We just had our last wedding of year! And now we’re going to go on our delayed honeymoon to celebrate haha. A little unordinary to wait almost 6 months after your own wedding to go on a honeymoon, I know. I guess it is pretty much a reflection of our unordinary relationship and wedding as well. However, our relationship and wedding has worked out pretty perfectly for us.
I think what makes a wedding so perfect are those personal touches that are important and unique to you. We went to a total of 4 weddings things year (plus our own), and each one was so differently perfect.
Our first wedding of the year was a Georgia weekend at a HomeAway (similar to AirBnB) with a quaint outdoor ceremony under a tree and an outdoor/indoor reception with live music, drinks, and A POOL! There were a few houses on this giant plantation with lots of land to run around in and take pictures at.
Another wedding we went to was a celebration with friends and family near the Great Lakes of Michigan, after an earlier legal wedding in Norway in the mountains under a rainbow. The celebration had a candy bar, carousel for guests, trolley to take you back to your hotel, and every table had a different dance to show off during the reception (like the chicken dance, Macarena, YMCA, etc.).
The next wedding we went to had a ceremony on a small yacht in Florida and a waterfront reception that began with our old family friend playing the wedding march on the electric guitar as the couple of honor entered the room, a bachata wedding dance, lots of dessert options, and a full floor of dancing.
The last wedding of the year Mom was a morning brunch in California’s Bay area. It had an outdoor ceremony with an indoor and outdoor reception in beautiful venue in California’s mountains. They had delicious appetizers, bottomless mimosas, lunch buffet and a surprisingly very full dance floor for a morning wedding.
For us, we initially eloped 2 months after we got engaged on the beaches of South Carolina. We had a photographer, a giant cupcake, a carriage ride, a fancy dinner, a fancy cocktail and dessert bar experience, and a nice hotel downtown Charleston. It was so cute. Then we had a bigger wedding with the whole shebang and all of our friends and family 6 months after that. It was perfect. I also think all of the other weddings we went to were pretty damn perfect too, and when I’d go to them I almost wished we did something they did.
So in honor of making your own wedding perfect, I can tell you my top favorite things in our wedding and the top things I wish I changed. I’m not sure how everyone else felt about their weddings, but here are my personal opinions!
1. Eloping first and then having a celebration later
Eloping allowed us more time with each other, but it truly was a blast celebrating with friends and family as well. I really don’t think you can go wrong with either experience but I’m happy we did both! Honestly, the more you can celebrate the better in my opinion. At first I didn’t think I wanted a bridal shower, but in retrospect I’m really glad I got two of those and a bachelorette party too. One of my friends had an engagement party as well and a couples shower instead of bridal shower, and I think that’s a grand idea too. You really won’t be celebrating yourselves so much after the wedding is over, so might as well milk it while you can with the people you love the most. (But just don’t go full wedding diva and expect everyone to be able to commit to everything. You have to be reasonable since wedding activities can get hella expensive).
2. Getting a venue where everything is walking distance
Our rehearsal dinner, hotel, ceremony, reception, and breakfast were all walking distance from each other. And there were plenty of restaurants in the area if you were visiting. It made it super easy for us, and easy for our guests. I think even if you don’t make everything walking distance though, it’s still nice to pick a location that’s fun for your guests. That way, if they’re visiting from out of town then they can still enjoy the area before and after the wedding!
3. Getting two GIANT suites for us and a few friends
This was SOOOO worth it. Everyone’s situation is different, but the suites we got were basically two apartments with a few bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a living room. We used these rooms to party the night before, as storage for decorations/guests things/presents, as the room in which the groom “won over” the bride while family watched, we got ready in these rooms, made breakfast, had lunch, took stellar photos here, and snuck away here during the reception when we needed a break. We had big bridal parties so not everyone stayed in these rooms, but a lot of people used them anyway. At some of the other weddings, people rented Airbnb’s for the wedding parties so they could stay together as well and they’d use those as a place for guests to come together and extend the party. That’s another way to make it similarly fun!
4. Having my father-in-law be the stand in officiant
Wow, just wow. Having someone you know be the officiant just makes the event that much more special. My father in law researched Russian traditions and made such an incredibly heartfelt speech, that I think it made most of us tear up- including him. It made it even more sentimental. The last wedding we went to also had a friend and coworker officiant, and that similarly added a special touch!
5. Performing a choreographed dance
This was mostly important to me at first because I’ve danced most of my life and I wanted my husband Frank be able to share something special with me, but Frank ended up happy we did it too. First of all, doing a weekly activity together brought us closer together and learning to overcome the difficulties of learning something new together taught us a lot about our relationship. But after it was all over, we were so proud of our achievement and everyone at our wedding was raving about our performance. That said, my husband thinks it’s very sweet as well when you have a simple first dance and just take that time to catch up together. Some dancers also do improvised cute dances together and I think that’s always fun and sweet too, but if you want your dance to be a little fancier and one of both of you don’t have dance experience then it does help to take lessons and choreograph something.
6. Hiring a top photographer and videographer
I love photos and I love videos to music. At first, I was a little hesitant because of the prices but it was incredibly worth it to spend a little bit more towards recording your memories. I think the style of photos really depends on your personality and some photographers are more airy, others are more natural, others can be dark and sultry, and some can be more eccentric with their photo ideas. I personally also loved having a video, but I know that’s not for everyone as well. Either way, research your options!!
7. Adding a personal, cultural, or unique touch
For us, our wedding dance and Russian traditions were probably the most unique things about our wedding. We were also supposed to have bagpipes, but that kind of fell through. I loved how other wedding couples this year all did something unique too. The first wedding in Georgia making it a whole weekend experiences with friends. They even all jumped into the pool in their wedding attire at the end of the night. The second wedding couple actually first got married and took pictures in the mountains in Norway overlooking a rainbow, before celebrating with family. The third couple definitely had a water themed wedding and they even wanted to penguins to walk down the aisle with them. However, getting the penguins from the aquarium was expensive so the ring barrier had a little wobbling penguin balloon instead. The last wedding of the year had their family members playing the wedding march on cello, violin, and guitar as the wedding party walked down the aisle. They also did a bottomless mimosa brunch wedding, then went out with friends after for a full day of wedding festivities.
Things I Wish I Did Differently
1. Celebrating with family TOGETHER after our wedding
This is what I actually initially wanted to do, but I had trouble planning it. Eventually, we decided that it wasn’t worth the work and that we’d just hang out casually after the wedding. Frank’s family did end up coming over to my mother in laws house the day after the wedding, so we did get more family time. However, the day after that, I left with my mom and sister for a girls trip to Italy. My sister had an internship there, and since we weren’t leaving for our honeymoon right after, my mom invited me to join them for a week. It was an amazing experience, but I wanted to just keep reliving the magic of the wedding and I missed Frank while he was spending a week hanging out with his family, going to baseball games, going out on their boat, and celebrating Independence day. Being apart right then kind of sucked, and I felt serious FOMO being away.
I think if you even just spend time with friends after the wedding or go on your honeymoon together, that would make it a fun way to extend the party. I personally liked that we delayed our honeymoon because it gave us something to still look forward to later but I think the day after the wedding you still are on a high from it all and finding a way to continue celebrating is worth it.
2. First look photos
Me and the hubs didn’t want to see each other until I walk down the aisle, but to be honest I expected more from that experience. I really thought he’d shed some tears and get all excited and emotional. That didn’t happen. Instead, it was really sunny and he looked strained by the light shining in his eyes as I walked down the aisle. First look photos could’ve gave us those more dramatic photos of a first look and we would’ve had more time to spend together too before the wedding started.
3. Investing more in our DJ
Some people will get live bands or a really dope DJ, and since I love music you would think I would’ve wanted that too. I guess I did, but it also wasn’t a priority. Our DJ was *okay* but he didn’t play a lot of the songs we requested. Some of our guests complained that he didn’t play some of their requests, and some guests said they were disappointed by the music. I think overall, most people had fun and a lot of people did like the DJ but like I said, he just wasn’t that great. However, if I were to redo it all then I’d probably still choose him because he was a cheaper option that went with the venue and we had other priorities that we wanted to allocate more of our budget towards. That said, if you can invest more in a DJ then I think it’d be worth it.
4. Getting up earlier to spend more time with our friends and family during breakfast
My husband and I continued the party with dueling pianos and various bars after the reception, so we decided to sleep in a bit. However, by the time we got to the brunch we had set up, we had missed a lot of our guests.You really don’t get that much time with all your guests. There are so many of them, and only one of you. And yet, they all traveled to your wedding just for YOU. So I just wish we just woke up early to spend more time with them.
Otherwise, I think our wedding rocked! I think you can do an impeccable wedding with varying budgets and in so many different ways from eloping to airbnbs to destination weddings to traditional local weddings to quirky weddings. The most important is the why and the who. Why are you getting married- aka because you found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with (wooo!) and who do you want to celebrate this with- could be just you and your future spouse or an entire village of friends and family. The how is just the cherry on top, it’s your way of making it personal and unique to your tastes.
Anddddd just to show off our wedding video that was presented at the reception- here it is. I don’t even know how our videographers did it so fast but they did and it was AMAZING. See Ingalls Pictures for more info on our videographers!