First off, let’s start with our love story (the short version). John and I met through my brother in 2009. They were college roommates and I was the little sister with a big crush. John, a cute farmer from Colorado, moved to Tennessee during the winter of 2010 “to check things out”. We got to know each other, ended up dating, and he proposed at Christmas in 2011. After a series of life events, big decisions, and long discussions- we called off our engagement in 2012. We always kept in touch, but didn’t reunite until in the winter of 2016. The next summer, I moved to San Diego where we both are living now. More on that adventure here. In April of 2018, John proposed- again! With him (and my brother) scheduled to deploy that fall, we decided to set our wedding date for the following summer, once they both got home. Thankfully wedding planning acted as a perfect distraction throughout his deployment.
You know what the funniest part of our story is? I grew up with a little bit of a temper, a stubborn personality, and very little patience. While those qualities certainly can be used for good, the patience part has been an ongoing struggle. Growing up in church, I often heard people say “I could never be a missionary in Africa” and then they ended up being that very thing. Well, my entire life I thought about the story in the Bible where Jacob had to wait 7 years for Leah. I (Miss. Impatient) thought, “I could never wait that long!”. God, however, had a better plan for me and has taught me patience through His perfect plan. 2012 (original wedding date) to 2019 (current wedding date) = exactly 7 years! I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned in these past 7 years and I’m thankful to have a man worth waiting for.
Anyways. I don’t know if there’s one perfect way to plan a wedding, especially when the venue is 2,000 miles away from the Bride and Groom. There’s certainly no specific timeline to follow or dates to go by, but here is what I did. Hopefully this is informative (or just entertaining) for you!
#1. The date– July 2019. This was one of our hardest decisions due to the military. We weren’t sure exactly when everyone was getting home. We set the month and kept moving along with our decisions. Thankfully our vendors were very accommodating.
#2. The colors/ theme- blue and white. With the military being SUCH a big part of our family and our wedding being in July, I knew I wanted a blue and white wedding with VERY subtle hints of red. I chose mismatched dusty blue for the bridesmaids dresses, navy for the groomsmen (most of them in Dress Blues), with a berry topped cake and a mini flag send-off. In addition to the flower girls’ dresses, I found the officiant, father of the bride and groomsmen’s ties at Marshall’s. They were the perfect colors at a perfect price.
#3. The location- Tennessee. We knew we’d get married in my hometown and John’s request was “a church or a barn”. I searched for a few months for venues that had one or the other, or both. One church was too small, one barn too pricey. When we were in TN visiting family in August 2018, my sister-in-law (and Matron of Honor) heard about a venue just a few minutes from the home I grew up in. I didn’t have time to visit the venue on that trip so I sent my mom and my sister-in-law in my place. They gave me great feedback and I was able to see it in person over Christmas where WE BOOKED THE VENUE! A barn, with a cross on the side. Basically a church and barn all in one. Bonus: indoor space for our July reception.. with A/C and bathrooms. Sold! It was so special getting to see the venue with my parents. The Lanning Farm, you’re a dream.
#4. The bridal party. My sweet girls. This was the easiest decision. I don’t know that I really even needed to ask them, I’m sure they could have assumed, but it was fun anyways! I delivered each of them a succulent + a “Will you be my Bridesmaid” card (thank you, Target dollar spot!). For the flower girls, they put together a customized puzzle that said “Will you be my flower girls”. I loved all their reactions and hugs- it was such a special time!
#5. The dress. I’ve been following Anthropologie’s BHLDN line for quite some time and knew I wanted a dress from their collection. I found one that I planned to try on when my mom visited town, but one day I scrolled through their sale section online and found one I LOVED for under $300! They only had one size they left and I wasn’t sure if it would fit me, but I ordered it anyways (I mean, return policy!) and it ended up being PERFECT. It’s light and airy and fits me and the venue perfectly- score! I did miss having the moment where the bride tries on gowns with friends and family and they awe at her bridal beauty and together says “that’s the one!”- but our families and my bridesmaids live in multiple states, so that day would have been hard to plan anyways.
#6. The menu- This wasn’t much of a decision since the venue also had the option to include catering (BBQ) and we are getting married in the South after all. We decided on BBQ chicken + pork, with all the fixings. Neither of us love traditional wedding cake, so we chose a Pie Bar including an assortment of homemade pies, in addition to our small cake to cut. Plus, what’s more American than BBQ, sweet tea and apple pie? My mom made my cake and we topped it with berries, greenery and a sparkler!
#7. The photographer- This was hard for me. Each photographer has a certain style in the way the shoot and edit photos, I’m so thankful we know and trust someone who was willing to fly across the country to photograph our big day. Funny story: his flight got delayed so he missed his connecting flight causing him to get in town THE MORNING OF OUR WEDDING as opposed to the night before. Minor scare, but he made it. Yay, Mark!
#8. The stationary- With our colors set, I searched Pinterest for stationary inspiration and came across the most beautiful watercolor set. I linked it back to the source- Etsy! It was an editable, digital version that I could customize and print. I loved the idea (and the price). It’s been such an easy tool for me to use + get an entire stationery set customized, without spending a fortune. I ordered a wax seal with white wax which dressed up the blue envelopes perfectly. Our Thank You postcards were also from Etsy.
#9. The flowers- Thankfully I come from a very creative/ DIY family. My mom used to work for a local florist and we have always put together our own arrangements for parties and events. After getting the quote for flowers, we decided this would be another DIY. In keeping with the colors, I picked various whites, lots of greenery, and pops of dark blue. Some flowers came from my parent’s yard (hydrangeas), the others came from Import Flowers Nashville. Bonus: my aunts and grandma came over to help make all the arrangements- a memory I’ll hold onto forever.
#10. The decor- A few years ago I found a vintage nine foot flag and I bought it. It’s been folded into a triangle and used as decor, but I knew I wanted to find a special spot for it. The reception was perfect. With the wood walls, the colors really pop and create the prettiest, most fitting back drop- using something I already owned. For the tables, I chose long banquet style. To me, it feels like everyone is sitting at one big family dinner table. I found wood (looking) chargers here, (disposable) plates, acrylic cups, and napkins here. The tables were lined with hand dyed cheesecloth, fresh greenery and white flowers, and tall white candles. I didn’t want any large arrangements or fussy centerpieces to distract from guests talking across the table. For the ceremony, I wanted a simple aisle lined with white flowers. It was important that the backdrop was the main focus, not the decor lining the aisle.
#11. The guest book- I think this us usually an afterthought for most people, but one of the first things I knew I wanted to do was a Polaroid guest book. I wanted something interactive for guests while they waited between the ceremony and reception, and I LOVE that they print right there, and that guests can sign the picture or the page it lands on. I have a Fuji film printer so you can print pictures from your iPhone onto Polaroid film. This allowed guests to be able to take multiple photos, but only print the best one. The printer I use is from Amazon and the guestbook I chose is custom made and engraved, from Etsy.
#12. Gifts- Each person involved in our wedding day is so special and important to the both of us. The officiant has been my Pastor since I was 5. The coordinator is my sweet aunt. The people standing by our sides have been a part of our best days and our worst. It was important to me that every person felt appreciated, because we did not take it lightly that they were there. For my bridesmaids, I knew I wanted to put together a basket or box of things they could used on the wedding day. I started collecting things as I came across them: shorts to get ready in, a face mask, nail polish, a make-up bag, etc. For my flower girls, I added something sentimental, nail polish, monogram necklace, and Wedding Cake flavor gum. For the others involved in our wedding day, we gave them Thank You notes with a gift card to dinner or Starbucks. We felt it was appropriate to let them enjoy a date night (or some caffeine) after being a part of our busy day. My gift to John was a custom, local made watch that he’s been eyeing for a few years and he got me my first real pearl necklace. We definitely splurged on those items, but hey- we had plenty of time to save up and they’ll both be treasures that last forever.
#13. Something borrowed, blue, old, new- This was so special to me! My mom’s pearl earrings were my something borrowed. My wedding shoes were my something blue. A pearl bracelet from my grandmother was my something old. And my wedding dress, my something new. I love this tradition and having the most important women in my life being a special part. For the rings, mine was made by the same person who made his mom’s and his rings were made by the same person who made both of my parents! They were each custom made for us and hold a little extra value knowing where they came from and the love put into creating them.
#14. The vows- We both love traditions and we don’t love attention on ourselves. We would never volunteer to make a speech and had a small wedding on purpose. We chose to do traditional vows for those very reasons. Plus, if those words were good enough for generations before us, then they’re good enough for us!