diy wedding

You’ve Decided your Wedding Venue. Now What?

by Melissa on January 26, 2012

Having a big DIY wedding? Want to make sure that you plan everything the best you can? After you decide on your wedding venue, if you can, go back for a second visit. When you’re there, bring the following items:

1) Pen and Notebook (or better yet, a Smart Pen!)

2) Measuring tape or laser measurer

3) A measuring wheel. Seriously, this was invaluable for us at our campground venue since everything was so spread out.

4) Camera. Take photos of everything. And not just a few quick shots. Take a panorama of photos of the entire venue. Zoom in, and take another panorama. Take a wide angle shot. Take close up shots of the tables and chairs. Shots of the kitchen facilities. Shots of the ceiling. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I referred to the photos of our venue, for any number of reasons. For instance, I sent pictures of the pavilion to tent rental companies when I inquired about having plastic walls installed on the sides. Ken used pictures of the ceilings when he was trying to figure out where he could hang a lighting fixture. I used the pictures of the ceilings to figure out how I could possibly drape fabric between the beams. Even if part of a venue seems inconsequential, TAKE A PICTURE OF IT.

5) Sample decor items to see how they look. For instance, order one or two colors of some tablecloths or runners, or bring some sample centerpieces to get an idea of how they fit with the venue.

Record the following information at the visit

  • Dimensions of the room. When you measure the dimensions, be sure to take note of any nooks or things that might jut out, like a fireplace or emergency exits.
  • Length or diameter of tables (if they’re provided). This will be invaluable when you’re playing with floor plan ideas. We used Microsoft Visio to plan our layouts.


  • Dimensions of dance floor. And don’t fret if it’s too small! I read a few months back that a huge dance floor is not necessarily a good thing. A smaller dance floor will feel more intimate, and plus will encourage folks to dance and interact, because the smaller dance floor will create the illusion of more people dancing.
  • Distance from seating area to nearest restrooms. This might not be a necessity for everyone, but at our venue, the restrooms were actually quite the walk from our reception. Perhaps 200 feet or so. We wanted to be able to communicate this to our older guests before they game.
  • Location of power outlets. This is CRUCIAL. It can completely drive your floor plan. Are you having a slideshow? Well, you need an outlet to plug in your television. Are you having a deejay or an iPod wedding? Either way, you’ll need to know where all that equipment can be located.

What do you think? Am I forgetting anything?


Wedding Day Recap, Part 1

by Melissa on January 18, 2012

T-2 Days: Part 1;   Part 2Part 3

T-1 Day: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4

I’m not sure where November 10 ends and November 11 starts. Sure, there is the 24 hour clock. But there’s also your circadian rhythm of sleep and awake that defines your day. Because we had not gone to sleep yet, I consider all the craziness with my grandmother to have taken place “the night before” the wedding, even though it was nearly 1:30AM when she was finally transported to the hospital.

Ken and I went back to our hotel room after my grandmother left for the hospital, and I was frazzled and wide awake. A big difference from just an hour earlier when I could barely keep my eyes open. We turned out the lights and tried to fall asleep. I could tell that Ken fell asleep after a while, maybe close to a half hour, by the way his breathing changed. But I just tossed and turned. And tossed and turned. My heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest and my stomach just churned with jitters. I knew I had packed a small wine cube box to take to the hotel so that I could have a few drinks if I needed to relax, but I had no idea where it was and I didn’t want to wake up Ken as I looked for it.

There were a lot of things running through my head that I realized I forgot to do that day, like:

  • Move one of Ken’s friends to a different table on the seating chart
  • Post our Virginia liquor licenses
  • Ask how long I should hold my bouquet during the ceremony
  • Who was going to escort Ken’s grandmother down the aisle (remember, since we didn’t have a bridal party, we had no formal ushers or anything).
  • I had put all of our board games in a box to be taken out to the pavilion, but I wanted a few left behind in the Mess Hall.
  • Where was Ken going to go for his shave

But, I didn’t want to get out of bed to get my little notebook and write them down for fear of waking Ken. So instead all of the last minute to-do’s bounced around in my head uncontrollably. If you’ve ever read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, he stresses how important it is to clear mental clutter and to just record your to-do’s just to get them out of your brain and into a central repository on paper.

Ugh, and I could really use a glass of wine.

At some point, I fell asleep for about 90 minutes or so. When I woke up at 4AM, Ken was awake too.  We started to talk about all the things running through our heads. We both had a very productive cry. It wasn’t a sad cry or anything like that. It was a “holy shit, we have been working so hard for this the last 13 months and it is finally here and I hope nothing goes wrong but if it does we just need to accept it and I wish we could get more sleep but we’re really just too excited and jittery” type of cry.

I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and my eyes were all red and bloodshot and there were heavy dark circles under my eyes. Glorious. Absolutely glorious. I hope I brought enough concealer. But I wish I had brought eyedrops too.

Ken said that he would leave for the venue in a few minutes so that he could get a few last minute things set up, like our DIY deejay equipment in the pavilion (he hadn’t wanted to set up the outdoor equipment ahead of time), his lighting kits, and make sure that the DIY photobooth was ready to go. All stuff only he knew how to do and therefore could not be left up to our day-of-coordinator. He was originally going to leave around 6:30 for the venue, but since it was about 4:30AM by now and we were both wide awake, we decided we would both feel better to just start getting it done. I mentioned the box of wine and that I couldn’t remember where I packed it. Ken said he remembered seeing it when he unloaded the car the previous night but left it in the car because he thought it had gotten thrown into the car by accident.

I wondered how my grandmother was doing, but didn’t want to wake anyone with a phone call. So, I figured a text would be safe. Quiet enough not to wake anyone, but loud enough to hear if they were, in fact, still awake. According to my text message history, I texted my sister at 4:56AM to see how my grandmother was doing. She replied that doctors admitted her to the hospital and that she and my mom were on their way back to the hotel.

Ken laid (lay? lain?) in bed for a few minutes longer and I got up, opened my laptop, and pounded out this blog post. I felt a million times lighter after writing that. It just felt so wonderful to get all those thoughts and feelings organized and on paper (er, computer) and to freeze that moment and emotion forever. I can’t remember if Ken left while I was still writing it or after I was finally done writing the post. But after I was done writing and after he left, I got in the shower.

Lesson Learned: When nerves start to take over and you’re feeling nervous, never, ever underestimate the power of a great hot shower. I must’ve stayed in that shower for 30 minutes.

I got out of the shower and started to get things organized in the hotel room. Since I hadn’t gotten to the hotel room until so late, contrary to my original plan, things were still in suitcases and boxes.

I unpacked all my makeup (including my makeup mirror that I brought from home, as well as a small fan to use in case I started sweating while doing my makeup) and put it neatly on the desk in the hotel room. I unpacked all my nail polish supplies and got together all the clothes I would need to get ready, like my spanx and bra. I packed a “backup” bag of stuff, including an extra bra (one time right before an important work presentation my bra strap broke. I have never forgotten that and I now always have an extra one on hand on important days), different accessories in case I wanted to switch around necklaces or whatever, and I compiled everything I would need into my little clutch, like my driver’s license, health insurance card, extra lipstick and lipgloss, and some tissues.

Then I called down to the front desk to see if they could send up someone to make my bed. I didn’t want a messy, unmade bed in all of my “getting ready” photos after the photographer arrived. They said they couldn’t do that outside of normal housekeeping hours, so I just made it myself.

Once I was finally done gathering stuff and rooting around in bags and boxes, I figured it was a safe time to paint my nails, something I had wanted to do the previous night. I gathered all my manicure supplies and painted my nails, albeit with a shaky hand from the jitters. Luckily I still managed a clean manicure!

While my nails dried, I cranked up the heat and laid down in bed. By that time, it was around 8:00AM and I still had 1 hour and 45 minutes until the hair stylist arrived. I thought maybe I could get in a good nap. But instead, fearing that I would faint during the wedding if I didn’t eat anything, I decided to go to the lobby for some breakfast before the restaurant closed at 9AM. I brought my car keys with me so that I could grab the box of wine out of my car after breakfast.  I didn’t want to call anyone to join me for breakfast, like my mom or sister, because I assumed they’d still be sleeping after such a late night at the hospital. So I went to the lobby by myself and made myself a plate of the least greasy food I could find at the buffet. The winner? Home fries, fruit, and a big glass of water.

I wasn’t hungry at all, but I forced down every bite. I knew that I had to. I knew that no matter how NOT hungry you feel, you still need to eat when you’re nervous. I ran into some family friends at the buffet. I think they may have felt bad for me. I was makeup-less, wearing slouchy lounge pants and an oversized t-shirt. And I was by myself. On my wedding day. Apparently they had already heard about my grandmother’s first trip to the hospital, but not the second. I gave them a quick recap of what had happened the night before.

When they saw me sit by myself, they asked me I wanted to join them. I told them no, that I just needed to eat quickly, and that I hadn’t wanted to wake anyone to join me for breakfast because I was hoping everyone was still getting some sleep.

While I was eating my breakfast, my dad came down to breakfast, and then Ken’s sister and 2-year old niece, and my dad’s cousin joined after a while too. My dad asked me to make a plate of food for my mom so that he could bring it up to her (he doesn’t move around too well anymore). So I made her a plate with some food and we tracked down a small cup with a lid to put some pancake syrup in. 

I had a few more bites of food and then my dad and I left to take the plate of food up to their room, which was a different room than the one they were in last night. Luckily the hotel was able to give them a different room considering the odor in their original room after my grandmother’s accident.  My mom was awake and was going to tell me about the trip to the hospital with my grandmother.


Our Wedding Welcome Bags (on the cheap!)

by Melissa on January 9, 2012

Several months before our wedding, I gave an overview of what I intended to include in our wedding welcome bags. I’m pleased to report that our wedding welcome bags were a success at our November 11 wedding.

In that previous post, I mentioned that 1) I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on the contents of the bag (i.e., no bottles of wine or $4.50 pieces of chocolate shaped like the Washington Monument). But, I did want to include some useful, inexpensive (or free!) contents. Also, as silly as it may sound, it was very important to me that the bag itself be reusable. Not necessarily for environmental reasons (although that is a big bonus), but because I knew folks would probably throw away the contents of the bag eventually, but at least the bag itself would remain useful. Therefore, I didn’t want to use a paper gift bag.

The Bag

So, I purchased 20 of these bags in royal blue from Cheap Totes for $1.49 each. We had blocked off 20 hotel rooms, so I assumed that that would be a safe estimate for the wedding welcome bags. (Total: $40.79, including shipping)


Brochures and Attraction Information

I picked up brochures from the Fairfax County Visitor Center storefront in Tysons Corner Mall. Tracking down brochures was more difficult than I anticipated. I thought I would be able to pick some up at our local AAA office, or at DC hotels with brochure kiosks. But apparently our AAA doesn’t carry brochures for local attractions, and those brochure kiosks are too pedestrian for fancy DC hotels or something.

But, randomly, one day when Ken and I were at Tysons Corner mall shopping for suspenders to go with his suit, we tripped over a nice storefront operated by Fairfax County. The lady in there was super helpful, and we picked up 20 brochures each of several “lesser known” DC attractions, like Mt. Vernon and Old Town Alexandria.

Local Maps

Yes, I realize that maps are a bit old-fashioned nowadays, but I still thought they would be a nice touch. I used my AAA membership to get 20 maps of the DC Metropolitan area, with a focus on Prince William County (where our wedding was being held), a street map of downtown Washington, DC, and a free local magazine called DC Metro Mag. All free!  I also picked up some pocket metro maps (available at any metro station).


Personalized information sheets

This was probably the longest task of the welcome bag process. I created a “Guest information sheet,” that included:

  • Directions from the hotel to attractions Ken and I recommended
  • A list of nearby eateries and their addresses
  • A list of nearby stores, like Walmart, the Supermarket, and CVS and their addresses
  • Directions from the hotel to the wedding venue

I printed these out, double sided, just on regular paper. I realize that a lot of folks put a lot of time and effort into making theirs look pretty, but I just went with a simple table layout, printed it, and voila!



I purchased a box of 30 snack-size bags of chips from Costco for $9.99, a case of water for $6.99, and a huge bag of Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses (separated into small plastic baggies of about 8-10 kisses each) for $6.99. (Total: $23.97)


Note and Tag

I wrote a very quick note using some fun gift tags I already had around the house (purchased from an Etsy seller years ago). Then I tied the note tags around the bag’s handle.


Assembling the bags

This was super easy, and took less than an hour. I set up a mini assembly line on our dining room table, and laid out the brochures, DC Metro Magazine, and Guest Information Sheets (forgive the crappy cell phone picture below. Apparently I didn’t take a real photo with my real camera of the actual assembly line)


First, I put the brochures, DC Street Map, DC Metro Map, and Guest Information Sheet in blue folders that I purchased from Amazon.


Then I put the folder in the bag, followed by DC Metro Magazine and a Fairfax County Tourism Booklet.


Then I added the snacks to the bag.


And voila! We had 20 welcome bags ready to be dropped off at the hotel. This task was completed in early October, more than a month before the wedding, so wedding welcome bags are definitely something you can check off your to-do list far in advance!


Total cost: $64.76. Not too shabby!


T-2 Days: Part 1;   Part 2Part 3

T-1 Day: Part 1; Part 2

The mayhem was over. My grandmother was at the hospital and doctors were running tests on her.

Our rehearsal was scheduled to start at 4PM, and the dinner, made by family and family friends, would follow shortly thereafter. The temperature was lovely, but it had started raining earlier when the ambulances were there, and we started to worry. 1) We probably would not be able to have the ceremony rehearsal outdoors, and 2) We hoped things would dry up enough to have the ceremony outdoors the next day and so that the venue wouldn’t be a big muddy mess.

Everyone was working on different projects. The tent walls company had arrived earlier in the day and was installing plastic siding on the pavilion, where we’d be having our reception.

2011_11_10 09_41_40 Day Before Wedding (Ken's Photos)

The coordinator’s assistant was there (who had arrived during all the craziness), and the coordinator arrived shortly afterwards. I gave them an overview of my system, and showed them the “ready for coordinator” side of the Mess Hall. After I talked them through all of that, they started to assemble the centerpieces.

My brother-in-law, Ken’s brother-in-law, and a family friend were all helping Ken get various wires and extension cords set up all throughout the campground for a local area network we were setting up for various technology-oriented things we were having at the wedding. They were also assembling patio heaters we had purchased to keep the pavilion a bit warmer.

2011_11_10 13_18_13 Day Before Wedding (Ken's Photos)

Another family friend was cooking for the rehearsal dinner, and Ken’s sister had gone to the supermarket to buy ingredients for things she was going to make for the rehearsal. She was gone for HOURS. And I don’t know why she didn’t buy everything ahead of time. But when I learned of her plan months ago (that she would just buy the ingredients near the venue – they only live 60 miles away), Ken just reminded me that some people aren’t the same type of compulsive planners that we are.

During all this, the drizzle that had started earlier was now a slow but steady rain shower. Although the forecast for the next day, our wedding day, was supposed to be sunny, We were starting to worry that the ground would be a big muddy mess for the wedding the next day.

At one point, Ken started to set up our DIY photobooth. We had most of our supplies in one bin. Some of our supplies included these sand bag weights so that the lightweight photo backdrop would not tip over. As we unpacked the box, things smelled badly and were coated with some sort of mildew or mold! Totally gross! That bin included all of our fabric backdrops we were going to use for the photobooth! They all smelled really badly. We weren’t sure how that bin had gotten moldy. We had packed away all those photobooth supplies more than two months earlier, but I speculate that the moisture in the sandbags caused mold or mildew in the sealed bin. We tried to figure out how we would salvage our photobooth, but then figured we could just wash the backdrops back at the hotel laundry facilities and we would just throw away the sand bags.

By 3:30PM, the officiant had not yet arrived and my parents were not back from the hospital. We had gotten a few updates from my family, but mostly that doctors were still just checking out my grandmother. She apparently had a urinary tract infection, something that can cause serious complications in elderly people. We learned that the officiant, who was driving in from Baltimore (he’s a long-time friend of Ken’s family) was stuck in gridlock traffic. Rain brings everything to a standstill in the DC-Baltimore area. I was fine with the fact that he was running late because I thought that would give my parents more time to make it back.

In the meantime, Ken and I continued to work on projects. It was MUCH harder than yesterday though. Too many people around and too many people asking questions and serving as distractions. I could feel myself getting pretty close to that nervous breakdown stage, something I wanted to avoid as a bride. Something that I always made fun of all along during the wedding planning process. Those brides that stress themselves out to the point of flipping out on their loved ones during a time that should be filled with happiness and celebration instead. And so, what I always made fun of, was about to happen to me, it was just a matter of time.

Ken’s sister, who I typically get along with just fine, was irritating the shit out of me. She kept saying, “Wow, how much longer till we get to see a bridezilla?” and, “Oh man, she’s so organized, maybe she won’t become a bridezilla.” I was feeling stressed after all the day’s events and I think folks could tell that things were weighing on me heavily, including the prospect that my parents were going to miss the rehearsal. So she kept announcing to all our other friends and family that I was probably about to become a bridezilla. It was almost like she was trying to provoke a bridezilla moment.

Here’s some advice if you are the friend or family member of a bride. The best way to have a bride become a bridezilla is to keep asking her when she’s going to become a bridezilla. Because I was about to go bridezilla on her ass at ANY moment.

Others looked at me in pity. Every time I walked past Ken’s grandmother, she reached out her hand and touched my arm in support. My sister kept asking me if I was okay every two minutes, which while appreciated, was getting annoying.

My parents continued to call with updates about my grandmother. My sister relayed to me a phone call she just had with my mom.  Doctors wanted to admit my grandmother to the hospital, but my parents disagreed. They said that they would take her out of the hospital so that she could go to the wedding tomorrow, or even stay in the hotel room (by herself!) and that they would all leave first thing Saturday morning back for Pittsburgh and check her into a hospital there, closer to her home.

I about flipped. I started yelling at my sister, “Did you tell mom and dad that that’s a TERRIBLE idea? That she NEEDS to be in a hospital right now? That they are not DOCTORS and that they should respect the decision of the professionals???” My sister just said, “I know, I know. But they really want Grammy to be at the wedding.”

At that point, I started to think very selfish thoughts. I started to wonder how my wedding day might be “ruined” if my grandmother got sick again, EMS had to come, and my parents had to leave my wedding. I was so torn between not wanting to be some selfish bridezilla who didn’t seem to care about her grandmother being at her wedding, versus wanting her there and wanting my parents to be happy. Because I knew that if my grandmother was not at the wedding, my mother would have been very sad.

I tried to vocalize my concerns in the nicest way possible. So I said, “I would feel much better and be much happier if Grammy was in the hospital tomorrow, because at least that way I would know  that she was being well taken care of. We weren’t even sure if she was actually going to even come to Virginia for the wedding, so if she misses it, it’s not like it would be much different.”  But my sister was not listening to me. I told her that if she talked to mom and dad again that they should not check her out of the hospital and that it’s what I wanted.

I opened some white wine and started drinking it out of a plastic cup. I instantly felt better. I drank more. And then a bit more. Finally, I was feeling friendly and relaxed.

The pastor finally arrived around 6PM, more than two hours past our planned rehearsal time. We were all hungry so we decided to have our rehearsal dinner before the actual rehearsal for the ceremony. It was dark outside, and it had been raining, so we couldn’t hold the ceremony rehearsal outside in our intended ceremony location, but we still walked the pastor down to the ceremony site using a flashlight. We were going to hold the actual rehearsal inside the Mess Hall.

My original plan had been to go to the hotel around 2:30PM and change around and get freshened up for the rehearsal. Although my rehearsal dress was in the car, I just didn’t have the energy to change. So I made the decision to wear the same jeans, Semester at Sea t-shirt, black windbreaker, and gray flip flops that I had been wearing all day long. I was okay with that. I figured it would make for a good story later.

After showing the pastor our intended ceremony site in the dark, we walked back to the Mess Hall. Family and friends that had been cooking all day set out the food and we all sat down to eat. However, since Ken’s sister had been gone for so long earlier shopping for everything she needed, her food wasn’t even close to being done. But we started to eat the other food anyway.

2011_11_10 17_58_19 Day Before Wedding (Ken's Photos)

One family friend even carved this AMAZING watermelon!

rehearsal dinner carved bride and groom watermelon

There was only one problem. I couldn’t eat. I’d eat one bite and then realize a task I had to take care of. And then eat another bit and then stand up to work on another task. I had some au gratin potatoes and fruit salad. It was like those tiny bites of food just ran right through me and I had to run to the bathroom (gross, and TMI, sorry). There were SO many yummy options but just nothing looked appetizing to me in my jittery state, regardless of how much wine I had had to drink.

It was time for the rehearsal ceremony to start. Ken and I were getting anxious to get everyone out of the Mess Hall so that we could have some peace and quiet to focus on the tasks on our seemingly never-ending punchlist. So we knew that the sooner we had the rehearsal, the sooner folks could leave. We made a loud announcement that it was time to start the rehearsal ceremony.

We practiced the order of procession and when it was my time, I still had a plastic cup of white wine in my hand, and I was nearly overcome with emotion. I almost lost it. My DAD should have been there to practice walking me down that aisle. My mom should’ve been there giving my dad unsolicited advice about standing up straight. But neither one of them were there. They were both still at the hospital with my grandmother. I told myself to pull it the eff together. That, all things considered, my situation was not that bad. Brides have to make it through much worse situations.

2011_11_10 18_55_58 Day Before Wedding (Ken's Photos)

But, in my selfish state, I barely held it together. I started to think about how I restricted their involvement all along our wedding planning process. And when I finally wanted their involvement and even needed their involvement, they couldn’t be there.

I put down the plastic cup of white wine and started my procession down the “aisle.” When I got to the front, the pastor demonstrated how my dad would take my hand and put it in Ken’s hand. Moment #2 of nearly losing it. Why is the pastor doing this and not my dad?

2011_11_10 18_56_36 Day Before Wedding (Ken's Photos)

The pastor started the rehearsal. Our readers practiced their readings. The pastor ran through his Gospel, and then the vows and promises practice began.

That part included him saying the first part, and then saying, “yada, yada, yada,” which I was fine with. But Ken asked him to go through the promises and vows in their entirety. I had no idea why he asked that. I found out right after that Ken had asked him to go through everything completely to make sure that the pastor remembered to exclude the words “submit to” in my vow to Ken. After all the day’s craziness, I had completely forgotten about that issue which had me all worked up just over a month earlier.

When Ken and I were practicing the promises and vows, we were both getting SO choked up. I couldn’t believe it! This was just the rehearsal! I was going to be a blubbering mess tomorrow during the ceremony! Tissues. Must remember to put tissues in my purse.

Then came a great moment of comic relief. The pastor was saying the “promises” part, and I thought he was done, jumped the gun a bit, and said, “I will.” He said, “not yet!” Then loudly enough for the entire room to hear, I blurted out, “Ah shit!”

Everyone started laughing and laughing, including me! The pastor told a brief anecdote about how one time during a church service, a soloist messed up and blurted out those exact words into a microphone in front of a full congregation. I then commented too about how I was happy we were running through everything in its entirety!

Then came the time for the sand ceremony practice, and we realized he didn’t bring a copy of the sand ceremony language with him! Oops. Oh well, I said that I’d print it out later  that night in the hotel’s business center.

And that was it! The rehearsal was over. I was not wearing my designer blue dress I had worn the day that Ken and I got engaged. Nope, I had just had my wedding rehearsal wearing jeans and a t-shirt with my hair in a ratty ponytail.

2011_11_10 19_12_16 Day Before Wedding (Ken's Photos)

Right after Ken and I practiced the recessional, my sister walked up to me. She had just gotten off the phone with my mom and dad. They had checked Grammy out of the hospital and were heading back to the hotel.

That nervous breakdown I had been feeling coming on for the last few hours finally arrived. I broke down into tears and ran outside into the pitch black dark. Ken ran outside after me.  I was sobbing uncontrollably, saying how I can’t believe my parents checked my grandmother out of the hospital and that never did I think that my own parents would miss my rehearsal dinner or that I would be at my own rehearsal wearing such shabby clothing. While I had not envisioned the rehearsal nearly as much as the wedding day, all of these circumstances were certainly not part of what I envisioned. I pictured my wedding dresses probably all wrinkled since they had been sitting in the back of my car all day long.

I cried for a few moments longer, pulled myself together, and went back inside the Mess Hall.  Ken and I told everyone that we needed some quiet to wrap up our final projects and so everyone left. It was about 9:00PM and I knew that I’d have to stay at the venue at least another two hours. Not only because I had some things to finish up, but also because I was pretty drunk, or at least tipsy, and Ken and I had to take our separate cars back to the hotel. I needed at least two or three hours to sober up.

Enjoying the quiet, we resumed our projects. Ken continued to work on the photobooth and local network, and I finished writing instructions for our day-of-coordinator.

We got more done in those few hours than we had almost all day.


Next week, the day before our wedding ends with even more craziness.


I always smack my forehead when I read “advice for the newly engaged” (including when I was newly engaged). I’m all, like, “Oh WOW! Thank you The Knot for telling me that I have to select a VENUE!” Or “Gee, that’s AMAZING advice for telling me I should figure out who I should invite AND that I should figure out a budget. I would’ve never thought of that on my own!”

It’s like they assume bride brain sets in the moment you get engaged. Because, after all, we’re just silly women, what do we know about this stuff?

So, Did you get engaged over the holidays? Do you have a brain? Did you already know that you need a wedding venue and a wedding budget? Then here’s my take on “advice for the newly engaged.”

adviceSource: Flickr User Laughlin

1) Most wedding sites will tell you to decide your wedding budget and stick to it. Let’s all pause for a moment and start a slow clap for that advice. I say, Regardless of how big or how small your budget it, weddings will cost some amount of money. The cheapest non-courthouse wedding I have found is over at 2000 Dollar Wedding. And here are a few other mini-budget weddings to check out. So, first things first, sign up for an excellent cash back rewards or airline miles credit card (or two!). Check out The Points Guy for the best up-to-date listing of travel-related credit card offers, and My Dollar Plan for the best cash back card recommendations. If you’re going to spend money on a wedding, you may as well get rewarded for it! My strategy worked great!

2) Other wedding advice sites tell you to identify your top priorities. Yes, that’s all fine and good. However, also identify things that are of lowest importance to you (but are things you still want to have at your wedding). For instance, flowers and ceremony music were definitely lower priorities for me. Knowing what your lower priorities are will help you delegate wedding-related tasks. When someone asks if they can help you, you can task them with the lower priority items. It will keep them occupied and out of your hair for a while, it will make them feel like they’re contributing, and it will leave you to focus on your bigger priorities. But then again, if you want to take care of everything, including the lower priority items, then do it. Because, despite what vendors and terrible TV tell you, planning a wedding is not hard, doesn’t have to be stressful, and you do not need outside help. Bonus of this method: By handing off lower priority items early on to friends, family, or your wedding party (if you decide to even have a wedding party), you’ll be able to identify who are the super responsive helpers, and who are just the slackers.

3) Be clear with your family about expectations. I’m not just talking money (because, after all, I’m a bad example. I never even had the “wedding budget talk” with my parents. I just knew Ken and I would pay for everything). Ask them if they have any expectations of you for your wedding day, for instance, that you’ll wear your grandmother’s veil. That way you can either A) Consider their wishes when planning – e.g., keep that veil in mind when shopping for your dress or considering your hair style; B) Let them know up front that you will not meet that certain expectation – e.g., you already have the perfect veil in mind; or C) Work out a compromise. Perhaps you don’t want to wear that veil, but (based on your identification of lower priorities in #2), something like a cake cutting set is a lower priority. Ask them if you can use your grandmother’s cake cutting set instead of wearing her veil. Anyway, you get the idea. I was shocked that TWO WEEKS before the wedding, my mom suggested I wear her pearls for my wedding. Ummm, I had my accessories picked out MONTHS ago. However, if I had known she wanted that in advance, I could’ve worked it out. But, I did decide to integrate her wedding handkerchief into my bouquet instead.

4) Develop your mission, goals, and a strategy to achieve them. I work for a major auditing organization. I don’t do financial audits. Rather, I do program evaluation audits. I’ll look at a program and do a nearly year-long evaluation and, in the end, we can make a very accurate assessment of whether they’re spending their money well. What are some common themes of those programs that AREN’T effective? Here goes.

  • No clear mission
  • No clear goals
  • No clear strategy to accomplish goals and mission
  • Lack of stakeholder involvement
  • Unclear performance measures to gauge progress

There you have it. The secret to any programmatic success. Mission, goals, strategy, stakeholder involvement, and performance measures. If you identify and stick to all those things, I guarantee your wedding will be a success! (Oh, and don’t forget to document it! i.e., write it down!) So, after your wedding day, if I was to audit your wedding planning process, would I be able to find a clear mission, goals, and a strategy?

There you have it! Congrats to all the newly engaged!


T-2 Days: Part 1;   Part 2Part 3

T-1 Day: Part 1

** Some of today’s post is a repeat from this post, written the morning of my wedding, but with a additional details**

When my mom, dad, and grandmother arrived at the venue, I was shocked at the sight of my grandmother. Besides a few of the typical elderly ailments, like trouble with her hearing and sight, she’s in decent health (for an 86-year-old), has good mobility, and her mind is as sharp as a tack. But today, her color was weird, and her knees were buckling so much as she walked, I thought she would fall with every step she took. My brother-in-law and a family friend held her on both sides to support her as she walked.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the situation. There were some feelings of guilt. There were some feelings that she was literally just making herself sick with worry because she didn’t want to be there.

Some background

My grandmother is a very stubborn and cantankerous woman. She says what’s on her mind, even if it’s very hurtful. For instance, she has no trouble telling me if I’ve put on weight, got a bad haircut, or am wearing an ugly coat. If we get her a Christmas present that she doesn’t like, she’ll say, “I don’t want this, take it back.”

But at the same time, she is a very generous woman. She’s fairly wealthy and is generous with sharing with her family during holidays and special occasions. One time, I complimented her purse. She started dumping out the contents on the sofa so that she could give it to me.

She certainly has her quirks too. She hates the church, even though my grandfather (her husband) was a devout, church-going man. At my grandfather’s funeral home viewing a few years ago, the priest (who knew my grandmother had not been to a church in decades) asked my grandmother if she wanted to go to confession so that she could take communion at the funeral service the next day. She looked at him, said “yuck!” and walked away. She also FLIPPED OUT several years earlier when she found out my grandfather was about to donate $5000 to his church so the church could install air conditioning. She calls church “a bunch of mumbo jumbo.”

Ken likes to describe my grandmother as, “not very grandmotherly.”

I’m not sure why I’m sharing with you these details. But I guess it’s important to illustrate how I felt about having her at the wedding.

Would she even come to the wedding?

My grandmother was very conflicted about whether to come to the wedding, which was more than 300 miles from her home. I thought she had never left the state of Pennsylvania her entire life, but my mom reminded me that she worked at the Pentagon right after it opened during World War II, and that she had been to Ohio for a wedding in the 1980’s.

I was pretty convinced for about the first eight months of our engagement that there was no way she was coming to the wedding. And perhaps I was just making excuses to make myself feel better about it, or maybe I’m just a terrible human being, but I convinced myself that her not coming would be for the best. She would just be complaining the whole time and telling me how every wedding decision I made was a terrible one, and so on. So, I had resigned myself to the fact that she wouldn’t come to the wedding and had myself convinced that that would be a good thing.

But then things started to change. About a month before the wedding, she started shopping for an outfit to wear to the wedding. It seemed like like she would come to the wedding, although I wouldn’t believe it until she was actually there. I was torn. I even mentioned in this post that I would ask my mom to take my grandmother out of the room if she was being too negative. About a week before the wedding, I told my grandmother that there was to be NO COMPLAINING at the wedding. She told me I’d have to put up a sign to remind her. I said that I would print one out on the computer. She laughed and laughed. It was good. We had an understanding.

When my mom had told me the previous day that she had picked up my grandmother at her house and they were on their way to DC for the wedding, I was surprised. My mom said my grandmother had been complaining the entire drive, saying that she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go back home. I was steeling myself for some very negative energy once my grandmother arrived.

And the entire previous night when my mom kept telling me that my grandmother wasn’t feeling well and just wanted to go back home, I was mad. I kept thinking to myself, “well, maybe she shouldn’t have come at all!” and things like “I knew this was going to happen. She can’t even keep from complaining for her own granddaughter’s wedding.”

The day’s events begin to unfold

But now, seeing my grandmother that morning, the day before my wedding, I was filled with feelings of guilt and worry. This wasn’t just some “act” to convince my parents to take her back to Pittsburgh, like I had thought it might have been.

I asked my parents if they wanted to take her to the Emergency Room. They said that there was an urgent care facility directly across the street from the hotel where they were staying, but my grandmother wouldn’t go. Ken said, “Then you don’t give her a choice. You should treat her like a little kid.” I happened to agree.

I took the thermometer out of my purse. We pulled up a chair for my grandmother and she sat down. She kept opening her mouth while taking her temperature, and taking the thermometer out of her mouth, and we kept yelling at her to stop doing that. It was like she was drunk or something.

The thermometer finally beeped. We knew it probably wasn’t entirely accurate because she kept messing with it, but it read 103.0 degrees.

The vibe in the room went from general worry to outright scared. She was still sitting on the chair, so we started to convince her that she needed to go to the doctor. It was an urgent care facility just six miles away. Please. We pleaded with her. She kept saying, “No! I’m not going to the doctor.” I started to think to myself how elderly people can die from something as simple as the flu.

Finally, I was fed up. I started to literally scream at her. “GO TO THE DOCTOR!! DO YOU THINK I WANT SOMETHING TO HAPPEN TO YOU ON MY WEDDING DAY???  NOW GO!!”

My voice cracked as I said those words. My mom and dad let out brief sobs as they heard my voice crack. It was the reality check my mom and dad needed. My grandmother is 86 years old. It doesn’t matter how good her health has been to this day. And in my family, where any uncomfortable topic is practically always left unspoken, I mentioned this brutally uncomfortable topic.

My grandmother could die from a fever like that.

She was finally convinced. She would go to the doctor. She said she had to go to the bathroom first. So, my brother-in-law and family friend once again helped her walk to the bathroom, a single-room facility, which was about 20 feet away.

While she was in the bathroom, we all started talking fast about what might be wrong with her. In one of my hypochondriac moments, I told everyone to wash their hands and to wipe down any surface my grandmother had touched. “We don’t know what she has, and we’ll be interacting with 150 people tomorrow, so if it’s something serious, we don’t want to give it to them.”

Ah, the weird things people do in moments like this.

The fall

After a few minutes, we started to wonder how long my grandmother had been in the bathroom. A different family friend opened the door to the bathroom (which is a single room bathroom) and yelled for my mom. My grandmother was laying on the floor in the bathroom.

We all jumped into “go” mode. Our family friends, my mom, and my sister, all rushed down to the narrow hallway by the door to the bathroom. In that same narrow hallway was the landline phone. I picked it up and dialed 911. I said, “We need an ambulance right away at Prince William Forest Park Cabin Camp #5 in the Mess Hall. My 86 year old grandmother just fell and she has a 103 degree temperature.”

While I was on the phone, my family had managed to get her off of the floor and seated in a folding chair they had set up in the hallway. The 911 operator was asking me questions like whether my grandmother was conscious. I said yes, she was conscious, but kind of “out of it.” The operator said, “Okay, I’m going to give you some instructions.” I turned my mouth away from the phone and said, “LISTEN UP!” and told the operator to go ahead. The operator said to make my grandmother as cool as possible because her fever was so high. I relayed the instructions. They took off her jacket and put cold bottles of water on her neck. Next, the operator told us to gather all of her medications and bring them with us to the hospital.

My heart sunk a bit. She was nowhere near home. She wasn’t even at the hotel with her medications. I relayed the instructions to my mom. My mom looked disappointed with herself. She turned to my grandmother and said, “Mom, do you still keep that list of medications in your purse?”

I never heard the response.

The 911 operator told me that we could hang up, but I should call back if my grandmother lost consciousness, stopped breathing, or came into any other distress.

I’m not sure how much time had elapsed. Probably not much, but it seemed like an eternity.

My nephew, with his typical 5-year-old curiosity, kept walking down the hallway to see what was going on, and we kept shooing him away. In retrospect, I feel bad about this. We should’ve tried to quickly explain what was happening and then asked him if he could go in the other room for a bit. I remember when my mom and dad used to keep serious information away from me when I was little. It was hurtful. I was 12 when my other grandmother had a massive stroke. My mom and dad had told me she was just in the hospital because “She wasn’t feeling well.”

I looked around for my sister. Someone told me that she had driven my mom and dad’s car to the entrance of the campground, about a mile down the road. She was afraid because the campground was in such a secluded location, that the EMS wouldn’t be able to find it. (There’s a back story to this. A few year’s back, the company that my sister worked for moved to a brand new building right off a brand new road. One day, one of her coworkers, who was a brain cancer survivor, started having a seizure. They called 911, but EMS personnel just kept saying they could not locate the building or even the road it was supposed to be on. So they had to keep giving them landmarks to go by. Luckily her coworker was okay, but it was still enough to make her paranoid for life about EMS personnel not being able to find the location of the emergency).

So she had driven and sat at the intersection of the nearest main road to the entrance of the campground. I asked if anyone knew if she had brought a walkie talkie with her. (We had brought walkie talkies with us because there was no cell signal at the venue and the campground was huge). They said no, she had not brought a walkie talkie with her.

I wanted her to be able to relay when the ambulance was arriving at the venue, so I hopped in my car and drove the mile or so to the entrance. I saw her parked there and got out of my car and gave her the walkie talkie. Although I felt bad, because she panicked when she saw me driving up that road. She told me that she thought my grandmother had taken a turn for the worse.

No sooner did I give her the walkie talkie, we saw a fire truck coming down the road. My sister started honking her horn, and I hopped back in my car and sped down the road. I parked in the parking lot, about 500 feet or so from the Mess Hall, where my grandmother was. I wanted to make sure there was enough space in the small parking area by the mess hall for the emergency vehicles. My sister parked in the same lot. We got out of the car and started rushing to the mess hall. There was an unfamiliar car driving down the road to the Mess Hall. (The only reason to use that road was to go to the campground. There’s nothing else there). We stopped her on the road by the parking lot. The woman in the car rolled down the window and said hi. I didn’t recognize her and Ken didn’t recognize her.

Not in the mood for exchanging niceties, I said, “Who are you?”

She said, “Oh, hi, we’ve met before. I’m Linda, the coordinator’s assistant.”

I smacked my forehead in embarrassment, quickly told her to park in the parking lot and that we had an emergency going on.

My sister, Ken, and I continued our brisk walk-run pace back to the Mess Hall.

My grandmother was still sitting on that same chair in the same narrow hallway that she had been when I left. The EMS personnel were surrounding her and were telling her that she needed to be in the hospital. There was a LOT of back and forth on this issue. The EMS personnel were great, and kept telling her things like, “There are a lot of people here that care about you and want to make sure you’re okay. Let’s just go have some doctors check some things out.”

At some point, I heard the EMS personnel say that they cannot force her to go. I interrupted. I said, “What my grandmother wants doesn’t matter. My mother has full power of attorney and will force her to go.” The EMS personnel started asking my mom about the power of attorney. Of course, all the documentation about her power of attorney was at my parent’s house nearly 300 miles away. But my mom said she has the legal authority to make decisions for my grandmother under the power of attorney.

2011_11_10-12_47_13-Day-Before-Wedding-(Ken's-Photos)-copyThe ambulance that took my grandmother to the hospital

I’m not quite sure what finally convinced my grandmother to go in the ambulance.

Much to my surprise, the EMS personnel had her stand up while they supported her, so that she could walk outside the mess hall. I hate to be one of those people who claim to know better than the experts, so I just figured they knew what they were doing and I didn’t ask why they couldn’t bring the stretcher into the mess hall. But I was definitely thinking it, especially as my grandmother took very slow, labored steps. Once she got outside, there were two small stairs that she would have to walk down. The EMS personnel were still supporting her weight, and my grandmother made it slowly down one step, but she was really struggling with the last step. At that point, the EMS personnel told her they were going to lift her up. My grandmother said no. But they told her that it would be easier for her, and they lifted her up and then put her on the stretcher. She weighs barely 100 pounds.

As my grandmother was laying on the stretcher, she told me to come over. She was holding her purse, and took out a paper Hallmark bag, which had a thick envelope in it. “Here,” she said. “I don’t want to take this to the hospital.” When we opened the card late that night, there was $500 in it.

The EMS personnel were not in any rush to leave, and they were giving details of what was going on to the National Park Police Officers. In fact, there was a bit of a disagreement that had occurred between EMS and the Park Police. Although I hadn’t actually witnessed it, my mom or sister (I can’t remember exactly who) told me about it later. Park Police were trying to question my grandmother at the same time that EMS personnel were questioning her about her health. The EMS personnel said to the Park Police, “Excuse me, but you’ll have to wait to take your report.” When I found out about that, I was like “Why on earth would Park Police need to be asking my grandmother questions anyway?” My mom said that it was very likely because she fell while on property and they wanted to get all the details in case there was a lawsuit. What a sad sign of the times.

Once it was clear to me that the EMS personnel weren’t that worried, I figured that my grandmother was not in any imminent danger, otherwise they would have been rushing off to the hospital with her. So, I started talking to them, and explaining that tomorrow was my wedding day and that my grandmother had left the state for the first time in decades just to come to my wedding. I told them I wanted to make sure I remembered the moment forever, and asked them if they would pose for a picture with me, the bride-to-be.

with-EMS-personnelMe, explaining how tomorrow was my wedding. And them looking at me like I’m a real asshole.

They happily obliged and posed for a photo with me

me with EMS personnelDocumenting the crazy moment forever. Note the Hallmark bag I’m holding that my grandmother had given to me just moments earlier.


While we were waiting for the ambulance to leave, I noticed that Ken’s sister and her family had arrived. With all the craziness, I hadn’t even noticed their arrival. I wondered what they must have thought as they drove up to the campground and saw a fire truck and ambulance there. Ken and his sister were standing outside, but it was starting to drizzle.

I walked over the ambulance because the back doors were still open. I told my grandmother I was glad she was going to the hospital. She didn’t respond. I think it was because she was out of it, more than it was her being mean.

My mom was going to ride in the ambulance with my grandmother, but the ambulance cab was VERY high and she couldn’t climb the step. My mom is 64, but even I thought it was an insanely high step to get into the ambulance.  So, the EMS personnel told my mom and dad what hospital my grandmother was going to and how to get there, but I made sure that my parents had their portable GPS. They both got in their car and followed the ambulance as it left.

I’m not even sure what time all of this happened, but I’m pretty sure it was around 11:30. Although I just checked the date stamp on the camera when Ken took the photos of the ambulance. It said it was 12:47 PM.

When the ambulance pulled away, I was just kind of numb. I reiterated to everybody that they should wash their hands and wipe down anything that my grandmother touched since we didn’t know what she had or what was making her fever so high. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time to recover. The coordinator’s assistant, who had arrived right in the middle of all the  madness, and the coordinator was there, so I had to start to walk them through everything.


Wedding recaps will resume in two weeks! You’ll hear all about our rehearsal.

Happy Holidays!


I HATED having a day-of wedding coordinator.

by Melissa on December 15, 2011

Are you organized? Do you have a clear vision of what you want for your wedding day? Then do yourself a favor and avoid a wedding coordinator at all costs. They will just add more headaches and add even more tasks to your to-do lists.

Making this statement goes against everything I had read about on wedding blogs. Those bloggers tell you that hiring a day-of-coordinator is a great investment. Those same sites tell you that hiring a coordinator will allow you to sit back and relax on your wedding day. Well, as I talked about earlier this week, sitting back and relaxing was not for me.

Background on our Coordinator

There’s a woman who lives down the street who owns her own Concierge company. That means that she does things like tracks down hard-to-find theater tickets, will stay at your house and supervise home improvement contractors while you’re at work, and she also plans parties and events, including weddings.

We found out about her very shortly after getting engaged.  (These next few sentences are related, I swear).

At last year’s annual Homeowners’ Association (HOA) meeting in our community in November 2010, Ken and I volunteered to help make a website for the neighborhood. A few weeks later, the HOA board invited us to an informal meeting to discuss what they wanted included on the website.

It was a low-key meeting and, during our discussions, Ken and I mentioned that we had gotten engaged about six weeks earlier. When folks at the meeting asked us “How’s the wedding planning going,” we told them how absolutely disgusted with wedding prices in the DC area.

They suggested that we get in touch with a woman from the neighborhood that owns a concierge business. They said they’ve all hired her for various things and she can negotiate excellent prices. They also mentioned that she had planned the neighborhood party that took place the previous summer.

We thought it was worth a try. After all, we were making zero progress on finding a venue and caterer within our price range. So we contacted her the very next day after the meeting. We met with her about a week later.

A Barter Agreement

We were fairly impressed during our first visit with her. She had a contact at one of the preferred caterers for a venue we loved. She filled us in on some shady stuff that that venue had going on. A very reputable venue in the DC area no less!

We negotiated a barter agreement with her. We would redesign her concierge company’s outdated website and, in exchange, she would help us with various pre-wedding things, like helping us negotiate prices with caterers. Then, for the day of the wedding (and any tasks in the days before the wedding) we would pay her and an assistant at a discounted hourly rate. It sounded like a win-win situation!

But, she kept suggesting vendors that we either A) Didn’t like, or B) Were out of our budget. Then Ken and I found the perfect venue in January on our own, about a month after we had made our agreement with her. And that venue had no vendor restrictions, so I thought that would open up a huge pool of cheaper vendors, especially caterers. But she was continually finding caterers for us that were $25-$30 per person for rubber chicken-type food. Not our style!

It reminds me of this post in which wedding planners wonder why a couple would do extra work to find cheaper prices when they’ve hired a planner to do just that.

Two Main Reasons for Hating having a Coordinator

1) Explaining what you want to another person (the coordinator) just so they can explain it to someone else (the caterer or other vendor) is extremely time consuming. Much, much more time consuming than just doing it yourself. Especially when you then subsequently have to hear all the vendor’s information second-hand from the coordinator. I suppose if you want to leave these smaller details up to the coordinator, then it may work just fine for you, but Ken and I wanted to be involved every step of the way

2) I don’t trust that the coordinator will find the best prices. They want to use their own buddy-buddy network of vendors, regardless of the cost to us, their clients.

Once it became clear that we were finally getting good at finding vendors and figuring out all this wedding stuff, a drastic change from the first six weeks of our engagement, we basically stopped asking her for advice.

Plastic Walls and Straw Bales

As we started to solidify the details of the wedding, we asked for her help with some of our “weirder” tasks, like having plastic walls installed on an existing pavilion structure, or buying straw bales as decor. She was useless on both fronts. She knew of one place to purchase hay bales, a local produce market right down the street. But the price was $7.50 per bale!!! She knew the owners, of course, so perhaps she could “negotiate” a discount of 50 cents per bale.

After about 10 minutes of Googling, I found a listing of TONS of local hay and straw bale-offering farms on the Loudoun County Extension’s website. The verdict? I found hay bales for $4.50 each, including delivery. I was also the one to track down a rentals company willing to install plastic tent walls on an existing structure. None of her “preferred” party rental companies could do it, so she told us it couldn’t be done.

The Cake

She did, however, recommend a reasonably priced bakery that had both excellent Yelp and Wedding Wire reviews. The coordinator arranged for a tasting, and both Ken and I thought the cakes were fantastic!

We decided to book the bakery! But, after that, I hated the entire process of communicating with the bakery. Because the bakery was the coordinator’s “find,” any communication Ken and I wanted to have with the bakery had to go through the coordinator. I never even had the bakery’s phone number or e-mail address! It was like a giant game of telephone. I had to tell coordinator what I wanted, then the coordinator had to tell the bakery, then the bakery had to give their response to the coordinator, then the coordinator had to tell me the response. And if I had even a single additional question or change to our order, the entire process repeated itself.

I kept thinking to myself, why on earth would anyone EVER want a full service wedding planner? Just using this one vendor that we found through the coordinator was an absolute nightmare process. I could only imagine how awful it would’ve been if we had used several of the vendors that the coordinator had suggested. I prefer having direct communications with my vendors, thankyouverymuch. It saves so much time and hassle! I thought having a planner was supposed to make things easier, not more time consuming!

Wedding Day Cake Disaster

If you recall from my quick wedding day recap, the cake was our biggest disappointment from the wedding.  The cake story will be an entire blog post on its own, but here’s the short version of the story.

The night before the wedding, the bakery was calling the coordinator asking for clarification on what we wanted. I thought it was pretty fucking simple. Simple round cakes with the flavors, filling, and frosting that we had listed on our contract. No fancy “wedding decoration cake.”  Just simple, elegant, but tasty cake!

The wedding coordinator was at our venue for the rehearsal when she took that call from the bakery. So, the coordinator put the bakery on hold to say that the bakery had some questions and needed some clarification. Ken and I were beyond mad.

1) We sent our contract in MONTHS earlier, so why was the bakery asking for clarification just right now, less than 16 hours before the wedding?

2) We should have trusted our original instinct and used a more traditional bakery or just gotten our cakes at Costco, instead of asking a wedding cake bakery since we wanted simpler, plainer cakes.

Sometimes personalities just clash. And sometimes people are useless fucking morons

It was just more than the cake issue that annoyed us about the coordinator. In fact, about five days before the wedding, Ken and I seriously considered firing the coordinator. She had become such an annoyance and we actually thought it would be better to not have her at the wedding at all.

But because all the wedding blogs tell you how important it is to have a day-of-coordinator, we decided against firing her. Instead, we had her amend the contract so that she could not charge us any more than 20 man hours for her and her assistant (including the day before the wedding – Thursday – and the actual wedding day – Friday). Initially we were going to want her help on Wednesday after we got checked in to the venue, but any time we were around her, we would just get so annoyed at her so we didn’t want her around at all.

Let’s look at some of the things that led us to realize that she was useless:

  • Well, there was the whole “6 people max to a table thing
  • Then, there was a point when Ken and I were considering getting a combination of both cakes and pies. We have found this amazing pie shop nearby and thought it would be a fun mix to have cakes an pies. Well, you could tell she didn’t like this idea at all because that would mean a smaller order with her preferred bakery we already told her that we’d use. Then she asked us “what size pies?” so I showed her the pricing sheet. I think they were like 8 or 10 inch pies we were considering. So, she says to us “I don’t think that would look nice presentation-wise. Perhaps you should get the smaller, individual size pies (which, I would like to point out, were about $3 each, and would feed one person). We asked her to describe what she meant about the presentation. She wasn’t able to articulate it. And anyway, what do I care about presentation if I want pies at my wedding? Ultimately, we never ordered any of the pies, but it was a very strange conversation. I don’t know why the “presentation” of pies was such a concern to her.
  • Then there was that plastic siding and hay bale thing I mentioned earlier in this post. But you want to know why I ordered hay bales as extra seating? Because she told us that our ceremony site, which had existing benches, would only seat 90 people. Ken and I have a photo that we took of our guests right as the ceremony started. We counted 87 people in that shot, and the ceremony site was maybe 50-60% filled. So we probably could’ve fit TWICE her estimate in the ceremony site. So, there went $225 we spent on hay bales to use as extra seating because of her moronic estimate (although we did use some for decor, so it was fine). At least we didn’t spend the $7.50 per bale that she had originally found.
  • She was completely technology incompetent. Ken and I maintained a detailed wedding to-do list in Google Docs. One of the MANY benefits of Google Docs is that you can share a document with lots of people, and they can just view it whenever they want to see the updates. There’s no e-mailing attachments back and forth or anything. We offered to share ALL of our documents with her, but nope, she asked that everything be e-mailed, as an attachment. I would explain to her that she could view the document in Google Docs and then download a local copy, but she would just say something to the effect of, “yeah, I’m just not familiar with it.” Well, give it a try dammit. You’re making your client’s life more difficult asking her to do extra tasks that she wouldn’t otherwise be doing.
  • She didn’t hang up our family wedding photos. This was actually something that bothers me a LOT. Ken and I spent a lot of time tracking down wedding photos of our parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents. I even found a photograph of my great-great-grandparents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary Gala! We scanned them in and had them professionally printed on 11×17 Lustre paper. The fucking coordinator never put them out!
  • She didn’t make sure vendors got their checks
  • She didn’t set up heaters where I wanted them
  • She didn’t put wine or beer keg in mess hall. We were having our reception in a pavilion, but there was also an indoor location about 200 feet away from the pavilion, called the Mess Hall. I had left her specific instructions to leave 6 bottles of wine, one beer keg, and some two liters of soda, along with cups and a corkscrew, in the Mess Hall. We had told our guests that if it got too chilly in the pavilion, they could feel free to venture over to the Mess Hall and warm up and that there would be some drinks and games in there. Well, she didn’t leave any wine, beer, or soda in the Mess Hall.
  • She Didn’t make sure things were being refilled (cider, s’mores, etc.)
  • She didn’t make sure pastor gave blessing (on our timeline)
  • She didn’t make sure pastor signed wedding license or got his check

A few days after the wedding, we e-mailed her to thank her for making the venue look so great. Then we offered just a few items of constructive criticism that she should consider when coordinating other weddings. This was her exact response:

I’m glad you were mostly pleased with our work.  I know you may not realize, but we worked extremely physically hard.  The three of us could barely move on Saturday.  I actually had to cancel another job I had scheduled.  We really should have called it a night and suggested others be hired to clean up, but when you asked on Thursday night for us to stay longer on Friday, we decided to do it.  It was very rough working outside in the cold all day and I believe my team and I did an outstanding job considering the time limits and the amount of work we were given.  We appreciate constructive criticism, but [my assistant] and I have done events for years.

Not even a discussion of the specific items we called out as constructive criticisms. Nope. She apparently knows what she’s doing.

Fuck. That. Shit.

The thing that annoys me the most about the entire situation is that we had to pay her for those day-of-coordinator tasks. Our initial barter agreement seemed like such a good one at the time. We were having such a difficult time planning our wedding and we figured we were going to need as much help as we could get. So the fact that she could help us with all of that and we would just have to redesign her website, it sounded like a great deal.

But then we ended up never using her for that stuff because she was so useless and we ended up getting the hang of it, especially after we found our perfect venue, more than 3 months after our engagement! And then we still had to pay her for the day-of tasks. It was basically like we had to redesign her website and get nothing in return. I realize that this is a risk one takes when doing some sort of barter agreement, but I was SO BITTER and ANGRY that we had to pay her. Especially since she did so many things wrong on our wedding day. I’m torn on whether it was a worthwhile investment. Sure, she set up the venue on the day of the wedding and put everything in the van after the wedding, but couldn’t we have done that ourselves? Everything was according to our instructions, so it’s not even like we relied on her aesthetic. Everything from the cake table arrangement to the centerpiece and table number arrangements, and the hot beverages bar setup. All our ideas.

So, live and learn, future brides! If you’re organized and willing to do a bit of work on your wedding day, you don’t need one!


A few weeks ago, I detailed what I would’ve done differently planning our wedding. One of the items on the list set off a bit of a tizzy on Twitter. That item was #2, “Not hired a day-of-coordinator.” I’ve drafted an entire post about why I didn’t like having a day-of-coordinator, but I realized that some additional context might be needed before I actually publish that post.

One of our main reasons for not liking our coordinator, or really a lot of the other vendors, is their continuous statements like, “Oh, don’t you worry about a thing, we just want you to sit back and relax on your wedding day while we do all the work.” They are, of course, trying to sell you their services. They also come with a lot of pre-conceived notions about couples and weddings. They are also not your friends.

Any time Ken or I even hinted or suggested doing something on our own on the wedding day, vendors would jump in immediately to claim they could save the day. “We don’t want you to have to think about anything on your wedding day. We’ll take care of everything.”

relaxFlickr User Soukup

For detailed oriented folks, like me and Ken, that is a really infuriating statement. Because, here’s the thing, we WANTED to do stuff on our wedding day. It was something we had been planning for THIRTEEN MONTHS. It was very important to us to see it through to the end. But no, folks told us that this would be “impossible.”

I had been thinking about this issue for a long time. I even wanted to write a blog post on this topic before the wedding. But I thought to myself, “let’s not be presumptuous!” Maybe it is, in fact, impossible to do anything on your wedding day.

Well, it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s fun!!

Here’s a rundown of what Ken and I did on our wedding day:

  • Set up iPod deejay equipment (Ken did)
  • Moved flatscreen TV outside and set up slideshow (Ken did)
  • Set up lighting equipment in pavilion
  • Troubleshooted (Er, troubleshot?) our DIY Photobooth
  • We made our own deejay wedding announcements (first dance, cake cutting, father daughter dance, etc.)
  • We reminded the pastor to give the blessing
  • We made sure that the guitarist got his payment
  • We made sure the ceremony got started on time
  • I added firewood to the fireplace during the reception
  • We pinned our own corsages and boutonnieres
  • I answered questions that the caterer had when she asked if I wanted a final copy of the invoice.
  • I reminded people to refill things like the cider when I realized it was low.
  • I did my own makeup
  • Drove our own cars
  • Played with our niece and nephew in the morning
  • I changed my dress mid-reception

I found none of these things “annoying” to do on the wedding day. In fact, it made me feel like I played a role in ensuring that the event we had planned for 13 months progressed smoothly throughout the day! It was FUN!

Most importantly, we interacted with ALL our guests at the reception, something we were led to believe would be virtually impossible if we were doing things like self-deejaying or controlling our own lighting system.

And in retrospect, I had a ton of free time the morning of the wedding. In fact, I dorked around on Facebook and Pinterest for a good amount of time. I was so worried about it being hectic that morning, and I ultimately ended up relaxed and quiet.

It was actually MORE distracting just sitting around. At least if I had other projects, maybe I could’ve kept the jitter level down.  I could’ve also made my own bouquet, like A Practical Wedding or Big Day for 10K (something I considered way back, but buying flowers wholesale wouldn’t have made any sense since I didn’t have any bridesmaids that needed bouquets and we didn’t have floral centerpieces. And also since I thought that actually GOING TO THE STORE on my wedding day would be impossible). Or I could’ve spent the morning at the venue instead of at the hotel and set up everything myself and then just gotten my hair and makeup done after I had set everything up.

So, in a few days, I’ll post the full “Why I hated having a day-of-coordinator” post. But hopefully this post gives some better context that the whole “no-way-you-can’t-do-anything-on-your-wedding-day” type attitude is not for everyone, and neither are coordinators.


Post-Wedding Projects!

by Melissa on December 5, 2011

And here I thought wedding-related projects would stop after the nuptials! Wrong! If you follow me on Pinterest, you know that I’ve been pinning a ton of “leftover wedding item”-type projects. I’m super excited to incorporate some leftover wedding items into our home décor!

I’m a big fan of incorporating personal elements into our home décor instead of just buying stuff at, for instance, Home Goods or Bed Bath and Beyond (not that there’s anything wrong with that, as I sit here and stare at candle holder from Yankee Candle). On the walls of our home, for instance, you’ll see framed tapestries I’ve collected from my travels (I love buying tapestries!). You’ll also see other little items from my travels proudly displayed, including a houka pipe from Egypt, a crystal bell from Waterford, Ireland, a bottle of sand from South Africa, frames of foreign money and coins, and various fake flowers – a wooden tulip from Holland, a ceramic flower from an artist store in New Orleans, and a hand blown glass flower from Florence – used as a permanent centerpiece in our dining room.

So these projects will incorporate items leftover from the wedding, like my bouquet flowers, the dried items we used as centerpiece flowers (wheat and craspedia), leftover wedding programs and bulletins, wedding invitations, wedding and shower cards, and the ribbon and fabric from our DIY Escort Card display. This is in addition to our super awesome guest “book” we had (actually a 20×30 cork display covered in fabric that people pinned messages to using different scraps of paper. Slightly different than our original idea for a guest “book.”

What to do with leftover wedding programs

1.  We’ll frame one in a frame with two glass panes so that you can view both sides easily (our program was printed double sided on a full 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.

2.  We’ll make a few Christmas ornaments from them, like so:

christmas ornament 1

via Flea Market Style


christmas ornament 2via Christy Robbins

3. Try a few coasters with leftover programs, and maybe even with a few photographs (to give as gifts to my parents and grandmother).  Like so:

Photo-Coasters-Wedding-Favors-300x225via The Frugal Girls

What to do with leftover ribbon and fabric

I’m going to take the ribbon and fabric we used on our DIY Escort Card holder and make a display of 1’s, since our anniversary is 11-11-11. Mine will be a slightly modified version of this.

display-numbers-fabric-ribbonvia She’s Kinda Crafty

I have a different idea for what to do with ribbon that was on our wedding and shower gifts. For that, I’m probably going to wrap fabric around a piece of foam core (framed or unframed, I’m not sure yet), and simply wrap the ribbons around the foam core in a random pattern. Boom, instant art using ribbon from gifts.

What to do with wedding flowers

I watched several tutorials on YouTube for how to press and or display flowers. (Which no doubt makes me an expert on the matter!) My bouquet flowers have been drying using two methods: Half are sitting in silica gel, while the other half are being pressed between newspaper covered with heavy books. (I opted for two methods in case one doesn’t work. I also opted not to try the microwave method.)

Anyway, I haven’t found any photo inspiration for how I want to display the dried flowers, but I can picture it perfectly in my head. It will be a shadow box or other frame, maybe 12”x12” and I’ll cover a piece of foam core with burlap leftover from the wedding. Then I’ll display each flower nice and neatly. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll be sure to do an entire post on it when I do it! Most sites I read recommended allowing your flowers to press and/or dry for at least 4-6 weeks, so mine are still sitting undisturbed in their respective drying/pressing locations.

For our wedding table centerpieces, we used dried wheat and dried craspedia. Here’s a crappy cell phone photo of our centerpieces when I created them back in September:


Although I only have one specific project for the wheat and craspedia in mind, I’ll save a handful of stems and stalks for potential future projects, and then sell the rest. One project that I know I’ll do for sure is creating another ornament with them. l’ll cut off most of the stem of the wheat and put the actual “wheat” part (what is that called anyway, you know, the part at the top) inside one of the clear ornaments pictured above in the second wedding program ornament photo. Perhaps it would look something like this.

craftsvia Country Living

I doubt that the craspedia will fit in the ornament though. Any other ideas for what I can do with the leftover wheat and craspedia?

What to do with leftover wedding invitations

Like the wedding flowers, this has been something I haven’t been able to find a photo for inspiration. But again, I can picture it pretty well in my head.

Our invitations were AWESOME. (There’s a post coming soon about them, I promise). So, as part of displaying the invitations, I want guests in our home to be able to “interact” with them easily. So, this project will involve some sheet metal and magnets! The magnets will allow us to display the invitation in a non-destructive way and allow people to take the invitation from its display and view it when they want.

What to do with wedding and shower cards

I’m going to do this with our wedding and shower cards. Done and done.

wedding-card-storagevia Traci Thorson Photography


That’s it for now! I’ll let you know how each project goes!

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Over the next several weeks, heck, probably the next several months, I will recap our wedding wedding week through a series of posts I will publish on Wednesdays.  Here’s your first full recap, starting Wednesday November 9! Check out all our wedding recaps here.

Wednesday November 9 – The Story of Our Movers

On Wednesday November 9, we were able to check into our venue, Cabin Camp #5 at Prince William Forest Park. We had rented the venue for three nights so that we would have plenty of time to get things set up and organized for our Friday afternoon wedding.

One of our fairly last minute decisions was to hire movers. We had about 75 boxes of stuff that needed moved, as well as other odd shaped items, like chalkboard sign A-frames and wooden stake signs.  We already knew that we needed to rent a U-Haul truck to move everything all in one trip. The truck itself was going to cost us about $20 plus $0.99 per mile. Since our house to the venue was 48 miles roundtrip, we were looking at about a $70 expense. We figured it might be a worthy expense to pay a bit more and have someone actually move the stuff for us, that way we weren’t exhausted by the time we actually arrived at the venue.

guest bedroom wedding stuff

Wedding stuff in our guest bedroom. We actually had to disassemble the bed months ago to fit it all in there

Wedding Stuff by Front Door

Electronics equipment for the wedding ready to be moved by the front door (this is only a small fraction of the electronics equipment we used at our wedding). The helmets stay.


Even more wedding stuff in our breakfast nook in our kitchen

After researching a few moving companies, I called College Hunks Moving Junk, and they ended up being GREAT. Seriously. I called them less than a week before we needed moving services and they were able to accommodate everything. They charged $124/hour plus a $124 flat fee that included things like the truck and packaging materials.

Our campground check-in time was 3PM, so we asked the movers to arrive between noon-1pm (they required a 1 hour window).  I used Wednesday morning to run some last minute errands.

Wednesday Begins! T-2 Days till the Wedding!

Wednesday morning, we woke up at 6:10AM, our normal wake-up time on a work day. I had mentioned a few days earlier that I had a last minute idea to decorate the mess hall at the campground, using this as the inspiration. So first, I went to the fabric store and purchased about 40 yards of muslin and about 30 yards of tulle.

After the fabric store, I went to Target to buy some gladware containers, some apple cider that we were going to serve at the wedding, and a few cleaning supplies for the campground, like lysol wipes. Actually, “some” apple cider may be an understatement. I bought about 12 gallons of it. Then, I went to Home Depot to buy a push broom, anticipating that there might be a lot of leaves in the pavilion that we’d need to clear out.

While I was at Home Depot, the movers called to say that they were about 30 minutes away. That was at 10:50AM. While I appreciate that they were running early, it was problematic for us. 1) Ken was still getting things packed for them, and 2) Since our check-in time wasn’t until 3PM, we had to be careful. We didn’t want to arrive at the venue at like 1:30 and then have the venue groundskeeper tell us we couldn’t start unloading for another 1.5 hours, especially paying movers at $124/hour. So, I just told them flat out that that was way too early for us. They were understanding and said they would wait to arrive until later.

I wrapped up at Home Depot and headed home. I had to do a few last minute seating chart rearrangements, and while I was working on that, the movers arrived right at noon. It was GLORIOUS. Ken just showed them the guest bedroom that housed most of our wedding stuff and they started moving it. I continued to work on my seating chart while they did all the work! Already the movers were a great investment.




They finished loading the truck at around 1:45, and we headed to our campground venue. I drove ahead of them so I could check in with the campground host, and Ken followed the movers in a separate car to make sure they didn’t take off with all of our wedding stuff.

We arrived at the venue around 2:20PM. I was a little worried because we were early, but luckily we were able to check in with no problem! As I signed all the check-in paperwork, the movers started unloading all our stuff into the Mess Hall.  The movers were done by 3PM.

Let’s recap this. Truck loaded, transported, and unloaded by three professionals in 3 hours. It probably would’ve taken Ken and I at least twice the amount of time to do that. Plus, we weren’t exhausted by the time we got to the venue. In fact, we were quite relaxed! That was a great investment of $496!


That’s me, starting to arrange things after the movers left!

Next recap post will be a continuation of Wednesday November 9, T-2 days!