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!