-long garland. My DIY clay mushrooms were a cute woodland touch.


Instead of a traditional guest book filled with a list of names, we decided on a wish tree to collect messages from our guests in a creative way that fit our woodland theme perfectly. I printed up a sign using our Download and Print template and a cute little poem:

"Welcome! Thank you for sharing this special day with us. Please add to our Wish Tree.
Share your advice and best wishes
For the new Mr and Mrs
Write a joke, draw a picture, have some fun
And hand it on a branch when you're done"

This project had a lot of impact for a relatively small cost. I used a vase we already had, collected fallen branches from a local park and purchased ivory tags and different coloured Sharpie pens from Michaels craft store. You could jazz this up by attaching crystals or flowers (real, fabric or tissue paper) to the branches for added decoration.

The wish tree table also featured our version of the wedding slideshow: a digital picture frame loaded with pictures from our childhoods and throughout our relationship. We got photobombed by the Best Man's mother, who set up a framed picture of J and her son from 15 years ago!

The last stationery item at our reception was the card box. There are lots of options available for purchase, but I decided to whip one up. I cut a slot in the top of an empty cardboard box and wrapped it in paper that fit our colours. Double-sided tape is your friend here! A sign from the Download and Print template finished off the gift table.


October 08, 2012

We Cut the Cake

I know I've posted about this wedding cake ad nauseum, but we've finally come to the end of its journey!
Our cake table featured framed pictures of our parents from their weddings, a vintage-style glass cake stand and more of those blue fabric flowers to tie in the room's decor. For cutting the cake, we chose to borrow the silver cake knife and server that my grandmother gave my mom to use at her wedding.
We had these cute vintage Mr and Mrs forks that were an awesome gift from my mom via Etsy seller Pretty Paris. I highly recommend a set of these forks as a wedding gift. The quality is excellent and we're looking forward to using them every year on our anniversary! 
I just had to mention our cake toppers. You'll remember this was a simple DIY project and they were such a hit with our guests. In planning our wedding, I tried to have manageable DIY projects that added lots of character and these sure fit the bill.
 We didn't practice cake cutting before the day, so I'm glad to see that J got in on the action and I didn't just take over.
Good teamwork :) 
Lucky for him, J followed our agreement of no cake smushing. The cake was really delicious! Instead of serving it to our guests (I would have never tried making a cake large enough to serve 100 people and then paid the serving fee at our venue), we shared it with family at a brunch the next day.  
We didn't save the top to eat on our first anniversary. Tradition be damned, especially when it doesn't make any sense. Year-old cake is not tasty and I can easily whip up a mini version of our cake to enjoy.

October 05, 2012

We Entertain Our Guests

Instead of having the cliched and annoying clinking of glasses, our MC Nathan announced that guests could sing us a song with the word "love" if they wanted us to kiss. We were treated to a cappella versions of songs like Love Lift us up Where we Belong and I Love You made famous by Barney the Dinosaur.

Our reception featured heartfelt speeches by my mom, J's sister, my sister and Best Man W. Even though tt's not traditional, we had to give our own speech to thank our family and friends for sharing the day with us. We also sent love and appreciation to our parents and to each other.

Our guests really enjoyed watching us play the shoe game. We provided MC Nathan with a list of questions:
Who steals the covers?
Who talks more?
Who gets up first in the morning?
Who is in charge of the remote?
Who is the first to appologize after an argument?
Who snores the most?
Who is better with money?
Who wants to live happily ever after?

Once our pictures came back, it was funny to see that we agreed with each other on almost everything!

The last piece of entertinment (side from the dancing which we'll get to later) was the bouquet toss. We had very few single ladies at our wedding, so I decided to keep things interesting by attaching a Chapters gift card to my tossing bouquet and including all the women.

October 01, 2012

We Join the Reception

A quick bustle job by MOH K and we were ready to make our grand entrance at the reception. Devon gave the DJ his cue and lined up our excited bridal party as U2's Beautiful Day filled the room.

J and I were completely blown away by the amazing job that Devon and her assistant Robin did with decorating. It was pretty surreal to see all of my ideas come together to create a beautiful and personalized space! Stay tuned for a future post on all of the reception decor details...

J's cousin Nathan generously agreed to MC the reception and he did such a great job! The party kicked off by introducing the bridal party at head table, which included some hilarious teasing of J and some lovely complements of me. Just as it should be :)

We are all foodies, so as soon as we got settled dinner was served. I can't say enough about how good the food was! From the selection of interesting salads, to the chicken, salmon and roast prime rib, everything was delicious.
We entertained guests with speeches and a shoe game before cutting the wedding cake and serving dessert. Our dessert selection included a variety of cakes, pastries and squares along with a seasonal fruit plate.

 We still hear from guests about how great the food was!