How to make your wedding uniquely your own
When planning your wedding, it is insanely stressful trying to decide which traditions to keep and which ones to redefine. I value wedding traditions, and largely followed convention when I got married five years ago. However, in retrospect there are a couple things I wish I’d done differently, but I was afraid to deviate from what was expected of me. When I photographed Chelsea and Evan’s wedding at The McAlister-Leftwich House in the fall, I was blown away by how confidently they navigated and created their own traditions. Chelsea agreed to answer some questions about her wedding planning philosophy, and I know y’all will appreciate her answers as much as I did. Read on to learn how to make your wedding uniquely your own!
(PS… emphasis was added by me! Everything else is straight from Chelsea!)
What was your philosophy when planning your wedding?
My philosophy was to have fun. I’ve always heard how stressful wedding planning is and I was determined to not let it be stressful. I recruited my groom to help with quite a bit of the planning. He took care of the caterer, all of the music which included the DJ and the string trio, and everything related to the groomsmen’s attire. And you wouldn’t believe how much push back he got from vendors. Several insisted they needed to speak to me before finalizing everything, but I fully trusted Evan to handle it. He cared more about those things than I did, and while he asked my opinion, he took care of finalizing them.
I also knew from the start I wanted to hire a wedding planner. This was the best investment and was not as expensive as you might think. While we still found the vendors and finalized the contracts, I didn’t have to worry about coordinating the wedding day with any of the vendors. She handled everything and made sure it ran smoothly. I didn’t have to deal with anything on my wedding day.
Another thing I knew from the start was that I did not want to do any DIY. I am not a crafty person and the more things you try to take on yourself, the more stress. While I understand some brides may need to do more things themselves to stay under budget, the more you can get other people to help you, the less stressful the whole process will be. I also kept reminding myself and everyone that had an opinion in the planning process that the only thing that mattered was that we were getting married and if we didn’t have something, it was not the end of the world.
What was the hardest part of planning your wedding? What was the easiest?
The hardest part for me was finding a makeup person! I had put a deposit down with one person, but after two trials, I just knew she wasn’t the right one for me. Everyone kept telling me to do my own makeup for the wedding, that I do my own makeup beautifully. But again, I didn’t want to do much of anything myself. But I ended up finding the perfect makeup artist and she was wonderful. The easiest part was picking the venue. As soon as I saw McAlister-Leftwich House, I knew it was where we were going to get married. I just had to convince Evan and once we’d toured it once, that wasn’t very hard.
Which traditions did you keep, and which ones did you break? How/why did you decide to break (or keep) them?
I’m a pretty outspoken feminist and not very religious, so most wedding traditions didn’t really fit into my vision for my big day. Did you know the whole tradition of not seeing the bride before the wedding and the wedding veil itself is from the time of arranged marriages? The parents didn’t want the groom to see the bride before the moment they were saying “I do” because they didn’t want the groom changing his mind about the wedding. Well, I’m pretty sure Evan went into this whole thing willingly, so I definitely wanted to see him before the wedding. We did a first look and it was a perfect moment to have to ourselves before spending the rest of the night with so many people.
I did wear a veil, but I did not cover my face with it. Traditionally, the dad walked the bride down the aisle because he was giving his daughter away to the groom, as property. While my dad did walk me down the aisle, our officiant asked all of the parents, “Who presents this woman and this man to be married to each other?” And they all responded, “We do.”
We wrote our ceremony, borrowing pieces of it here and there from sample ceremonies our wedding planner provided us and from the internet. Evan had the idea to change up the whole kissing your bride thing and instead our officiant told me I could now kiss my husband. We did not have a wedding cake, but instead did donuts since we have a Valentine’s Day tradition that involves donuts. We did not have a bouquet or garter toss, either. These have always struck me as awkward and uncomfortable.
Did anyone resist the non-traditional aspects of your wedding? If so, how did you handle it?
I think the only thing people resisted at first was the first look, because they wanted to experience his initial reaction to me for themselves when I walked down the aisle, but ultimately, everyone understood why we wanted to do the first look. And I was pretty adamant that it was our wedding, and we would do it how we wanted.
Do you have anything you wish you’d done differently?
I wish we would have had someone record the toasts. We did not hire a videographer, because I just didn’t think I would ever watch a video of the wedding again. However, my maid of honor did have her boyfriend record the ceremony. I just wish I had thought to ask them to record the toasts too. It was one of my favorite parts of the night and I wish I could relive it.
What advice do you have for a bride who wants to deviate from the typical wedding traditions but is afraid to?
Your wedding is yours and your partner’s. If you want to deviate from tradition, do it! Do what will make the two of you happy.
What did you love most about your wedding day?
So, I have two favorite moments. During the ceremony, we did our vows in a repeat after me fashion. The officiant said a line and then we repeated it back. Well, she misspoke one of the lines and honestly was kind of hard to understand, so Evan repeated it back the best he could gather and it came out “grow old alone together,” which was not at all what the line was supposed to be, but it was just so funny and everyone laughed. It calmed my nerves and was just such a great moment that we’ll remember forever.
The second moment for me was during the best man’s toast. For years, Evan has been attending NC State tailgates with his best man’s family. They have a tradition where they recite the North Carolina state toast several times during each tailgate. Did you know we’re the only state that has a state toast? At the very end of his toast, he asked everyone who was familiar with the toast to recite it. I was blown away with how many people knew it and it was such a special moment.
There you have it! Which piece of advice was most meaningful to you? Are there certain traditions you want to honor or ignore in your wedding?
Florist: Flora Andraya
Lounge Rentals: The Prettiest Pieces
Planner: A Beautiful Day by Christina
Makeup: Lindsay E. Artistry
Hair: Kyle Britt
DJ: Dow Oak Events
Donuts: Krispy Kreme