Welcome back to another episode of the Wedding Secrets Unveiled! podcast. Today, we’re with Susanne Day from the Newport Experience, and five couples who were married between 2019 and 2021, and two couples getting married this year. We’re going to be talking about their experiences planning their weddings as well as tips and ticks they have for couples planning their weddings now.
Let’s meet the couples!
First we have Jessica and Oliver who were married on October 16, 2021 at the Aldrich Mansion in Warwick, RI. They met on Hinge and through friends.
We also have Brittany and Domnic who are getting married on September 25, 2022 at Blithewold Mansion in Bristol, RI. They also met on Hinge but found out they went to the same school!
Next, we have Jenna and Tyler who will be married on August 5th and 6th in an Indian ceremony at Newport Beach House. They met at law school!
Our fourth couple is Ashley and Brad, who were married on October 19, 2019 at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, RI. See their wedding on the blog!
Finally, we have Emily and Cory who were married on August 15, 2020 during COVID-19.
Did any of you begin your wedding planning before the official engagement?
Jenna: I love this question because I have a funny story about it! With COVID, weddings were pushed back a lot. I kept getting worried that the venue we wanted (Newport Beach House) would get completely booked up. I knew that Tyler was going to propose and I kept telling my friends I knew when he was doing it. My best friend had to try to lie to me and say he wasn’t doing it. So I made myself feel better and less embarrassed by reaching out to every venue in the area for quotes and setting up meetings. In the end, he did propose on the day I thought he would! It was funny to explain when we went to venues, but in the end I’m glad I took the initiative to reach out because the calendars were getting full and we got what we wanted in the end.
Emily: I have been planning my wedding since I was little. And I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like! I had all the details in my mind exactly as I wanted them and so when I met Cory, I knew what was coming. Before he had actually proposed, I was out with my mom and we decided to just gather information at places I liked because he was taking forever! I brought everything home and we actually wound up booking our date at the Crowne Plaza before we were ever engaged. But, then I knew he had to do it!
For all the listeners out there, we want you to know that there is no such thing as “too early” to start planning such an important day! With that said, I would love to know if any of you have ever gone to a wedding that helped you figure out what you really wanted for your own big day?
Emily: I went to a wedding for one of my good friends in California. Her wedding looked exactly like my Pinterest page down to the flowers, cake, bridesmaid dresses… and it was literally everything I’d planned for years. So, when it was my turn I knew that everything I wanted was possible because I’d seen it in real life! I had planned everything out little sketches and things of where I wanted things to go to plug in nicely. And with the different vendors that we were using, everything was really starting to come together perfectly.
Jenna: From the perspective of planning our Indian wedding after attending them for years, it wasn’t so much that I planned but I knew what would happen. My grandmother has made comments since I was young, probably 10, about certain things we would do and wouldn’t when my day came. I remember her at one point saying she wanted me to have multiple outfits for the altar and party. So, I wouldn’t say I had picked it out. But, I have definitely been a bridesmaid in weddings too and experienced a lot of choices! Those experiences did help me with planning my own wedding – like when to reach out to who, how to pick vendors, and timeline thoughts. So if you have friends that are getting married, always pick their brains or see what they’re doing during their wedding process because that’s the way you can get your feet wet and start jumping into it for yourself!!
That’s great advice! What were some of your non-negotiables for your wedding day?
Dominic: was really important for us to have some time together that day. There’s so many moving pieces and things go quickly, so the advice we keep getting is to carve out time together. So that’s non-negotiable when it comes to our timeline.
Brittany: We also really wanted something in 2022. We’ve picked a Sunday date and have planned a whole weekend with our family and friends to go sailing and spend time in Newport and Bristol. We don’t honestly have too many non-negotiable things but a few simple things we want to make sure happens.
Ashley: Aside from having Sara as my photographer, because I’d been stalking her, we just knew we wanted 2019 for our wedding year because we’d been together for some time. We’d also been engaged awhile and knew we wanted to start a family soon, so it was important to have our wedding when we did.
How did you divide your tasks or planning or are you doing it all together?
Jessica: So I am a little bit of a control freak… so I did give my husband some tasks to do (which he says I wound up taking over!) but he did a lot of those tasks for me. He wasn’t really interested in the flowers or things like that. So, instead I had him work on transportation and things that were important to him, like finding a band. Things like that were good for him to do and then I covered the other vendors like photographers, the videographer, working on the timeline… logistical stuff like that.
Did you find that it was more stressful to hand it off or less?
Jessica: I think it was more stressful but that’s a me problem! We also got engaged and began planning right when the pandemic hit. I work in healthcare and everything just fell to the wayside. Everything I had in my head just wasn’t happening – we did the majority of planning in maybe six months which was just stressful in itself, too. He kept telling me we have time and I’d start getting anxious and just want to get it done. So I began to step into the tasks I had delegated.
Maybe the takeaway for our listeners is that if you’re delegating those tasks, look at the timeline and determine the priority for what’s being booked.
Brittany: We’re going through the planning process right now and I would say I’m doing most of it but still trying to share everything! I definitely have more of an opinion when it comes to things like the photographer or flowers. My parents are both event planners and so am I, so we’ve been working on it together. But we learned recently how overwhelmed I actually was trying to do it all.
Dominic: Yeah, it took her coming into my office in tears for me to really see what was going on. And now we’ve learned that we have to be more open about everything happening throughout this process.
Suzanne: I’d like to quickly jump in and just say that if someone says they don’t care about the process, know that they do still care! They just trust you at that moment to make a decision. I hear this all the time and I just want to tell you that your partner still does care! So, I just always recommend that your wedding day is a reflection of how you want your marriage to be. Make this a safe space to communicate together and work through the pressure and stress.
Absolutely! Did you feel pressure or stress from friends or family with your wedding planning? And how did you handle that?
Jenna: I have very opinionated family members and my friends are a bit more understanding. But, we just have a very mixed family – and that means that when it comes to things like the Indian traditions in our ceremony, my grandparents are very opinionated. They have feelings about which traditions to follow, what to wear, and so on. Some of them are wonderful and beautiful opinions and we were going to do them anyway. But it also puts pressure on us to follow through with traditions that we don’t really understand or that may not mean the same thing to us. There’s been a lot of things from their perspective that are non-negotiable and that’s been difficult to navigate. And, while we certainly want to respect the culture and traditions, we want to remember this is about us and what we want to happen. So it’s really balancing that with what people expect of us.
The other big thing is the guest list. I think everyone’s mad at me all the time about it. Because everybody wants their person to be included. The list just gets bigger every time it comes up. It’s something where I constantly have to remind myself that this is our wedding and we can invite who we want.
Dominic: We’ve gotten some pushback from my side of the family especially about the guest list. For example, my dad has a big family – he’s one of seven siblings and it’s been a non-negotiable from him that they’re all invited. It just gets trickier and tricker every time we talk because now someone else has to be included. And it’s not just about my family but when Brittany’s family is funding this, every seat costs money and it isn’t feasible after a certain point, so it’s important to acknowledge that component too. We also struggled with the church ceremony – although we grew up Catholic, it was something we just decided we didn’t need in our day. We had some push back about that too!
Brittany: Yeah, my mom definitely brought that up. She was surprised it wasn’t our choice and threw things out about how I’d gone to Catholic school. It’s just that there’s things she expected to be the same from her wedding and it’s not like that anymore. So, it’s really about finding a happy medium for everything.
Jessica: So just to echo everyone else, we obviously had some guest list opinions, too, which I think every couple goes through. But one thing that we dealt with which is a sign of the times is that we required a COVID vaccine to attend. It was important to me – I work in healthcare. It wasn’t a surprise, we mentioned on our save the dates. A lot of people had no problems but we did have some pushback from guests. Most everyone was friendly about it, sending us proof and telling us they felt more comfortable attending. In the end, I’m glad we did it because we didn’t have any issues with an outbreak or anything at our event.
Can you give our readers one piece of advice that you received from friends and family that stuck in your head – whether or not you actually took it?
Ashley: I would probably say the biggest advice we got was that at the end of the day, it’s our wedding. We weren’t going to make everyone happy – but it was our day. We had some issues along the way, with people adding RSVPs to the cards that we had to decline or people that reached out after not being invited. But, we had to just remember we won’t make everyone happy. It’s our day and we can’t take everything personally.
How did you and Brad handle those guests that wrote extra RSVPs in?!
Ashley: Well, I was the one that handled most of the guestlist. I got responses and kept track of things, so when I saw those particular RSVPs come in, I would mention it to Brad. He’d remind me that we can’t accommodate people and we’d have to send them a message to let them know that while we were excited they were coming, we just had to stay strict on our numbers. I kind of blamed the venue and space. It worked! We actually just saw recently for a wedding that Brad is in, on their RSVP card they wrote that they have 2 seats reserved for us. It’s a smart way to phrase everything and avoid the issue.
Did any of you guys work with a wedding planner? And if not, do you feel like you could have benefited from their help at some point?
Jessica: So this is probably my biggest wedding planning regret: not hiring a wedding planner. I think considering COVID and the tight timeline that we were on, we did a great job and thankfully my mom could be available to help us. But, as we got closer I really thought maybe we should hire someone to help. With everything going on and the delayed weddings, people were really busy and maybe weren’t communicating as well because of it. So, I think having someone there could have been helpful. Or at least a day-of coordinator. I would have liked someone to be there to help us from when we woke up to the end of the day – staying on time. So I would say to anyone who’s planning a wedding, hire someone. Just pay the money. It would have been worth it to alleviate some of that stress.
It’s nice to hear that that’s coming from a bride that already got married! Even with the support you had, you would have wanted even more support.
Jessica: Absolutely. And as supportive as everyone is, no one knows your wedding like you do. So having someone who could have thought through things, kept track, and kept us moving just would have been great. My maid of honor helped a ton but it stressed her out in a different way. So I just wish I had had a paid person to help us keep moving.
How did you find your vendors for your wedding day? Did you find them because of your friends or family, venue lists or something else?
Ashley: Like I said before, I had been stalking Sara for quite a long time on social media and looking at all her pictures. And one thing that I said in my planning was that photography and video was my number one on my list of things to do, aside from the venue. So, I pretty much knew those from social media or other people’s weddings.
Jenna: So I was kind of a mixed bag when it came to finding vendors. That’s partially because I needed some uncommon vendors because of the Indian ceremony. When it came to photography, I had been to a wedding that Sara photographed and was obsessed with her photos. So I reached out to her quickly to book. But, for the other vendors, I wasn’t really using anyone else my friends did. I ended up doing a lot of independent research. Some vendors recommended others – like my hair stylist recommended my makeup artist. Most of the Indian specific vendors I found on Google. It wound up being a combination of searching, personal sources, and Instagram.
Emily: I did a lot of research for vendors, even before our engagement. And I used the Knot to do a lot of the heavy lifting. From there, we would go to social media and look at their accounts, read comments, and reviews. Then, when we were ready, we’d meet with them because it’s important that we jived with who we’d be spending our day with. But, the Knot was my biggest source. I’d find my top 5, take them to Cory, we’d look through them together and decide who we’d want to meet in person.
Cory: I found that Instagram was just probably the best place to get a great visual of what you’re going to get. It shows a great catalog of the work of these creators. After she did the big research, I could quickly see what they’re capable of and felt it was a great tool.
Did anyone here hire a videographer? What led you to that decision?
Jessica: So we had a videographer and a photographer, two different companies. I just really wanted a video because as much as I love our wedding photos, I feel like I want to be able to go back and watch the day. The day goes by so quickly and I’m thrilled that we can go back and re-watch the ceremony and the day now. I just wanted to be able to relive those moments, show our kids someday and know that we have a video with our parents on it, too.
Ashley: We did a video too. That was one of the top things that I wanted as well. Probably just some of the same reasons that she just said! It’s one of our daughter’s favorite things to watch actually. It was nice too because there were lots of moments I didn’t see – like my bridesmaids walking in or my flower girl dancing down the aisle. But, now I have it all to see.
Emily: I think our situation is a bit different. We were married in the middle of COVID. And our video is just raw footage of our ceremony. I actually almost didn’t do it, but then the week before our wedding date, my mom reminded me that we’d want these memories one day. It turned out to be a good thing – and it still makes me emotional because there’s just so much captured on that footage… like me looking at my grandmother on a video call because she couldn’t travel to us.
Let’s talk about timelines! Who helped you with your timeline? Did you feel like it worked out well or it was rushed?
Jessica: We had a bunch of people weigh in on our timeline. The venue coordinator set the timeline for our reception events – like cake cutting and first dances. And earlier in the day, our photographer helped us come up with the timeline for getting ready, hair and makeup, things like that. We tried to add in extra buffers based on feedback from our vendors, but we still wound up a bit delayed in the morning with hair and makeup. So, I’d say when you work on your timeline just know that things will take longer than you think they will. Give yourself that buffer!
Ashley: I purposely wanted to do everything in the same venue. I had all of my hair and makeup done in the same space, told my bridesmaids to be there early, and it was all onsite. I think having everyone there helped me because I knew that if we did get delayed or backed up, everyone was already with us and we could adjust from there as needed.
Emily: We had our hair and makeup starting at 7am. And because my bridal party was significantly smaller due to just the chaos that was happening with COVID, we still had things starting early. Because everyone was in the same space, we could quickly move between each of us and it was more seamless. I was still late to the church, but that was my fault! I just didn’t want to feel rushed as I got ready and arrived, handed out our gifts and all of that. I wasn’t super late… but they couldn’t start without me, so I figured it would be okay in the end!
I love that. Okay, next question. Were you able to stay on budget? And what tools did you use to track your budget?
Jessica: We were able to stay on budget but I think that was partly because people that originally RSVP’d yes changed with the COVID situation. We were married in October during the Delta surge. So that, in a sad way, helped us. We had an Excel spreadsheet and had laid out estimates. As we got quotes in, we would adjust the numbers and begin to really plan out the budget. Of course, there were things we hadn’t accounted for but for the most part, we were able to stay on budget. I think if everyone had come like we originally planned, that wouldn’t have been the case.
Jenna: I think when we started the process, we had ideas from friends of what things might cost, so we had a good basis to start. But because we planned the Indian-Catholic event, things were a bit different. For example, our photographer wasn’t just for one day – they were there for three. So everytime someone would tell me what they paid, I’d have to double my budget. I think when we started out, we just didn’t realize how much we’d have to plan for. Sometimes we find things that pop up and we want to just be done with it all, but it’s just the process for having an atypical wedding. I do have some friends who had bigger weddings or destination weddings, and I’m able to use them as a benchmark to see if something really is too expensive or not. That helps, too!
We’ve learned to focus on what really matters. We aren’t doing a cake – I don’t even like cake. We don’t have a videographer because we don’t have the extra budget for that. Or, the guys aren’t getting boutonnieres. Those things add up and we can save some money there. We’re lucky because we do have family helping and we’re able to focus on what we want, but it’s definitely stressful.
I think that you gave a good nugget for our listeners – everybody has a budget, no matter what it is. And, what’s important to one person might not be what’s important to you, so adjust your budget to suit your needs and wants. That’s what really matters.
Ashley: I kind of did the same thing. I made a list when we first started our wedding planning to determine what our number one needs and wants were. We found when we first started, we really stuck to the budget. But, near the end it was hard to stick to it because little things come up that you don’t even think about or plan for. As time went on, if I needed funds, I would look at where I could pull it from and try to adjust – like maybe we could cut something to cover more flowers or whatever.
I think that’s great advice! Next question: did you get your photos and video back yet? Which memories were your favorite?
Ashley: My favorite memory was definitely the first look photos that we got back, because my husband did cry. So that was 100% hands down was one of my top memories.
I love that. And that’s that for people who are thinking about doing a first look, there’s your takeaway, it’s a wonderful moment, because so many people think that doing a first look is going to take away that emotion. Anyone else?
Jenna: So we just got our wedding video back and we haven’t watched it yet. We want to find time to sit down and really enjoy it. But, we’re looking forward to it because our pictures are great! I loved our first dance photos – we had taken dance lessons so it was choreographed. And the pictures of it are really fun. But, I’m looking forward to watching the video and just seeing that dance, or hearing the song from our ceremony.
Emily: I think the family pictures have been most important to us. Like our niece and nephew already look so different, but we can look back on the day and see how they were. All of the people in our family photos won’t be with us forever, so it’s nice to be able to look back and see them then. Make sure you take those family photos!!
For the couples that aren’t already married, is there anything you are reconsidering at this point about your plans?
Jenna: I actually just texted one of my bridesmaids about being a point of contact and helping with coordination on the day of the wedding. I hadn’t really thought about having someone help with that beyond my family. But my mom and grandmother should be enjoying the experience, so I was trying to figure out who to appoint that to instead. She said yes and I’m so happy you mentioned that while we were talking!
Brittany: So I’m definitely considering a wedding planner now. I don’t know if it will actually happen because I really want a videographer. I am excited about our photographer, but there’s just some things I’d love to have captured on film – our dances, our family, being with everyone there. I want to be able to watch those moments and show them to my kinds one day.
What is one part of the wedding planning experience that you regret and one part that you absolutely would not change?
Ashley: The one thing that I would regret was not including my husband in more planning. The thing I don’t regret was having the most amazing bridesmaids that really helped me through a lot of the process. So, I would also say lean on your people that have done this already!
Emily: It’s hard to wrap up in a sentence or two because our situation is unique, but I thought I would regret not having a big elaborate reception. But, I actually ended up not regretting it because at the end of the day, our marriage is the most important outcome of this whole celebration. So, those little things weren’t really as important as I thought in the end. I think our situation really puts into perspective what is and isn’t important to us.
Jessica: So aside from not having a wedding planner, which I talked about earlier, the other regret, I would say, was being stressed out about everything. Looking back, I wish I had just said: okay, it’s fine. We’re late and it doesn’t matter. I was so anxious about everything. What I don’t regret was that it was everything we envisioned once we finally got going. I kept joking while we planned that we should have just eloped because of the stress, but in the end, it was all worth it.
What We Discussed:
How our couples figured out what they loved + wanted for their big day (11:37)
If they’re diving tasks between each other or not (18:56)
How they handled pressure from their families during the planning process (24:51)
Thoughts about wedding planners (40:43)
Tips to find vendors for your wedding day (46:05)
Timeline tips (1:06:05)
Wrap-Up Questions (1:24:31)
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