Today I’m sharing a special guest post by one of my amazing brides, Katie McNally, who’s also a professional writer! Katie got married in June and has lots of firsthand tips to inspire brides preparing for their own wedding days.
I recently came across one of Katie’s posts and immediately asked if she’d be willing to share that content on my blog. Katie blew me away and offered to write a custom post just for my blog readers!
Katie is a natural motivator, avid-runner, and can be found exploring the Philly suburbs with her new husband, Mark, and fluffy pup, Bailey!
Without further ado, enjoy the wisdom Katie has to share!
Here’s one extremely important wedding planning tip that I’m not sure any book or website article ever told me: When you look back on your wedding day one week, four months or even five years down the road, what details will you actually remember?
The side dishes you choose for the main courses? Where you finally decided to seat Aunt Sally? The uplighting color for the ballroom?
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all of the little details that go into a great wedding, but chances are you won’t look back and say to your spouse, “I’m sooo glad we chose the white linens for the tables instead of the ivory.”
What I’m saying is, yes you’ll have to make a ton of decisions during the wedding planning process, but don’t sweat the minor ones. Instead, place most of your focus on making special choices that will end up making the best memories.
Here are a few details we added and decisions we made for our June 2018 wedding that we’ll absolutely be looking back on and smiling about for years to come.
1. Including a Pet
When we first questioned this idea, the answer was a resounding yes. But then we got further into the planning process and the logistics seemed overwhelming. Who would get Bailey (that’s our dog) to the venue? Could she successfully walk down the aisle without jumping on the guests (she loves saying hi to all people)? And since (to our dismay) she couldn’t come to the reception, who would she stay with after the ceremony and photos were finished?
All of these questions made us think we wouldn’t be able to swing it. But as we got closer to our wedding date we realized we really wanted Bailey to be a part of our ceremony. So we did some research, found a dog sitter near our venue who was willing to put in some extra effort and now … Well now we have the memory of how happy we were to see her when she arrived at the venue and priceless photos that are some of our absolute favorites from that day.
The takeaway? If there’s something you really want for your wedding day that you know you’ll look back on and absolutely smile at every single time, figure out how to make it work. Maybe it’s having your pet there. Or maybe it’s something like a hot air balloon ride or a bounce house. Whatever it is, don’t discount it as ridiculous because of what other people will think or just because the planning part feels overwhelming. If you know it will make you smile big for years to come, it’s probably worth it.
2. Choosing the Right Venue
Maybe this seems pretty obvious to you, but I don’t think I realized how important choosing the right wedding venue is when we first began planning. So many factors will influence this choice — your budget, your location preference, whether you want to have the ceremony and reception all in one place, how many guests you’ll have — so even though your venue is probably one of the first elements you’ll book, it’s really important to at least estimate some of those other factors before you do.
The other reason I bring this up is because we chose a venue that you could describe as “all inclusive.” Our package included the ceremony site, cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres and drinks, reception ballroom (including tables, chairs, linens, place settings), all of the food, the cake and dessert, an open bar, and a day-of coordinator (who also guided us through the entire planning process, so she was almost like a planning assistant, too). Before we landed on our venue, we seriously considered the total opposite — what I would call a “blank slate” venue. It was literally just a big room with an unstocked bar. In that scenario, all of the details I just mentioned above would have been left up to us to plan, right down to stocking the bar with alcohol and bar tenders.
Personally, I’m not sure I could have handled planning all of that. I likely would have been way more stressed the day of our wedding. I know for some of you out there the “blank slate” route is more your style and you’ll crush planning a perfect party that way, but it wasn’t for us and realizing that early on and choosing our venue based on it was absolutely one of the best decisions we made.
3. Reception Sneakers
OK, this one technically only applies to the brides. When you think about your wedding day shoes, chances are you have a pretty pair of high heels in mind. I know I did, and its what I chose for my “official” ensemble. But then I also came across a sparkly pair of Kate Spade/Ked sneakers with ribbons for shoe laces. All I can say is, thank goodness I fell in love with them at first sight and had them shipped to my house right away, because if I hadn’t had a flat shoe to change into for the reception I would have been kicking myself.
After a few hours of photos and then the ceremony, my feet were begging to be freed from my heels. Once I changed into my sneakers, I was able to dance for the whole rest of the night without one single worry.
Now yes, there are definitely heels that are more comfy than others. I have a few pairs myself that I’ve lasted in dancing all night. So I guess what I’m really saying is, absolutely make sure that the shoes you choose won’t murder your feet, and if you have any inclination that you won’t be able to last in them for a prolonged period of time, equip yourself with a pair of flat and/or more comfortable shoes that you can change into if necessary.
It’s hard to have a good time if your feet are killing you!
4. Doing a First Look
I have to admit, even after everything is said and done and we chose to do a first look (when the bride and groom see each other for the first time in a private setting before the ceremony), I still love the idea of the groom seeing the bride for the very first time when she walks down the aisle. But I am a very practical person and I am also a person who really likes food.
What am I saying here? Mark and I really wanted to be able to attend our cocktail hour, which began directly after our ceremony. Not only because of the assorted cheese table, grilled cheese tomato shooters and spanakopita, but also because we wanted to be able to spend as much time as possible with our guests. If we hadn’t scheduled the first look into our wedding day, we would have had to swap attending our cocktail hour for a photo session.
Of course, if you have time between your ceremony and the start of your reception, you’ll have more flexibility in this area. But regardless, it’s still something to keep in mind as you’re mapping out a plan for your wedding day.
In the end, even though the traditional romantic in me would have loved to have saved the surprise of Mark seeing me for the first time during that “aisle moment,” I’m glad we chose the first look and had more time to mingle with guests (and eat grilled cheese) before the reception.
5. Polaroid Camera
Setting up a polaroid camera and a board for guests to pin their photos onto was actually a compromise for me. What I really wanted was a photo booth because I’ve always thought they were a fun feature and that the printouts were a cute little souvenir to take home from a wedding. I guess we could have paid a few hundred extra dollars to have a photo booth at our wedding and nothing totally bad would have happened to us, but now that we have a collection of polaroid snaps from that day to look back at I’m so glad we saved the money and went the DIY route.
I think the Fuji Instax Mini cost about $60 and three packages of film (which was plenty) was around $40 to $50. That definitely beats shelling out close to $1,000 for pretty much the same end result. Plus the simple, candid shots of us and our guests are totally priceless and compliment our professional photos from Stacey and Dustin so well. I also noticed our guests bopping around the reception looking like they were having so much fun taking photos with it, which made me so happy to see in the moment.
I plan to make copies of all of the polaroids to mail to guests with their thank you cards and with the original copies I’ll make a scrapbook to go along with our more traditional wedding album.
There are so many other details that go into planning a wedding (and I could talk about them all for days), but when it comes down to it, these are the elements that really made a difference and that we’ll always cherish. I hope they inspire you to focus on the memories you’ll make as you plan your wedding and help to remind you of what your big day should really be about!
Katie McNally is a Philly-based writer and the creator of her self-titled blog katieannmcnally.com. Her goal is to inspire women by sharing tips and tools for navigating life’s big challenges and projects. When she’s not writing or reading, she loves to run, visit new breweries and restaurants, and hike with her husband and fluffy pup, Bailey.