As a bride planning her own wedding, I paid particular attention to the events of the day–the schedule. I called it the itinerary. My groom’s parents made fun of me for it; they’d never really had a traditional American wedding for any of their children so they didn’t know how important it was to get all the deets in order. It is, obviously, very important. As a wedding photographer, I spend a great deal of time working on the wedding day timeline for each of my brides. A good timeline helps get you to everything on time and helps ensure you get the photographs and moments that you want to get on this all-important day.
Creating a great wedding day timeline is truly an art form. I’ve honed the process over the years; with each bride, I’ve improved the process a bit. Or a lot. Wedding photographers have a varying level of involvement in creating the wedding day timeline. I pretty much told my wedding photographer what was happening and when. It worked out just fine. For my brides, I gather as much detail as possible from the bride and groom, run it through a magic information decipherer, and then put together an amazing spreadsheet rough draft for the bride to review and approve.
Questions to ask when creating your wedding day timeline
Do we want to see one another for the first time before the ceremony or during the ceremony?
This is the first big question that defines the schedule of your big day. And this decision is really personal and depends on who the two of you are as individuals and as a couple. Are you two distracted by or intimidated by being in front of others? Do you find it difficult to express moments during important moments? If your answer to either of these questions is “yes,” then you might opt for a first look.
On the other hand: Is tradition important to you? Do you prefer to keep special moments in their traditional place? If so, you might opt for a ceremony first look.
How many pictures do you anticipate wanting?
If mass pictures your goal on your wedding day–plenty of family groupings, tons of wedding party hangout time, and lots of party pics–you might want to be sure to space out your events accordingly. For instance, plan for your guests to have snacks to munch on while you gather your groups together for the appropriate time. We’ve all been to weddings where we waited for what seemed like forever for the bride and groom to show up to the reception. When we had food, the impatience was assuaged–music and food made the wait even easier!
I tell my brides to expect each family gathering to expect at least 3 minutes for each family gathering. And more time with bridal parties equates to more images delivered of the bridal party. When putting together the wedding day timeline, keep this timing in mind so that you can set realistic expectations for your photographer, yourself, and your wedding party.
How far apart are your desired photography locations from your venue(s)?
Some brides have an all-in-one venues, complete with scenic backdrops for photography, a ceremony location, and a party room. These brides don’t have to plan much more than a flight of stairs between events on the wedding day.
If you are traveling between the ceremony location and the reception venue, be sure to allow time for that in your timeline. If you want to go to a specific location for your bridal party pictures or your bride and groom pictures, make sure you have ample time–with a little cushion in case there’s traffic. I’ve even had a bride use Uber to commute from a getting ready location to the ceremony reception.
Do you want getting ready pictures taken? Which getting-ready images do you want?
If you’re looking for the iconic hairspray pictures, you’ll want to be sure you’ve contracted enough hours for your photographer to capture that moment. When will it happen? Ask your hair stylist. Will your make-up be done within the hours you’ve contracted your photographer? Double-check with both.
If you’re not interested in too many getting-ready pictures, you might consider having your photographer capture the final details of getting ready: your mother lacing up the dress, attaching your “something old” earrings, grandma putting on your “something borrowed” bracelet, your sister carefully placing your tiara. This can usually take 15 to 30 minutes to complete.
This is one of the big things to bring up to your photographer during the initial contact or a month or two before your wedding day.
What reception events do you care about?
When planning your reception, keep in mind when your photographer’s coverage ends. The best idea is to front-load your events: cake cutting, dinner prayer, first dances, etc. Obviously, dinner is in there; but you’ll get far more events covered if they are front-loaded. And, honestly, after a while, dance party pictures all look the same. Keep this in mind when planning your wedding day timeline.
How long is your ceremony?
Most of my brides have Protestant ceremonies, which last about a half hour or so. But if your wedding is a Catholic wedding, the ceremony may last significantly longer. Personally, I pause photography coverage about 45 minutes before the ceremony; this chunk of time is important for transitioning, last-minute detail shots, and for a little padding in case Mom is running late or you hit traffic.
How important is it that you have detail shots of your wedding day?
I love detail shots! They really do convey your personalities and the atmosphere of the day. If you love detail shots as much as I do, you should be sure to allow for that in your schedule. For instance, if you want pictures of your dress, be sure to allow time for the photographer to snag your dress before you dress; the more detail shots you want, the more loosely you’ll want to set up your wedding day timeline.
Usually, when we plan a wedding in mid- to late-May, we assume the weather will be mild–maybe, MAYBE a little rainy. Even though Kourtney and Brett had a day with overcast skies and cold Canadian winds, the day was so sweet. And there was no rain. Whew!
And Kourtney, you are a stunning bride!
And your groom, what a hunk!
I absolutely love when brides have a first look for their fathers. I’m going to encourage more of these to my future brides. They get me every time!
I loved Kourtney and Brett’s flowers! The groomsmen’s boutonnieres! I mean! Look at ’em!
Kourtney and Brett: The Ceremony
Kourtney and Brett’s ceremony was an awesome picture of their devotion to Christ. I mean, I truly believe Christ will express excitement upon seeing His bride come to Him! Think of it! I love the symbolism of a marriage and wedding ceremony. And I love that these two stopped the ceremony for a couple of praise and worship songs. I mean, what can be better than capturing a love story while literally singing praises to God!?
We ventured back outside for a few wedding party shots after the ceremony and these peeps were troopers! I mean, look at those rolling hills! The winds were just whispering over the field. It truly was beautiful. And the guys thought it would be fun to frisk Jimmy, here. These guys were a riot!
Once we got to the reception venue, Neltner’s Farm, we got some stunning pictures of Kourtney and Brett. Seriously, the farm grounds are beautiful! I’d shoot here every day and twice on Sundays and still have a wonderful time!
Kourtney and Brett: The Reception
And seriously, this cake by The Sweeterie! It was as delicious as it was beautiful! Kourtney is actually a baker and works with Susan over at The Sweeterie. They don’t do cakes very often, but, in case you didn’t now, we should all make exceptions for the amazing Kourtney! :)
Kourtney and Brett danced to the most romantic version of 500 Miles that I’ve ever heard. I added it t my playlist and can’t get enough!
Now, in the photography world, a lot of photographers will complain about dry wedding receptions. But, seriously, I will never complain about them. Ever. One of the plethora of reasons: These GUESTS! And DJ Rob put on one heck of a party. Everyone had a blast!
Do any of you remember Kailee? She is my go-to video referral with Reel Love In Focus. She’s also Kourtney’s sister. Here’s an epic capture of her failure during the bouquet toss. Kailee, I love you.
And people had a nice time in the photobooth. Kourtney wanted the photobooth to match the theme of her wedding, so we used the inside of the barn as the backdrop.
Kourtney and Brett: The Exit
Lastly, we capped off the evening with a super romantic sparkler exit. I love how many people stuck around for this exit! It made it so special and fun!
Kourtney and Brett,
I loved capturing your day and telling your story. Thank you for the honor of trusting me with your big day, your priceless images, and, most of all, your Christ-centered love story.
I wish the both of you an amazing marriage–that you’ll lean in toward one another during hard times and rejoice together during the happy times. And that there will be plenty of happy times.
Kourtney and Brett: Vendors
Cake Artist: Susan of The Sweeterie
DJ: Rob of Showtime Cincinnati
Church: Piner Baptist Church
Tent Service: Adventage Tent and Party Rental
Reception Venue: Neltner’s Farm
The average American wedding in America was around $32,000 in 2015. Thirty-two thousand! To me, this sounds crazy. Is it even possible to have a debt-free wedding?
If you have ever planned a wedding, you know that the cost adds up quickly. A typical American wedding seems to require at least one venue–sometimes two– in addition to a photographer, food, entertainment, flowers, an officiant, fancy clothing, jewelry, gifts, favors, a rehearsal party, and lodging. Then there are options that many soon-to-be-wed couples tack on: videography, a photobooth, websites, a wedding planner, and even special transportation.
I know that, when I was planning my wedding, I didn’t have, like, any money. And, at least at the beginning, I was paying fo the whole shebang by myself. But we got through planning and executing an amazing day with very little debt.
You can do it too.
Debt-Free Wedding: How To
I’m not going to lie. Having a debt-free wedding will not be the easiest thing you’ve ever done in your life. Think about it this way: You will likely be working the hours to make up for the money saved. If you’re okay with that, then go for it. If you’re not, then you may want to reconsider your endeavor. But, seriously, I encourage you to work for it. You’ll be glad you did after the flowers die, the food is digested, and all that remains is your memories. No debt–just memories. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
Tip 1: Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses
Admitting we have a weakness is not easy. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we will save ourselves stress, heartache, and maybe even sleepless nights. Honest self-reflection can allow you to save money without you, instead, losing your flippin’ mind during the entire wedding-planning process.
Personally, I don’t like admitting that I am no good at pulling triggers. I am so glad my man is a trigger-puller. I’d have all sorts of plans in process without anything actually happening if I didn’t have someone to make sure I completed the task.
But your weakness may not be the same as mind. Maybe you’re seriously no good at calligraphy; don’t set yourself up for the kind of stress that is failing at something when you could have been honest with yourself about your shortcomings. Just don’t. Maybe you’re no good at planning an actual wedding ceremony. Don’t let your wedding ceremony suffer; find someone to help you organize that day’s goings-on. You won’t regret it.
On the other hand, if you’re really good at making slideshows, by all means: Do it! Especially if you are engaged for a while; this is one of the things you can do early in your engagement and have it knocked out early. Maybe you’re really good at creating centerpieces; many brides enjoy these sorts of crafts and do them in front of the television on weeknights so they can check them off the list.
Be honest with yourself. It’s not worth saving money if you’ll lose it over cake flavors or the reception favors.
Tip 2: Find out who can pay for what
After the new bling on your finger has settled in and the planning begins, sit down with all parties involved–individually, if necessary–and find out what or if they are willing to contribute to the joyous occasion. Maybe your future mother-in-law has only sons and would love to help pay for your flowers. Perhaps your man’s parents can’t float the dough to pay for a rehearsal dinner. Maybe your parents will totally float the bill for your reception. Find out these deets as soon as possible so you can plan your financial obligations appropriately.
Tip 3: Adjust your expectations
Depending on how the money talk goes, you may have to adjust your expectations concerning your big day. If no one feels they can contribute anything to your big day, you may be a little bummed. But think of it this way: What’s important is that you are married to this awesome human being by the end of the day. This may mean scaling down the big day–particularly parts of it that are more costly.
What’s important to you? Do you need a big party or would a medium one suffice? Maybe even a destination wedding would save you in the long run.
You may even get amazing and unexpected news that someone will contribute in a way that allows you to really save some cash and then you can even splurge on something you never thought you’d be able to have.
Either way, take a step back from the excitement and focus on what’s important: Starting your life together. Because, when you know, you want forever to start right now–or as soon as possible.
Tip 4: Delegate it and forget it
This one may be the toughest thing to do ever. Maybe. This also depends on the type of people who surround you. Search for those in your trusted circle who are reliable and willing to offer. If they offer to help with specific things, try to make that work. If they offer in general, which many people may do, keep a list of those who offer and those who you trust. It’s important to tune into the trustworthiness of a person. The last thing you want it to think you’ve saved money only to find out that you have to shell out some clams at the last minute to buy flowers or favors or centerpieces.
It’s important to tune into the trustworthiness of a person. The last thing you want it to think you’ve saved money only to find out that you have to shell out some clams at the last minute to buy flowers or favors or centerpieces. Or, worse, you may trust the person but find out that they are not really good at what they’re offering. And your centerpieces look like junk or don’t even match your preferences.
Tip 5: Ask vendors about payment plans
You might be surprised that a lot of wedding vendors–photographers, caterers, etc.–are open to payment plans. For some reason, we don’t always advertise this. Hm. But most of us are delighted to accept a payment plan. For us, it’s a steady, reliable source of income. And, essentially, we set up payment plans so that we are paid in full by the original final payment date, anyway, so it still works for us and helps you as you navigate the finances of wedding-planning.
Honestly, all of your vendors start spending money and time on your big day almost as soon as you book with them; that’s why we usually have some sort of retainer fee. So, depending on the vendor, you may find a payment plan much easier to process than the typical larger chunks.
Debt-Free Wedding: Final thoughts and warnings
Sometimes, on our quest to manage wedding day finances, we skimp on things that aren’t cool to skimp on. You might think I’m going to talk about photography, but I’m going to surprise you.
Don’t forget about all of the people who are spending money, traveling, and spending a ton of time on your wedding. Be generous in your gifts for them: whether it is time, service, tangibles, or words. People want to feel appreciated. Hopefully they are not loving you so you’ll give them something but don’t let them begin to regret offering to throw you a shower, buying that dress that they could have done without, or driving hours to help you or even just to be in your wedding. Be sure you budget for generous gift-giving to those who are sacrificing for your big day.
Remember: The goal is to only get married once. Make it a wedding you won’t regret and be sure it’s a day you enjoy!
Proposal stories are all over the internet. You’ll find them on YouTube, Pinterest, and blogs galore. Early on, I told The Hunk that the proposal was important to me. I wanted a good story and I wanted to be surprised. Every girl I knew dreams of the proposal from the man with whom she’ll spend the rest of her life. I was no exception.
Before proposal videos and blog posts exploded on the internet, my hunk asked me to marry him.
On April 9, 2009, I was at Scott High School, where I was employed at the time, working after school with a student group. We were working on developing a community technology proposal for a state competition. With all of the love in my heart, I considered this a sort of nerd club. I got a call from the front office. I had a visitor.
What I couldn’t figure out is why the guest wasn’t on the way to my room. And who was this guest?
So, I walked up to the front office and the lovely secretary said that my visitor was out by my car.
I left the building and there he was–standing next to my car. I greeted him with a hug and sweet kiss. He was warm and calming. “What are you doing here?” I asked. He whipped out a beautiful bouquet of crisp, red roses. I stood, agape, and accepted them in my hands.
“This is one rose for every month since we met online,” he declared. I was speechless and could feel the union of my grin and some intense blushing. I had totally forgotten that we’d met online exactly 12 months previously. What a guy! What kind of guy remembers an anniversary that I had forgotten!? I was floored!
But I had a meeting and needed to get some things done with my students, as our plan needed more work for our upcoming state presentation. So, Seth joined me.
And I put him to work. The district had just installed a drop projector from my ceiling, but it wasn’t plugged in. I asked him to Jerry-rig the projector so that it’d be plugged in so I could finally use it in my classroom. I was pumped. I still remember seeing him walk across desk chairs and the desktop of my second desk. He’s such a graceful walker, I thought. And, also, we need to update his jeans wardrobe.
Eventually, I rushed through the rest of my meeting and gave the students jobs to do before the next meeting.
And we took off for my place.
We were sitting on the couch, the same couch where he’d once called me beautiful, and he said, “I thought we’d go for a walk so you can start working on your summer tan.” I was suspicious of his motives and, as I got up to change from my teacher clothes into casual clothes, I lost all self-control and slapped his right pocket. He must’ve known I was searching for a ring box.
“That’s just keys,” he said. Later, I learned that he’d just switched the ring box to the other pocket. I walked away to my room to change and use the restroom.
As I walked from my restroom, I looked in the mirror and mouthed to myself, “This may be the last time you see yourself not engaged!” Even if I didn’t get engaged that day, I was thrilled to see my man and to feel so cherished by his remembering our cyberversary, as we began to refer to it.
So we walked the path we’d walked so many times before. Except this time, I wanted to walk around the lake. The weather was beautiful. There were swans and geese on the lake and old men were fishing and little boys were riding tricycles on the path. The sun was shining from a virtually cloudless sky and the temperature was perfect for a walk.
We walked around the lake and concluded by stopping by our favorite place–the first-kiss gazebo. We nuzzled up and looked out across the small lake. The scenery, while quaint, was beautiful. Like our love.
And then he turned to me. He was calm and began complimenting me. He said, “Rebecca, you’re beautiful and loving and…” about a billion other compliments. Gosh, this guy is romantic, I thought. But there was just one problem: He was as calm as a cucumber. At our six month anniversary, I remembered, he was noticeably jittery, and, of course, we can’t forget how nervous he was on our first date. My hand was on his chest and I couldn’t feel a heartbeat. His hand was on my back and it was relaxed. He was for sure not proposing. There’s no way this guy could ask a question as serious and life-changing as “Will you marry me?” and be so chill.
So I did what I usually do. I got silly. Neither of us remember what I said at that point, but I got goofy; unphased, he bounced right out whatever silliness I was saying, back to one more serious compliment.
“I love you and I was wondering:” I felt him pull away and then saw him, in one graceful motion, move to one knee with a ring box open facing me, “Will you marry me?”
At that moment, I realized he’d successfully surprised me. He’d fooled me and successfully proposed in a meaningful and simple way. And before he finished his question, I wanted to pull him off his knee and accept his sweet proposal. But I knew he’d never let me live it down–that I hadn’t let him finish the question he was going to ask once and only once. So, I let him finish.
But as soon as he did, I whisked him up from his knee and said with tears in my eyes and as much enthusiasm as this girl can ever have, “Yes! Yes! Of course! Of course! Yes!” and I fiercely pulled him close. I heard the ring box snap closed behind me as we hugged. According to Seth, the ring almost went into the lake because I jerked him up so quickly! Obviously, we’re glad that didn’t happen.
As we hugged, I couldn’t see through my tears. We kissed and I saw his tears begin to fall with mine.
As with most newly engaged couples, we had to start making phone calls. First, I wanted to call my parents. This is when I learned that Seth had driven down to Kentucky from Columbus to ask my parents for permission to marry me. And he told my dad, who can’t keep secrets to save his life, not to call me, mention it, or even think about it and that Seth would have me call him first. He’d told my dad the whole plan for proposing–down to what time it should happen.
So, I called my dad. He was lying on the couch with the phone on his chest. Waiting. And then I spoke to my mom and we continued to call our important people–my sisters, Seth’s parents, and best friends.
We turned off our phones and had dinner, then proceeded to go to Maundy Thursday service at my church, where we were able to tell my pastor, my mentor and close friend, and some of my favorite people at church. We participated in the foot-washing service, which was sweet. Seth remembers that I tickled his feet as I washed them.
Of course, that evening, he had planned to return to Columbus, but it was late by the time he was ready to leave. So, he stayed at my place and I stayed with a friend. The next morning, I came back to get ready for work and greeted him as he left for Columbus.
After that first date, Seth and I dated for about 10 months before we became engaged and then we spent 14 months engaged before we finally tied the knot. We had some traditional milestones, as every love story does. Our first kiss, the first time we dropped the L-word, a sweet proposal. In addition, we had a few non-traditional experiences because were long distance for our entire pre-marriage relationship. If you didn’t read about how we met or the other stories from our love story, you totes should.
Love Story: First Kisses
Later in the summer, after Seth had survived the great pinky toe explosion of 2008 and was fully recovered from his brush with MRSA, Seth visited in late July or early August. I, personally, was feeling a lot of self-induced stress. I had really never been one to save kisses and almost always kissed a guy on a second date if I liked him even the slightest. So, when I knew Seth was visiting again, I was ready to kiss him. We’d had a lot of phone conversations and Facebook chats. Even though he was uber nervous on our first date, I was genuinely interested in him in a romantic way.
So, before my new teaching year started, he visited. It became normal for him to stay for weekends when he visited; I would stay at a friend’s house and he’d stay at my place. I’m so grateful for my dear friends, Melinda and Missy, who let me crash at their places when Seth was visiting.
I don’t remember much of what we did that weekend; we probably had dinner with some of my friends, walked around a park, had milkshakes at Newport on the Levee. Things like that. That part really isn’t important.
On the final evening of his visit, we took a walk. My place in Kentucky had access to a walking path that leads to a body of water. Seth and I disagree on what to call this body of water. I called it a small lake; he called it a pond. Either way, there was a small gazebo by it. We took what was about a half-mile walk to the gazebo.
I don’t know about you, but I love summer evenings. After the sun goes down and the air cools. Lightning bugs come out. A small light goes a long way.
So there we were: at the gazebo. I was facing the water, Seth behind me with his arms around my waist. I could feel his warmth. And all I could do was think about how I wanted to kiss him. He’d driven for two hours each way on two occasions. He’d demonstrated that he was interested in me and had sacrificed free time to visit me. In a way, I wanted to reward him–thank him for his demonstration of interest–and to return the favor.
So, I turned around and just planted a big one on him.
And I was disappointed. I turned my face away from him a bit and hugged him.
I take it he was also disappointed because he gently took my chin in his left hand, turned my face back to his, and kissed me again.
Let’s just say that neither of us were disappointed. At all. To say the least.
I feel like a lot of couples remember their first kiss together. Why do we think these moments are so momentous? I mean, between the beginning of a relationship and through “til death do us part” we probably exchange trillions of kisses–at leats that’s my intention. But the first one. There’s something about the first one that we often remember more than any other kiss in our lives.
I will never forget that kiss and am so glad I will never have to kiss anyone else ever again.
Love Story: That L-Word
What does it mean to love someone? I mean, when a girl says, “I love you,” what does she mean? Does this sentence always indicate romantic love? I used the l-word a lot when I was a teenager. But I don’t think I meant romantic, loyal love.
So, when I grew up, I realized that I wanted to be choosy about to whom I profess my love. I didn’t want to say it just because it seemed right or because I liked the guy. I mean, I try to love everyone. Not romantically. But I didn’t want to be quick to drop the l-word.
My plan: To say “I love you,” to only one person for the rest of my life. I had been on the search for this person.
So, during a fall visit to Columbus, Seth and I took a walk through the Park of Roses. In my recent time of reflections, I had found that my insecurity was running a little crazy. I couldn’t see past my insecurity to see that this guy was obviously over the moon for me.
We sat down on a bench in the shade.
And I asked him, “Do you like me?”
In the history of the world and in the context of our relationship so far, this was by far the dumbest question. Ever. This is the guy who had emailed me at least once a day–multi-paragraph, thoughtful emails–the guy who had sent me flowers when he had to cancel a visit due to an unforeseen medical reason, the guy who called me beautiful, the guy who called me and complimented me and treated me to wonderful dinners. And I couldn’t tell if he liked me.
How clueless was I?
While I don’t remember his exact words, his reply was generous and surprising. He said something like, “I do care deeply about you… and I even love you.”
So, there. He dropped the l-word. Did I say it right back?
Well of course not!
Remember? My I-love-you plan was a limited one.
So, after my long trip home, I wrote in my journal. I wrote about my fears concerning dropping the l-word. I was worried things would snowball as I recall.
Over the next couple of weeks I thought about my feelings for Seth. And I decided that I loved him. I decided that I wanted to tell him–but the phone seemed like a lame place to say it–and Facebook even more lame. But we weren’t supposed to see each other for weeks and weeks.
Six weeks later, Seth came to visit for Thanksgiving weekend. And I had it planned.
We had plans to go play frisbee golf when he arrived, but oh boy was it raining. It rained and then rained some more. And that rain was filled with rain. Rain. Everywhere.
So, the only option that Wednesday evening was to sit at my place and, well, make out. What else does a dating couple do when it’s raining? And that’s when I said it. I said, “I love you.” I did it. I said it on a rainy Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving when I just couldn’t keep it in anymore.
Love Story: Our Now
After being married almost six years, it feels strange to tell my love story like this. It almost feels like I’m being immature. I think that’s because our love for one another continues to grow beyond those special words. Beyond a kiss. We believe in saying “I love you” every day and we believe in kissing and hugging every day. We believe in all of that, but the curve balls we’ve been thrown over the course of our knowing one another have made our love for one another deeper than we ever thought possible.
These love stories are stories of genuine love between the two of us. The love was no less genuine then than it is now. But now we have built something with one another–a foundation. A life. And kisses and professions of love are shared every single day. But we share so much more now, as we learn what it’s like to love and be loved, to cherish and be cherished, to support one another and to be supported.
I love my man.