Monday, November 14, 2011

Final Conclusions --Things I Loved and Would Not Change

As promised, I will end this last post on a positive note.  The year of wedding planning was mostly fun, sometimes difficult, and something I will always remember.  Here are the things that gave me the most joy in the process:

-  The Pre-Wedding Photography -- I thought the engagement shots taken by Abigail Criner of Waco were awesome! Great poses, nice Waco scenery, and the couple looked adorable together. (And the price couldn’t be beat – the photo session was done pretty much as a wedding gift to the couple.)   And, the formal bridal portraits by Wendell and Mary Sanford of Chapel Hill Photography were so beautiful!  They did a great job of capturing the "Old South" images inspired by our beautiful bride in her princess ball-gown, and the gorgeous plantation-style background of the Earle Harrison House and Gardens.  They really made you think of "Gone With the Wind!"

- I thought everyone connected to the wedding looked awesome – from the Bride’s exquisite gown, all the lovely bridesmaids in their light blue gowns to match the wedding colors, to the Mothers and Grandmothers of the bride and groom in their coordinating darker blue gowns and dresses, the guys in their dapper tuxes and light blue ties, and even the Dads in their new suits!

- The unified color scheme of light blue and ivory carried on from the Save the Date cards, to the bridal showers, to the invitations and other stationery, to the ceremony, and through the reception.

- The service reflected the couple's beliefs and highlighted the blessed union they were undergoing as man and wife, and featured beautiful and moving music, which was important to them.

- The Maid of Honor (sister of the bride) and Best Man (brother of the groom) using their talents singing special music and playing the guitar for the wedding ceremony…such a nice touch of family involvement!

- Using some lace taken off my wedding dress to wrap around the bride’s bouquet, – after deciding my dress was beyond cleaning and repair (as if either one of my girls would wear it) – at least it served some sentimental value!

- All the beautiful flowers. Blue hydrangeas will now forever remind me of My First Daughter’s Wedding! Our wedding coordinator, Denise Harlan, did an excellent job fulfilling the bride’s vision with the bouquets and all the florals.

- Renting the big white limo to carry the bridal party from the church to the reception site, and to use as the “getaway” car for the newlyweds – the bridal party was surprised and impressed, but it also kept them together and ensured a timely arrival at the reception; allowed the newlyweds a nice ride for the farewell moment.

- Renting the dance floor – it looked nicer than the ballroom carpet and was easier to dance on, and I think the dancers got into the party/dancing spirit seeing it there at the reception venue.

- Making the feathered floral hairclip for my daughter to wear at the reception – I think it looked fabulous on her, it was truly “one-of a kind” and gave me some personal satisfaction that I could add something fun to her day! (Even if I did not get to clip it on her myself…)

- The table markers that my daughter and her fiancé made using photos of themselves at favorite locales in their town. Added personalization and a unique touch.

- Hiring a professional DJ instead of using an IPOD for the reception . Was he the best DJ ever? Maybe not, but he was professional, got the job done and served as Announcer and “Master of Ceremonies” so my hubby didn’t have to do it, and so that we did not have to risk technical difficulties with an IPOD system.

- The guests blowing bubbles at the couple during their last dance. (The bubble favors were definitely worth the time and effort!)

- The cake balls were also a hit! They were unusual, there was a variety, they were free, and there were no leftovers!

- It was fun being able to share some of the leftover flower arrangements with out of town wedding guests at the hotel -- it kind of made up for the lack of  "welcome bags".  We even left some floral arrangements at the hotel desk and "elite hotel club" area...and they seemed appreciative.  We also shared leftover cupcakes with the serving staff, the DJ and his assistant, the wedding coordinator and her assistant, etc.

- Hiring the weekend-of wedding coordinator. I really don’t know what we would have done without her! Thanks again, Denise Harlan!

- Last but not least -- the knowledge that I was entrusting my daughter into good hands with her new husband.  We even like the in-laws!   Couldn't have asked for anything better.   I have read about, and corresponded with other Mothers of the Bride who were planning their daughter's weddings, all the while having doubts about the union, or with tales of terrible strife between the families.  I can't even imaging having to go through that.  We were/are so blessed!

So, this is me, former MOB, signing out! I have lots of very happy memories of the year of wedding planning, but am ready now to put it behind me. I don’t know what’s next…I loved blogging and plan to continue, but need to figure out what it is that I am now as passionate about as planning My First Daughter’s Wedding! In a perfect world, I think I would be signing up for classes to become a Certified Wedding Planner, and seeing if I could launch a second career!

But this world is not perfect… like so many others these days, some months ago my job was eliminated. For the time being, I have been shuffled elsewhere within my department in a position that I have to admit, I do not like as well.  Not ready for retirement yet -- we still have another daughter to put through college. 

I leave this blog as inspiration and advice to any other mothers of the occasion who may be looking for ideas or pointers for their own son or daughter’s wedding! (As well as notes to myself, if and when I need to help plan My Second Daughter’s Wedding!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Final Conclusions -- The "Do-Over" List

Now that we are several months post-wedding, the excitement and obsession with wedding planning has faded considerably.  I am ready to put this blog to bed and file away the stuff in the big planning binder I have had sitting around on my home desk for nearly a year and a half, and move on to…well, who knows?

I do not plan to be in wedding planning mode again anytime soon.  With all my heart, I believe Amanda and Ian’s marriage will last their entire lifetimes.  Who knows where my younger daughter’s life story will take her, but it is not in the marrying direction for at least the next few years.

Anyway, now that the year of planning and the Big Day is a fading memory,  I thought a good way to end this blog would be to list the things I wouldn’t have changed for the world about my daughter’s wedding, and things which I wish we had a “Do-Over” with.  The rest of this post will allow me to get the grousing out of my system once and for all, if my Readers will indulge me!  The final post (coming soon) will list the kudos and end on a more positive note!

Things I Wish We had a Do-over With, In a Perfect World: (With an unlimited budget of course!)

We are not a wealthy family. The budget was not unlimited. We did the best we could, with what our budget allowed us to do, and I have to be satisfied with that. You kind of have to pick and choose from among the vendors (and venues) you can afford. In Waco, the pickins’ were kinda slim, as we say in the South.

I had first thought I would list the vendors, one by one, with ratings of how I thought they did.  But, I felt that might be just a little awkward, in case one of them were to stumble upon this blog.  I think reading carefully between the lines of my blog posts during the last year, it was implied which vendors I thought did an outstanding job, and which ones I had second thoughts about.

We had some nice extra touches.  And, at least it was convenient that we didn't have to set the reception tables up ourselves, bring in outside caterers, hire a security officer, and clean up the mess after the party ourselves, like we would have had to do at some of the other Waco reception venues!

What would it have cost us to do what is on my Do-Over List?  I calculate the least would be another $7000.  Would it have been worth it?  Pretty doubtful….

Overall, if possible, I would be willing to spend a bit more on the venue and food, photography and videography next time around, to make sure most of our expectations are met and to ensure good memories of the day. Transportation is another area that we might take a second look at. However, I honestly don't think spending more on the flowers and decor would have added much to this particular wedding. Our guests were, for the most part, a crowd that did not have big expectations, and the wedding definitely turned out nice enough for our families and for the mostly young, college crowd we had. Was it over the top? Not at all, but I am satisfied that it was a pleasant, comfortable, nicely decorated backdrop for all of our guests!

Here, more specifically, is my Do-Over Wish List. (Some things to keep in mind for those who might be following this blog to get ideas for their own wedding!):

- A more laid-back, fun Rehearsal day!  -- Would have loved to have less drama and to have checked into our hotel a few hours earlier so that we could relax and freshen up before the wedding rehearsal on Friday night!  It just started the whole weekend off on a frantic note. 

- Try to have the wedding start later in the day!   A 12 Noon ceremony time makes the day before and the morning of just too hectic!  We felt rushed and frantic all morning...and guess what we forgot...the pre-wedding prayer circle

- Making “Emergency Kits” for the bridesmaids was a total waste of time and money. I put emergency items like deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes, safety and bobby pins, breath mints, etc. in pretty gift bags tied with bows.  Some of them didn’t even get opened and came back home with me, and the wedding coordinator and the "style team" had everything they would have needed in their kits anyway. I probably should have done “welcome bags” for the out of town guests at the hotel instead!  Maybe they would have felt more like their long trip was really appreciated and worth it...

- More limo rides!  For instance another chauffeured car or cars for the families to ride in.  Maybe that way I would have been around and available to bustle my daughter’s dress, rather than helping my hubby find our way back to the reception site in our private car!

- I wish I would have been more the Mother of the Bride, less the “Hostess of the Occasion” – as it turned out I was pulled in too many directions and we just didn’t plan the flow of events on the wedding day out well enough.  I missed a lot of the important stuff!    Related to this…As a woman of faith, I now regret that there was no pre-wedding “Prayer Circle” for the bride.  Something I, as the MOB, should have initiated?

- Professional Videography -- at least of the ceremony.  After all, our older daughter was getting married, and our younger daughter (the maid of honor) sang two songs during the ceremony!  Then we could have shown it to older guests who were not up to traveling to the wedding. (Like my own mother, for instance.)

-  Wedding Day Pictures with More Pizazz -- I found the photographer choice is something you should take your time with and be very selective about.  Don't just look at the bottom line.  Make sure the photographer's style fits with the vision for the wedding, and make sure they unerstand clearly what that vision is.  For a large wedding, there should be a second shooter at least.   If I knew then what I know now, I may have chosen another wedding photographer.  There were just too many missing shots, and the wedding day pictures just did not have the "wow-factor" I had hoped for.  I will write more about this in a later post.  (To be fair, the photographer and his wife were really sweet people and professionals all the way...I shoulder a lot of the blame for poor communication of what we wanted.  They did an excellent job of the formal bridal portraits, btw!)

- More Food Options -- Although I’m told most of the appetizers were good, and no one has reported that they ran out, they sure seemed to be in short supply by the end of the appetizer hour, and the lunch was unmemorable.  I like the plated sit-down dinner style, but perhaps we could have sprang for more options?  Also, maybe if we had a few more flavors of cupcakes available to choose from, we would not have had so many leftover plain white cupcakes?

- Grander Décor – although the florals we had were beautifully done, the decor sort of got lost in the huge church sanctuary and ballroom we had them in.   The ceremony definitely could have used more of an architectural (or drapery?) “focal point”, and the large reception space could definitely have ”popped” more if we had been able to use some fabric draping and added some professional lighting effects.  And for heaven's sake, I would have made sure the table coverings went all the way to the floor at least, since we did not opt for the fancy chair covers.  Metal ballroom table legs AND chair legs peeking out from under tables is not a pretty sight.  It looked more like a business conference meal or banquet, not a formal wedding reception.

- On to the reception venue…well,  I’m going to go ahead and speak my mind here.  Let’s just say I give the Waco Hilton mixed reviews.  Their wedding marketing materials are outdated and misleading…ask lots of questions!  The photographs they use show upgraded chairs and linens – which I found out later you have to arrange for and pay for yourself.  They just neglect to tell you that…unless you ask.  They say they supply the dance floor as part of the package…well…if they mean an empty space on the ballroom carpet, I guess they do. 

They definitely dropped the ball on having the guest rooms ready on check-in day.  The banquet coordinator was personable throughout the planning process and very attentive in the early stages, but did not seem to take ownership closer to the wedding when it really counted.  They did not have the A/V set up in the reception area as expected.  Concerning the food and service; we have no complaints about the waitstaff, or the presentation of the food.  Food quality gets mixed reviews though,..  we had some excellent food in the hotel restaurant, but I found the reception luncheon to be generic banquet fare.  I give high marks to the overall friendliness of the Waco Hilton staff.  Professionalism and customer service...not so much. You would think that with having the reception there, the block of guest rooms, and the resulting business their restaurant got with our function, our venue would be bending over backwards to try to accommodate us.  We did not find that to be the case; in fact my husband had to fight to get a reduced room rate for the guests; and to get Hilton Honors points for having the function there.

- Finally, I wish we could have come up with a way to avoid “The Great Divide” – the separation between the two families, and the generations.  Now I know why people do Receiving Lines!  Perhaps the DJ could have come up with a “Mixer” of some sort?

Next post coming soon:  What I would NOT change about my daughter's wedding!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Flower Photos

Nearing the end of this blog, I wanted to include a photo essay of the flowers used for the occasion.  To me, flowers are a huge part of the essence of a wedding.  I know that some people go with silks for weddings; they are a better value.  To each his own,  but to me there is no substitute for the real deal.  The fragrance, the texture -- there is just no way silks can mimic the natural beauty and romance of real flowers and plants.  Don't get me wrong; we did not spring for large showy displays on every guest table.  We did for a few, and for others we opted for more simple arrangements; but for all of our floral decor we used real floral and plant materials (mixed with some candles too.)

Again, kudos to our wedding coordinator, Denise Harlan of Waco, Texas, who also did the flowers for my daughter's wedding.  They were on target with respect to the color scheme and overall "feel" of the wedding.

Here is a Memory Board of the bouquets:

And here is a collage of the florals used at the ceremony and reception:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mother of the Bride, or Hostess of the Occasion?

So what is the BIGGEST regret I have of the day?  Here it is -- I think I forgot about my main role of being the Bride's Mother, and got a bit too focused on being The Hostess of the Occasion. (A dichotomy I had not really thought about before -- both roles are important, but if your ceremony and reception are in two different locations like ours was, for a while at least, you cannot be BOTH!)

And the weird thing is, we had hired Denise as the day-of wedding coordinator whose job was to help things go smoothly. But I don't blame it on her.  Things DID go smoothly...just without me in a lot of cases.  She definitely took up the slack and did what she needed to do, when I wasn't around.  The question boiled down to -- when did I need to be around, and when didn't I?

The main culprit was lack of planning and communication -- Denise and I and the Bride should have ironed out ahead of time who would be doing what, and who would take on what roles. In hindsight, I wish I had sent the coordinator over to the reception to be Hostess of the Occasion - and I should have stayed with my daughter!

I was being pulled in a lot of different directions --(wife, mother, hostess, caregiver to elderly relatives).  My elderly father-in-law, incapacitated by a stroke in recent years, had stayed behind with us to be in the family photos, so getting him transported to the reception as quickly as possible and comfortably settled in with family members weighed heavily on our minds. But mainly, if truth be told, I was anxious to get back to the reception venue to make sure things were going smoothly.

So, because we bailed out almost immediately after the family photos were taken, I missed out on helping to get the train of my daughter's gown bustled; it did not occur to me that the bustle would best be done BEFORE she and the bridal party got into the limo for the ride back to the reception. (For some silly reason I always envisioned that task being done at the reception venue.) It also did not occur to me that someone needed to make sure the limo arrived and all the bridal party were safely deposited within it for the ride over to the reception.
The coordinator bustling the dress.
Wedding Coordinator Denise Harlan poses with the Bridal Party

So, as you can see, guess who was NOT in the bustling photos? And who was in the photos of the bridal party lining up to get into the limo?  Not me.  The Mother of the Bride was missing in action, as far as the photographic history goes.  Oh well...I have to comfort myself with believing that I was exactly where I needed to be, and try not to feel too guilty for "abandoning" my daughter! With our coordinator Denise, she was in capable hands, after all.

My husband and I took some wrong turns going back to the hotel; I ended up having to put on my navigator hat to help us find our way there.  So ironically by the time we arrived at the reception site, we were too late to be of much use there either.  Our guests had been enjoying their appetizers and punch in the pre-function area, had figured out their table assignments, and were just starting to get seated in the ballroom.  I escorted my father-in law into the building and turned his care over to family members, while my husband parked the car.  By that time, the hotel staff had already started disassembling the appetizer spread in the foyer.  The guests had pretty much consumed all the munchies. (I never saw, much less got to taste, any of them!)

Donning the feather headpiece!
When the bridal party arrived at the hotel and my daughter was ready to change into the trendy feathered hair accessory I had made for her, it could not be found--it was locked in our car! Instead of leaving it with the bride or the wedding coordinator, I had absent-mindedly brought it back with me when I returned with my husband to the reception venue.

I was finally sitting down at our family table, after having been on my feet for hours, drinking my much-needed glass of iced tea, when one of the wedding coordinator's assistants notified me that the headpiece was missing in action. I had to literally run out to the parking lot (in my long taffeta dress) and run back in with the headpiece. I was so rattled, that once again, my brain refused to fire on all cylinders.  I suppose the wife and Hostess of the Occasion roles called to me, and I felt compelled to get right back into the reception room to join my husband and my guests, leaving the coordinator to clip the hairpiece on my daughter's lovely brown curls... So, guess who landed in the pictures of such? Again, not me.

I learned an important lesson.  The wedding planning needs to include that interval between the ceremony and reception.  Think out and communicate your plan of action to all parties concerned, especially if the ceremony and reception are in two different locations.  What are the logistics?  Who will be where, doing what, and who will ride with who? 

We had thought out our plan clearly for the bridal party.  We hired a limo expressly for the reason of transporting them quickly all together from the ceremony to the reception.  For the rest of us, I guess I figured we would just "go with the flow".  Big mistake.  I learned that the pressure of the moment fogs your thinking.  A pre-planned logistical map of the entire day is needed not only for the bridal party, but for the MOB, FOB, and the elderly relatives and young children involved with the wedding too. 

Now I see why David Tutera and most high-dollar wedding planners prefer that the ceremony and reception are in the same location. The logistics are just easier!  When they are in two different locations, the question becomes who will be staying with and assisting the bride and bridal party after the wedding, and who will be going to oversee the reception?  In my experience, if it is important for you to have those memories of being with your daughter during all the important moments of the wedding day, stay with the Bride, if at all possible. 

The best laid plans may fall through, however. A MOB must expect to be pulled like taffy in multiple directions.  She will face the decision on which role she needs to be playing many times during the events of her daughter's wedding day -- "Mother of the Bride, or Hostess of the Occasion?"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Behind the Scenes on Wedding Day - Part III. "The Reception"

And so we came to the reception...much of which is honestly a blur in my mind. And no, there was no alcohol served!  I vaguely remember we ate lunch.  I remember visiting with some of our guests.  There were the traditional wedding activities.  I remember the young people (and occasionally the old people) dancing.  I've been told the appetizers were good and there was a nice ice cream sundae bar.  I will have to take people's word for this--I never laid eyes on either the appetizer spread or the sundae bar and there is not much of a photographic history of them, either.  I remember bubbles, and cupcakes and cakeballs - and they were just as we had hoped and planned for.

Something I do recall, and not too proudly, is what I have come to call "The Great Divide."  The bride and groom had organized what appeared to be (on paper) a wonderful seating chart, and the way they worked it out was that all the bride's family and friends were at tables on one side of the dance floor, and the groom's family and friends were on the opposite side.  On paper this makes sense...the two groups on each side of the room had at least something in common...they knew or were related to the bride or the groom, and perhaps had crossed paths before and were at least acquainted.  But the way things turned out, no one seemed very willing to cross over that dancefloor line very much at all to mix and mingle (including me).

My husband and I did try very hard to visit briefly with everyone on "our" side of the room, but we never got over to mingle much with the groom's friends and family, or vice versa. In hindsight, I should have at least made sure that some of our closest relatives (my sister, nephews, my in-laws, etc.) met the groom's immediate family. In that area, I felt like I failed as the Hostess of the Occasion.  

Then there was the generational "Great Divide" as well.  We did not have a receiving line at the ceremony or the reception, mostly because we felt it would take up too much time.  The couple had very limited availability at the reception because they needed to allow time to drive 5 to 6 hours to Galveston, where their honeymoon cruise ship was departing the next day.  I noticed that between the traditional reception activities (first dance, father/daughter and mother son dance, bouquet and garter toss, cake cutting, last dance, etc.) the bride and groom spent what was left of the afternoon visiting with their college-aged friends and hitting the dancefloor periodically.  They were not able to "work the room" to visit much with the older guests who remained at the tables.  Understandably so...the main object was for them to let their hair down and relax a little!  And I have to admit, I spent most of my time visiting with relatives and friends closer to my own age as well.

In hindsight, I'm thinking a receiving line is not such a bad idea -- that way everyone at least gets to greet the bride, groom, and immediate families if they so choose!

Putting on my Hostess of the Occasion hat again, I had to run a bit of interference, because the wedding coordinator and the DJ were not seeing eye-to-eye on the order of events. The DJ, Johnny Bradshaw of Central Texas Talent, had an awesome "radio" speaking voice and made a good master of ceremonies. But, I think he was disappointed that because it was so early in the afternoon, and alcohol was limited to those few guests who had purchased and brought drinks in from the hotel bar, there was not much action on the dancefloor until the reception was almost over.  He actually made a comment to the crowd about this, something to the effect of, "I'm not sure what to do with a sober crowd!"  This met with mixed reactions, to put it mildly.

He also felt the Wedding Coordinator let the toasts and activities take up too much time, when actually she was just adjusting to the wishes and schedule of the bride and groom. The Coordinator got a bit defensive, but I assured her that I knew and agreed exactly where she was coming from.  But, I also assured the DJ that everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time, so he shouldn't fret so much about the lack of dancing! 

Overall, I have to say the reception went well and we got good feedback from guests.  As I mentioned we had the fun traditional wedding activities, including an "anniversary dance" which got some of the older couples out on the dance floor.  The groomsmen even spontaneously did the Jewish thing of lifting the groom up in a chair. We did the "Chicken-Dance" and the guests loved it -- (a polka nod to the groom's family who are from New Braunfels - the German Hill Country of Texas.) Thanks to my dear husband, the slideshow worked. The bubble favors, cupcakes, cakeballs, and ice cream sundae bar were all hits. Judging by the leftover cupcakes, everyone was well-fed, and when the DJ started to play some good dance music like "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga, the guests finally started dancing, and the young people especially seemed to be having a good time.

All too soon, the afternoon was over and the bride and groom had their last dance, the guests opened the bubble tube favors to fill the air with cascading bubbles, and the happy couple departed in the white limo. It's comforting to know that in the long run, no one knew about or noticed the mishaps that were happening, and everyone really seemed to enjoy the day, from the feedback we heard. Especially the bride and groom! (The ones that count the most!) 

Here is a Memory Board from the reception:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Behind the Scenes on Wedding Day - Part II. "Wardrobe Malfunction"

By the time I got back pre-ceremony to the bride in the church ladies' room, after getting called out to the foyer to speak with the FOB, the bridesmaids had finished corseting her dress (very tightly!), and photos had been taken in that unsightly backdrop.  Guess who wasn't in them?  Me.  Of course, what did the Bride forget to do before getting that heavy dress on? guessed it.  Hello! -- remember bodily functions come before getting the gown on!  I think one of the bridesmaids helped her with that piece of detail.

Our wedding coordinator seemed to be a bit rattled whenever I would run into her -- she had heard about the snafu at the reception site with the big screen not being set up by the hotel staff. I think at this point, she was not even telling me half of the issues that were going on, just to keep me from worrying about them. (This is why you pay to have wedding coordinators!) I found out only after the wedding, that one of the groomsmen had a shaving accident that morning, and had bled on the collar of his shirt, so that was something else she had to deal with at the last minute, besides getting the guys a dressing room together in the first place (other than the common Men's Room.)   For some reason that was something that had not been worked out with the church beforehand.  Until she contained them in a room, we had the groom, groomsmen and ushers wandering about freely in the building, and that would not do.

Well, back to the bride...! After finally donning her dress and veil, and remembering to put on her jewelry at the last minute, (yes, I had forgotten all about it, too...) she was sitting in a chair, looking very pale and literally struggling to breathe!  It was very warm in the room and my daughter did have a few pre-wedding jitters, I think.  But the main causes of her discomfort were that she was laced so tightly into her gown, and also evidently her longline bustier had shrunk.  I had washed it after the hot, sweaty outdoor Bridal Portrait shoot on one of the warmest, muggiest spring days in Waco, and she had not had the opportunity to try it on again since then.

I had noticed the undergarment was harder than it had ever been to get it hooked up on her that morning, and I really doubted she had put on much if any weight, either, so I knew something had to be up with it.  I had washed it in cold water and did NOT put it in the dryer--just hung it to dry, so I do not understand why it shrunk.  Chalk it up to trying to save some bucks by buying it at David's Bridal, I guess.
Me, the Bride, and our Wedding
Coordinator, Denise Harlan

The wedding coordinator and I were not sure what was going on or how to help her, and talked to her about just relaxing and breathing. She seemed to be feeling so unwell that the photographer did not take many shots of her before the wedding.  (Not even posing with her parents before the ceremony as he did with the groom, or even some last minute shots alone with the MOB, much to my disappointment. The only good picture we got of her and me beforehand was taken by the wedding coordinator's daughter, and the wedding coordinator was also in the picture.)

Well, now it was really Showtime... and I wrote several months ago how things went, overall, with both the ceremony and reception. Remarkably true to our vision, I would say.  The ceremony honored the couple's Christian outlook on marriage and family, was personal, and featured some beautiful music. My daughter was physically uncomfortable through the whole wedding ceremony, through no fault of her own, but seemed to perk up a bit upon seeing her groom, and she hung in there during the ceremony and during the obligatory family photo session afterwards.

Looking back, one thing I definitely would change is that we should have had at least the ceremony videotaped. Your First Daughter's Wedding is a mighty important occasion. Not to mention, our younger daughter sang beautifully twice, and she doesn't sing in front of us often.  Also, my elderly mother was not able to attend, and I think she would have loved to have the opportunity to view a tape of the events of her first grand-daughter's wedding day!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Behind the Scenes on Wedding Day - Part I. "Almost Showtime!"

Well, the events of the previous weeks and day left me a bit drained, but I got a few hours of sleep and finally THE BIG DAY had dawned!  In this blog I have already written a glossy-magazine style perfectionistic overview of the wedding, as well as my own personal gratitude to God on granting a wonderful wedding day for my daughter.  Well, I thought as a final dose of realism, I would offer a behind-the scenes, glitches-included, record of the wedding day!  (Often taking stock of what didn't work is what is most helpful in wedding planning for the future!)

The wedding ceremony was to begin at 12:00 noon, and the bridal party ladies were scheduled for hair and makeup and due at the church by 7:30 or so.  Thus to allow for pre-wedding photos, the day had to start out pretty early.  (TOO early...note to self, try to talk my younger daugher into a later start time for her wedding festivities!)

The bride, bridesmaids, and I had all spent the night at the Waco Hilton, so the plan was to meet in the lobby at around 7:00 AM and carpool to the church.  Besides waking up and showering, I had to figure out what I needed to bring.  Besides my MOB outfit, I still had the Bride's gown and veil and undergarments with me.  One very important item I had forgotten at home was my dressy silver clutch handbag, so I just loaded smaller items in my big everyday purse and plastic grocery bags, and had my hubby get out of bed to help me carry all the clothing down to the lobby.  The wedding dress literally must have weighed at least 20 pounds by itself!  (I figured I would just do without a purse for the ceremony - couldn't tote that big thing with me down the aisle!) 

My husband stayed behind at the hotel -- his white dress shirt still needed to be ironed.  He also needed to get the digital projector that he had brought with him set up and loaded with the slideshow down in the reception room.  (Of course, at this point, the bride and groom still had the digital file of the slideshow --somehow we were going to have to get it from them before everyone had to be at the church for the ceremony!)

The ladies and I loaded up a couple of cars with our wedding attire and accessories and headed to the church.  Our wedding coordinator had graciously offered to have juice and sweet rolls waiting for us at the church, and when we arrived at the bridal dressing room, about 10 minutes late, they were indeed ready and waiting, as were the young ladies from Trendz Salon in Waco.  And what delightful, helpful young ladies they turned out to be!  Their informal banter helped to calm all of us down a bit, and they also shared some helpful advice and forgotten supplies.   (I think they must have a few weddings under their belt!)

"Backstage" - in the Brides' Room
This is where the pre-wedding hours reminded me of getting dressed for a performance or a play!  Hence, getting ready for "Showtime!"  Our star, the bride, had one hairstylist attending solely to her and that stylist got started on her first, knowing that she would require the most time.  The secondary hairstylist started working on the bridesmaids, while the makeup artist started on other bridesmaids. 

We opted to have all the bridesmaids (and me) getting their makeup done professionally, and that became a line item on our wedding budget.  This was to ensure that the makeup style and colors were all complimentary and done at the same level.  The hairsyling was up to each individual attendant -- they were to pay for it themselves if they wanted their hair styled by the professionals.  I paid for both my daughters' hairstyling, (the bride and the maid of honor) knowing that the bride and my younger daughter, with the important role of MOH and singing two solos in the wedding, would want to look her best.  I'd say about half the bridesmaids opted to do their own hair, and half opted to pay for the professional touch.  (I must say that they all looked gorgeous in the end!)

That's me on the left after
getting dressed and "made up".
The Bride is getting her makeup
done on the right.
I just opted for a blowout and style of my short hairstyle, rather than a fancy "do" and took my turn in the makeup chair.  (We offered the services to the Mother of the Groom too - but she opted to do her own.  Note: -The MOG is such a pretty lady naturally-- she looked amazing without the professional services!)

We had one last minute challenge to deal with.  My daughter the bride had purchased lovely matching pearl pendant necklaces and earrings for the bridesmaids to wear.  In her haste to pack things up and leave our home a few weeks before, she had forgotten to bring the boxes of jewelry that she had not already given out to the maids, and she forgot to ask me to bring them with me.  So, some of the maids had the sets, and some didn't. 

My younger daughter, the MOH, was dispensed to Kohl's to try and find something similiar.  Not being familiar with the town, she had to rely on her phone's GPS navigator to get her there and back.  Unfortunately, she was not able to find jewelry identical to the others the bride had purchased, so she just had to buy similar pearl jewelry.  As a result, she was the last one to get her hair and makeup done, adding to the case of nerves she already had about being MOH and singing in the wedding!  (She and her singing patrner for one song, the groom's brother, had not had much time to rehearse together.)   So as the noon hour drew closer, she, the bride, and I were all starting to feel the pressure!

It was now about an hour before the wedding ceremony was to begin.  The hair and makeup session was drawing to a close, the bridesmaids and I had already dressed, and the bride was finally to the point of getting her dress on.  The photographer arrived just before this and started snapping pictures. The bridesmaids and I started to help her get into her undergarments.  In the back of my mind...something was bugging me.  I had seen lovely portratis of brides dressing in romanticly decorated rooms.  We were in the church bathroom, surrounded by institutional sinks, towel dispensers, and stall doors.  Really?  But I had no time to rethink (or ask to redo) anything...

Just as I was starting to lace the corset of the bridal gown up, I got called to the foyer.  My hubby had finally just arrived, and had tales to tell of the unfortunate turn of events at the reception venue.  The groom had to swing by there (out of his way) before going to the church to give the FOB the digital file of the slideshow, then they discovered the big screen had still not been set up by the hotel personnel. My husband and the wedding coordinator's two assistants (her very lovely and capable grown daughters) had to set up the screen themselves!  Another issue with the Hilton that should not have happened!

But on the positive side, one of the groom's grandmothers had an extra purse that she had brought with her - a sequined black bag.  We had mentioned that I had forgotten my dressy silver clutch at the Rehearsal Dinner, so she had made sure to deliver the extra bag to my hubby when he came over to the church, in case I wanted to borrow it!  So sweet of her -- and I took her up on the offer!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Counting Down the Hours: Frantic Friday

Friday morning of the Wedding Weekend dawned. We knew that Saturday (wedding day) would be extremely busy and stressful, but we figured Friday would be more of a laid-back type of day.  Little did we know...

My younger daughter packed up and headed out ahead of us in her own car because the bride and bridesmaids were having a Pamper Day at a spa in Waco with a catered lunch, instead of a Bachelorette and Bridesmaids lunch.

My husband and I loaded up our car to almost overflowing, and made the drive in fairly heavy thunderstorms. We arrived around lunch time, and we had a nice lunch at a restaurant near our hotel with my sister and her husband. We went back to the hotel to check in, but were told our room was not quite ready -- neither were the other rooms we had reserved for the bride and bridesmaids.

No matter, we thought. Our daughter the bride had texted us on the drive down to Waco and asked if we could run a quick errand for her, since she would be tied up with the Pamper Day activities with her maids until almost time for the Rehearsal at the church that evening.  We had planned to display one of her formal bridal portraits prominently at the reception, in the true Southern wedding tradition. So, she had ordered an enlarged gallery-sized print at a local camera shop, and asked us to pick it up for her. She had purchased a large frame for it on sale at Kirklands, and we were to pick that up at her apartment and take it with us to have the camera shop people put the portrait into the frame. We figured we would run that errand and be back in an hour, and our rooms would be ready-- the official checkin time was 2:00 anyway. That would give us plenty of time to relax a little and change clothes for the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.

Well...we hit our first big Wedding Weekend snag. When we got to the camera store, they had the print ready all right, but they said they did not have a big enough cutting board to trim it off. So, they could not frame it for us. They suggested we take the photo and the frame to a Hobby Lobby or Michaels. Bear in mind, we are not familiar with this town at all. They tried to give us directions to Hobby Lobby but it went in one ear and out the other, and we do not have any GPS unit or apps on our phones. We called my daughter and she basically talked us to the street that Hobby Lobby was on. I spied a Michaels on the way, so we decided to just pull in there.

The framing assistant at Michael's was helpful but very slow-moving. He just did not pick up on the time constraints we were under. He suggested that we actually would need a thicker mat to make the portrait look nicer in the frame than the flimsy one that the Kirkland's frame had come with. We agreed that he had a point, so he selected several types and colors of mats and leisurely tried them all out against the portrait and the frame to find the best "look". Finally we all decided on one. Well, he said, he did not have a big enough mat of that particular material and color in stock, but he could order it and it could be here in 3 to 5 days! My husband and I just looked at him, probably wild-eyed, and said, "We need it done today! The wedding is at noon tomorrow!"  

So, the framing guy disappeared in the back and eventually re-emerged with several large mats that he had in stock. Once again my hubby and I tried to remain patient while he tried them all out. We finally decided on one and placed the order, with the understanding that we would be back before closing time that evening to pick it up. By the time we left the store, it was pushing 3 pm. The rehearsal was scheduled at 5 pm, and we had to get back to the hotel, change, and make the 20 minute drive to the church.

Then we hit Snag Number 2. We pulled up to the hotel entrance and my husband suggested to save time, he would go get us checked in if I would start unloading the car. I figured he would be gone 5 or 10 minutes max. I located a wheeled cart, and started the unloading. Well after 20 minutes, I basically had the car completely unloaded and still no sign of my husband. I waited another 5 minutes, and could wait no more. I just left all our stuff at the curb and ran inside to see what was going on. He was standing at the desk, with a frown on his face. Our room was still not ready, although most of the other rooms were. He handed me the keys to the bridesmaid's rooms and I went back outside to wait with our things.

The bridesmaids pulled up about then, all fresh and relaxed from their spa day. I handed them their keys, then waited, waited, and waited some more in the hotel's driveway on that muggy, warm Texas afternoon. We did not get into our room until after 4 pm! I was so angry I could have screamed. We had to rush around getting changed, and we were definitely feeling sweaty and disheveled. I also quickly had to figure out what things I would need to re-pack in the car to take to the church with us, in order to hand them over to the wedding coordinator. We arrived 10 minutes late to the rehearsal. (Would you believe we still beat those bridesmaids there, even after they got into their rooms a good half hour before we did?)

The rehearsal went off without too many glitches (other than a slight disagreement between the pastor and the wedding coordinator about some ceremony details and positions of the bridal party.) I honestly do not remember much about it. While we were there, a typical Texas late afternoon spring storm blew up and we could hear the thunder booming outside and rain pouring down torrentially. It had stopped raining by the time we left the church and made our way to the restaurant for the Rehearsal Dinner, but the streets were still wet and halfway flooded, some traffic lights were flashing off and on, and the Friday evening traffic was horrendous.

The ceremony rehearsal
The groom's family had booked a family-style Italian restaurant close to the church for the dinner. The food was good and plentiful, but the evening wore on a bit because the groom's grandparents (from out of town) were late arriving due to the storms, traffic, and the conditions of the streets, and then we only had one waiter working the entire party of 25 people or so. The evening was very informal -- there were no slide shows or speeches or toasts, just visiting amongst the guests and eating the dinner. In the back of our minds my husband and I knew we still had to go back to Michael's to pick up the bridal portrait before it closed, and as the time drew nearer to closing time for the store, we ended up having to leave the party rather abruptly.

We got a bit lost and barely made it to Michaels 10 minutes before it closed. Our framing guy had even begun counting his cash and closing out his register when we got there, so we all had to traipse across the store to the main registers to check out. The portrait did look very nice, although we were pretty stressed and perturbed after literally having to run around town all afternoon and evening long, for an errand that should have taken no more than an hour if the camera store had just had the right equipment!

We made it back to the hotel, changed to casual clothes again, and relaxed just a little, but I knew we still had some work to do downstairs in the ballroom. Denise, our wedding coordinator still had to finish up the bouquets and floral arrangements for tomorrow, and I knew she would not be down there, but I wanted to see what, if any progress had been made on the reception space setup. The cake-ball stand had been damaged a bit in the car trip, and we had to repair it and put the tiers back together and deliver it to the ballroom too. We had run into the groom's parents in the lobby downstairs, and they had brought the cupcake stand with them, and had already dropped it off in the ballroom.

We had to track down a hotel security guard with a key, but we finally got into the ballroom around 10:30 pm. I felt some pleasant relief then...the room was looking very nice already. The tables were all set with the linens on them, and the dance floor was in place. My husband and I re-organized the dessert table and got the stands put together and in place. For the first time, I could see it all starting to come together! This wedding was really going to happen, and even though I was exhausted and stressed out to the max, I was also getting pretty excited to see if it all turned out the way we had envisioned it during the last year of wedding planning!  At this point, I thought, "It is what it is..." and just had to let it go and trust that all the planning would pay off.

Here is the infamous framed bridal portrait, displayed at the reception!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Home Stretch (The Last Weeks before the Wedding)

One week out.  The butterflies were starting to stir in my tummy. Through countless texts between our wedding coordinator, my daughter, and me, we had succesfully dealt with last minute rental decisions (linens, dancefloor, limo, etc.)  Denise, our wedding coordinator, was working on the menus and programs.  My employer was quite understanding, since it was obvious that I was spending some of my on-the-clock time dealing with last minute wedding details. 

Finally it was Friday, exactly one week before the wedding weekend, and I was looking forward to chilling a bit, attending my daughter's college graduation the next day and just spending some last quiet(er) moments of family time before Wedding Week hit in full force.

My daughter at this point was getting pretty frazzled and pulled in too many directions.  Early in the week she had one last shower to go to (an informal lingerie shower given by the bridesmaids.) Shortly after returning home from that, she started packing her things up to move out of our home, and the next day she left, heading down south to join her fiance in Waco. They were extremely busy with their last minute wedding projects.  They were preparing and packing for the honeymoon, and she also needed to begin packing for the move from her apartment to her fiance's apartment after the wedding. There were also preparations and rehearsals to attend for her upcoming college graduation ceremony.  Sandwiched in between her graduation and the wedding, the groom's brother was also graduating from high school, and they planned to attend that together too.
I was admittedly blue and weepy the first few days or so after she moved out...I had expected her to possibly stay with us until early the next week, so when she started to pack up her things it was an unpleasant surprise. It is just so final when you watch your first child leave the nest for the last time as a single girl, knowing that life in your household would be forever different. I had also hoped to have her more conveniently close by for any last minute wedding details that might come up. As it turned out, it was probably better that we had some space between us during those last few days before her wedding.

So, it had been a tough week and that Friday evening, I was at my computer relaxing with Facebooking and blogging, when I noticed an email had come in from the reception venue banquet manager at the Waco Hilton.  She was trying to get the menu finalized at Denise's request, so that Denise could get the menus sent to the printers.  (I think Denise had an inkling that something wasn't quite right, so she went the roundabout way and got the banquet manager involved.)  We still also had not given the hotel the final headcount for the food, either. (It was due several days before.)  My hubby and I had done all of our last minute calling of our relatives who hadn't RSVPd (and I was really surprised at some who hadn't!) But, my daughter, her fiance and his family still had some rounding up of guests to do, to get a final tally.

The food order attached to the banquet manager's email was no where near complete.  Most of the appetizers to be served in the pre-function area were not mentioned, and there was no mention of a vegetarian option which (we thought) had been planned all along as the alternative to the parmesan chicken lunch entree.  I texted my daughter quickly.  There was evidently a major misunderstanding.  Several months before, she and her fiance had visited the hotel for a "tasting", and my husband and I assumed that the selection of foods had been finalized at that time. My daughter said that no, she thought they were just doing the tasting, and my husband and I were going to place the actual food order.  So here we were, one week out, with the food order incomplete. 

It was an unwelcome surprise, being so close to the wedding. Tempers flared and communication was short and tense.  My husband and I eventually got the order straightened out and communicated to the venue, along with a ballpark guest count.  Actually, we were a bit peeved at the hotel catering manager for not pursuing this with us earlier in the game.  We felt it should have been her responsibility to follow up and make sure the food order was on track.  Denise, the wedding coordinator put it all into perspective.  One week out, this could still be fixed.  If it had been NEXT Friday, she said, then we REALLY would have had a problem! 

My first clue that something was amiss came earlier that day; I had been puzzled by a comment Denise made in a phone conversation we had.  She was meeting with the banquet manager at the hotel at the time.  She asked me, "Why are you having a buffet table for the appetizers when you are serving so little food...why not just pass an hourdeuvres tray?"  I was taken aback by the question and had no idea where she was coming from at the time.  Now, I knew.

Just graduated!
The next day was a long one, involving meeting some of my husband's family to carpool down to Baylor University in Waco for my daughter's graduation ceremony.  We proudly watched her walk the stage to get her Bachelor's Degree, Magna Cum Laude.  Afterwards we shared a meal with our relatives, my daughter and her fiance, and his parents who had come to show support for their future daughter-in-law.  It was actually a very pleasant evening of visiting and bonding.  We ate at the restaurant of the Hilton which would be the reception venue, hoping to meet up with the banquet manager to discuss things a bit more.  But, she was no where to be found.  We kept things as light as possible with my daughter, not mentioning the menu issue once, because we could tell that stress was taking its toll on her.  We said good bye after the dinner, and we would not see her again until next Friday, the day before the wedding!  We were dog tired on the drive back home that evening.

Still on the agenda was one last D-I-Y project. I wanted to make a hair ornament for my daughter to wear after taking off her veil for the recepion.  We had priced them at the bridal stores and they were pretty outrageous; they could cost $100 or more.  I knew I could make one much less expensively if I could find the right materials.  It took a shopping expedition to both Hobby Lobby and Michael's on Sunday afternoon, but I found some things that I thought would work.  The plan was to make it that evening or Monday get one more thing checked off the list. Of course I just didn't find the time, until much later in the week!

I went to work Monday through Wednesday as usual of Wedding Week.  In the evenings of the early part of the week, Denise, my daughter and I corresponded frequently about the order of the wedding service, and details for the program. As the week went on, my direct conversations and texts with my daughter were less frequent and still somewhat subdued, and I hated that things seemed to be a bit uncomfortable between us.  I took Thursday off.  My husband and I spent most of the morning with more emails and phone calls back and forth with Denise and the hotel venue conveying the final guest count, discussing final delivery arrangements for the rentals, table setup up, the seating chart, etc.  I also got a pedicure, ran errands and did a little shopping. 

I had decided against doing welcome bags for our out of town guests staying at the hotel, since we did not expect too many of them, and most of them had just driven in a few hours from other parts of Texas or Arkansas.  But I thought it would be nice to make little "Emergency Kit" gift bags for the bridesmaids.  So, that Thursday evening I got Dollar Store white bags and pretty light blue and white curling ribbon, and filled them with items like travel-sized deoderant, toothpaste, Tums, safety pins, gum, bobby pins, etc.  In hindsight, it was a nice idea -- but a total waste of time.  As it turned out, the bags did not get delivered to the girls until the hectic morning of the wedding, and some of the girls did not even open them. A few of the bags actually went back home with me after the wedding.

That night I also started gathering all the many items we would need to load into our car to take down to Waco with us the next day. This included favors, vases and containers, decorating items, wedding gifts, the bridesmaid's gift bags, and my big wedding planning binder, not to mention the bride's gown and veil and our wedding apparel.  We also had taken the tiers of the cardboard cake ball stand (already decorated) apart for the trip for easier transporting (or so we hoped.)

The hair clip in action!
I got started making my daughter's hairclip after 11:00 pm on Thursday night.  Considering the hour and how exhausted I was, I think it turned out pretty darned good -- it turned out to be just the right size for her massive curled long hairdo.  It took around 30 minutes, and the materials cost maybe $10!  I remember going to bed that night, so tired I was almost in tears, thinking I wish I could just sleep through the coming weekend.  That was the first time, ever, in this whole wedding planning process, that I was just ready for it to be OVER!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Final Countdown, Part 2 - (Focusing on the Audio/Visual)

The last weeks surrounding the wedding and her college graduation were quite hectic for my daughter. The Groom's brother's high school graduation was also sandwiched into that same week -- and of course they wanted to attend that and take the opportunity to spend some time with the Groom's family for a few days (including putting together the Cupcake Display for the reception with the Groom's mother and grandmothers!) So, it is understandable that my daughter decided to turn over some of the last-minute details to me and the wedding coordinator.

The Bride was not sitting around painting her nails, however. Besides wrapping up their final college semester and preparing for her graduation, she and her fiance were also busy working on some wedding projects that were nearer and dearer to their hearts -- music and visual displays for the wedding. (I suppose this reflects the interests of any typical 20-Something!)

Musical Maid of Honor and Best Man
First, they were having to nail down the details and music to be used during the ceremony and for the wedding processionals and recessionals of the wedding party and the families. She knew she wanted her fiance's brother to play guitar, and her sister to sing. However, joining their two differing performing styles proved to be a big challenge. (Think John Mayer vs. Barbara Streisand.) In the end, the simple, meaningful song "Dancing in the Minefields" won out as an opening duet, with the groom's brother leading by playing beautiful acoustic guitar, and my daughter joining in on choruses. Then my daughter, who is a voice major, was able to have her vocals better showcased in the Unity Candle song, which was "One Hand, One Heart" from West Side Story.

The bride and groom had to pick out music for the DJ to play at the reception as well, and as a surprise for everyone, they actually choreographed and rehearsed their first dance together, to "Why Don't We Just Dance." I loved what she chose as the Intro to the bouquet toss, "All the Single Ladies", by Beyonce! Actually, to finish up completing the wedding soundtrack, the couple ended up having to abandon their bridal party for a few hours after the Rehearsal Dinner the evening before the wedding!

The couple also had worked in the weeks prior to the wedding on a slide show of photos of themselves growing up through the years, to be shown at the reception. I had previously spent many, many hours going through our numerous photo bins narrowing down the choices for her. I suspect the groom's family did the same. Then the Groom had the job of spending many hours scanning all our photos, as well as his own family's, into digital images.

The Bride and Groom also got busy on another visual project - they decided that instead of plain table numbers, their table identifiers would be photos of themselves at places and landmarks in Waco that had particular meaning to them during their courtship. There was some discussion as to the type of frame or holder these would go into for display on the tables -- and in the end they chose simple, clear acrylic frames (which were also cost-effective!) We had 18 tables, so going around to 18 different places to take photos took a bit of time, and then they had to photo-shop the images and get them printed. But the finished product turned out great -- we had a lot of comments from guests on what an unusual, yet personalized idea it was.  Here's a sample:

We also wanted to incorporate the beautiful bridal portraits into the visual display of the reception somehow. My daughter chose one of the formal shots taken by Wendell Samford of Chapel Hill Photography, and she took the image to Padgitt's Photo in Waco to enlarge into portrait-size which would be prominently displayed on an easel at the entrance to the reception area. She even found a suitable size frame on sale at Kirkland's! (More on this portrait project in a later turned into a last-minute ordeal which the Father of the Bride and I got involved in.)

Not to mention the final few bridal showers and parties were daughter had two showers thrown for her by her Waco friends (which I did not attend); and then back in Flower Mound, her sister the Maid of Honor, and her other local homegirls threw her a Lingerie Shower... (to which I was not invited...oh would have been awkward anyway!)

So many little details go into the making of a memorable wedding...but they are so worth it in the end!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Final Countdown, Part 1. - (Last Minute Add-ons)

I know that in my re-telling of the wedding planning process, I defiitely skipped some details. I went from a couple of months out and our fairly leisurely picking of wedding doo-dads and the Do-It-Yourself projects, straight to the wedding day itself. Well, there were definitely some things that happened in between. I will do my best to remember them...but as the Big Day drew closer, (and It came one week after the bride graduated from college,) the pace of things understandably got more frantic and the stress level didn't always leave me or the bride very clear-headed. Nor did I have much extra time or energy for reflection and blogging.

About  3 weeks out, a few things happened that kind of moved things along in a faster, more frazzled (and more expensive) direction. First, our wedding coordinator finally kicked into last-minute mode and was on top of things, reminding of us details that we hadn't really addressed yet. Secondly, my daughter attended the wedding of a friend, and she came away with her head swimming wih new ideas for her own wedding and reception. Third, it became apparent that if any coordination and arrangements for a limo or car for the couple or their bridal party were to happen, it would have to be me or my husband doing it.

Some of the big details that were left to be addressed included wedding programs and menu cards. My daughter had always been good at that kind of thing so I had assumed she would take care of it. But as it turned out, she really had no interest in menu cards, and at this point she was so focused on her final projects and exams for school, that she had decided not to do the programs either. So, she basically turned it over to me...if they were to happen, I would have to make it happen. Well, under normal circumstances I think I would have been up to the challenge. But we just were running out of time, and low on energy and focus. I still had to keep going to work every day. I couldn't spend hours pouring over ideas on the Internet and finessing the design, locating a suitable printer, etc.

So we punted...about 2 weeks away from the Big Day!  I put in a plea to Denise, our wedding coordinator; she had done them before for other clients, so we let her run with it. We gave her some basic suggestions...I wanted to tie in some of the earlier themes we had touched on, like the custom monogram my daughter had designed for the Save the Date cards, the favorite scripture from the Song of Solomon which was used on the formal invitations, and of course the light blue and ivory color theme. Denise did a great job in the end, incorporating our suggestions into some simple, but very pretty programs and coordinating menu cards.  She was literally finishing them up 2 days before the wedding!

At the wedding my daughter attended a few weeks prior to hers, she noticed that they had some specialized linens that she thought really added some creativity to the decor of the wedding. She also noticed that like hers, this wedding featured a pre-function time in a separate space before the actual reception began. She did not like that the guests had to stand around, balancing plates and glasses, for nearly an hour waiting for the doors to open for the reception. My husband and I had previously discussed this as well, with some concern for our older guests.  So, just a few weeks out, we bit the bullet and started looking into some colored rental linens to add to the monochromatic white/ivory linens the hotel offered, as well as some extra furniture to scatter around the pre-function area.

I did a little research myself, even visited one of the rental companies in Waco during a day-trip there to get ideas and pricing, then weighed the options. I concluded that it is definitely cheaper to buy the items outright from one of the many wedding linen on-line stores, than it is to rent them. However, if you purchase them, you will have to transport the linens yourself and then after the event, transport them back home, wash them, and try to re-sell them, store them, or donate them.  In our case, we would have to transport them for the 2 1/2 hour drive to Waco from our home, . We were talking linens for 18 to 20 tables.  For us, that would probably require another vehicle just to transport the linens.  As it turned out, our vehicle was already stuffed to the gills with wedding favors and other paraphernalia (including the wedding dress itself) when we left town.

So in our case, it made more sense to rent, but it definitely was looking like an expensive alternative, and we would have to arrange for delivery, set up, etc. Once again, Denise our coordinator came to the rescue. She has an ongoing relationship with one of the event rental companies in Waco, Action Rental.   Denise worked with Jennifer Vera there, and was able to get it all set up for us at a fairly reasonable cost. We rented blue overlay cloths for the guest tables.  Denise suggested going a bit darker than the light blue we had chosen for the wedding colors, to blend better with the carpet and decor in the ballroom, and just for some contrast to avoid a sea of light blue.   For the pre-function area we decided on some cocktail tables with white cloths and a blue tie to go around them, and some white benches for extra seating.  Below are photos showing the blue overlays used with the hotel's ivory linens, (and a sample of the menu card), and also a shot of a cocktail table serving its purpose in the pre-function area; there's a punch glass resting on it!

The dancefloor in use!
 (It definitely got busier as the afternoon wore on!)
Meanwhile, I was second guessing not having a dance floor installed. Originally the hotel literature said a dancefloor was included in the price of the rental, but our banquet coordinator informed us early on that they had discontinued that. A dancefloor would be up to us at an extra cost. At first we thought, hey, the guests can dance on the carpet, why bother? But the more I thought about it, it just made sense that if people saw there was a designated dancefloor in the room, they would be more inclined to dance! And since we had already gone to the expense of hiring a DJ, we definitely wanted people to do some dancing. So, you guessed it - about a week out, we contracted with Action Rental to put in a 14 X 14 dance floor.

Finally, the idea of a limo of some sort kept coming up in the discussions, especially considering the short time alloted for the events of the day. Many of the bridal party were not from Waco, and the church was a convaluted 20 minute drive away from the hotel venue. My husband and I wanted to transport the bridal party together from the church after the ceremony to the reception venue as quickly and efficiently as possible, so as not to keep the guests waiting any longer than necessary. I was only too happy to let my husband take the lead on this project!

My daughter was actually only interested in having a "nice ride" of some sort for her and her new husband as they were leaving the reception. But as far as my husband and I were concerned, the ideal scenario would have been to have a limo pick up the girls, who were all staying at the hotel the night before the wedding, then wait during the ceremony to take the entire bridal party back to the hotel for the reception, then remain there again to whisk the newlyweds away at the end of the event. But the cost of that was going to be very prohibitive. We were also running into another roadblock...this was May; prime prom season in Texas! So availability of cars was limited and asking prices were high.

The bride emerges from the limo
at the reception site.
In the end, my husband booked with Luxury Limousines of Waco, reserving a 14 passenger white limo to take the entire bridal party from the church to the reception. The car was then free to depart for a few hours, to return later in the afternoon to be the getaway carriage for our newlyweds.

So, this was some of the last-minute stuff that came up that we had to spring for and make decisions on. Resulting in more lost sleep, and more ka-ching, ka-ching added to the budget! But at this point, you have already spent so much, that you think..oh what the heck...its just a bit more and if it will add to the comfort and entertainment of our guests and the bridal party, and to the wedding memories afterwards, it will be worth it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

She's Famous (But Not Rich)

We just found out today that my daughter is appearing in an ad that is in the Central Texas Engagements publication. This is one of those little magazines that you see in major cities that have ads for all the local bridal/wedding vendors. She is in an ad for Trendz Salon in Waco, which is on the inside front cover.

The ladies from Trendz did an excellent job with Amanda's hair and makeup for her bridal portraits as well as on the wedding day, and they also worked on the bridal party and Moi!

Here is the link to the page -- that is her at the top left of the layout:


While this is exciting, it would have been nice for her to have been compensated in some way for being the salon's "model."  They did have her permission to use the photo, however - and I noticed they did credit the photographer.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Memory Board - the Recurring Themes of the Wedding

There is a popular wedding blog that is so beautiful to look at that visiting it is almost like viewing art. It is called "Style Me Pretty". While spending some time looking through what it has to offer, I noticed that many users were using a "collage" to gather ideas for their upcoming weddings. Pre-wedding, these beautiful mosaics of collected photos are known as Inspiration Boards. Often, photos of ideas and wedding components that brides like are compiled from the website, or just from the Internet in general.

I got to thinking, it would be cool to gather some of the real components of my daughter's wedding into one of these collages, or mosaics. At this point, I would call it more of a "Memory Board."

The Style Me Pretty blog offers a Board Maker application, and you are able to use your own photos from your own computer library, rather than just public ones that are out there on the Net.

Here is my first attempt. I wanted to show some of the wedding stationery that we came up with -- including the Save the Date cards, the formal invitations, and the wedding program and reception menu. The monogram my daughter designed first for the Save the Date Cards, and later used in the programs and menu cards was featured. I also wanted to document the light blue and ivory color scheme she chose for her wedding, and the use of the light blue hydrangeas and ivory florals (roses, spider mums, baby's breath, etc.) that were such a big part of the whole wedding experience, from the bridal showers on through the reception. Finally, there was a beautiful verse of scripture that my daughter used on the invitations, and again on the wedding programs, to show that this couple honors the Lord as the head of their household.

Kudos to our wedding coordinator, Denise Harlan, who took care of the menu cards and programs at the last minute, when the Bride and her Mom had simply run out of steam! We suggested some of the design elements, she already knew the color scheme, and the finished product came out great!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Real Wedding of Amanda and Ian

I love the "Real Wedding" stories that are featured in the glossy Wedding magazines. Even though the couples are complete strangers to me, I will read them word for word and drink in all the details. I didn't want to spend the $700 plus it costs to "feature" my daughter's wedding in one of these, nor do I have connections with a well-known photographer or celebrity wedding planner who will foot the bill. So, I decided to post my daughter's Real Wedding Story right here on Blogger! It was also a way to sum up everything that has transpired in the last year into a more fluid story. But, it turned out long...sorry!

Amanda and Ian
Waco, TX
May 21, 2011

Amanda and Ian were both incoming Freshmen at Baylor University in 2007, and happened to be assigned to the same group together in the Baylor Welcome Week activities. In no time they were dating exclusively and became inseparable during the next 3 years.

During Spring Break of their Junior year, while Amanda was out of the country on a mission trip to Morrocco with their church, Ian called her Father, Wes, and asked if he could make the 2 hour drive up to the Dallas/Fort Worth area for a visit, because he had something to discuss. With a marriage blessing secured from Amanda’s parents (and with all parties sworn to secrecy) Ian planned an outing at the start of the summer break from school. The plans were for the two of them and another couple to go on a “double date” camping trip to the rugged wilderness area of central Texas which holds a large rock formation known as Enchanted Rock. As far as Amanda knew, the whole thing was being planned by the other couple.

It was there while Ian and Amanda had a few quiet moments together admiring the sunset vista of the Texas Hill country, that he got down on one knee and presented an engagement ring to her. She was totally surprised, and accepted the ring tearfully while their friends (who were in on the surprise) snapped photos of the two, and other park visitors clapped at what they had just witnessed.

Wedding planning started soon after and continued through the next 13 months. The couple decided to have the wedding in Waco, where they had lived throughout their college career and had made many good friends. It also happened to be a convenient central meeting point for the bride and groom’s Texas families. They envisioned a fairly formal, traditional church wedding, with a reception featuring a good meal and plenty of desserts. And the bride definitely wanted there to be dancing!

Having the wedding in Waco posed a bit of a logistics problem, since Amanda was based there for the majority of the school year and her parents did not live there. Amanda was also very busy with her Senior year of college. Although she and her mother Janet exchanged many phone calls and emails planning, choosing the vendors, and pulling together most of the major components of the wedding, the Mitchells decided to also seek the help of a “Weekend-Of Cooordinator” in Waco. It would be helpful to have a local wedding expert dealing with the local vendors, pull all the details together, and oversee all the wedding weekend events so that Amanda, Ian, and their families could better enjoy the day. They enlisted Denise Harlan of “Thee Designs” to fulfill these functions.

The church choice was obvious, since Amanda and Ian are active in the college ministry at First Baptist Woodway (a suburb of Waco). Because of restrictions on dancing, the party would have to move away from the church following the ceremony. After researching the venue options in Waco and finding that not many would hold the number of guests that were anticipated, the decision was made to have the reception at the Waco Hilton Hotel. The space included three large meeting rooms, which is known as the “Three Rivers Ballroom” when combined together. The recently renovated hotel had a classic feel and featured in-house food and catering services with a good reputation.

Attendants for the wedding included Maid of Honor, Krista Mitchell (sister of the bride), and bridesmaids Sarah Childs, Rachel Scala, Hannah Crabtree, Paige Baker, and Abigail Pitzer. Ian chose his brother Ryan Hughes to be his Best Man, and groomsmen included Jon Middaugh, Jeremy Goss, Jordan Richardson, Jordan Edwards, and Kyle Martin. Amanda also selected her room-mate Kristin Johnson to attend the Guest Book, and ushers were K.C. Mangen, Moses Sandoval, and Nolan Bixler.

Exactly one week following Amanda’s graduation from Baylor, Magna Cum Laude, with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, the wedding weekend arrived. The day before the wedding, Amanda and her six attendants enjoyed a spa/pamper day including lunch at Ultimate Escape Spa in Hewitt, TX as their Bachelorette outing. That evening Ian’s parents, Chuck and Cathy, hosted a casual family-friendly rehearsal dinner near the church at Mama Bari’s Italian restaurant for the bridal party and immediate family.

On the morning of May 21st, Amanda, her attendants and the Mother of the Bride arose early and were at the church by 7:30 a.m to begin hair and makeup preparations. At 12:00 noon the wedding party made their way down the aisle, with Amanda escorted by her Father, Wes. Amanda and Ian were united in marriage before a gathering of 170 friends and family members, in a meaningful service led by First Baptist Woodway’s College Pastor, Michael Criner.

The bride wore an ivory satin ballgown by Maggie Sottero, featuring pickups, a beaded bodice and embroidered hem and train, with a cathedral length crystal-beaded veil. She chose a simple pearl choker and drop earrings for her jewelry. In keeping with the light blue and ivory color scheme, the bridesmaids all wore floor-length light blue chiffon gowns with a satin waistband and floral detail on one shoulder strap.

The bride’s bouquet was made of light blue hydrangeas, roses, and calla lilies. The bouquet was wrapped in lace from her mother’s wedding dress, and featured an heirloom blue cameo from the Mitchell family. The bridesmaids bouquets were simple stems of light blue hydrangea blooms.

Ryan Hughes played the guitar and sang “Dancing in the Minefields,” joined by Krista Mitchell. Ian and Amanda lit the Unity Candle together during the solo “One Hand, One Heart”, also sung by Krista Mitchell.

After the ceremony, the bridal party and families adjourned for a photography session. A white stretch limousine and driver was standing by to take the bride, groom, and entire bridal party to the Hilton for the reception.

By this time the wedding guests had already arrived at the reception venue and were enjoying delicious appetizers and a punch fountain in the foyer adjacent to the ballroom, which overlooked a patio and garden area of the hotel.

When the ballroom doors opened for the reception, hosted by the brides’ parents, the room was set with tables covered with linens in the blue and ivory color theme. The tables featured several different styles of elegant centerpieces including hydrangeas, white roses, and spider mums, as well as candles and pretty collected vases on mirrors. The guests enjoyed a plated luncheon, while DJ Johnny Bradshaw of Central Texas Talent acted as M.C. and provided music for dining and later dancing. The newlyweds surprised the guests with their choreographed first dance together, to the song "Why Don't We Just Dance?"

Guest tables were given names as well as numbers, with the names corresponding to locations in Waco of particular significance to the Bride and Groom. Photos of the couple at the locations were featured in clear frames with the table numbers attached. Menu cards in the wedding colors were place on the guest tables, along with bubble favors to be used later in the reception.

Instead of a traditional wedding cake, the couple opted for lovely sky-blue iced cupcakes. The tiers of the cupcake stand were decorated with beads and trim by Amanda with the help of Ian’s mother Cathy and Ian’s two grandmothers, in the light blue and ivory color theme. There was also a cake ball display taking the place of the groom’s cake. The cake balls were graciously made and gifted to the couple by a personal friend. The cake ball display stand was crafted by Amanda and her mother, and was in the colors and theme of the Florida Gators, a team favorite of the groom and his family. The reception also featured an ice cream sundae bar which proved to be very popular and refreshing on the hot Texas afternoon.

The guests enjoyed the food, toasts, and traditional bouquet and garter toss, and after a short time of dancing it was time to say goodbye to the newlyweds. The couple would be embarking on a Caribbean Honeymoon cruise the next day, and they needed to drive to Galveston, Texas that evening. The reception guests showered the couple with wedding favor bubbles as they danced their last dance, and then followed the
ouple with more bubble-blowing out to the circle drive of the hotel as the couple departed in the stretch limo. The guests did not leave the ballroom empty handed; they were invited to take leftover cupcakes with them in small Chinese takeout containers provided by the bride and her family.

The couple is still currently residing in Waco, as Ian finishes his last semester of graduate Accounting work at Baylor, and Amanda works for Hewlett-Packard on their Management Information Systems team.

Amanda and Ian’s Wedding Ingredients:
Ceremony Venue First Baptist Church, Woodway, TX
Reception Venue and Catering Three Rivers Ballroom, Hilton Hotel, Waco, TX
Photography Engagement --Abigail Criner Photography, Waco, TX; Bridal Portraits and Wedding – Chapel Hill Photography, Waco, TX
Officiant Pastor Michael Criner
Consultant Denise Harlan, “Thee Designs” Waco, TX
Gown Maggie Sottero, Bridal Co., Denton, TX
Veil Bridal Co., Denton, TX
Hair & Makeup Trendz Salon, Waco, TX
Bridesmaid’s Dresses David’s Bridal
Formalwear Squires Formal Wear, Waco, TX
Flowers Denise Harlan, “Thee Designs” Waco, TX
Cupcakes Patsy’s Bakery, West, TX
Cake Balls Phuong Luu, Waco TX
Stationery Save the Date Cards—designed by bride, Overnight; Invitations--Jordan Browning, “Ever After” Waco, TX ; Programs and Menu Cards—designed by Denise Harlan, “Thee Designs” Waco, TX; printing by Print Mart, Waco, TX
Music Ceremony--Krista Mitchell, Flower Mound, TX and Ryan Hughes, New Braunfels, TX; Reception DJ--Johnny Bradshaw, Central Texas Talent, Waco, TX
Transportation Luxury Limousine, Waco, TX
Rentals Action Rental, Waco, TX (furniture, dancefloor, linens)
Cake Displays; designed and decorated by the families
Favors Bubbles-- Wedding Shop; Printed Napkins--Party City; Chinese Takeout Boxes--; Personalized Labels—Oriental Trading Co. and 123
Honeymoon Carnival Cruise Lines (Caribbean)