I went out to our local bridal store Everything but the Bride and began my planning process there by buying a MAMMOTH three ring notebook with all the questions, lists, calendars and budgets I'd need to see me through this day. I immediately booked an appointment with a planner in the local area and stepped into the wedding planning world.
One thing I realize now that I didn't realize in the beginning is that while my gigantic bride bible is a great tool and a wonderful thing to help keep me organized (and sane), it is still a generic handbook for all brides and not set to my specific views and wishes. For example, our wedding is in May of 2010. Most wedding planning sites (theknot.com, weddingchannel.com, etc) and many "generic handbooks" suggest to start planning with 12 months as your base timeline. I guess this is good for those that get engaged and want to get married asap but for Danny and I, we wanted to wait a bit. We got engaged Christmas Eve of 2007 and knew we wanted to wait a few years until the wedding. We finally decided on 2010 and once that decision was made the bridal wheels in my head began to spin. It wasn't until July of 2008 that I actually sat down and said "ok, let's do this!" With 22 months to plan, most guidebooks don't give you that kind of time table so I'm kind of doing the time table my way. In addition I had to steer away from the stereotypes most books and guides list because I don't want this wedding to be a cookie cutter wedding, I want it to be OUR wedding.
In regards to the wedding planner, she was super cool and I was all ready to get to work with her. We had a contract done up, which oddly enough had about 5 mistakes in names, dates and times -- not the best first impression for a wedding planner, I mean her job is attention to detail, right? Regardless I was convinced she was the one and I was about to put down a deposit for her help throughout the whole process. We (and by we I mean my Mom and I, because Danny dreaded the fact of a bridal show no matter how much free cake he was promised) even attended our first bridal show to go and visit her and see her booth.
This is when everything changed.
I was due to meet with her the next day to drop off the deposit and told her at the show that we'd be there and that I couldn't wait!
While browsing the rest of the bridal show we came across loads of different vendors for all sorts of services (cakes, flowers, djs, caters, decorators and photographers).
We came across what felt like hundreds of photographers but there was one photographer there that caught my full and undivided attention, Elizabeth Burgess. We happened to be looking a country club's catering menu when we made eye contact from a woman over at the vendor next to the club's spread. I smiled politely and made my way over to say hello. Upon meeting her I found out that she was not a vendor herself but was in fact there to endorse her wedding photographer, Elizabeth. After speaking with the rest of the people around this booth I found out that they had all used Elizabeth as their photographer and had willingly come to this show to help bring Elizabeth business.
I for one thought that was heart warming. Previous brides and grooms so passionate about their wedding photographer that they agree to go to shows with her so that people can get a first hand perspective? Classy.
I promised all my new friends at this station that I'd go check out Elizabeth's website. Right as we were walking away to continue our stroll down the aisle of vendors the first lady I had met called after me and pulled me back. She let me know that Elizabeth had just come back from the bathroom and that I simply had to meet her.
After meeting Elizabeth I was in love, with one: her work and two: her personality. She won me over. To boost, when we had walked into the show there was an exhibit of photos from all of the different photographers and our favorite one that we had picked out was actually one of Elizabeth's of one of the brides there with her that day.
We set up an appointment for the very next day and the rest is history.
'But what about the wedding planner??' you ask?
It wasn't until after I met with Elizabeth that I realized how expensive venues and photographers and food and decorations and djs were. I knew the prices of things would be high but after asking Elizabeth's insider opinion of the wedding biz I had to rethink this planner. The planner, as nice as she was, was asking for 25% of our entire wedding budget to help plain the entire wedding. 25% of my wedding!!
After weighing the pros and cons (and remembering the mistakes in the initial contract which I had to correct), I canceled the agreement with the wedding planner and decided to use that huge chunk (*cough*25%*cough*) of money to go towards the wedding (food, decor, photos, music, etc) instead of someone's services to make appointments and schedule times for me.
With 22 months I felt confident to take on the task myself (with the help of my mom as well!). After all, I do love to plan and paying someone to take that joy away from me seemed silly in the end. Especially paying them 25% of my wedding to do that!
So, our journey with the wedding planner ended there, but the rest was just beginning to fall into place.
After signing our contract and booking Elizabeth we asked her opinion of which great venues and other vendors she recommends. She happened to recommend the local Doubletree Suites with it's own private lake (which I had been eying) and DJ Lenny Fritts.
I decided to contact the Doubletree for more information and the very lovely director, Amy Acosta, responded with a big list of prices, food, etc. I was a little overwhelmed and put it on the back burner. My parents had visited the local Hilton while I was away for Danny's birthday and said that it was amazing and that I had to see it. I was debating between the two.
It wasn't until I started to contemplate invitations and save the dates (thinking ahead, as usual) that I realized that I needed a venue. Once a venue was picked I felt like everything would fall into place and it would be easier to plan.
It wasn't until last week that I received a random e-mail for an open house at the doubletree that very night! I figured what the hey and went on down to see the set up.
And as you know, I fell into a big pit of love and we're going to put down our deposit TODAY!!!!
The crazy coincidence of this viewing was that the DJ they had hired to come work the open house was none other then Mr. Lenny Fritts.
I got to talking with him and we started speaking about weddings at the doubletree and weddings with Elizabeth. He said that Elizabeth and himself had weddings at the hotel down to an art and the two of them communicated beautifully and got along wonderfully, which affected the ceremony and reception positively since they practically run the show.
"Super!" I said. Which explains why after we leave the doubletree tonight after dropping off the deposit we have a meeting with Lenny at Panera!
All because I jumped into the wedding planning pool too quick to take a breath, thought hiring a wedding planner would be best for me, went to visit the planner at a show, met Elizabeth, who recommended the Doubletree, who had an open house, with Lenny Fritts as DJ.
It feels like it's meant to be.