Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our Story, Part XV: "Never Been Done Before"

Picking back up where we left off with the Our Story series. 

Note: I must confess, this has very little to do with "our story" and more to do with me rehashing how we planned the best day ever!

By the time 2005 came to a close I had finished my degree, moved back into my parents' house and was engaged to a man who was now deployed until a few weeks before our wedding.  I had 4 months to pull off the biggest event of my life.  But time wasn't my only budget.  I was flat-broke and jobless after graduation.  I had just enough money to buy a wedding band for my future-husband and a few odds and ends for my honeymoon and new life as a wife.  My parents were gracious enough to give us a wedding fund.  It wasn't too much, about one-fourth of the average cost of a wedding in 2006, but let's be honest, weddings have gotten a bit out of control over the past 30 years!  I was grateful for any little bit and totally up to the challenge of planning my dream day on a shoestring budget.

So the first thing I did was hire my decorator friend Megan to do all the hard work for me.  Best. decision.ever.  Not only does Meg have amazing talent and an eye for design but she can be frugal with a capital "F."  That girl was cutting corners that I didn't even know existed.  By the start of 2006 I was exhausted, stressed and ready to move on with my new life.  So it was easy to turn things over to someone else and let her deal with all the details.  Oh the details, I think they're what makes a wedding so special!
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I have a little shadowbox where I display all my wedding things.  Correction, I have a little shadowbox where I plan to display all my wedding things, but after 6 years have not gotten very far...
We decided the unofficial theme of this wedding would be "Never Been Done Before" (NBDB).  Now this may sound strange to many of you, but Jon and I grew up in the same church.  We're very close to our church family, even though it's a fairly large congregation (at least by Central PA standards).  And when you're part of a large, close church family, you have a lot of weddings (and subsquently babies)... I think there were five weddings within one year of ours.  And when you have that many young couples getting married in the same location - the same rural location, all trying to save money, well things can get a bit repetitive.  And not that all those other brides didn't have their own special touches, because they certainly did and I have such fond memories of the gazillion weddings I've attended back home.  But our goal was to try and do as many unique things as possible.  Not only for myself, but also for the large majority of our guests who would be attending five other weddings in the same location as ours that year.

Of course, one look at my budget and I'm sure Meg was thinking that was the first "never been done before"!  But we made it work!  She made all my "paper stuff" herself.  The invitations, RSVP cards, menus, placecards, "Meet the Wedding Party" books (okay, this was one thing that had been done before, I stole this idea from my friend Jenn!), programs, favor tags, etc.  But not only did she make them herself, she also waited until all the materials went on sale and then bought them with a coupon.  La!, a girl after my own heart!

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The invitations


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Monograms were "done before."  Megan made up this little design and we lovingly dubbed it "the duogram." NBDB.

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Ceremony program

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Meet the Wedding Party booklet - We put one of these at each table.  It had a picture and short paragraph about each person in the wedding party.
I actually got my dress before my budget.  Which was probably a good thing, because it did not fit within "The Knot's" suggested percentage of total budget.  Oops.  It wouldn't have made a difference, this was the dress for me.  I saw it in a magazine and, a story you rarely hear, I actually liked it even more after I tried it on. It was the first one I picked out and my dress search did not last very long after that.  It was also on sale. Oh, and it was huge.

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Photo Credit:  David Miller Photography
Something new ... or something huge!
After much going back and forth I finally decided on a champagne, mauve and taupe color palette.  It seemed to fit well with our early-spring date and the candlelit evening setting we were planning on.  I thought I was being all unique and out-of-the box with champagne dresses.  Well, no.  Two other people I know that year did the same thing.  I tried.  And just in case you think I'm all about saving money just for myself, the bridesmaid dresses were plain strapless A-line gown on clearance, to which we added halter straps (using materials from the included shawls) and a sash.  And the best part was you could shorten it and wear it again!  Okay, just kidding about that last part.  (Best, most relatable movie line ever!!). I even ran around to every Payless shoe store in a 50 mile radius and got them all matching shoes on clearance.  I don't think they were comfortable, but they all matched!

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Now there was one thing about the venue that could not be changed regardless of how often it had been done before, and that was the church itself. 

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Our beloved church is actually a converted movie theater.  It's very pretty, but not very wedding-chapelesque.  One issue is that there is no center aisle. (This bugs some people more than me, but personally, I kind of like the idea of twice as many people getting up-close looks at the dress as you walk down and up the aisles!)  Plus it's where we hold church on a weekly basis.  So there are intruments, speakers, and cords lying around.   And huge flags representing all the many missionaries and countries we support.  And no windows.  And a set-in-stone color scheme. 

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
What it really comes down to is that having a wedding at the church is free, and having a wedding at some other church or place is not. Unless it's outside, and that was out of the question on March 25.  So we just tried to take the focus off the surroundings and things we couldn't change, and keep it front and center.  We also wanted to recreate "the little white chapel" look.  So "Mr. Megan" made these four wooden panels to use as a background on stage, and we hung a wreath on each one. 

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Something borrowed - the candle holders, from my dear friend Melody, who would have been in my wedding party had she not been on a mission trip in Ukraine.

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Our wedding opened up with sweet, little girl dancers.
Megan also got some pretty, iridescent champagny-like material and made some sort of swag thing.  And since it was March, and the dogwoods are blooming, and dogwoods have a touch of mauve, well they became our floral decor of choice throughout the church.

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
A long, loooooonnnnggg time ago someone in my church got married and had these pretty, tall wooden candlesticks made that could attach to the end of each row.  I have distinct memories of these candlesticks.  There was one particular wedding (way back in the 90's) in which a chunk of wax fell from one of the candles and caught a seat on fire. From then on brides had to go with battery-operated lights in the candlesticks. It didn't matter to me anyway because, you guessed it, these had been done before.  We decided to re-think the candlesticks.  Instead, we raised them up on bricks and used them to hang a swag across the aisle.  A bunch of dogwoods in each corner and some chandelier prisms that Megan found online and our aisle embellishments were complete. NBDB!

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My in-laws did the traditional thing and bought me my bouquet.  But for the rest of the wedding party and in the church we cut costs by ordering flowers in bulk from Wegman's (yes, the grocery store).  A friend of the family offered to do my arrangements as a gift.  Awesome!  We used mostly roses and alstroemeria (which is one of my favorites!) in the bouquets and around the church.  And just to do something a little different, we twisted pearls onto the end of wire and stuck them in each bouquet as well. 

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Something old - I wrapped my Grandma W.'s pearls around my bouquet.
Oh, and Meg picked up this sweet little butterfly to put in my bouquet for my "something blue." 
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Something blue - my little butterfly.
It actually "flew" out of my flowers at the end of the wedding during a moment of rejoicing.  I thought it had been lost for good but apparently my mom got it somehow and she just returned it to me a few weeks ago.

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"Fly away, sweet butterfly, be free!"
Of course, everyone knows the reception is the real dime-eater.   By the time you pay for all that food there's not much left for decorations.  But Megan pulled it off once again.  Since this was an evening wedding, I really wanted to take advantage of subdued lighting and candlelight.  We bought lots and lots of tea lights and cheap, glass candle holders at AC Moore.  We used these to line across the front of the wedding party table. 

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And then we threw a couple down on each table.  Megan also tossed handfuls of glitter onto the tables for a little added sparkle.  For the centerpieces, Meg glued circular mirrors (from IKEA) to a piece of styrofoam, and attached ribbon around the edge.  We borrowed vases leftover from a previous wedding to set in the middle with bouquets of tulips, which just so happened to be on sale at Wegman's that week! 

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The menus doubled as placecards (also made by Megan) and were slipped into each napkin. 

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And we topped it all off with our handmade favors - white chocolate covered pretzels sprinkled with non-pareils.  (I have vivid memories of making all of these with my mom, G'Ma and Aunt one snowy day in February!)  Each pretzel was in it's own circular container with a sticker on top (Megan-made) that said "We tied the knot! - March 25, 2006." 

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Jon and I grabbed a handful of these to snack on en route to our honeymoon, which is why this one is missing a pretzel.
And then there was the cake.  My mom's cousin made it, and the metal "T" cake topper was forged by another friend.  It was a white cake with raspberry filling and delicious!  I actually didn't get to eat more than the ceremonial one bite that evening (I didn't get to eat much of anything that evening!).  But we did eat the cake top a few years later when we remembered to dig it out of my parents' freezer, and it was still tasty!

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Finally, we decided a fun way to bid adieu was with sparklers.  We set candles out around the door to the reception hall and everyone lined up, sparklers crackling, to send us off into our new life as newlyweds!

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Anyway, I'd like to say I was the model bride throughout all this planning, but as my husband often reminds us, I did have one meltdown 3 days before the wedding while we were all decorating the reception hall.  What he tends to leave out are the parts about how I hadn't seen him in several weeks and he was ignoring me, how I was busy doing last minute decorating and he was busy visiting, and how I had just cut my finger on the cake knife (because every bride wants to sport a band-aid on her ring finger during her wedding!).  At least I got it out of my system that night. 

The actual rehearsal went off without a hitch.  And we had so much fun at our rehearsal dinner, taking  a break from wedding "stuff" and just enjoying our closest friends and family that we don't get to see very often.  Every girl's wedding day is the best of her life, but personally I hold my night-before-the-wedding very close to my heart.  It was the last time I'd use my maiden name, my last day as a single woman, the last night I'd live with my parents, and the very last time I'd have to say goodbye to the love of my life at the end of the night. 

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Surprisingly I slept well on March 24, 2006.  And I woke up early the following morning ready to turn the page on another chapter - my marriage.

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