A Year of Planning Our Wedding

Corey and I were married on Sunday, and it was the happiest day of our lives. When it was all over, one thing we kept saying was just how much fun all of the wedding planning had been, and how it brought us closer to our friends and family.

I’d been wanting to blog about wedding planning along the way, but I also didn’t want to ruin the surprise for our guests. So, here is a year’s worth of blog posts gathered into one very, very long post.

He catches the bouquet at your best friend’s wedding (2 years before The Big Day)

Get Engaged (1 year and 2 months before)

Corey proposed after an amazing week of skiing in Alta, UT!

Choose a Venue (1 year and 1 month before)

As soon as we’d gotten engaged, we knew right away that we wanted to get married in Maine. Why Maine? Because a huge part of our early relationship was exploring the beautiful state, and we wanted to introduce Maine to our out-of-town friends. We also knew we wanted a wedding venue where everyone could be onsite. Those two requirements limited our options, so we were able to pick a venue in a weekend.

We crashed with our friends Wells and Alex in Brunswick, and then spent the weekend driving around venues in Maine. So much of our wedding planning was done spitballing in the car as we drove to and from Maine from Boston. There were some venues that we were in awe of, but were insanely expensive, like The Inn at Ocean’s Edge. We also loved the staff at Bear Mountain, but the venue, though beautiful, could only sleep around 30 people (and we were expecting 75). And then there was The Spruce Point Inn which checked all the boxes, but the hotel rooms were $300++ a night, and we couldn’t ask our friends and family members to pay that rate.

Then we visited Point Lookout, and we knew immediately that this was it! Everyone could be onsite. The well-appointed cabins were between $140 to $290 a night, and most had 2 or 3 bedrooms so couples could share costs. We could have a giant hospitality suite all weekend. I really trusted their wedding coordinator, Jessica. The view from the venue was magnificent.

Throw an engagement party (11 months, 13 days before)

We had just moved shortly before we got engaged, so it was a great excuse to get the backyard ready for a big party. It was a sunny day out, Corey’s parents drove in from Vermont, we had some folks drive down from Maine, and it was just a lovely way to celebrate with friends.

Take engagement photos (11 months, 4 days before)

We are very, very lucky to have Elaina Natario as our friend. She is a talented artist, designer, photographer, beauty-consultant, and all-around amazing person. She and I met working at America’s Test Kitchen and have weathered break-ups, new relationships, and home purchases together over the years. I knew I wouldn’t want anyone else to take our engagement photos.

On a Sunday night, Elaina spent 15 minutes curling my hair, and then were about to drive to the Arnold Arboretum… when Google Maps told us that they closed early on Sundays! So instead, we wandered over to Brattle Street, a historic neighborhood near Harvard Square.

Elaina’s husband Eric joined us as “Fritz wrangler” and we spent the evening walking around the neighborhood, being goofy, and exploring the Longfellow House – a (very tiny) National Park open to the public. Here are some of the incredible photos she got.

Pick out a dress (8 months, 11 days before)

I have never learned so much about dresses in my life! “A-Line,” “Trumpet,” “Sweetheart,” I picked up so much terminology. I’ve also never worn such heavy things – wedding dresses have so much fabric! I thought I wouldn’t be picky about my dress but as it turned out… I was super picky! Here are the stores I ended up checking out.

Vows Bridal Outlet in Watertown, MA: As a bridal outlet, I found trying on dresses here stressful since they only had one of each sample. If they didn’t have your size, you were out of luck. I found the salespeople extremely pushy, telling me “you can tailor this!” when I knew I didn’t want to spend $$$ on tailoring.

Mimi’s Bridal in Kalispell, MT (we were hiking Glacier National Park): Of all the bridal boutiques, Mimi’s was the most fun and relaxed. I wish I had found my dress here, but they didn’t have a large collection in the style I wanted.

Bride n Belle in Medford, MA: Super low key, and so many options!

Andrea’s Bridal in Portland, ME (we were visiting friends): I ducked in here for 30 minutes and found a dress very similar to what I ended up getting. A fantastic boutique overall.

BHLDN in Chestnut Hill, Boston, MA: I was pretty disappointed my first visit here, because I was pretty sure I’d find my dress here. No dice, the dresses were oddly shaped. Then my second trip back, I found my dress.

I had such a blast going with my friends Lori, Kathy, Emily, and Corey’s sister Lya to try on dresses over the course of a few weeks. It was such a great excuse to get lunch with girlfriends and get excellent commentary via text.

Some pro-tips for dress shopping:

  • Poke around online for an idea of what you want, but when you get there, trust the bridal consultant and try on things you wouldn’t normally try. You’ll be surprised.
  • However… speak up, and don’t let pushy salespeople force you into things you don’t want.
  • Set up a shared Google Photos and take pictures of every dress you try on, and be able to share that with your girlfriends. Because you’ll try on so many you’ll forget, because photographs are better than a mirror, and because you’ll get excellent commentary from your girlfriends.
  • Be OK with having folks help you get in and out of your dress, because wedding dresses are ginormous.
  • Move around! Sit down, stand up, dance – you’ll be wearing this for hours and hours so make sure you are comfortable.

I ended up getting my tailoring done at Queen Dressmaker’s in Cambridge. I used to live right next door, and Elaina also got her wedding dress tailored there. Beatrice was incredible, patient, friendly, and it was $250 for the alteration.

Get help! (9 months before)

While planning for our wedding, I was also working on my team’s first ever Grand Meetup in Montreal. Planning a 7-day, all-inclusive international event with nearly 100 attendees really puts planning your own wedding into perspective. For the work event, I hired Annie Picard as our freelance event coordinator. She and I worked seamlessly together as we pulled off a first-ever GM for our team. She had every detail under control. That Thursday as we were setting up the registration booth, I was telling Annie about my next big event: getting married. Annie said she’d have time to help out with a coordinating a wedding and I said hell yes!

Our wedding was a four-day event, with a welcome party on Friday, an afternoon sail and a lobster pound dinner on Saturday, a morning yoga class, ceremony and reception on Sunday, and a farewell breakfast on Monday … not to mention a fully stocked hospitality cabin all weekend. Logistically, there were a lot of pieces to wrangle, and having Annie help us out was the best wedding planning decision we made.

Throw a New Year’s Party (4 months, 22 days before)

We decided to host a tiki/cocktail/pajama-themed New Year’s Party at our new place. We had about 40 people come through our apartment between 6pm and 3am that day. We woke up the next morning and realized that throughout the party, neither of us had eaten, we each were only able to see about half of the people who attended, and the whole party was a total blur. It was a good dry-run for the wedding and it taught us to make sure to eat, use the full weekend to see everyone, and be prepared for it to go by in a flash.

Start designing centerpieces (3 months, 10 days before)

Corey’s mom Maria totally knew what she was doing on this front! We borrowed a lot of elements from Corey’s sister Lya’s wedding. We re-used the brass candlesticks she’d collected for her decor, bought some burlap runners, got some pretty round vases from Michael’s, and grabbed a bunch of mason jars from Christmas Tree Shops.

Meet our wedding photographers (3 months before)

Every year, we go on an annual ski trip with our friends Jim and Kay. On that trip, the group helped us decide our wedding color scheme – basically, we learned that purple looks great on everyone so we just rolled with that.

At this point, we’d selected our wedding photographers Corey and Cait, based in western Maine. We’d chatted on the phone but had never met. So while we were in their neck of the woods, we planned on meeting them at Sunday River ski resort for some photos.

We left the ski house one morning to go meet them. On our way, our car broke down and we couldn’t make it to Sunday River – instead, we were caught in Norway, Maine, waiting for the local mechanic. As it turned out, we were right near Cait and Corey’s home! So, we went traipsing around their beautiful property and took some photos – I’m so glad we had snowshoes in the car.

After this photo session, we were absolutely convinced we had picked the right photographers. We were so comfortable and happy to be hanging out with Corey, Cait, and their dogs, and the photos were awesome.

Make our wedding website and registry (2 months, 28 days before)

We made a website and gave it almost no thought because it just worked. It was on WordPress. We used the Twenty-Nineteen Theme. We registered a domain. We built it in Gutenberg. The actual creation of the website took less than an hour. It took us more time to write up our Maine restaurant and brewery recommendations (because we had so many!).

What was much more painful was setting up our wedding registry. The majority of the items we registered for were from shops or restaurants in our neighborhood. Because we weren’t getting items from big box stores or online places, most of the stores did not have online inventory. We ended up using Zola and custom adding each item, taking photos at the stores we visited and either having folks call the store to buy directly or contributing cash for us to buy it later. I’ll have to give a special thank you to my friend Stephany who helped advise on what we needed on the registry!

Get bridesmaids and groomsmen ready (2 months, 12 days before)

The guys brought their grey suits. The girls ordered their dresses from David’s Bridal and they looked absolutely beautiful day-of.

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties! (1 month, 26 days before)

Up until the wedding, this was one of the happiest weekends ever, to be surrounded by our favorite people. Corey got to celebrate with a weekend in Memphis with his guy friends. Meanwhile, the girls surprised me with a weekend of fun events and a giant sleepover in Somerville.

The guys in Memphis!
The girls in Somerville!

Because I obsessively take pictures, we have way more photos of the bachelorette party than we do of the bachelor party… :)

Get rings (1 month, 21 days before)

We almost forgot about the rings! Fortunately, we knew about Jade Moran Jewelry, a store in our neighborhood. I messaged her on Instagram and we were able to get beautiful silver rings fitted and custom made in time for the wedding.

Attend the tasting (43 days before)

Point Lookout hosts one tasting a year for all of their couples, and this year it was on April 6. We invited Kathy and Jack, and brought Fritz along for the ride. We figured it would be a fun weekend in Maine!

As we drove out of Boston, I suddenly realized that… although I’d been talking to Point Lookout almost weekly at this point, I had completely spaced on making a cabin reservation for the tasting! And now we had to find a place in mid-coast Maine that could accommodate two couples and a dog… tonight! Driving north on I-93, we called around and were able to book a room that was nearby, dog-friendly, and still had 2 rooms available. Thank you Expedia mobile!

That evening, we checked into the lovely Country Inn, dropped off Fritz in our room, and went straight to the tasting at Point Lookout (about 20 minutes away). As soon as I walked into the tasting, I get a frantic phone call. Our dog was barking at the Country Inn and we had to get him. The ever patient and kind Jack left the tasting, drove the 40-minute round trip to get Fritz, and set him up in the car at Point Lookout. For the remainder of the 3-hour tasting, Kathy, Jack, Corey and I were on 45-minute rotations to go out and check on Fritz and make sure he was alright in the Subaru.

… and this is how Fritz the ring-bearer got himself uninvited from the wedding.

Meet the florist (42 days before)

While we were in mid-coast Maine, we stopped by the florist with Kathy and Jack. We absolutely loved our florist, Anna from Seasons Downeast. I’m pretty sure everyone who works with her wants to be friends with her. She was super chill, had a beautiful flower aesthetic, helped us stay within our budget, and had a lovely golden retriever named Remy that Fritz loved.

Taste the gelato (42 days before)

While we were in Maine, the four of us met up with Wells and Alex to try out our wedding dessert – some delicious gelato from Gelato Fiasco. The 6 of us tasted something like 47 flavors in one sitting. We also got to meet Wells and Alex’s new adopted pup Cora!

Start buying decorations and stuff (1 month before)

Because our wedding was a 4-day event, including a big house party, the amount of stuff we accumulated to bring to Maine was crazy. The “buying things” phase started about 30 days before and didn’t stop until we left for Maine. Our most frequented stores included: Total Wine, Michael’s, and Costco.

Make the wedding gifts (27 days before)

Again, my crazy talented friend Elaina helped make this possible. The theme for our wedding was cities – places we’ve lived, places we’ve explored together. Corey came up with the idea of tea towels for our guests, and I asked Elaina if she would help us design and screen print them. Of course Elaina has beautiful handwriting, so she drew the cities onto a sheet of paper, burned it onto a screen, and then on a Monday night we got together and screen-printed all 80 tea towels while listening to our wedding dance playlist. We had such a blast doing them, and I learned how to screen print!

Buy some alcohol (22 days)

Alcohol is easily one of the most expensive things at any wedding. For the 4-day event, we were self-catering the liquor for almost all of it, which helped keep costs down. This also meant Corey had to make a lot of decisions about what types and brands of liquor to buy (oh, the agony). It was an excuse to try out a bunch of cocktails with friends, and ask folks what their favorite drinks were.

One of the best decisions we made was to shop at Total Wine. Their assistant manager Rick spent nearly 2 hours with us helping select the wine, beer, and liquor for our various events. He set up a tasting on the fly and advised us on how to keep costs low. And, any unopened bottles we purchased could be returned, which made us feel more confident heading into the weekend.

On a Saturday morning, we spent two hours FaceTiming with our friends Jill and Nick – Nick works in the wine industry in California. We looked through the wine list together, and they helped us select delicious wine that would also be fairly affordable.

Our friend Ryan helped us pick up a few kegs from Allagash (St. Klippenstein and James Bean). Our friend Wells loaned us a jockey box, and helped us get it all set up at the hospitality cabin.

We also made sure to pack a bottle of 2015 Bourbon County Stout for our ceremony :)

I’ll also note that the liquor spreadsheets were pretty ridiculous. Corey had a spreadsheet listing beer, type, Untappd Ratings, and Friend Ratings. Another spreadsheet of liquor inventory. And of course, one to tabulate liquor costs at the venue — should we pay per hour or per drink? Will people want fancier wine or fancier bubbles? So many decisions!

Final suit fitting (19 days before)

Corey got his suit custom-made at Raymond’s in downtown Boston. He went in for his final fitting, and ordered some purple ties on Amazon.

Get any online orders in (18 days before)

Anything we had to order online, we tried to get done two weeks before. This included the succulent pots for one of the dinners we were doing, our photo booth, photographs we wanted to display, and our placecards.

Finalize seating charts (16 days before)

We were super excited about our laser cut placecards and once they arrived, we spread them out on the kitchen table. Then, with a glass of whiskey in hand, we arranged the seating. Seeing everyone’s names gathered made it feel very real to us. The wedding was almost here!

Finish decorations (15 days before)

Corey’s parents Stephen and Maria are super talented and crafty! Since cities were the theme of our wedding, in January we sent them a sketch of a sign post with cities and distances. They took that idea and ran with it, turning it into reality. It was so beautiful, and we ended up getting married in front of the signpost. We can’t wait to take the signs and put them up at our house!

Write the “vows” (14 days before)

Our friend Joe was officiating the wedding and he gave us a clear checklist of things we needed to do for him before the wedding. He was adamant that vows had to be complete 2 weeks before the wedding. So, on a Sunday morning, we sat outside Revival Cafe with Fritz and wrote out our commitments to each other. It took us way less time that we thought it would, which is probably a good thing – we already knew what we wanted to say.

Plan a tea ceremony (13 days before)

From Twitter:

None of us owned a tea set! But the day before we left for the wedding, a gift from Maria’s friends Marie and Bruno arrived. It was a beautiful tea set. It was perfect for the tea ceremony.

Makeup trial-run (10 days before)

Corey’s sister Lya is the most amazing beauty consultant. She gave me advice on everything from lash extensions, to what to buy at Sephora, to how to do my hair. It was such an education. On a weeknight in April, Lya and my friend Stephany came over and we ate Indian food while we did a hair and makeup trial run. We were all set to go, except that at the last minute, Lya’s doctor told her she couldn’t travel to the wedding because of her pregnancy. We were super bummed that she couldn’t be there that day, but it was best for everyone’s health and safety!

So, about 10 days before the wedding, the talented-at-everything Ms. Elaina came over and did a 2nd makeup and hair trial-run with me while Corey and Eric played video games (no, Corey didn’t see the dress). Do you notice a theme here? This blog post could be titled “How Elaina Made Our Wedding Happen.” Day of, she totally nailed the hair and makeup.

Build the photo display (9 days before)

One of the elements I was the most excited about working on was the photo display. Maria and my mom gathered a bunch of family photographs for us and we printed them out using Social Print Studio‘s miniprints. Then on a Saturday morning, Corey and I sifted through them and hung them up on boards.

Later that day, we had a bunch of friends over, including a friend who wasn’t going to be able to attend the wedding. It was fun to share the photos with him and see his reactions. We’ll definitely be displaying these around the house.

Make signs (8 days before)

On Mother’s Day, Corey’s mom Maria came down to Boston to spend the day with Corey and Lya. While she was in town, she and Lya helped us write a bunch of signs for the ceremony and reception. Later in the day, Corey finished decorating the mason jars.

Assemble welcome bags (6 days before)

Corey’s mom Maria, with the help of Marina and Jeff (and also Oliver the cat!), put together beautiful welcome bags for our guests full of amazing goodies.

Panic (5 days before)

Every wedding needs a bit of a panic moment, and that happened about 5 days before when… we realized that Corey didn’t have the documents he needed to get our marriage license.

Go away, I’m stressed!

There was a 12-hour period where we were frantically running around City Hall and generally being overwhelmed. We were so stressed out! I was so stressed out! At the last minute, our friend and officiant Joe introduced us to his lawyer who helped us through it and… we got our license in time! PHEW! And, thankfully, that was the last of the wedding drama.

Family start arriving (4 days before)

The Wednesday before the wedding, family started arriving. Corey’s cousin stopped by for lunch, and my parents got into town super late at night. People were arriving and it was all getting very, very real! We were so excited.

Drop off Fritz (3 days before)

Instead of spending the weekend cooped up in our cabin, Fritz got to go on a doggy-vacation and hang out with his friends at Riverdog Peabody. The team there does such an amazing job – Fritz always runs into their shop at full speed, ready to play.

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Good morning Fritzzle ☀️😘

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Drive up to Maine (3 days before)

The sheer amount of items we needed to pull off this wedding was insane. Corey’s parents brought their truck and hauled all the alcohol and decorations. Corey’s cousin Jeff filled his trunk with food for the hospitality suite. My friend Lori brought the photo booth and gifts for our wedding party. And we rented a mini van to bring up the two of us, with our parents, our luggage, and all the ceremony items (including the dress and suit!)

Moving all the items to the car

We stopped in Portland to grab lunch with a group of friends that had already arrived. And then we were off to Point Lookout for our wedding weekend!!!

The entire wedding planning experience was such a gift. Every single person who attended the wedding helped us out in some way, and we feel much closer to our community after spending so much time with everyone. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by such loving friends and family, and this year has been a wonderful way to start our marriage!

Advice for Planning a Wedding

  • Build a good team. If you’re hiring a wedding coordinator. If you’re working with a wine shop. If a friend is doing photography. We didn’t invite anyone to work on our wedding who we didn’t trust or like. I walked away from certain vendors and stores because they didn’t feel quite right. Allot extra time for vendor selection and be choosy if possible.
  • Get really good at spreadsheets. Have one master sheet with multiple tabs.
    • Budgets. Our budget sheet included every detail from vendor to signage, and we had a column for estimated costs and a column for “real” or paid costs. We updated it as we went along so we could tell if we over or under our estimates.
    • Guests. You’ll need to be diligent about setting up an easy way to track everything from: when you sent them the invite, if they RSVP’d, what their plus one (or kid) situation is, dietary restrictions, carpool needs, rehearsal dinner attendance, etc etc.
    • Liquor. You’ll want to run some estimates and inventory what you purchase. An estimate we’d heard was about 6 drinks per person with a 5-hour open bar. If you’re working with a place like Binny’s or Total Wine that lets you return excess liquor, keep your receipts taped to your fridge until after the wedding when you’re ready to return.
    • Vendors. You’ll want a sheet to track a. vendor’s email, phone number, when you paid folks, how much you paid them, and when the final payments are due. After every vendor call, I sent an email with detailed notes from the call – because often you’re having conversations up to 6 months before the wedding and you won’t remember details week-of
    • Gifts. Outside of your electronic registry (we used Zola), you’ll want a spreadsheet to track what off-registry gifts people purchased, cash gifts they sent you, beautiful cards, or gifts they gave you at the wedding — this will help with writing thank you cards.
  • Mobile Lists. There were two lists on our cell phones that were absolutely essential. One was the packing list – in the final month of planning, we’d be chatting about the wedding in the car and say, “Oh we’ll definitely need an extension cord for the lobster pound.” Corey had a packing list on his phone that he kept updating, and by the time we were leaving, we had a 4-page list that he’d sorted and organized by event. The other mobile list was the todo list. We had a shared spreadsheet with a list of running todos that our wedding coordinator had set up. Every time we thought of something, we’d add it to the todo on our phone. Writing things down meant that whatever it was, it would get done.
  • Clear the week before your wedding. As much as possible, have everything on your todo list completed 7-10 days before your wedding. This includes big things like seating, and small things like writing cards thank you cards for your wedding party. Why? Because the week before your wedding is when everyone else will need your attention. Your vendors will start calling you with questions. Your family members will start packing and traveling and will text you with questions. Someone will cancel (or add an extra guest) on you last minute. Your venue will want to confirm things. Clearing your todo list before everyone else starts bugging you is a huge stress reliever.
  • Have perspective, or at least fake it. When you’ve spent a year looking forward to a special event, it can be really easy to demand perfection and panic. I had my own moment of this when we thought the marriage license wasn’t going to be ready in time. As much as possible, force yourself to remember that the most important thing is to celebrate with your family and friends. If anything, you staying calm will keep everyone else around you calm!