Today I’m delighted to introduce wedding grad Michelle and her beautiful DIY Pennsylvania wedding. She wore her mother’s wedding dress (with some modifications), figured out how to make her wedding her own, and dealt with a runaway vendor (by hauling him to court and winning… BAM!). To make this wedding graduate post even richer, the photos were taken by Kristy Rowe of Moodeous Photography, who is an exceptional person and photographer (Denver ladies, take notice!), but also happens to be one of the bride’s best friends. She notes that she shot this wedding ages ago, but it’s no less lovely for that. So dig in, and enjoy.
I found the planning process overwhelming. My husband Tom and I struggled to balance our decisions with what felt comfortable to us, and what we felt was best for all the family and friends involved. Some people say to just be true to what you want, since it’s your day, but Tom and I both felt strongly that at its core, a wedding is about celebrating family.
We both dislike being the center of attention and we are very laid back. All we knew was no church wedding. So after a lot of agonizing over destination weddings and endless research, we decided that what felt right (even though it was bigger than what we wanted) was doing a more traditional wedding in Pennsylvania, near my childhood home and family. All in all, it took us about three months to figure it out and just get a date booked.
After we booked a day at the Pearl S. Buck House, a lot of the other decisions seemed much smaller and easier to make. I wore my mother’s dress and we worked with a seamstress to alter it. Photos were shot by my best friend Kristy Rowe of Moodeous Photography plus a second shooter found on craigslist to shoot the reception so she wasn’t working the whole time. I am a graphic designer and really enjoyed the chance to be in creative control of designing the invites and other paper items. Printing was gifted by an old family friend. Flowers were done with a local grower. My family and I baked the cake. While we wanted to write our own vows for the ceremony, we chose a nondenominational minister who created the ceremony, which felt more comfortable to us.
We tried to identify the priority areas and spend the bulk of our budget there. Having those priorities made it much easier to focus on the big picture stuff, while using resources other than money on some of the less important things.
We hit a major bump four months before the wedding when we found out that our caterer had gone out of business, taking our deposit and first payment with him. We lost a lot of money and it made an already financially stressful situation even worse. It made for a horrible month of scrambling around trying to find someone new and trying to rework our numbers. It’s very hard to continue to trust your gut and ability to make decisions when something like that happens. It’s sad. You’re trying to feel your way through planning this huge thing—probably the biggest party you’ve ever planned. You’re figuring everything out as you go along. And you try as hard as you can to do things “right,” but there are people out there who don’t care about you, who will take advantage of your insecurities because in the end they just want your money.
It’s so important to have that solid team that you can count on to work through the process. Don’t let people push you into taking on everything alone. I had a really hard time getting over the lost money. It meant giving up some things I had really wanted. We worked through it as a team, making every effort to stay focused on our priorities, which absolutely helped keep me focused on what mattered.
The day itself was a blast. It was so much more meaningful and fun then I ever hoped it would be. Sure it rained, and we didn’t get to have the outdoor ceremony we wanted (but we did get a rainbow), and there were a few family dramas. But all in all, it was not enough to change the focus of the day. The things I remember most are the feelings and emotions: the faces and expressions, hugs, tears and dancing my ass off. Remembering that the day is bigger than just you and your fiancé put things in perspective for me. There were (obviously!) problems along the way and yes, I would totally do some things differently, but in the end we did what we set out to do: celebrate the love we have for each other, our friends and our family. Remembering that we are a team, that we were lucky to have support from friends and family, made it easier to cut off the fights before they really got going and to help each other keep the stress in check.
It’s easy to get distracted from what really matters. All the blogs and magazines and reality shows constantly remind you of what you don’t have or should do. At the end of it all, sanity means priorities. If you have a firm grip on what your priorities are, you’ll be able to navigate the planning process no matter what gets thrown your way.
As an aside: I would encourage anyone who loses money to an unscrupulous vendor to not be afraid of pursuing legal action. Our original caterer screwed many families in the area. Some lost all their money and didn’t have nearly as much time as we did to find a back-up. All the affected families banded together and filed complaints with local law enforcement and the chamber of commerce. The guy was investigated and hauled to court. We are all currently receiving restitution checks for the stolen money. It was an extra headache during an already stressful time, but following through was the right thing to do, and he didn’t get away with it. Don’t take any crap from smooth talking vendors, and don’t let anyone who tries to jerk you around off the hook!
The Info — Photography: Kristy Rowe of Moodeous / Flowers: Kate Sparks / Catering: Kate Conaway at The Temperance House / Venue and Rentals: Pearl S. Buck House through Larry Ott at Open Aire Affairs / Jewelry: Twenty East Vintage Jewelry, Doylestown, PA / Bridesmaids Dresses: Davids Bridal / Minister: Journeys of the Heart / Hair and make-up: Erin Konzelman