This is going to be very long because my photographer sent me a highlight reel of her favorites and I love them all and don't have the self-control to choose only a few so I'm hurrying up to do my BAM post before she sends me the full gallery and my problem is amplified lol. Advice and stories will be sprinkled throughout.
So Background Details:
We got married 5/19 in Tallahassee, FL.
Total Headcount: 45
Venue: Saint John's Episcopal Church (priest and organist included)
Photographer: Brittany Morgan
Florist: Hilly Fields Florist and Gifts
Caterer: Fran Doxsee LLC
Bar Service: Top Shelf Events
DJ: Fire Entertainment
Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie
Tux Rentals: Men's Warehouse
My dress was my MIL's. I had it altered by Debbie Cortese Bridal Alterations and cleaned and pressed (and now being preserved) through Bobbie Williams (Prepare THE Dress) I strongly recommend both to anyone in the Tallahassee area.
Hair and Makeup were semi-DIY. My best friend/ MOH did my makeup and my sister/BM did my hair. I know DIY makeup and "friendors" are both highly discouraged here. Normally I agree. My budget came down to providing a proper bar or having a proper HMUA and I made the right call. My girls volunteered to help because they love me and they are skilled in ways I am not. We did two trial runs of each to make sure everything was going to work out.
Advice #1: If the budget is tight, Cut corners where it won't hurt your guests' experience. I went for an afternoon wedding with a shorter lunch reception (1pm-5pm) to make sure I was able to provide for my guests' experience the whole time. We had a lunch buffet (still had two meat options and a silent vegetarian option), We had open beer, cider, and wine instead of a full bar, we only had five hours of photography, we limited flowers, and as mentioned above we skipped professional hair and makeup. Our wedding was still amazing and nearly all of the guests told me so. Some of them mentioned it was much better than expected (they are used to cash bars on one side of the family, and dry weddings on the other lol)
Advice #2: Don't be afraid that a small wedding means a boring wedding. I mention this now because this was my greatest fear. That the church would look empty and the reception would look empty and there wouldn't be enough people to really have a party and everyone would get bored and leave. This is NOT a problem. If you invite your nearest and dearest, your ceremony will be beautiful and meaningful with them there. If you know your crowd and provide them with good music, good food, and some drinks, the reception will be a party!
Advice #3: Hire a photographer you click with, then trust them. You will spend more time with the photographer during your wedding than basically anyone else. If you find a photographer with gorgeous work but you don't like them when you meet, don't go for it. You need someone who you like both their work and their personality. Then trust them!! My photographer helped us navigate a very tight timeline and took phenomenal photos (in my opinion at least, scroll down and judge for yourself). She took so many creative shots and arrangements we never could have figured out on our own. Trusting her and listening to her helped our day smoothly and our pictures turn out well.
Invite and hanging dressDetails and InviteFlowers and JewelryThe bouquetsDress Bodice close up
We actually did our hair and makeup before getting to the church and before starting photography because of our limited photography time, but we did do some adorable getting ready shots!
Robe and Petticoats
Getting Ready Silliness
Finishing getting ready with mom and the girlsMom zipping the dress, my girls fixing my petticoats
Finishing touches with the earringsMOH fixing my veil
Next I did a brief first look with my father. It was a really special moment for us and I'm so glad my photographer remembered me asking for it during our first consultation (by the time the wedding came around it had totally slipped my mind.
Surprising my Dad with a first look
First look with Dad. I almost cried when he teared up
First Look with Dad
We only had our one photographer, and I honestly cannot tell you how she managed to get all of these getting ready shots done. It's like she was in two places at once! Here's my groom
My handsome husband
MOG pinning the bout before the first look
Advice #4: I'm going to pause here and STRONGLY recommend considering a first look! It made perfect sense for us time wise and was so incredibly special to have this private moment. I promise it does not ruin walking down the aisle. It gives you a chance to hug and see each other up close when you don't have tons of eyes on you and a ceremony to be getting on with!
Waiting for the First Look
The First Look
The first look: seriously his smile when he turned around made me melt
Pre-Ceremony Portraits in the churchPre-Ceremony Couples PortraitsShout out to my MOH for fanning my veil
Wedding party portrait in the church
Advice #5: Ask only exactly who you want to be in your wedding party, everyone else will get over it. As is obvious in this picture, our wedding party is both uneven and has ladies on the groom's side. This is the perfect bunch of people to stand with us and I am so glad we decided traditional opinions about genders and matching sides did not matter a bit.
Me and my bridesmaidsUs again
Groom and Groomspeople
Wedding party portraitWhole Wedding party portraits
Last Pre-Ceremony Portraits
Moving on to the ceremony! We got married in a church that put a lot of restrictions on where the photographer could be. She had to stay in the back of the church or in the balcony. She got around that for the bridal entrance aisle picture below by taking a staged one. I assume there will be more pictures of the processional before my entrance in our full gallery when we get that back in the next few weeks.
Bride's procesional (staged photo left)
Advice #6: Talk to your officiant and make your ceremony your own. This bit of advice is most relevant for me with the below photo. We were married in the Episcopal Church and had to use the established wedding liturgy from a 40 year old Prayer Book, so we were limited in the "make your ceremony fit you" department but we still did it. We didn't just follow the standard goings we read the liturgy and looked at all of our options. The book gave us the option of doing an egalitarian presentation: "Who presents these two to be married?" with the answer as "I do" from all four parents, instead of the normal presentation of the Bride. We were the first couple our priest has ever married that looked it up and decided to do it. I strongly advice everyone, no matter how traditional you are, to think about what aspects might be really important to you and see what can be accommodated.
Presentation of Bride and Groom
The ceremony with the wedding party
Stepping up to the Alter
Advice #7: If your dress is big and your train is long, it'll have to be adjusted around every time you walk until you bustle it. Even mid-ceremony. If this will annoy or embarrass you, consider a less obtrusive dress style option.
The Vows and Laughter
Post-Ceremony Signing the License
A Private Moment before Family Portraits After the Ceremony
I am not going to post any family portraits because this post is going to be monstrously long as it is. I do have some advice though: Advice #8: Make sure every individual who needs to be somewhere for pictures knows ahead of time. Maybe this is another "know your crowd" moment, but I had trusted that telling the parents/leaders of each family group where they needed to be was sufficient because people would communicate. This was not the case and we ended up waiting around as people had to go find others and bring them back.
Post Ceremony Photos in the Church's front gardenFountain PortraitsOne of my favorite portraits before I got bustled
On the way to the parish hall for the reception entrancePortraitsMy favorites
I could finally move!
On to the Reception!!!!
Advice #9: If decor isn't your passion, don't sweat it. Simple is beautiful too. I am not huge on decorating and I was so nervous leading up to my wedding that my stylistic choices would look sad or plain on the day of the wedding. Many kind souls here talked me down one day shortly before that I didn't need to buy a bunch more stuff and that it would be fine. They were right. Everything was perfectly suited to me, and the guests really don't care.
Reception decor, my in-law's toasting glassesTable centerpieces and my spray-painted sweetheart table blockOur cake, and the incredible ring photo with the cake topper
Advice #10: Make the reception timeline and events suit your day, don't try to force yourself into whatever the "normal" or "traditional" set up is. We decided not to do the bouquet or garter toss because, well, we didn't want to. Then we rearranged the reception events to suit us and the time we had left with the photographer. We did Entrance, immediately followed by first dance, then welcome speech and meal. An hour into the meal we did the toasts, then the cake cutting immediately followed by the joint parents' dance, then we opened the dance floor for the remainder of the reception. It wasn't the standard set up but it worked beautifully for us. It didn't confuse the guests or make anyone leave early. Do it your way, everything will go great.
Entrance and First Dance
Advice #11: Some things may go wrong. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone, be ready to laugh it off. About 45 seconds into our first dance the song cut off and then started over. Everyone notice and was looking around confused. My husband and I made the decision to just call it quits early rather than keep dancing with the hopes the four minute song had no repeat issues. We made this choice partially because it was already made awkward but mostly because we aren't great dancers anyway and were happy to have the dance behind us. We moved on with jokes and a laugh, one of the DJ apologetically explained the error and we told him it was no big deal and we were happy to keep the reception going. It was the tiniest blip in our day, but would have been a real issue if we let it upset us.
Laughing together, waiting for the welcome speech and the buffet to be ready.
Our reactions during speeches
Figuring out that cake cutting is not one of my talents
Feeding each other cake nicely
Me and my dad during the joint parents' danceMy groom and MIL
The Official Group Shot!
Party Time!Silliness during the party
I applaud you if you've made it all the way to the end of my unnecessarily long BAM. I am so thankful for Wedding Wire. I've received so much wonderful advice and felt such a sense of community. I hope all of you future brides and grooms enjoyed my BAM as much I've enjoyed seeing them over the past year! Congratulations and good luck with planning!