As is Christmas season, it’s also a very popular engagement season. Our friends just got engaged last weekend, and Dan proposed to me days before Christmas just 2 years ago.
This post is for the brides-to-be.
Welcome to this enchanting time, where the moment you’ve been anticipating has come, and your beloved has gotten down on one knee and asked that very dear question. Yes, your left hand is sparkling, and that shiny stuff feels heavier than you imagined… don’t worry, you get used to it~ ;) Now that it’s official, are all the wedding details swirling around you?
I am a designer, who’s taken mental notes at every wedding I’ve attended, wedding magazines, wedding blogs, and best of all I thought, I am decisive, and frugal without ‘looking the part.’ I’ve had wedding detail schemes since I was in middle school and have discussed it with my beloved mom throughout the years, but even so, wedding planning was a handful. Especialy 3000 miles away from the wedding location, without my mom to bounce ideas off of, balancing etiquette with what’s actually important to Dan and I, coordinating all, as if it was my design portfolio, within the 5 months of engagement.
This blog is meant to share some of my experiences for my own memory, as well as to see if any will come in handy for you, the bride-to-be.
Seeing that Dan and I are both photographers, beyond the fact that photos are the only things that last past the wedding day, we couldn’t bear to hire an ordinary wedding photographer. We had each separately admired a husband&wife photographer duo for many years in the Seattle area, and it only took one glance and nod at each other to decide with them. For us, we chose our wedding date based on when our photographers were available, then checked the schedules with our pastor, and one of our dads, who’s working overseas. I know, I know, where are our priorities? =)
(sorry, don't remember which friend took this photo)
We were shocked at our wedding photographers’ rates… we were shocked at most wedding expenses… but really, for those of us who aren’t event planners, when do we encounter professionals who take care of things for an entire day, much less an extremely important day? When’s the last time you spent hundreds to thousands of dollars on flowers? Just saying… We swallowed hard and signed with the photographers without a doubt to negotiate. We respected their work, we wanted them, pretty much no matter what. This may be a good time to mention, we had a tight budget… don’t we all? In order to afford the photographer of our choice, nearly 30% of our wedding budget went to them. To make ends meet, I ordered and made the centerpieces and flower decorations my self. The morning before our wedding day, Dan was busy making our slide show, and I was making floral arrangements (result? scratches on my hand on the wedding day). I designed all the graphics (save the dates, invitations, programs, guest books), and Dan printed them from home. I ordered the bouquets from a silk florist so flowers could be shipped in advance to Seattle without flowers wilting. I swallowed my pride and bought my dress in a humble store, but it worked, it was my favorite dress. Another note of caution… I did the alterations at the recommended time, but I kept losing weight, and by the morning of the wedding day, I think I was a good full size smaller than the dress… even though I had a corset back, my bridesmaids tightened the lacing to the point they couldn’t pull it any more, and it was still a little baggy… I lost so much weight, I ate an ice cream bar right before I went to bed before the wedding day hoping I’d retain some weight… I don’t think it worked… =p
(All photos following are by GHKim unless otherwise noted)
Dan left most of the wedding planning to me, and that’s really what I wanted. This depends on the bride’s personality, but I personally enjoyed making the decisions quickly, designing my own invitations, florals, cakes, etc. and Dan trusted me to do make the right choices, and I just updated him as we went along, knowing he will help when I asked for it. We got married at a venue where a friend got married, partly because a garden ceremony site was included in the hall rental. But alas, it lightly rained on our wedding day (which later turned into an amazing testimony). Friends checked in our own wedding gears as they flew to Seattle. We stressed just a little over the guest count, but at the end, it turned out exactly the number we had hoped for, 125. I almost got conned at a DJ who had a fake website. The first set of silk bridesmaids dresses I found at an amazing deal became our wedding color scheme. The lady that cut my hair for $12 for years agreed to do my bridal make up and hair at an amazing price. Who knew she used to do just that in Seoul, Korea back in the days. Dan and I spent quality time doing pre-marital counseling, taking dance lessons, and practicing our duets in the car. All in all, it was a great engagement period, 2 months before the wedding, we even said, ‘huh, I guess we could have gotten married 2 months earlier.’
On the wedding day, here are some pointers based on my own experience:
1. Go to bed early…
you’ve been busy and running around for months… 4-6 hours of sleep isn’t good enough for you to look rested on your wedding day. Sure, adrenaline will keep you awake the whole day, but the red eyes, and puffy bags under the eyes do not make good pictures. Make up doens’t stick on tired skin as well. Go to bed early the night before, don’t schedule anything after the rehearsal dinner. I slept 6 hours, and still can’t recognize my self in the photos taken 5 hrs into the wedding.
2. Take care of your valuables…
a bride has a lot on her mind… I hid some precious jewelry that was worn for the rehearsal dinner into a luggage that wasn’t coming with us to our honeymoon. It took me months before I could remember where I hid them. I seriously drew a blank of the night before the wedding.
3. Dancing shoes…
practice your wedding dance in the shoes you’ll be wearing on your wedding day, and try to recreate a big skirt representative of your wedding gown (With the petticoat only maybe). Dancing in a big dress was a lot more tricky and less graceful then I’d anticipated. (I tried on less puffy dresses, thinking, I’m not a princess-y dress type… but wouldn’t you know it, the puffy dress was most flattering, and LOOKED appropriately like a wedding dress for me)
- 4. Let your helpers step in… you are not the answer person on your wedding day.
I had typed out a ‘task’ description to all the friends helping with set up, decor, and haul. The list also told them what time and where to show up with what. This wasn’t meant to seem controlling, but more so each person knew what was needed of them, and so they don’t have to come find me for questions on the wedding day. On your wedding day, you can’t possibly enjoy your day, or look relaxed if people constantly come asking you for decisions and details. People you trust should take care of that for you. One other crucial mistake I made, as well as have often witness as a wedding photographer, have your ushers seat guests closest to the front as possible. Assign off what ever the immediate family needs, and the rest, have the guests sit up close as they arrive. Often in photos and in reality, the seats closest to the couple look empty, because guests were shy to sit up front, then late arrival guests cram in the back or have to stand. Double negative. We had nearly 1.5 empty rows of chairs and several rows of guests standing at the back by the time the ceremony started. Yeah, of all the details, the ushers were the only ones I didn’t ask for specifics.
prime seats, empty...
5. More unscheduled time…
Dan and I both wish we had enough time to finish our delicious meals… actually, we didn’t even get to eat the delicious cake that we so carefully decided upon, beyond that first bite. I wish we had more time to visit with the guests, not just for photos, but to really catch up. The photos of visiting tables are in a way waste of time for us, the photos aren’t much to look at, and therefore don’t get used to print or give out. I wish we spent that time catching up. My wedding day really was a blur. I wish I could have sat back and soaked it all in.
6. Choose on your regrets…
For the sake of being frugal, I used less luxurious materials from time to time. The vases were from Ikea, and the ribbons were from a discount seller on line. I don’t regret those thrifty buys. But I do regret not having more leisurely time with my girl friends, like spa treatments, or an elegant meal. I didn’t want to impose big budgets on my bridesmaids and friends, so we skipped the bachelorette party, watched a movie, and went out to a thai restaurant instead. With my bridesmaids, we got our nails done after the wedding rehearsal. Nothing wrong with that, but a part of me wishes, we could have done more together. It’ll be rare for me to have all of them in one location from then on.
Again, sorry, we forgot which friend took this one…
As a post wedding note:
Grooms: you are so gracious to make the wedding day about your bride’s desires… it is true, they don’t have magazines called “Groom” etc. However, your bride will have more make-up on then you’ve ever seen her in, please look past that shock when you see her for the first time. She did it, to look beautiful for you. We love to photograph your aw for her glow!
Future brides: Many married women do mind it, if you ask for specific style details, and budgets of their weddings for your reference. They’ve worked hard to figure out those details, and to represent themselves as far as the budget allows on a very important day. It’s in a way, their Brand, their copyright. Please use caution to not duplicate their aesthetics and even their primary song choices. It’s fine to ask which vendors they’d recommend, but don’t get into the prices. Especially, if they aren’t your intimate friends.
Also, wedding photography will seem costly when you first encounter the subject. But consider what photography does compared to the rest of the things you pay for your wedding day. Photography is the only thing that will last past the day, and will help you remember all those personal details and moments for you and for future generations for years to come. If this is not the case for you, there are plenty of others who are willing to do it for a smaller budget. Each hour we spend behind the camera, we spend about 5 hours behind the scenes to bring that image to life.
Mothers: There aren’t magazines called “Mother of the Bride” either. Please enjoy your daughter’s big day. We’d much prefer to take pictures of your radiant proud smiles, rather than you dictating the day, taking pictures of your daughter or worried over the seating chart.
Guests: You may think the photographers are taking pictures of you when you prefer not to be in one, but our duty is to honor our bride and groom’s request to take pictures of you. Please pardon the paparazzi, and enjoy the party so we can relay your smiles to the bride and groom! To the guests who bring your cameras to weddings, please-please, we understand your excitement for your loved ones’ wedding day. But the bride and groom invited you to enjoy the celebration, not to document their wedding day in your camera. Please let us do our job without repeatedly reminding you, “no cameras, no flashes please.” This is not the place for you to practice your hobby by experimenting with an unfamiliar equipment, or an absolute no-no is following a wedding photographer around and capturing what they are working on, or distracting the eyes of those we are photographing by taking a picture right next to us. We’ll take the designated group shots, and let you take yours if the Bride and Groom wishes, and has the time to spare. But most weddings are already very tight on time, and smiling for multiple cameras can get tiring for the Bride and Groom. Our priority lies strictly to uphold the Bride and Groom’s wishes, and their wedding photography as best as it can be. The bride and groom has set aside a significant budget to hire professional photographer(s), please respect their choices. I’m sure they will share the images with you if you’d like to keep one for your memories. A guest popping a flash at the wrong time can ruin an image that the Bride and Groom asked for. Please let us do our job.
Here’s another list from experiences brides: http://www.weddingwindow.com/blog/2009/11/27/top-10-wedding-regrets-of-previous-brides/
I especially agree with #2 =)