July 23, 2013

“I couldn’t believe myself! I was going to shoot a wedding at an old amusement park! I mean, what isn’t there to like about that? The moment we stepped in – it was like the creative juices started flowing and our lovely couple was just entranced by the magic and old romance of the park. I loved their fairytale-esque atmosphere and all the beautiful poetry and literature that was shared that day (Pride and Prejudice quotes being my fav)! It was hands-down one of the most romantic weddings I have done! The park, the couple, the love and even the seersucker suit (hey, it’s the south, right?) that the officiant wore was just PERFECT!” – Paola from I Heart Photos Studios

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“You mean besides riding a merry-go-round in my wedding dress?! Actually, I have a few favorite memories, is that allowed? Everything from hanging out at my house with my bridesmaids before the wedding, to our first look, dancing with my dad, and ending the night with Carmen Ohio, since Eric and I are both alums of The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!), on the dance floor. But I’ll just pick two to tell you about in detail.

First, our entire ceremony was beautifully written and performed by a very close friend of ours, Drew. Since neither Eric or I are religious, we had so much freedom with our ceremony, and it was very important to us to have something so personal and meaningful, written by someone who knew and loved us. There was a moment, though, when our four-year-old ring bearer just started giggling uncontrollably! My brother-in-law scooped him up to quiet him down, but there was something really magical about being there, surrounded by the people we loved best in the world, all laughing together.

My OTHER favorite memory is our first dance. We didn’t actually pick a song until the day before the wedding, and for months leading up to it we went through every song we could think of and danced in Eric’s tiny study upstairs. We kept coming back to the Decemberists, because, come on, it’s Colin Meloy (do I really need to say more?) and Red Right Ankle is such a beautiful song, and our first dance was wonderful and magical and perfect. We danced under the twinkle lights of the Bumper Car Pavilion with everyone surrounding us. The feeling of love was this physical, tangible thing that wrapped around us, cocoon-like. Weddings are all about a community coming together to celebrate love, and that was something that was abundantly present all day long…

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..Oh, I DIY-ed a TON. Eric and I were on a really tight budget–he’d just finished grad school a few weeks before the wedding and DC is an expensive place to live and especially to have a wedding – but I didn’t let that stop us from having a beautiful day surrounded by the people we love. All of the paper I did myself–the save the dates, invitations, directions, place cards, everything. I designed and coded our website. I hosted a, uh, wedding sweatshop, where I had my friends make 150 pinwheels. Eric and I built our ribbon backdrop together – he made the frame, and my maid of honor helped me hang 600 yards of ribbon on a curtain wire that we strung up on the frame. I collected books to use as centerpieces from a bunch of places (I’m a true bookworm! I work in a library and I write YA novels, and Eric is an equally voracious reader, so I knew that books would be involved somehow). Some even came from the library where I work! I borrowed an easel and used it to put up our DIY program: I took a piece of foam poster board, spray painted both sides with chalkboard paint, and had two of my dear friends write out the program in chalk. They fixed it on the board with hairspray, and it’s still sitting in our living room! Even our ceremony was DIY–we picked out three readings that meant a lot to us (a passage from the Velveteen Rabbit, a letter from Abigail to John Adams, and a letter from John Steinbeck to his son about love), wrote our own vows (mine quoted Pride & Prejudice, of course), and Drew wrote the rest. The biggest hit was our guestbook–we bought a $3 album from Ikea, some gel pens, and set one of those Fuji Instant cameras (it’s pretty much a Polaroid) down next to it. We have a ton of silly pictures to go along with the sweet handwritten messages, which is a really sweet and physical reminder of everyone who was there.

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..Funny, I totally forgot about that until the day before the wedding. Does that make me a bad bride? My bridesmaids reminded me, though! So here they are:

Old: Both my engagement ring and my wedding band are vintage. I was really set against having a new diamond engagement ring. I wanted something delicate but full of character, and Eric totally pulled it off! It dates from 1924 and it’s full of art deco charm. My wedding band is even more dear to me – it was my great-grandmother’s wedding gift to us. It was hers, and every time I look at I’m just struck by how special it is.

New: Before the wedding, Eric gave me a really beautiful set of amethyst stud earrings and a matching necklace.

Borrowed: Two minutes before I walked down the aisle, my best friend/matron of honor slid her pink sapphire ring onto my right hand and said, “Don’t lose it.” No pressure or anything, right?

Blue: This was the hardest one! I had literally nothing blue–except for my toenails. I had a bright blue pedicure!

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..Your wedding isn’t going to be perfect. It isn’t a competition. Make choices because they make you happy, not because they’re “what you do at weddings,” hire vendors who understand and respect you, and be able to take a deep breath and enjoy the day. Things will go wrong – embrace it. We had so many little things go wrong. I’d bought a cute little outfit (seersucker shorts and a purple polka-dotted bowtie) for our ring bearer to wear – and lost them both the morning of the wedding. He wore gray shorts and button down and was adorable. Our caterer forgot to order chairs until a few days before the wedding – it was taken care of. The park lost our guests’ carousel tickets, the sign I made for the guestbook table didn’t show up, I forgot my flats and had to wear my heels all night, Eric’s stepbrother dropped and shattered a bottle of beer at my feet and another groomsman spilled wine on my dress, and we ran out of brisket because we had people crash our wedding. Did I freak out about any of that? Nope. I was too happy and too surrounded by love to care, and every time, my vendors swooped in and handled it.

I kept Meg Keene’s book, A Practical Wedding, by my side at all times. It’s something that I give to all of my newly engaged friends. Meg’s like the little voice of wedding reason that sits on your shoulder and reminds you of why you’re actually doing this. Everyone needs to read her book and follow her blog, also called A Practical Wedding. Don’t be afraid to break “rules”–we did! We got married on a Friday night instead of a Saturday. We had barbecue and wedding pie instead of traditional wedding food and cake (best decision ever), took most of our pictures before the ceremony and greeted our guests as they came into the park. We skipped things that didn’t really fit us, like the bouquet and garter tosses. We saved so much money by forgoing a cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres, and by having the wedding at a national park instead of a reception hall, where we couldn’t have hard liquor. We served our guests iced tea, lemonade, beer from Costco, and 3 Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s, and not a single person complained – everyone was too busy dancing! There comes a point where you have to step away from Pinterest, step away from the inspiration blogs (as lovely as they are!) and focus on what’s really important to you. To us, that was having fantastic photos (didn’t Paola do a magnificent job?), good food, and awesome dancing. Everything else will fall into place.

Really, it boils down to this: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and give into the pressure to be “blog-worthy” or feel like you have to spend a ton of money. You don’t. I believe that every wedding is beautiful. Love is beautiful. Love is why we get married. Therefore every wedding is beautiful. See what I’m getting at? Make it personal, fill it to the brim with love, and let go, trust your vendors, and fully enjoy the day and the people around you. You only get to do this once.” – Jenny, the bride

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photography: I Heart Photo Studios // venue: Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo, MD // caterer: Peggy from Main Event // pies: Mom’s Apple Pie Company // Day of Coordinator: Jennifer from Pink Swan Events // dress: Ella, from Ellie’s Bridal // fascinator: Capitol Romance // shoes: Vivienne Westood’s Lady Dragon via Ebay // florals: Petal’s Edge // suit: Macy’s // invitation printing: Digital Lizard // DJ: Tommy from Bit T’s Entertainment


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