16+ Tips from One Happy Mother of the Bride Plus a List of Her Local Faves
With nests for the most part empty, our lives are transitioning from the bittersweet graduation season to the phase of life known as wedding season, when our own and our posse’s children and members of their posses start getting hitched. While Bridezillas provide the most colorful tales, here at The Gracious Posse we love a beautiful wedding story sans the angst and tears. How delighted we are that one of our own has offered to share how she pulled off an at-home wedding and lived to tell the tale with a smile on her face.
We previously featured aKs’s colorful and comfortable home filled with family and needlepoint momentos in Reflecting Motherly Love: A Tale of Two Christmas Trees. The mother of three girls, aKs had over a year to plan the early May wedding of her oldest. With common sense and aplomb, she embraced the challenge and created an event filled with meaning and love. Here aKs offers her encouragement to others considering a similar approach with these tips she learned along the way.
1. Embrace the Digital Age
While aKs likes the old-fashioned notebook for keeping everything at her fingertips, the 29-year-old bride, accustomed to operating in the digital age, preferred a collaborative cloud approach. They compromised by keeping the guest list and gift list on Google Docs, and mom, acting as the wedding planner for most all of the details except the food, printed copies of all of the contracts for her physical notebook that rarely left her side. Additionally the bride managed all of the wedding communications with the bridal party (presumably by group text).
b. Social Media
You can’t host a wedding these days without a hashtag. It’s usually a play on the bride and/or groom’s names. Embrace the convenience and spread the word. Once the wedding is over, open Instagram, search the hashtag and relive the wedding through candid photos taken by all the smart-phone-wielding guests.
2. Choose Your Battles
Even though the party is at your house, chances are, in this Pinterest world and after attending a few weddings, your bride will have pretty strong ideas of the look she wants. In aKs’s case, she expected that her colorful home
would set the tone for the wedding, but the bride insisted on neutrals. The bride also had no interest in a wedding cake. aKs realized that she wasn’t going to win these battles but did insist on having the photographer provide a wedding album, an expense most brides are happy to forego (see 1b above). In the end, aKs embraced most of her daughter’s choices and was pleasantly surprised how well they worked.
3. Focus on Your Outdoor Spaces ASAP
aKs had a lovely yard to start but used the year+ of planning to get it in tip-top shape with Plant by Design’s help. As a result despite a week of rain prior to the wedding day, the yard held up great. There were only a very few muddy spots on which, in hindsight, aKs would have laid some straw.
Don’t forget to keep your neighbors in the loop, too. aKs lives on a narrow street with a cul-de-sac, where everyone knows each other. Neighbors made space for necessary vehicles, and aKs arranged for bus transportation for most of the guests.
Most localities will require parking permits if you want to provide valet parking and restrict parking, so plan accordingly. The Golden Rule applies: be good to your neighbors, and they will be good to you.
4. Plant the Bourbon Bottle
If you want to insure that it doesn’t rain on the wedding, aKs swears by this old wives tale. Plant a bottle of bourbon on the site where the ceremony will take place exactly one month before the wedding is to take place at the same time that it is schedule to begin.
Despite the dreary weather forecast the entire week of the wedding, aKs remained confident and, behold, the skies cleared two hours before the bride walked down the aisle and just in time to capture these pictures.
Bourbon played another role in the Derby Day wedding. The guests sipped on bourbon-based mint juleps as they gathered around a flat screen tv that made its way outside before dinner was served to watch the Run for the Roses. What a great icebreaker for all of the guests – especially the one who won $100!
5. Set a Budget Early On and Stick With It
Wedding costs can easily spiral out of control. You need to clearly communicate the budget with your bride. aKs’s husband even offered to let the bride and groom keep any difference between the budget and the actual expense. How’s that for incentive?
Your wedding planner will be full of recommendations: that’s part of her job. While most of her ideas will sound amazing, every one of them has a cost. Don’t feel bad for saying no to her suggestions. The process itself will help you and the bride narrow in on what is important.
6. Invest in a Design Theme
Having a design theme that you can use throughout different aspects of the wedding will actually help with decisions as you get down to the smallest details. The bride is blessed to have the friendship of artist and fellow Sewanee graduate Harrison Blackford, who created the initial artwork for the Save the Date card. Her design married aKs’s bold front door with a more neutral leaf and became the basis of the stationery suite that Typecase Industries created for the wedding. aKs’s money saving tip with the stationery wardrobe: use a postcard for the rsvp card.
7. Get a B*!%h
Ask a friend with thick skin and a can-do attitude to be your people: the person you can express your frustrations to and call on when you get in a pinch. Even if it is just helping to roll and tie 700 napkins and forks with ribbon, you will find jobs that you will need to delegate, no questions asked. Graciously accept any and all offered help.
8. Hire Extra Help at Your House
a. Housekeeper – aKs engaged a housekeeper who arrived about 2½ hours before the wedding began. The woman straightened and continually vacuumed. She put gifts away and kept the in-house bathroom cleaned throughout the evening.
b. Hair and Makeup – The bridesmaids arrived at aKs’s in plenty of time for primping and lunch. With 3 hairstylists and one makeup artist at the house, the girls felt pampered and the bride relaxed as they wined and dined on a delicious lunch provided by the wedding caterer.
c. Ironing – The bridesmaids dresses will likely need touching up. Have them corralled at your house days before the wedding and hire someone to come and iron. Then you can check that worry off of your list.
9. Incorporate Your Own Dishware, Furniture and Accessories
Why not use what you have and help your budget? aKs shopped her home for extra tables for the dessert bar and used her collected antique plates there as well.
Once the bride had determined that she wanted a relaxed feel for the wedding with farm tables, aKs and her daughter did some shopping at one of their favorite stores, Terrain, for tabletop accessories and signs. The bride will be able to use some of these items in her home, and aKs hopes to sell the extras.
10. Welcome Bags Are De Rigueur
If you have guests coming from out-of-town, you want to be sure that they feel welcomed. aKs and the bride chose meaningful items, as well as a printed card including the schedule and description of all of the wedding events, to express their love and appreciation for the travel. Using Scout bags in honor of one of her bridesmaids who works for the popular company, they gifted RVA’s 3 Sisters cheese straws, Hubs peanuts, Martha’s Vineyard coffee (a nod to the family’s annual vacation retreat) and aKs’s homemade chocolate and sprinkled pretzel rods, a favorite treat aKs would make for her children and friends when they were growing up.
11. Limit Houseguests to Immediate Family on the Wedding Eve
aKs’s family spent one last night together as just a family of five. Waking up to a normal household started the wedding day on a peaceful note. A last walk with the bride before the crazy final preparations began was a special treat for her mom and dad.
12. Plan a First Look for the Bride and Groom
Every wedding faces this debate: pictures before or after the ceremony? Traditionalists can’t abide the thought that the groom will see the bride before she walks down the aisle, but the post-wedding formal photo shoot can take an hour as the photography team tries to get all those special family and wedding party shots. The modern solution: the Bride and Groom’s First Look. Private time with only the photographer to capture the intimate moments, the first look has become a thing, and allows the reception to get under way immediately after the bride and groom head up the aisle.
13. Use Stemless Wine and Champagne Glasses
Even though the vast majority of the wedding was held outside, aKs’s house was used for Kentucky Derby watching and as a quiet getaway during all of the festivities. Eliminate any worries over spills both inside and out by using stemless wine and champagne glasses. aKs was thrilled with this decision and that her rental company could obtain them.
14. Let the Florist Be Flexible
Once the bride set the date, the location and the color scheme, aKs engaged one of RVA’s favorite floral designers, David Pippin.
Knowing they were in great hands, they gave him the budget and carte blanche within the bride’s color parameters.
You can save a lot of money if you don’t have your heart set on one type of flower that may not be available or only at a hefty price.
David used soft white roses and salmon-colored ranunculus to stunning effect.
Another cost-saving idea from aKs: let the bridesmaid’s bouquets serve as the flower arrangements on the dinner tables. Just leave some vases unfilled until after the wedding and ask the maids to stow their arrangements in them.
15. Put Wedding on AmEx or An Affinity Card
A wedding is one of life’s big budget items. Why not take advantage of the best rewards card that you can to charge all possible wedding costs? aKs used her American Express for practically every wedding purchase, allowing her to …
16. Plan a Post-Wedding Getaway
whether with girlfriends or husband. Planning an at-home wedding is not for the faint of heart. Knowing that a reward awaits at the end of the months’ long planning may get you through those moments when you question your sanity in agreeing to host this shindig. aKs chose France with girlfriends, and from the looks of it on Facebook, she is having a marvelous post-nuptial time.
In no particular order, aKs recommends these vendors who helped make her first bride’s day so unique and memorable.
- David Pippin, florist extraordinaire
- Harrison Blackford, artwork design
- Typecase Industries, stationery designer and printer
- Fête Weddings, wedding planner
- Brian Coates, Everyday Gourmet, caterer
- Sweet Fix, Manchester
- Paisley & Jade, rentals
- Rent-E-Quip Rentals, Petersburg
- Shine Blowdry, hair and makeup
- Meg Runion, photographer
- Lighting Professors, tent lighting
- Edmonds Waste, black-tie port-a-potties
- Plant by Design, landscaping
Over coffee a few days after the wedding, aKs was beaming with pleasure about how smoothly all of the festivities ran. She truly enjoyed hosting her oldest daughter’s wedding in the home where she raised her family. The setting provided an intimate spot filled with personal meaning and fun for their nearest and dearest. With aKs’s tips and vendors, you too might be able to pull off such a meaningful day for a beloved child and live to tell the tale with a smile on your face.
May 24, 2016