This week’s guest blog was written by one of our 2011 brides, Larissa Bates. Larissa and Dennis were married one year ago this week. I thought it would be great to have her input on planning a wedding and she was gracious enough to share her thoughts. Thank you so much, Larissa!
Planning a wedding may be one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life, but it may also be one of the most stressful. From budgeting to being bombarded with family and friends’ varying opinions, the planning process can be very overwhelming. I am hoping that by sharing my experience when planning my wedding, it can help other brides, and grooms, during their planning processes.
I did not have any forewarning that my husband was going to propose to me on May 20, 2010. I never wanted to be one of those pushy girlfriends who pressured my boyfriend into popping the big question. Even though I knew that marriage was something that I wanted in my future, I figured that I would let things just happen naturally. I also wanted to be surprised by the ring that he picked out for me, without my help. I could never understand why some women wanted to be part of the ring shopping process. To me, it takes away from the element of surprise that comes with being newly engaged. So when my husband did propose, I had to start from scratch with the wedding planning process because before that time I had no idea that a wedding, make that MY wedding, would be in my near future. Luckily, I had been in a few weddings as a bridesmaid and attended some wedding shows with other brides-to-be, so I had some planning experience under my belt.
One of the biggest decisions was the reception venue. I had fallen in love with the beauty and elegance of Saratoga National Golf Club during the Summer of 2009 when my husband and I had taken a casual drive up to Saratoga Springs one evening. We decided to venture down the long driveway that passes through the golf course and leads to the beautiful building.
At that moment I knew that one day I would have my wedding there. One of the first telephone calls that I made after getting engaged was to Saratoga National to find out the venue’s availability for the summer of 2011. I always envisioned getting married in the late spring/early summer when it was warm, but not too hot, and everything was in bloom. All of the Saturdays for May, June, and July were booked, so we decided to have our wedding on a Friday in June; make that June 17, 2011 to be exact. Our reception was phenomenal. We were told by many guests that the food was the best they had ever had at a wedding. As one guest stated, “I asked for my tenderloin to be medium rare, and it actually came out medium rare!” The cocktail hour was unbelievable with an endless assortment of food and beverages. The staff took great care of us throughout the planning process, especially on the day of the wedding. The grounds were also gorgeous for taking photos. I cannot say enough good things about this place. We plan to go to their restaurant for dinner on our anniversary because the food and service were THAT good!
Our next big decision was where to have the ceremony. We had been undecided about whether to have the ceremony and reception at the same location, or to have the ceremony at a church. We eventually decided to have the ceremony at Saint Mary’s in Ballston Spa because it made the ceremony more intimate and formal to us. My husband requested that the ceremony be in a Catholic church, because he is baptized as a Catholic. It was very difficult to find a Catholic church that would perform a wedding ceremony for non-parishioners. Everything, luckily, worked out for us, but it required many telephone calls and letters to several churches in the Saratoga area.
Finding our photographers required a lot of research and correspondence with different photographers in the area. We wanted to have at least two photographers in order to allow many different photos to be taken during the day from different angles. A single person cannot be taking pictures of a bride from the front and back as she walks down the aisle. We also had a set budget in mind, which would include not only the services provided at the wedding, but the album afterwards. Given that the photographers are with the bride and groom from before the ceremony when the bride is getting ready until the end of the night, we wanted to hire photographers who were personable. Few things sounded worse than a grumpy or pushy photographer tagging along all day for one of the most important days of our lives. We feel that we really lucked out by finding Tim and Dana Shaffer from The Classic Image in Fort Plain, New York. I had picked up their business card at a wedding show that I attended with a friend of mine a few months before getting engaged. Tim and Dana were both really nice and their prices were very reasonable. Oh, and their work is amazing! Not only did we hire them for our wedding, but we also did an engagement session with them at the end of the summer of 2010. Our engagement photos were beautiful, and this session allowed us to work with them prior to the wedding. Our wedding photo proofs were done within a couple weeks after the wedding, and our album was ready four months after we selected our photos. I love, love, love our album, and could not have asked for better photographers.
The next big decision was finding a DJ. Hiring a band would have been way outside of our budget. We decided to find a DJ who fit our taste, which included no cheesiness!
We did not want any group dances or props given out to our guests. After making a couple phone calls we found Jeffrey Scott, who was exactly what we had in mind. He does not bring props and he refuses to play group dances. We were a match made in heaven!
Not only was he a great DJ, he was so helpful during the planning stages, especially as we got closer to the wedding. For example, we contemplated having a person roll cigars at the reception, but Jeffrey warned us that having a cigar roller sometimes breaks up the party where half the guests are outside smoking cigars and the rest are inside. We ended up deciding against the cigar roller, largely due to Jeffrey’s recommendation based on his extensive experience at weddings.
We also had to decide on music for the ceremony.
I always loved the sound of string instruments playing classical music, and I thought a string quartet or trio would be perfect. We found All Seasons Ensemble, who are a string trio consisting of a cello, violin, and flute. As soon as I heard the demo CD they sent us, I was sold. This was one vendor where we splurged a little price-wise. We knew we could have had the church organist play at no charge, but the ceremony is the most important and intimate (in my opinion) part of the ceremony. I wanted everything to be as I had envisioned it, string instruments and all. The string trio went above and beyond my expectations. They sounded amazing before, during, and after the ceremony. They also learned an additional song for my soloist to sing, which was over-the-top and exceptional.
Finding a florist was a little tricky. We met with a few different ones in the area, from the super market floral departments, to professional flower shops, to individuals who had small flower businesses that they ran out of their homes. For what we wanted, everyone’s prices were about the same. Some had more expensive bouquets but less expensive centerpieces, while others were the opposite. We chose Felthousen’s simply because they actually showed us two groups of flowers that were just about ready to be sent out the door and delivered to weddings that day. We were actually able to see, and smell, their products in person, instead of just looking at photos. They were also the only ones who made a sample centerpiece for us, so that we could see what the centerpieces would look like at the wedding. Our opportunity to actually see a finished product set Felthousen’s apart from everyone else.
Designing our wedding invitations was frustrating at first, but had a wonderful outcome. Our colors were Tiffany Blue and white, and I really wanted the invitations to be designed to look like gift boxes from Tiffany & Co. I looked online to see if I could find invitations that were already made to look like those gift boxes. I had no such luck. My next step was seeing if I could find someone to make the invitations by hand. The first place I visited was Paper Dolls in Saratoga Springs and I met with Cora. She showed me different types of paper that could be used, different fonts, different styles of wedding invitations, and accessories for the invitations. After a couple weeks she mailed me a sample based on my ideas and choices for paper and accessories.
The sample amazed me. The invitation really did mimic one of those sweet little blue boxes from Tiffany & Co. The invitations were square and had white ribbon tied around them with a white bow in the middle of the front covering the flap of the envelope. The middle of the invitation after opening the envelope had the actual invitation part and on the side were pockets with information cards for the reception and the room block and the RSVPs with their envelopes. Tiny crystals accented parts of the invitation, such as our monogram. After we sent out the invitations so many guests told me they were the most beautiful and unique invitations they had ever seen. If you have a specific design in mind for invitations, my advice is to meet with a designer to have them custom-made specifically for your wedding. Our invitations cost a little over $5.00 each, but we were only sending out 65 of them. Having a relatively small guest list of 120 allowed us to spend a little more on certain things such as the invitations.
One of the most important decisions, and the most fun part of the planning process, was picking out my dress. My mother was in town visiting for a week about 10 months before the wedding. During that week I scheduled appointments at five different dress shops. The first shop we went to was Ferri Formals in Schenectady. I knew I wanted a very “princessy” looking dress, strapless with a sweetheart neckline, corseted back, very puffy at the bottom, and with crystals throughout the bodice. The very first dress I tried on was THE dress and it looked like it was made for me.
Even after trying on about 15 other dresses, I kept going back to being in love with the first. Needless to say, I cancelled all of my other dress appointments for that week! I also found a veil and headpiece at Ferri Formals that looked as though they were made for this dress. My mother also bought her dress from Ferri Formals and my bridesmaids’ dresses were from there as well. I was nice enough to allow my bridesmaids to try on various types of dresses and decide on the dress, but I chose the color, which was Tiffany Blue.
Alayne Curtiss from Make Me Fabulous in Ballston Spa did my hair and makeup, and one of her stylists, Amy, did my bridesmaids’ hair. They both came to the suite I had at the Gideon Putnam for the girls and myself to get ready before the ceremony. Alayne is beyond amazing and talented, and she is so personable. In March before the wedding we did a trial where she tried different hair styles and makeup styles in order to determine what would look best for the big day. I cannot begin to describe how beautiful my hair and makeup were on the day of the wedding. Alayne is a perfectionist, much like myself, so every hair was in perfect place and my makeup looked so natural and flawless. Even at the end of the night, over 12 hours after my hair and makeup were first done, every hair was still in place and my makeup did not look faded or worn. I continue to use Alayne for my routine haircuts and coloring because she is so awesome!
My husband was designated two jobs during the planning process. One was obviously picking out the tuxedos. He chose Choppa &;Son for the tuxes. Black would have clashed with the Tiffany Blue that the bridesmaids would be wearing, so he decided that grey tuxes would look best. The grey tuxes looked awesome! Instead of the standard look of a tuxedo, they looked more like formal suits, which gave the groomsmen a very modern look.
The second job my husband was given was to make the limo arrangements. He chose Premiere Limousine and opted for a 20-passenger Excursion. Our wedding party consisted of five bridesmaids, six groomsmen, and a bride and groom. We did not want everyone to be packed into a tiny limo so we figured that getting one that was made to fit more people than we had in our wedding party would ensure that people could travel comfortably.
Instead of traditional wedding favors we provided a candy bar for our guests. We ordered different types of candy in various shades of blue. The candy was displayed beautifully during the reception and Saratoga National provided the candy jars, scoops, and bags for us.
Guests loved the candy bar in addition to the cake because they could take home something sweet for later on after the party was over.
While there were a few bumps in the road when planning our wedding day, everything truly did work out in the end. Brides need to understand that they cannot fully please every family member, guest, bridesmaid, groomsman, etc. My best advice to all brides, and grooms, is to remember that this is YOUR day. Do what makes YOU happy and plan YOUR wedding the way YOU have always envisioned it would be. Best of luck to any brides and grooms reading this, and HAPPY PLANNING!