This September my husband and I will be celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary! It has been a while, but I remember my planning very well. I knew NOTHING.
For some reason everyone let me plan a wedding completely on my own at 17 for my wedding to be 3 weeks after my 18th birthday. Yes I was 17! So, of course I didn't know anything! I learned LOTS of things the hard way. I am going to share some things that I wish I had done differently (had I known). Some BIG mistakes I made and somethings that I am glad I did.
Our Budget: we didn't have a budget, and what I mean is not that it was unlimited it was more like nothing. We were teenagers with no money. Thankfully between us and our family we pulled it together and we were able to pull off the ENTIRE wedding including my gown for under $5000. I am going to explain some of how we did that..
Theme: This was in 2012. The very beginning of the "rustic wedding". This theme was not real yet. You couldn't purchase anything already made. It was ALL DIY. So many of the decorations were made by me with burlap, twine, and a hot glue gun. I even learned how to wood burn that summer. I decided on bright yellow for my accent color. I knew my husband was going to wear his dress blues and wanted to coordinate his uniform into the wedding without using the other basic colors on the uniform.
If I were to do it again, I would just chose a color pallet and not try to stick to a theme. It was so difficult to put a theme together with the colors I picked included! In fact, I were planning a wedding today I would just have everything black, not in a gothic way (even though I have experienced that and it is amazing), but just black with a gold accent. It is so simple, yet elegant and classy!
Planning Timeline: 3 months.. We were "engaged" in June and set the date for September. Absolutely ridiculous! Don't do this to yourself ever. I enjoyed the excitement of it all, but it was overwhelming. I remember waking up the day after my wedding lost on what to do with myself. I had to find new hobbies to fill my time up because those few months was CONSUMED with wedding planning. If I were to do it again I would set 8-12 months to plan. I feel like over 12 months is fine but I am impatient, but nothing shorter than 8 months.
Ceremony: Our ceremony was at Washington Lake Park in Sewell. We needed to rent 100 chairs and we had to have family set it all up for us. If I were to do this again I wouldn't have picked something that required so much effort. I feel terrible that family had to spend time making this space ready instead of just enjoying the day. We also had to set it up in an odd way because of how the gazebo was laid out. It worked well, but would do something way more convient if I were planning today.
Florals: Honestly, I never even looked into a florist. I didn't know anything about florals and just about immediately decided on silk. I found a company online that created all the bouquets, boutonnières, and a ceremony piece for under $150. I got to have all of my florals weeks prior and add burlap and twine to them to match my DIY rustic theme. It was nice to have them on hand and I was thrilled with them. Many of my family members still have them and use them for summer floral arrangements in their home.
Bridal Party: We had 4 on each side. Many because I wasn't that close to many other girls, but looking back I am thrilled we went with such a small bridal party. It was very easy to coordinate with them. My heart sinks for brides that tell me they have huge bridal parties, it makes the day so much more stressful. If I was planning it today I would keep my party between 3-5 on each side.
Portraits: Pinterest had just became popular at this time and I was all about all the fun photo ideas! Also, the grounds of Washington Lake park are what convinced me to plan the ceremony here. My only regret from our photos.. I was so busy getting all these cool photos we never actually got a formal photo of us! Still love my photos though!
Also, I didn't have contacts at the time.. and I didn't want to be in glasses for my photos. So I was quite literally blind the entire day up until I threw my glasses on towards the end of the night. Can you blame me though? I was still in braces! I was so mad my orthodontist wouldn't take them off for my wedding.
Decorations: I really did some DIY on the decorations. Using my brother in laws artistic skills for our guest book and a yard sale ladder for the seating chart. I had a lot of fun doing these projects and I think they added a little something to the vibe. It certainly wasn't fancy, but it was cute. If I were to do it again I would go REALLY simple. I know now that most times none of these things are necessary and are easily overlooked.
Reception: Because of our low budget we used a rental hall for our reception. There are many things I did that I do NOT recommend. First I messed the times up, bad! Because a hall rental doesn't offer coordination or planning it was on me to figure it all out. I never took the time from the ceremony location to the reception into consideration and I only booked the DJ for 4 hours. So we ended up with a 3 hour reception instead.
Also, because it was a rental hall we had to do all of the decoration and set up ourselves. Thankfully they let us come in to do this the day before so it wasn't as hectic the day of.
And the worst part... I was my own coordinator as it was happening. If it was time for a dance I was running out of the room to dim the lights myself.. seriously how weird is that?
We did have an outside caterer for the dinner that helped with cleaning up the dinner messes, but we were responsible for cleaning up the rest.
Definitely a lot of extra work involved. I could have solved all of this with a wedding coordinator, but it wasn't in our budget at the time.
Cringe: I really put a lot of effort into this s'mores bar.. we forgot to use it! Again, because it was on us and we were so busy we found this full set up and the end of the night completely untouched.
Cake: I still to this day recommend ordering cakes from Walmart or other food stores. The cake we got was simple and easy to order and SO inexpensive! The only downside was needing to have a family member pick it up and deliver it to the hall for us. Which was the easiest job that I had for a family member that day.
All in all, it worked out fine. We were excited to be married and by the end of that night we were. I am still surprised I was able to plan what I did at 17 with no budget and for that I think it was impressive. My planning passion stemmed from planning my own wedding and I have loved it ever since.
All these photos were taken by Ashley Elaine Photography in 2012. She is still a south jersey wedding photographer and has grown significantly since my wedding. She also happens to be my cousin!