I am organized by nature, so this was a no biggie for me. When I first got engaged, I went to Wal-Mart & bought a big Mead Five Star 3-ring binder -the kind that zips up & has pockets, etc. I also bought page protectors & dividers. I bought as many bridal magazines as I could afford & got to work. I organized my binder into the following categories:
- Ceremony / Attire
- Guest List / Invites
- Photography / Music
- Reception / Food
- Flowers / Decorations
- Gift Registry
Typically the groom's family handles the rehearsal dinner, but I ended up planning ours. Because of this, a Rehearsal Dinner tab would have been handy, but most of you probably won't have to fool with this.
I recommend buying a Martha Stewart wedding magazine & the Real Simple wedding magazine. These 2 magazines were the biggest help. I also had 2 people give me the same book: Wedding Chic by Nina Willdorf. I HIGHLY recommend this book. It was a huge help. The 2 websites I used almost exclusively were The Knot & Martha Stewart Weddings. The Knot is great because you can set up a wedding website for your guests. The Knot also has all the lists you'll need, like a budget planner, calendar, to do lists, etc. I used Martha for all of my etiquette questions. Her guidelines for addressing invitations is spot-on.
Back to the 3-ring binder. I went through all my magazines & pulled out whatever I liked. I'd put the page into a page protector & then put it in the binder. This is a lot easier than having to flip through 1,000 bridal magazines every time you want to see that dress you liked.
Let's talk vendors. I was 100% pleased with all the vendors I used. Here's the breakdown.
3 N. Lowry St, Smyrna, TN 37167
*ask for Helen Wilson
This is a "small-town" bridal shop. It's where I bought my high school prom dresses. I was reluctant to give Bridal Country a try because I'm a snob & I didn't want to tell people my wedding dress came from Smyrna, plus I was sure there was nothing in there that would be appropriate for the type of wedding I wanted. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. I went to every dress shop in Nashville, Franklin & Murfreesboro. Bridal Country had all the same dresses & they had them for about $200 less. If they don't have it in store, they'll order it for you. Also, if you're in double-digit sizes like I am, you'll find that no dress shops have dresses you can try on in your size. Not the case in Smyrna. Everyone there is as fat as you are. They had plenty of dresses in-store in my size. I bought my wedding dress there, my bridesmaid dresses there & rented tuxedos for my ushers (the groomsmen wore their own suits). My bridesmaids got either 15% or 20% off the price of their dresses because I bought my dress there.
I knew of Shutterbelle because my sister had used them for my niece's baby pictures. I cared about the photography more than anything else, more than the dress. This is where we decided to spend the most money. I contacted Shutterbelle & set up a meeting. Amanda Hagler is the photographer. I loved her. She totally got what I wanted & didn't flinch when I told her I didn't want 100 pictures of children. Now, I had done my homework. I went through her entire website & made of list of what I liked & didn't like about other weddings she photographed. This not only didn't offend her, it helped tremendously. Amanda was so great on the actual wedding day. I hardly knew she was there. She stayed out of the way for the most part & just did her thing. When she did need to set up shots, she was extremely calm & professional. She wasn't pretentious, she never seemed impatient or annoyed & she made me feel completely at ease. She seemed genuinely honored to be a part of the whole thing. Seriously, I can't say enough about her. I would hire her 100x times over.
Carolyn Burgess Sellers
Luckily, my BFF loves graphic design & designing wedding invitations (among other things), so she offered to do all of our wedding stationary. She did our save-the-dates, wedding invitations & programs. She did an awesome job. I love our invitations. I HIGHLY recommend her. You can see a sample of her work on the website listed above.
3636 Murphy Rd (Sylvan Park)
Nashville, TN 37209
These guys are great. We went in there a few weeks before the wedding & decided what we wanted & how much we needed to order. Then we called the week before the wedding, placed the order & picked everything up the day before the wedding. Totally easy & very affordable. I was lucky, I had a family friend who offered to do everything for my wedding -bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, reception centerpieces, alter arrangements & aisle arrangements. Because of this, I don't have a recommendation for who to use for your flower arrangements. Almost everyone I know had a family friend who did this for them. I assume Import Flowers can either do this for you or give you some local recommendations.
Nashville, TN 37203
I used the same salon where I typically get my hair cut/colored. James did my hair & Kara did my make-up. James is my regular stylist, but he also specializes in "up-do's". He also did my friend Sarah Brown-Gann's wedding day hair. He's amazing. I didn't do a practice run. Because I knew James, I trusted him. I just went in on my wedding day & let he & Kara do their magic. Side note: Kara is not the salon's usual make-up artist, so you may have to book your make-up appointment with her outside of the salon. It's a long story, but she ended up doing mine as a favor at the last minute because the person that was supposed to do my make-up decided to take the day off..... Anyway, Kara is very cool & she did an awesome job on my make-up. I felt a little transvestite-ish when I left the salon, but I thanked her later when I saw the pictures from the wedding. She knew what she was doing.
Unfortunately, I don't have any recommendations for wedding cakes. I used a family friend for the catering. She did the best she could & I'm very grateful for her hard work, but I'm not going to recommend her. I think my wedding was too big for her. I didn't know this at the time, but apparently we ran out of food very early into the reception. I opted to not have a wedding cake & had cupcakes & a groom's cake instead. I do have one tip: make sure & tell your caterer up front that you want whatever food (especially wedding cake/cupcakes) is left-over. Our caterer made off with all of our left over wedding cupcakes & groom's cake, which was kind of a deal-breaker for me.
We didn't hire a DJ or a band for our reception & we used friends for the ceremony music, so I don't really have any recommendations here either. I will say this, pretty much every wedding I attend these days has an iPod providing the music. This is what we did & I have no regrets. We had an afternoon wedding, so no one was really going to dance anyway. A band would have been fun, but more so with a night wedding when people are drinking, etc. Save your money, rent/borrow a PA system & use your iPod.
Stewart's Special Events
939 North Thompson Lane
Murfreesboro, TN 37129
We rented the tables & chairs for the reception from Stewart's. It's easy breezy. They deliver everything to your reception site & come back & pick it up. I got married on a Saturday. They delivered everything on Friday, so my "team" was able to get everything set up ahead of time. Highly recommend Stewart's, especially if you need extras like serving pieces, candelabras, etc.
We registered at Macy's, Crate & Barrel & Bed Bath & Beyond. We opted not to register at Target because of their ridiculous return policy. Sorry, Target. I have zero complaints about the 3 places we used. All 3 places have great websites that make it very easy to make changes to your registries online as often as you like. And all 3 places have easy, no hassle return policies. Actually I didn't return anything to Crate & Barrel, so not sure about them. Macy's lets you return anything. You can't get cash, but they're pretty generous with the store credits. Bed Bath & Beyond has quit giving cash for returns. We were able to argue our way into getting the cash anyway, but don't count on getting a lot of cash from them anymore.
We didn't use a travel agent. We decided where we wanted to go & did all the research ourselves. We spent a lot of time online reading user reviews for hotels, etc. We booked everything ourselves & had no problems. We went to Playa del Carmen, Mexico & stayed in the Magic Blue Boutique Hotel. We didn't go the all-inclusive route, so if you're cool with finding your own food & entertainment, I definitely recommend what we did. I loved our honeymoon.
I hope all of this info helps. If you have any questions, or if you think of anything I left out, please let me know. Also, I will gladly discuss pricing with anyone that wants to know. My wedding was recent enough that I still remember roughly what everything cost.