The Good: 13 of the Best Things From the 21st Night of September

Do you remember
The twenty first night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away
Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing
As we danced in the night
Remember how the stars stole the night away

“September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

You know about the ugly, and I’ve recounted the bad, but I saved the best for last. Today, we’re covering all the best things about my wedding (aside from marrying my husband, of course!). Some of these were money well spent, some didn’t cost anything at all. If you’re not sure what parts of your wedding to prioritize, or what will stand out to you on your big day when everything seems to be moving a hundred miles an hour, I hope this list will help you hone in on what will really impact the day for you and your guests.

Our Wedding Day Looks

We. Looked. Amazing. My dress, while something I didn’t expect to pick out, was gorgeous. I loved the way it twirled and moved, I loved the way it made me feel while wearing it. My hair and makeup artist did a phenomenal job: she and my florist made my look like a Disney princess with flowers tucked into my cascading braid. Joe rented his navy tux from The Black Tux and it made him look so sharp. (The rental process was super easy, too! Highly recommend them for your tux/suit rental needs.) All of the groomsmen cleaned up very nicely (except perhaps, for the one who was drunk the entire day). My bridesmaids’ dresses were mix-&-match in blush and rose gold, sequins optional but encouraged, and they looked phenomenal together—something my mom was a bit wary of, since we had never seen the dresses together in person! We came dressed to impress, and then to party; I think we exceeded both of those goals with flying colors.

Our Ceremony + Vows

During wedding planning, this was one of the areas that we both absolutely overlooked. We didn’t book an officiant for ages; I put it off until July. I either wanted someone close to us to marry us (e.g. a friend or family member), or I didn’t really care who did it—I just wanted to be married and have a really good party. We ended up going with A Day Made For Us, a company that does both officiating and pre-marital counseling. We signed up for both of those things, and we really got along with our counselor. Unfortunately, since I didn’t book until July, he was not the person to marry us. Instead, we got his colleague who we didn’t really know. I was a bit disappointed, but shrugged it off.

We didn’t meet in person with our officiant until about a month before the wedding—I think I put it off because I was feeling “meh” about the ceremony itself. I hardly remember moments from other people’s ceremonies. It’s special for the people getting married, of course, but not as big of a deal for the guests who want to party. (As an Enneagram 2, I fully realize how much I prioritized my guest’s experience at my wedding ahead of my own.) When we finally met with him, we clicked instantly. He helped me relieve some stress about my venue (oh, they were a trip) and after our conversation, promised to take care of everything for the ceremony, all we had to do was figure out our vows. The rest was up to him, but we would get a chance to review and offer feedback (and he was so open to feedback, which I really appreciated).

The ceremony ended up being one of my favorite things about the day. Our vows were repeat-after-me style, written by each of us and kept secret from the other until the day. We both procrastinated writing them, and we both poured our hearts into them when we did. We threw in personal touches and made our guests laugh and cry. I still get compliments about the ceremony and our vows.

The Moody Flowers

I will mostly let the photos speak for themselves here, but I want to describe the process my florist took me through: after I first booked her, my mom and I met Krystal at the wholesale flower market. She walked us through all of the rooms, talking about the flowers that came in my colors, what would be in season at the time of my wedding, and what would fit in our budget. She was real with me. And she told me to take pictures of every flower that I liked. At the end of our time, she went through my camera roll and wrote down the name of the flowers I photographed. And then, I let go and her work her magic. And they were magical. I had no idea or expectation about how they would turn out, and I think letting go of those expectations especially helped.

The Fake Florals + Other Decor

These were a labor of love. I buried my head in the sand with the decorations for the longest time, until I finally gave up control and (most of) my expectations to my mom. She took this job and ran with it, designing floral pieces out of silk flowers for the archway, the staircase I walked down, the aisle decor, and half of the reception table centerpieces (the other half of the centerpieces were bridesmaid bouquets). She did a phenomenal job. They were gorgeous, and really matched the vibe we were going for. But what really meant the most to me was the true labor of love and care my mom poured into the decor to make my wedding perfect. Yes, she was a total control freak about it, but she’s my control freak of a mom and I appreciate all of the love she poured into it more than I can say.

Joe and I under the incredible floral arch my mom made.

Special Moments in the Bridal Suite

Our photographers had each of my bridesmaids help me put on one part of my look, from lacing the corset back to fastening my shoes to putting on my earrings (and dropping the back in my cleavage). I loved the special moments that created, where I got a little one-on-one time with each of my girls. For my something borrowed, I was lent my mom’s 25th wedding anniversary ring from my dad, with a tearful promise to share my own 25th (or whatever number-th) anniversary ring with my my own daughter or daughter-in-law in the future. My mom and I shared a set of jewelry that was used in my late grandmother’s wedding with my cousin Emma, my junior bridesmaid and closest thing to a sister. The three of us shared a sweet, tearful moment as I placed the necklace on her and shared the best hug, remembering Granny and feeling her with us. Taking our time to be present in those moments has left me with memories (and pictures, thankfully) that I will treasure forever.

First Look With My Dad

This was not a planned event at all—my photographers came up with it on the fly and just went with it. I walked out to the deck to see my bridesmaids all looking at me, which was a sweet moment but I didn’t understand why we were staging this photo since they had all helped me get ready minutes before. When I got closer, they peeled away to reveal my dad sitting there behind them, and the look on his face was pure joy and pride. It was the sweetest surprise, and such a special moment.

Our Taylor Swift Themed Programs

We made too many of these, but I am so proud of them. Seeing as the ceremony would in the early evening in the heat of Texas summer, I wanted program fans. But I did not want to pay a program fan price, so I decided to do it myself. I bought a template off Etsy and went to work designing it—describing every event on the program side of it with a Taylor Swift lyric, since Joe and I first bonded over our shared love for Taylor Swift.

Our Taylor Swift themed programs!

But then, I needed to print the dang things. Printing at a place like Fedex or Office Depot would be just as expensive as buying the program fans from a place online once I considered the cost of the glue and the sticks and the cardstock that I bought. So I asked instagram for advice, and instagram delivered: go to the public library! Here was my problem: I do not have an active library card. (The city of Dallas marked mine as expired a year after I got it and I hadn’t been in to renew it.) So I went with my dad who got me into the library in my hometown. We went to their printer upstairs, and then realized that… they only take cash. Quarters, to be exact. My dad went to the ATM while I figured out their printer, and he came back with handfuls of quarters. For some reason this was hilarious to us. We had many printing mishaps at the library, and it took so long, but he and I kept it light and fun and made it an adventure.

Then came time for program assembly. We set up shop at my parent’s dining room table and went to work. After my mom and I got our gluing system down, we even got my dad involved. It was so much fun doing something crafty with my parents, spending uninterrupted time with just the two of them. We only finished half of them that afternoon, so the next time I brought Joe to help knock them all out. The 4 of us had a great time getting them done, making fun of each other, being little perfectionists, and not taking ourselves too seriously.

In the end, we had over half of the programs left after the wedding. I know people used them during the ceremony to fan themselves and block the glare from the sun, but not everyone took one, and many people put theirs back after the ceremony. The honest truth is we didn’t need to make as many as we did, and I do think people would have been fine with just normal programs or even no program at all. What makes the programs one of my favorite details is the time we spent together making them, turning the DIY project into a fun memory.

My mom’s looking at the camera, anxiously waiting for me to walk down the aisle. You can see about half the program fans in the basket in the foreground, with the rest of them in the hands of our guests in the audience!

The Bar + Our Signature Cocktails

The bar was one of our most important priorities, so we wanted to make sure was awesome, and it was. We booked a venue that allowed us to bring in our own alcohol to be served by our bartenders, which is the best way to do it because there’s no markup on the bottles, we got to pick out exactly what we wanted, and then we returned any unopened alcohol the next day. Joe and I had a lot of fun doing wine tastings: one we did at Total Wine, and the other two we DIY’d with a bunch of Sam’s club and Spec’s wine. Our neighbors made the Spec’s one super fun by acting like our sommelier and trying them with us. In the end, we purchased our wine in bulk from Costco despite having never even tried it, because it was the cheapest. No one noticed or cared that the wine was “cheap”, which left room in our budget for other priorities.

For the liquor, we picked our 4 main ones (vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey; sorry tequila, but you didn’t make the cut) and we decided to do specialty cocktails with each of them, which was such a crowd pleaser. I got texts and comments from guests for weeks after the wedding about them, and some even said that one of them was their new favorite drink. Joe and I each picked 2 of our favorite drinks, and then gave them fun names—most relating to songs that mean a lot to us, with one being named after our cat, Esther. The drinks were simple and a reflection of Joe and I. I displayed them on a print out of a template I downloaded from Etsy (pro tip: find an Etsy template designer you like and stick with one design template to keep your signs uniform and make your life easier! Here’s the line of templates I used; the MarryMePaperBoutique shop on Etsy has a lot of different instant download templates and usually has a sale going on.) Another special touch to our bar area was a champagne wall custom built by one of our groomsmen as a gift, which was SO COOL and something I will treasure forever (and cannot wait to display in our future home where we have space to store our wine glasses on it!).

Our First Dance

This was one of my favorite moments, simply because it was the first time Joe and I truly got to talk to each other all day, uninterrupted with nowhere else to rush off to. Which is super ironic, because everyone was staring at us and you’d imagine we’d be a bit nervous. We weren’t. We talked, he made me laugh the hardest I’d laughed all day, and the pressure was off. We were married, and all of that was culminating in a party that started right then. I took it all in and enjoyed it.

We took dance lessons in the weeks leading up to the wedding, but I wouldn’t say that’s something you have to do to to have a great first dance. If dance lessons aren’t your thing, skip them! That money can be better spent elsewhere in your budget on things that are your thing, and people are going to love watching your first dance even if you just sway back and forth and giggle at each other. They came to see you be happy, and that is how your first dance is going to be.

For us, the dance lessons really helped us both feel more comfortable on the dance floor, and I think they allowed us to really be present in the moment during our first dance. We had practiced enough that our dance was muscle memory by that point. It’s something I’m really glad we budgeted for. Plus, it was really nice in month leading up to the wedding to have one night a week where we got out of the house, let go of some of our wedding stress, spend an hour dancing together, and then go out to dinner afterwards.

Here’s Some Toasts From My Real Friends

Our Maids of Honor and Best Men killed it with their toasts. We laughed, we cried. Joe’s brother Julius told stories from growing up with his superhero of big brother and talked about how we were a perfect match, Rebecca’s was a sweet tribute to our college friendship, and a recounting of the night we met up with Joe in Austin, the week before he and I planned our first date. Joe’s brother John told the story of trying to deliver me to my engagement from his perspective, in which he dropped me off at the wrong entrance, and it was a hoot. All’s well that ends well, of course, since we made it to the wedding day. (Stay tuned for Summer’s blog post about our engagement this weekend!) Summer’s speech was a spin on Jane the Virgin, the series finale of which has recently aired and we sobbed and live-texted each other all the way through (spoiler: it’s a wedding episode). She left me sobbing through the end of her speech too. We picked MVPs to deliver the speeches at our wedding, and they really did not let us down.

The Photo Booth Was A Hit

People loved the photo booth, and we loved that we got to see moments from the reception that we weren’t there for! (Make sure to get a photo booth if your photographers are not great at figuring out which candid shots to get at the reception, like ours were.) I booked our photo booth very early on a Black Friday deal for a great price, but even if I hadn’t, I think it would be worth every penny, full price. If this is not a priority in your budget, you could still set up a makeshift photo booth: get some sort of sheet or curtain for a backdrop, and grab yourself a ring light phone stand off Amazon! Guests can stick their phone in the stand, the ring light provides some excellent lighting, and they can either self-timer their photos or ask other guests in line to snap their picture.

A Designated Person to Help Me Pee

For me, this was Summer. She took this job very seriously, urging me to pee before the ceremony. Thank goodness she did, because it was during that bathroom trip that we realized me trying to wear underwear under my dress was a waste of time and effort. She magicked my underwear away and I got married commando (Granny would be so proud). I pulled her away from the bar during the reception to help me pee again, and the second time we had a system down for getting in and out quickly. Always make sure to pee before the ceremony, or at least try to, and let a bridesmaid know it’s their job—that way, you don’t have to track down someone that could be grumpy from unexpectedly be pulled away from the dance floor.

My designated-bathroom-helper also happened to be my bustle handler!

The Dance Party That Ended Too Early

Our dance party was cut short by the ugly thing that happened during our wedding, but aside from that, the dance floor was raging. It opened with a fake out where Joe acted like we were going to play the Texas A&M fight song, which was a bait-and-switch to play Callin’ Baton Rouge, one of our favorite country-folk songs (I even made a TikTok about this, I was so proud of it). Our DJ was awesome and kept the party going strong; he really knew how to read the room. There was a dance circle with Joe and his brother surprising the majority of our guests by performing the entire Gangnam Style dance. We closed the night with another bait-and-switch: Don’t Stop Believing which blended into Mr. Brightside. Watching our video footage back is so fun because you can tell everyone is letting loose and having a blast, which was everything we wanted for our reception.

Maybe some of these aren’t important to you, maybe you don’t drink or could care less about flowers. But I hope this helped you figure out what your priorities are. At the end of the day, the very best things about my wedding were the experiences that sparked memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. Figure out what will make this you and your groom’s favorite day, and remember that some things will happen spontaneously or organically, and you have to be open to that. If you aren’t enjoying the ride, you might miss some of the scenery.

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