Today’s blog post is all about the best day ever – our wedding! The planning, the decision making, tips & tricks, meaningful mementos – everything I think you may need to or want to know about!
My best piece of advice is to make the day your own, and do what feels right to you both as a couple. I love that weddings are becoming less traditional and more and more about the couple. My second piece of advice is to prioritize. The cost of weddings can get out of hand SO quickly, but we tried our best to invest in the things we cared about most and cut cost in other areas that weren’t as important to us. Finally, our day would not have been possible without many of our talented and giving family members, friends, and vendors. We are blessed to have family and close friends who are skilled and selfless that were able and willing to help us out in many different ways.
Picking a wedding date and venue was the first thing we set our minds to once we enjoyed the bliss of our engagement. We knew we wanted to get married during the spring or the fall in Virginia (where we met and grew up) to increase our chances of an enjoyable outdoor ceremony. We also wanted to make sure we had enough time to plan without stress (or should I say less stress) so we ended up allowing ourselves ~11 months to plan for the wedding after we got engaged. We chose to get married at Shadow Creek on Friday, September 29th. There are pros and cons to getting married on a Friday (or Sunday), but it’s a great step to cut cost. Having our wedding on a Friday also opened up our Saturday afternoon to spend more time with our family and friends for a casual gathering at a local winery. This time was so special to us as the evening of the wedding is such a blur! We were able to have more quality time and conversation with friends & family before the whirlwind weekend was over and all our loved ones returned back home. Back to Shadow Creek – there were so many things we loved about Shadow Creek, but here are a few standouts. It’s gorgeous. It has a breathtaking view of the rolling hills of Virginia, but offers an option to move the ceremony inside if necessary due to weather. The space is incredibly adaptable – I’ve seen weddings with so many varying styles held there. The bridal suite is really beautiful and offered plenty of space to get ready. For hair & make-up, we used Claudine Fay (or my super talented maids did their own hair and/or makeup). Claudine was such a sweetheart, and so dang brilliant. Every look we showed her, she nailed.
Shadow Creek also allows you to provide your own alcohol (another great cost saver)! If you’re searching for a venue in the Northern Virginia area, we highly recommend it! Laura, of Laura Dee Events, was our Wedding Coordinator and the day went off without a hitch all thanks to her! She’s super familiar with Shadow Creek, which was a huge bonus.
Our save the dates, invitations, programs, and table numbers were all ordered through Minted. It was really helpful to order samples from multiple sites before making a decision. Many sites offer free or discounted samples, so we took advantage. The samples helped us decide on the gold geometric vibe (the invitations sort of reminded me of The Great Gatsby hah) over the vines or sprigs of greenery which was my first inclination. It’s pretty crazy how quickly all the paper goods add up. Our strategy was to have our invitation list finalized before purchasing. We would design each of the items and have them edited and ready for purchase prior to an event which would most likely have a sale or discount code (i.e. First Time Purchase, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, etc.). This helped a lot and I definitely suggest it!
I knew pretty quickly the vibe I was going for, and thankfully Zach was on board. We wanted to stick to neutrals, blush, gold accents, geometric shapes, and greenery. Everything was simple but I loved how it turned out! I was also able to resell almost all of our decor on the Northern Virginia Wedding Facebook Page. Your local area may have something similar which is a great option for buying second hand at a discounted price, or for resale to make some of your money back! The terrariums and himalayan salt candle holders were purchased on Black Friday (over 40% off and such a steal). If you can align your purchases with a large sale you can save quite a bit!
I loved how all of our wedding signage turned out! The selection of rentals that LeahLetters had matched our theme perfectly and helped tie all the details together. She has a little bit of everything available for rental, but we used her modern metal signs (in various sizes), her large acrylic signage for our seating chart (which was gorgeous), and she even let us use some of our own mirrors! She’s a cutie and such a gem to work with. She’s super attentive and responsive, which is so appreciated with the chaos that is wedding planning! Do you spot my favorite quote about love!? And the “we’ve waited for 12 years, please celebrate accordingly” sign!?
Besides actually getting married, my favorite part of the day was the First Look. That’s when the nerves finally settled, and I felt completely at ease (and finally stopped shaking). Zach and I took a few minutes to say our personal vows to each other, and it was a moment I’ll never forget.
I often would hear of people trying on a wedding dress and immediately knowing it was “the one”. This was not the case for me! I had to do an initial round of trying on dresses, narrowing my favorites down at each of the bridal stores, and then going back for another round, then thinking on it before I could ultimately decide (thanks to my family and friends for all your support during this time ha). Word to the wise – try on ALL styles of dresses. I really thought that I would go for a bohemian style dress, but I was surprised to find that the classic, fitted, and somewhat understated dresses suited me better. Some of the shops that I tried and really loved were BHLDN (many locations), Alice in Ivory (Chicago), Lovely Bride (many locations), and Sarah Seven (where I ended up selecting my dress). At the end of the day, and after much consideration, I loved the simplicity of the dress that I chose. The lace detailing made the dress feel more “bridal” and provided additional coverage (the silk crepe material was not as forgiving). The high neck and open back showed off what I consider to be some of my better features. It felt like the most “me”. Also if you’re in search of the perfect undergarments, I’m just going to leave these here for you (High Waisted Spanx and Nippies).
There are not enough words for Steelcut Flower Co. Mary Ellen is a dear friend, and I firmly believe everything she touches turns to gold. We took her advice and went all out on our arbor for the ceremony, and I’m so so happy we did. I loved my bouquet (I had many people tell me they had never seen anything like it before), and we kept it simple with dinner plate dahlias and soft greens for the bridesmaids. Fun fact: the first time I saw a dinner plate dahlia was when I was living with Mary Ellen’s family on their farm in Lynchburg. I just about died over the boutonnieres. Who knew they could be so tiny and beautiful at the same time. I oohed and aahed over them like they were little puppies (which by the way, I would like a puppy).
There were so many things about the ceremony that were near and dear to our heart. I was able to walk down the aisle with both my step dad & dad, the pastor that married us has known Zach’s parents since they were kids (and has known Zach and I since we started dating), and my sister Hannah played the piano and sang while we had a family prayer.
I really wanted to go for the mix-and-match bridesmaid look from the start. It was a little intimidating trying to plan it ourselves, and not with a bridal stylist. But I see this as proof that it can be done! Ever since it became a trend, I really loved how the mixture of hues and textures looked and I appreciated the flexibility that it provided for each of the bridesmaids. They could pick the color and style of dress that they liked best and within their own budget. There were plenty a group text message regarding this topic, but it was a lot of fun!
The men looked classy as heck in their suits & shoes from The Black Tux. Zach enjoyed the “slim fit” style of the suits for his guys, and they had great selections in color and size (they even had sizing to fit my middle school aged brother!). Ties and socks were from Tie Bar. Zach got his suit from Alton Lane in Chicago. He looked so dang handsome! He was even able to embroider our wedding date on the inside of his jacket which is a fun reminder for us both when he wears it for work. I also loved that his suit was a slightly different shade of blue which matched well with the groomsmen but also made him stand out a bit.
I loved having BBQ at our wedding. Zach and I are big foodies, but it’s really difficult to give such a large group a 5 star dining experience. The food was delicious (and one of the most affordable options) and Jimmy at PIGS BBQ was amazing! He never let the bride or groom run short on food or drinks throughout the entire night. He even packed us an awesome to-go box (which is key, I will add). All-around we wouldn’t change a thing!
Dessert was one of those times that we didn’t stick to the status quo. I go-nuts for donuts (Zach and I always try a donut spot when we are traveling to a new city) and we both love a great cookie (if you are ever near Arlington DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT pass up Bakeshop), so we did that instead of traditional cake. I found these cute clear acrylic donut stands (similar here) and my step-dad helped me make our own “donut wall” (laser cut out from Etsy).
Dancing photos are not very informative, but they will put a smile on your face so please enjoy. Egey was our DJ for the evening, and he was GREAT! I’ve been to many a wedding that had a really showy DJ, and that wasn’t the vibe we were going for. Egey totally understood the atmosphere we wanted for the cocktail hour (he played so many of our favorite songs). He also played great dancing songs and took requests during the reception (and avoided line dancing songs per our request!).
Remember way back in the beginning of this post when I said that we tried to prioritize? Well I tried really hard to tell myself I didn’t need a videographer, because we had a bomb photographer. As our wedding date got closer and closer, I realized that I might regret not having a videographer (I watch wedding videos as a hobby, so I’m not sure why I thought I could say no). Thank goodness Altamira Film Co. was available (as the Kanicka family says…Blessed by The Best). They are AMAZING! The team of two were just about the nicest, most accommodating guys ever. They steamed my wedding dress when the bridal suite was a little bit off a hot mess. They nailed the footage. They nailed the song. They did it all. One of our greatest decisions of the wedding day was booking them. There is something so entirely different that is captured in the movement and sounds of video that is not able to translate to a still picture. There were parts of the wedding day that I had never witnessed the day of that I saw for the first time in the video (p.s. brides you are in hiding for a good portion of the day – bring friends, bring snacks, bring drinks, bring music), and now we get to relive it over and over which I’m forever grateful for.
Sunset photos and random thoughts before we call it…
All gorgeous photography is by Victoria Heer Photography. Book her now. She will change your life. My blog is basically a shrine to her, so you know she’s the real deal.
- Etsy is bomb. In addition to what I already mentioned we got the following from Etsy – Snapchat Filter, Wedding Day Cards, Templates for Name Tags for Reserved Seating, Robes, Koozies, etc. Also Etsy has sales too!!
- We set up my MacBook with a camera and used a program called Sofortbuild instead of paying for a Photo Booth.
- We took dancing classes in Chicago, and I’m so glad we did! I actually looked forward to it each week. And we learned a lot and got silly with our instructor.
- Instead of doing the father-daughter/mother-son dance while everyone is seated and watching, we did it while all of our guests enjoyed a slow dance with us 🙂
Questions? Comments? Would love to know what you think!