My Top 10 Wedding Planning Tips

I’ve spent the past five weeks reminiscing about the best day of my life and it has been an absolute joy to share it with y’all. As a quick recap, I shared our wedding vision, the hotel we chose, our day at the track, our “I Do BBQ” rehearsal dinner and finally, the big day. This eight month engagement process was a true mix of emotions – at times I was stressed or anxious (mostly about the weather! ha) but the vast majority of the days I was excited and eager to plan the wedding of my dreams. And that it was.

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Without a doubt, the best money you can spend is when you hire a coordinator. Whether that means a day of coordinator (like I had) or a full fledged wedding planner, you’ll need someone by your side that you can count on. And I don’t mean a friend or your mom (they have enough to worry about). The actual wedding day flies by so it’s critical to have a person in place that is checking every detail for you. Your job that day is to relax, have fun, and live in the moment!

If there is one word you need to remember it is this: organization. Let me say it again…organization, organization, organization. Lucky for me, I have a super duper case of OCD and I just loved carrying my wedding binder around with me and having every contract and timeline perfectly color coded. If you’re not organized, get a wedding binder and do your best. Better yet, find a wedding planner who is & follow their lead.

The initial stages of planning can be very overwhelming so it’s important to know your priorities. For my fiance and I, we know that we wanted a destination wedding with (a) open bar (b) good music and (c) an outside venue. Those were the three factors that were non-negotiables for us and we stuck to it. For some, it may be a designer dress and for others it may be a certain meal. Whatever you & your soon-to-be-hubby really want on your big day is what you should prioritize.

Which brings me to my next piece of advice: make it your own. I can’t even tell you how many people are going to give their (unsolicited) advice and let you know loud & clear what’s important to them. Guess what? Who cares! This day is about the bride + groom and the day should reflect what y’all want it to, not what your wedding planner or maid of honor or mother in law want. What you want. Now is the one phase in your life where it’s okay to be selfish- in fact, I suggest it!

A good way to stay within budget and to kick off the weekend is to keep the rehearsal dinner low key. Now I know many will disagree with me, but I can’t recommend it enough. There was nothing better than having guests show up, feeling calm & comfortable, and enjoying a BBQ dinner outside, under the stars! We ate good food, we drank good beer, we danced to live music, we told funny stories, etc. This vibe carried over into the wedding day and everyone really felt that they could be themselves – too many weddings are stuffy these days. Where’s the fun in that?!

A piece of advice that is applicable to really anything in life, but especially on your big day is to trust your gut. If you’re feeling pressure to do one thing but don’t really want to, speak up. If this whole wedding planning thing is just way too expensive and overwhelming and an elopement is what you want deep down, do it! Remember what I said about being selfish?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…negotiate everything. Maybe it’s the salesperson in me or maybe it’s the insane inflated prices that come with weddings these days but oh my goodness, please negotiate! I cannot tell you how much money I saved by negotiating with vendors. You want flowers? Sure they’re $100/centerpiece. Oh, they’re for your wedding? I meant $500/centerpiece. True. Story. There will be vendors you have to walk away from and there will be vendors that will work within your budget. Find them.

As you get closer to the big day, it’s important to delegate where possible. If asking for help isn’t your strong suit (or you’re type A like me) now is the time to get over that and let others help you! Your friends, family & bridal party are there to be supportive in every way, even if that means your dad is super gluing together ceremony fans 72 hours before the wedding (sorry dad!). Most everyone has something they’re good at so put them to work – y’all know the saying…together we achieve more!

Everyone told us to prepare that something will go wrong. And so we did. We had our mentality that “it is what it is” and if Mother Nature decides to unleash her fury on our wedding day, so be it. If one of the groomsmen ends up being that guy and making an ass of himself all night, so be it. We were prepared. Thankfully, we had the best luck one can have on our wedding day and everything went right. In fact, it went better than planned. That, or I was too much in complete bliss all day to notice any different 🙂

Lastly, remember this moment. The best thing Terry and I did at our wedding was, about 2/3 of the way through the reception, we snuck away to take a moment for just us. We were in the field looking back on our tent full of our 120 most loved ones in the world. It wasn’t lost on us that all of these people were here to celebrate our love and that there likely won’t be another moment where my 85 year old grandmother is dancing next to Terry’s childhood best friend. This day will be the absolute best day of your life and one that will be in your heart forever. Do your best to soak. it. all. in.

What’s your best wedding planning tip?!

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Our Wedding, Part 5: Ceremony + Reception

SO…now that you’ve see our vision, our hotel, our day at the track & our rehearsal dinner, let’s talk about the big day! In fact, I think I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves. All I’ll say is this: the day was absolutely perfect – better than I even dreamed – and I was so sad for it to end. The food, the drink, the music, the flowers, the people, the weather, the clothes…everything was perfect. Terry & I were on cloud nine the entire day and looking through these pictures takes us right back there. The day flew by (as everyone said it would) but we did our best to soak it all up. So, without further adieu, here is our wedding day:

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Fine Art Wedding Photographer Matthew Moore

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T&I wedding

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A special thank you to our fabulous vendors: Venue, Saratoga Polo Club; Catering + Cake, Old Daley Catering; Florist, Blooms for Rooms; Musicians, All Seasons Trio; DJ, Cool Hand Luke; Chairs, Total Events; Photography, Matthew Moore; Videography, The Pros; Invitations, Wedding Paper Divas; Dress, Sweet Elegance Bridal; Tuxedos, Ludlow; Event Design, BellWether Theory; Accommodations, Pavilion Grand Hotel + Hilton Garden Inn.

 

Our Wedding Part 4: I Do BBQ

Welcome back to the 4th installment of our wedding weekend! You can catch up reading about our hotel, our vision, and our day at the track. I’ve got to say, the energy on that Friday was amazing – the track really kicked off the weekend and allowed everyone to mingle and get to know each other (since 105 out of 112 guests attended!). By the time our Friday night rehearsal dinner rolled around, it felt like new friends were old friends. Is there any better feeling?!

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Last picture as an engaged couple 🙂

Terry & I had one goal for Friday night: a relaxed, fun backyard BBQ. Given that the track day was fancy & our wedding was black tie optional, we wanted everyone to be able to have a laid back evening and simply enjoy each other’s company. The weather was 70 and slightly overcast so it was absolutely perfect for an evening outside. Here are a few things we did to create this vibe:

Our venue, The Museum of Dance, was a private, indoor/outdoor space where we could bring in any vendors of our choice. We set up round dining tables in the large foyer which had high ceilings, large white columns, floor to ceiling windows and french doors opening to a huge courtyard set up with live music, lawn games, a self serve bar and plenty of additional seating. The museum was also conveniently located two doors down from the hotel that 90% of our guests were staying at, so everyone was able to walk over which made it so easy.

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The front of the museum

We opted to rent some items from Rustic Robin, a local company who kindly dropped off the items & picked them back up the day after. It made the process so much easier – I was going for a rustic theme so we opted for bride & groom cornhole, adult jenga & a few assorted frames with twine. We used these to display our travel pictures and to help our guests build our “bucket list” by suggesting places we should travel together. We kept the table decor to a minimum, simply grouping some old wine bottles, baby pictures & candles together. Everyone had fun seeing pictures of Terry & I throughout the years – I love personal touches like this for a rehearsal dinner.

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Our bucket list table, filled with pictures & suggestion cards

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Simply yet pretty table settings – see adorable baby T’s picture?!

Our musician, Rob Pulsifer, provided hours of live music with his guitar & vocals – he stuck to mainly country, rock & classics. Think Tom Petty, Darius Rucker & Lynard Skynard. You could dance, sing along, or just enjoy the tunes. Having live music was a huge plus.

We hired Dinosaur BBQ for our catering. The smells alone drew people in. They set up a huge smoker on the property about 5 hours before the event and they handled every single piece of the dinner, from setup to service to break down. Their barbecue was outstanding – and this is coming from a Southerner! We still hear friends talking about how delicious it was. (If you’re ever in the upstate NY area you must go there for a meal!) Our guests dined on pulled pork, beef brisket, bbq chicken and all of the fixins- mac ‘n cheese, collards, coleslaw & cornbread. We had white wine, rosé, red wine, IPAs, Corona light and, of course, sweet tea. We made sure no guest left hungry, that’s for sure!

Also, we also had some delicious, beautiful cupcakes from Gregg’s (our dear friends are the owners) but we didn’t snap any photos – I think we were all too busy eating them!

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Dino bbq food

This food was to die for (pic via)

Lastly, we kept the formality to a minimum. My matron of honor, Christen, gave a beautiful speech about friendship & love. Terry’s best man, Edward, gave a funny, loving speech regarding Terry’s “pre-Alexis” days & offered some marriage advice. We all spent about four hours eating BBQ, swapping stories, dancing & laughing together.

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My UGA girlfriends, beautiful as always

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Some of Terry’s group of friends that he’s grown up with

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My Atlanta girls enjoying our Polaroid + props table

 

(Y’all know Mela had to make an appearance…jockey outfit and all!)

We ended the night feeling so much love & support from our wedding guests and it was the absolute best feeling to have the day before you’re saying ” I do”. We couldn’t have asked for a better rehearsal dinner and I would do it exactly the same way all over again!

Next up…our wedding ceremony + reception!

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Our Wedding, Part 3: A Day at the Track

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So if you’re just tuning in to this special 5 part series about our wedding, you can read my previous posts about our wedding weekend hotel and our vision. Long story short, our overall “theme” (for lack of a better word) was a lively, loving, all-inclusive weekend where our friends & families could truly get to know each other.

In lieu of a bridesmaids brunch or a groomsmen lunch the day before our wedding, we chose to take all of our guests to the Saratoga Race Track to enjoy a day of eating, drinking, mingling and, of course, horse racing! The city of Saratoga Springs thrives off of this long-standing tradition and during the 6 weeks of the year that the track is open, the charm & beauty is amplified.

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the “paddock” area of the race track

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We loved seeing our old friends becoming new friends

With over 100 guests in tow, we rented the Big Red Spring Tent and stocked it full of beer, wine, water, snacks, etc. We had decorated picnic tables, flat screen tvs and plenty of seating (and shade!). Guests were able to roam between our tent and the track, stopping to view the beautiful horses in between. We spent about 6 hours there and everyone had a ball – we even had a few big winners!

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decorative details…

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all eyes on the t.v. when the race goes off!

It was so fun to see the excitement and surprise on our guests’ faces when they walked into track – it feels like you’ve gone back in time in the absolute best way.

Sear sucker suits, big poofy dresses, floppy hats, mint juleps – you name it, we had it! Loved ones were laughing, high fiving & loving every moment.

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University of Georgia best friends!

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with my best girl friends from childhood…30+ years of friendship here!

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the beautiful women of my family

 We felt so lucky that the vast majority of our guests were able to attend. I think they were all very appreciative that this was a different type of pre-wedding activity – it was relaxed, interesting & fun!

All in all, the day at the track was an absolute success, even more than we’d hoped! It’s a very unique, special event and one that most of our guests had never attended.

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almost Mr. & Mrs…

We love that everyone is still talking about the day and we are so glad that we opted to do it. While it may have been nontraditional, it was the best way for us to blend our two sets of families & friends. It was perfectly “us”!

Our Wedding, Part 2: Our Vision

Today I’m sharing our wedding vision. We got engaged in December 2016 but didn’t actually pick a wedding venue until February 2017. Why, you might ask? Well, I’ve never been one of those girls who knew exactly when & where I wanted to get married. I always know how I wanted to feel and the vibe I wanted, but that was about all. Terry & I were immediately on the same page about what we wanted for our wedding – a weekend together with our closest friends & families in a place that was special to us. Our #1 goal was to have the weekend feel inclusive to all while keeping it fun, personal and chalk full of love & laughter. That is, in a nut shell, our relationship after all. We love having fun together – we laugh every single day – and we love spending time with loved ones.

After many, many hours of research (and a few site visits), we decided on Saratoga Springs, New York.

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There were a few reasons for this:

For me, this is essentially a Southern town set in the North – it exudes charm, friendliness & that small town vibe I love.

For Terry, this is a town built around horse racing – something he grew up watching and that is very near and dear to his heart.

For us, this was a destination for all our guests – from Georgia to Cali to New Jersey – that was brand new to them. The unknown provided a sense of excitement & wonder and it really allowed us show our guests why we love this city so much.

Fun Fact: One of our first weekend trips away was to Saratoga Springs, NY back in fall of 2015 – Terry introduced me to horse racing and I quickly fell in love with the sport, and with the lovely town of Saratoga Springs, NY.

Over the next five weeks I’ll share more details but here is a little sneak peek of what our weekend entailed…

Thursday Welcome Drinks

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Friday Day at the Track

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Friday night BBQ

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Saturday Wedding + Reception

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I can’t wait to share more…

 

Our Wedding, Part 1: The Pavilion Grand Hotel

It’s crazy to think that five short weeks ago we were checking into our hotel room at the Pavilion Grand for our wedding weekend. It feels like just yesterday that we stepped into the most beautiful hotel room in Saratoga Spring, NY and unpacked all of our clothing, gifts, wedding decor, etc. Truthfully, it felt like we had our own home for the weekend, which was exactly what we wanted.

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If you’ve been following along on this journey, you’ve read about why we chose this hotel (details here). To briefly recap, we wanted a hotel room that felt more like a “home away from home” since we were flying in over 100 guests from all over the U.S. and many of them (50+) would at some point in time, join us in the room.

I must admit, calling this a “room” is a bit misleading – our two story penthouse hotel room was over 1,000 square feet and about a million times nicer than our actual apartment. It was outfitted with huge floor to ceiling windows, high end stainless appliances, two balconies and a full size laundry room. The two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom setup was ideal for hosting. We spent Thursday night hosting a welcome reception for over 30 close family & friends (more to come on that!) and Sunday morning having brunch and pre-track drinks with more family & friends. We chose this specific hotel suite for the layout as it was ideal for hosting.

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Our exact room – bottom level living space

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Our guest bedroom – on the second floor

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The second bathroom – our master one was quite larger

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The upstairs living area, with doors leading to a large balcony

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The upstairs balcony area (didn’t snap a picture of the first floor one, which was a bit smaller)

 

The real appeal though was the “day of”…the preparation leading up to the main event. Between bridesmaids (I only had 5), hair & makeup, parents, photographers, videographers, florists, caterers & friends dropping in, I was beyond thankful to have this huge, spacious room where everyone could talk, relax & enjoy the day. We never felt overcrowded or uncomfortable. For any of you brides out there, I cannot recommend enough the importance of having space on your wedding day! This alone was worth the splurge.

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 Gifts for my bridesmaids & our parents

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Mis-matched, long blush bridesmaids dresses made for the most beautiful combination

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 Bouquets & My dress

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With my beautiful mama

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The magician makeup & hair artist, Katie

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SO glad she talked me into this bright pink lip!

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So much natural lighting in this living space

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Perhaps my favorite picture of the day

Now it would be unfair of my to share my experience without bragging on the fabulous staff at the Pavilion Grand Hotel. From the moment we arrived, we were treated like absolute royalty (doesn’t everyone want to feel this way on their wedding weekend?!). The bellman, the valet, the front desk staff – they were all so kind, friendly & professional. We had an ice cold bottle of champagne waiting in our kitchen when we arrived and they were very accommodating with every request we had.We even ordered a few meals from the on-site cafe which we wolfed down really enjoyed.

Hint to all you brides: my bridesmaids all had their hair done in the hotel salon, Make Me Fabulous, and they were amazing! Each of the girls had blowouts with a twist (one had a braid, one half up/half down, etc.) and they were beautiful, stylish & so far from “wedding hair”, which was exactly what we were going for. Seriously can’t recommend them enough.

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My beautiful bridesmaids

All in all, the Pavilion Grand Hotel was absolutely the best choice, without a doubt. They elevated our wedding weekend to the next level and made us feel like a million bucks. If you’re getting married in Saratoga Springs – stay here! You can thank me later 🙂

A huge thanks to the Pavilion Grand Hotel. Though I received a discounted rate for this post, opinions & thoughts are all my own.

Wedding Planning: Highs & Lows

Well, we did it! This past weekend we got married!! Best day of our lives, hands down. I’m still combing through photos (and anxiously awaiting the professional ones, which I know will take some time) so I’m going to hold off on recapping the actual wedding until those come in. So I thought I’d share some wedding planning highs & lows that I experienced over the past 8 months…

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Before I got engaged, I always heard that wedding planning was one of the most stressful times of your life. I feel very fortunate that I did not have this experience. Now, let me be clear – there were a handful of times that I thought I may lose it. However, the vast majority of the time (like 90%), it was fun and creative and exciting!

HIGHS

This comes as no surprise but we just loved all of the parties – our engagement party, our wedding showers and our bachelor/ette parties. Because we live out of state, it was such a fun excuse to get all of our families & friends together to celebrate us. We were incredibly spoiled by everyone around us and we just appreciate them so much.

Receiving the wedding RSVPs may have been my favorite part. While we had a general idea of who was/wasn’t coming, it was SO fun opening our mailbox & seeing everyone’s cute notes and event selections. It became a nightly ritual for us to open these together and I’ll definitely miss this.

One of the most fun parts of being engaged was definitely registering! We lucked out that Crate & Barrel had a “engaged only” event where they shut down the store, served coffee & breakfast and let us roam around for 2 hours. We got to make mock place settings, try out different appliances, and touch/feel everything. This was SO much fun! Williams-Sonoma has this too (our timing didn’t work) and I can’t recommend this enough. It’s such an easy, fun way to get your fiancee involved in the planning process.

LOWS

One of the hardest parts of planning was for sure the guest list. On one hand, we wanted to invite everyone that we’re friends with; however, we didn’t want a large wedding, nor did we have the budget for it. I can’t stress enough how much it dictates everything – the size of your wedding party, the amount you spend, the vibe of the wedding, the venue you choose…everything is effected by the guest list. Our goal number was 115 and we ended up at 113…right on target!

Let’s be honest…without a doubt, one of the most stressful parts of planning a wedding is discussing budget. Regardless of how much money you have/are gifted, you have to be realistic about what you’re comfortable spending. For us, it was important to be objective with our money and try to get the best bang for our buck with every purchase. I wish we had set a budget prior to looking at venues; however, we lucked out that our #1 venue fell within budget. Given that I am a huge saver, not spender….it was really tough for me to spend this money. I can’t tell you how many times we had the conversation of “should we have eloped and saved all this money?” but in the end, it was worth every penny.

Now that we’re finished with the wedding planning & the big day is over (still so hard to believe), I can honestly say that I am really enjoyed being engaged and for us, 8 months was the perfect amount of time. What a fabulous 8 months it was!

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wedding dress shopping

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Engagement photos

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save the dates

What were your highs & lows of wedding planning?!