Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stacey's Big Fat American Wedding: Part Two - What I know now

While Part One focused mostly on what I would have done differently, I’d like to focus more on some of the preparation lead up to and the day of the wedding in this next part.

Our next door neighbors in our 3 apartment complex got engaged not long after we moved in that December. I found out by walking in the bar that the girl worked at and saw this huge book that said “A Brides Guide to Her Wedding.” I did what most people ask that annoys the crap out of the bride when it’s an obvious answer: “Oh you’re engaged?”


But she was nice and told me of their engagement and their hopes and plans. They had a similar idea to what Fritz and I were planning. An outdoorsy wedding, perhaps in an old fashioned barn, with a reception to follow in the same location or nearby outdoors. I gave her suggestions from what I had discovered during my planning of an outdoor wedding.

First, we used a family’s property. They had 10 acres of open land to use in their front and back yard. We set up the ceremony in the front yard, since it was a little more picturesque than the back yards – which had more space for the tents and also more tactical sense for the food and DJ.

This is not a bad idea and if you have someone in your family or your groom’s family who offers to let you use their land – go for it. But you have to understand two things before you dive into that commitment of an outdoor wedding:

1)    You may be using it for your wedding, but it’s still their property, so things might not go as smoothly as planned for where you expect things to be set up. Same with using a public property such as a park. They may have restrictions that you need to keep in mind when planning for your music or reception.
2)    You need to keep in mind you need mic’s and speakers for the ceremony. Your voices don’t carry as well out doors as they would inside a church or a hall.
3)    You need to make sure the officiant is okay with performing a ceremony outdoors and not in their church.
4)    Parking needs to be thought out and if it’s in a residential area where they may intrude on neighbor’s property, the neighbors need to be informed ahead of time. And possibly invited to avoid any sticky situations.
5)    Guests need to be informed that the wedding will be outdoors so they dress appropriately. Was especially important with ours, since it was in mid-July and very hot!
6)    Outdoor weddings can be just as classy as indoor – but you might want to reconsider the menu. Lobster might not be the most appetizing on a hot summer day. That is why we originally wanted a BBQ and went with it – though the caterer we had originally was chicken and lasagna which would have gone well with that day.
7)    It might rain. It just might. You have to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself as a bride for that. Even though I knew it was a possibility, I became obsessive about checking the weather only to be dismayed by a 30% chance of rain. That’s pretty low, but I just wasn’t ready to accept the fact my wedding could have been rained out. I didn’t properly prepare myself for that possibility or have much of a backup plan prepped if it had.
Have a back-up site for the ceremony and reception if possible. We had barns available, but we didn’t clear them out or set them up since we were pretty much living on a hope and prayer it wouldn’t rain. It didn’t, thank goodness, but still was a risky move on our part.
8)    It’s outdoors. There’s bugs. If your wedding goes into the evening, have an arsenal of bug sprays (even if you bug bombed, which we did but I still got eaten alive by mosquitoes that night) and citronella candles/torches to be used in the populated areas. When you dance, you sweat, which will sweat off bug spray you have. Reapply liberally.
9)    Sunscreen!

If you can’t tell I like making lists. I could actually go on forever about things to keep in mind for an outdoor wedding, but I’ll move on. Most of these lessons have been learned on my part now that the wedding has passed. Most of these we did consider and prepare for, others caught us by surprise.

While we did let the DJ know it would be an outdoor wedding and we needed mics, we did have technical difficulties during our pastor’s speaking and the reciting of our vows. While it bothered me, I just let it go and put to use some of that loud cadence calling the military gave me. Even though you have mic’s, don’t be afraid to speak your vows loudly. You should be happy and proud to be saying these words for all to hear (even the next county over!).

Our officiant was excellent as well; when the mic didn’t work he didn’t stumble over his words. He kept going, subtly attempting to adjust the mic but giving up when his attempts were proving futile. He instead raised his voice as well while keeping true to the element of the ceremony. Be prepared for the fact that something might interrupt the ceremony. Whether technical difficulties (we did have a point of backfeed from the speakers) or some outside noise you can’t control (sirens, for example) let the noise play out and calmly resume where you were cut off. It sucks if it happens, but no one will really remember it anyway.

Regardless of technical difficulties which you may or may not run into, just go with it. While it was a little disappointing our music wasn’t playing perfect for our recession and that the mic’s cut out in the middle of the ceremony – we just adjusted as needed and kept going. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the small things like that – people remember the moment – not the words. So really, they remember you walking down the aisle, hugging your father, and kissing your husband for the first time – not how the mics cut out or the music didn’t play perfectly!


While I felt we didn’t decorate much, when we were setting up the day before the wedding, there was so much decorating to be done that I think everyone was slightly overwhelmed. How I envy the people who can afford decorators for their weddings. Even though this was only around 150 people, it still was a lot to decorate for. Not only do you have the tables for the reception but you have your cake tables, your card/present table, your buffet, etcetera. I had a candy buffet which while they were their decorations in themselves, setting them up had to be done the day of the wedding.

We had a beautiful property, so the amount of decorating in my mind was limited. Of course you can’t really over decorate. A basket of flowers will look tiny compared to the expanse of land beyond it, so less in an outdoor wedding is more. The approach should be to enhance the natural beauty of the setting – which I think we did really well. Using our wedding colors, we used a lot of flowers to enhance the areas where the wedding took place. My mother-in-law had to spruce up the beaten up porch and she did a fantastic job with fake flowers and fabric. Our chuppah was mainly tulle and white fabric with flowers added to give it color. The wooden beat up fences that surrounded the area of our reception got a fresh coat of white paint with garland hung on them. The tents only got strings of Christmas lights. The tables had votive candles with our wedding themed flowers surrounding them. Simple, subtle, and not overwhelmed with the property that it took place.

While we originally were just going to stick with red, gold, white, and black as our colors – it made the palette seem really bland against the green lawns, bright red barn, and little garden path that was nearby. My mother added a lot of color to the bouquets giving it a much more depth overall.


With food, you probably want to go on the more casual spectrum of food options that many catering companies offer. Things that won’t be overly effected by the heat or would require constant monitoring (mayonnaise, for example can’t really beat the heat). You can have an elegant outdoor wedding, with all the pomp and flair, but really evaluate the time of day and the type of weather that month will bring you. Hard to enjoy some nice crab legs while sweating off your twin in your 3 piece suite!

With the cake, keep in mind also that many wedding cakes are made with buttercream or are made with mousse. These will melt and sweat in the heat. Fondant icing will hold up better or just a regular cake will do. We had three cakes at our wedding; all from Costco and apparently the vanilla flavored was the best. I had so many people to me rave about that one and by the end of the night it was almost completely gone while we had half a chocolate and carrot cake left!

Hubby and I had a cheesecake, since I am not a fan of regular cake. That just was kept in the fridge until the cake cutting so that was fine. But it was just a regular cheesecake we got for $16. If you spent more on it and had decorative frosting let the baker know that it will be outdoors, they can advise you on what the best ingredients are and how best to store the cake before it is revealed to the guests.

Our favors were candy buffets which browsing a lot of wedding sites and recent wedding photo’s have become a popular thing. Instead of restricting your guests to one or two types of candy in a small bag, you have a table of pretty candies at the mercy of your guests. Fritz and I had little Chinese takeout boxes for the guests to put their candy in. What is nice about a candy buffet is that it’s so pretty it’s almost a piece of decoration in itself. Plus it’s edible!

We avoided chocolate for obvious reasons.

Also keep in mind you need a place for port-a-potties or access to restrooms for your guests!!

One thing that we didn’t do that I always sort of wanted to do was a Getaway. You know that part where the bride and groom leave for the airport for their honeymoon and everyone throws rice or blows bubbles or something? With our location it was very practical, seeing as we were about 2 hours away from any sort of realistic city and even further from an airport. On top of not going to our honeymoon after the wedding.

Not us, obviously =)

Plus I find those to be fabulous pictures! But, I promised myself that maybe in twenty years (or ten!) we’ll have a reaffirmation of vows and I’ll allow myself some of those things that we had to leave out for whatever reason.

Pictures and everything to do with them

Some tips from a girl whose mother is a wedding photographer.

1)    Do not wear shiny eye shadow. It will reflect and make your eyes look weird.
2)    Give yourself a lot of time for hair, because it always takes the longest and is usually the reason why things don’t happen on schedule (true for us!)
3)    If you get fake eyelashes, get the ones that enhance your natural lash – not thick ones that are generally used for costume (or strippers :p) I got lash extensions done at a salon and they were fabulous!
4)    If you’re going to do your nails, get a French manicure, pink and whites, or just plain clear polish. Colored polish makes your nails look like a blob of color on your finger, not flattering at all.
5)    Lipstick or colored lip gloss is your friend.
6)    Extend your chin to avoid that ugly double chin that a lot of people (me as well) get. A lot of people unconsciously shrink away from camera’s causing the neck to look thicker than it is.
7)    Don’t have any tendrils of hair hanging around your face. It distracts and looks bad in the pictures.

We did our pictures at the Law Quad in Ann Arbor, one of my favorite areas for its architectural beauty. While I didn’t get the entirety of the photo’s I wanted, the wedding day was flying by, it was hot, and we had other things to do. If you have specific pictures you want, work it out with your photographer before the wedding day so you are sure to get those pictures in before you session is over. 

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