Now that we’re officially married, I wanted to share some of the details and behind the scenes of the planning. I’m going to try to be succinct (and coherent). I am half in disbelief we pulled it off.
Let me also just say that there’s a difference between planning a small wedding… and planning a small wedding during a pandemic. I have never planned a small wedding outside of a pandemic, so my experience is pretty filtered through the lens of covid. (That is to say, if you’re reading this five years from now we are, hopefully lol 😩, not still in a pandemic.
Soooo…. I truly cannot write this post without acknowledging that I’ve dreaded planning a wedding. I’ve never wanted one and I knew Mike did, so I figured it was inevitable. That said, it turns out I loved planning it!!! I say this because if you’re like me it can seem so, so daunting, but it wasn’t nearly as stressful as I thought it would be (not that there wasn’t stress) and I genuinely enjoyed the process. (AND I had a blast at the wedding.)
The biggest thing that mentally helped me was realizing that you can make your wedding what you and your partner want it to be. It doesn’t have to follow the same ole script that every other wedding seemingly follows or do what your family/friends want you to do. Obviously planning within a pandemic is going to put some bumpers and restrictions up on what you realistically can or can’t do. If you don’t want to walk down the aisle… don’t. If you want pie instead of cake… go for pie. If you want to wear a jumpsuit instead of a gown… by all means. Make it YOU.
Before I get into the actual planning, I have to acknowledge that there’s risk. There is inherent risk in having any kind of event right now. Even going to the grocery store has some degree of risk with covid. Even with our wedding, we tried to be as safe as possible (while still having a wedding– the absolute safest would have been no wedding) and we tried to eliminate as much risk as possible, but still… Since spread is more likely between people– versus surfaces– our focus for the safety of the wedding was to eliminate as many people as possible. (If you want a lot of people and don’t want to have to roll up your sleeves and do a lot of the work yourself, I would wait until it’s safer!)
OKAY! So how did we go about planning the wedding?
FIGURING OUT WHEN TO DO IT. You may remember that Mike proposed in June. Before COVID we had really talked about a lot of options: something on Nantucket, a destination wedding in Ireland, something fancy in NYC, something bigger but more local in the suburbs. We had an idea for a date in mind and had looked into venues and everything. And then COVID hit. In early May, we sat down and just kind of came to terms with the fact that the pandemic was going to dictate a lot of everyday life for a while, including weddings. I also had no clue when Mike was going to propose, so I put everything out of my head and figured everything would happen when it was supposed to happen.
Once Mike did propose, then we started to have more firm conversations about what our options were. We could potentially (I say potentially because my family lives in Florida so that adds a layer of travel complication) do something soon…. or we could wait until 2021 (which, in my opinion is still not a guarantee)… or we could wait until 2022. Honestly, we didn’t want to wait two years to get married just to have a party. Was this the wedding we each dreamed of? No. But it ended up being so perfect and so special. We had our immediate families there and that’s really what mattered to us. We both really missed our friends, but with a pandemic, everyone was understanding why we couldn’t risk it.
We actually played around with dates and had to change it a few times… August felt too soon. October seemed risky if there was a “second wave.” September was going to be tough too because my dad and grandma both celebrate Jewish holidays and we had teachers/administrators/students who would be at the wedding going back to school after Labor Day. So… basically September 5 was going to have to be the day!
Obviously everyone is at risk for coronavirus, but we also had some higher risk individuals including my grandma who just turned 93 on September 1! We asked everyone to lock down for two weeks, which was a huge ask, especially since New Jersey has opened back up quite a bit by now, but everyone agreed. And my family, including my grandma, rented a massive SUV and drove up to be here.
(Also until my family legitimately arrived, there was always the possibility that we’d have to cancel or postpone. It didn’t feel like it was actually going to happen…. until it was actually happening.)
WHERE TO DO IT. Once Mike and I landed on a date, we started to brainstorm what we wanted the actual day to look like. We looked into a few local places for the ceremony but we really couldn’t think about a better place than our own backyard. I cannot recommend doing this enough. A benefit of doing it in a backyard (either yours or a family members) is that it gives you a lot of flexibility. You’re not competing for dates and you don’t have to put down deposits… and if it rains you could theoretically just go inside, or what an hour for it to stop, or (our backup plan) do it the day before or the day after.
After the date and the location were secured, then it was basically just like… write down everything we have to do before now and then and execute. This is why I think I enjoyed the process so much. I LIVE FOR LISTS. And apparently wedding planning is just making a giant list and checking things off as you go.
PEOPLE LOGISTICS. My family stayed in our house with us leading up to the wedding so everyone could avoid hotels. It was also really fun to have everyone under the same roof– my dad and grandma hadn’t seen our house yet! It also made the week feel even more special having everyone here. Even though the big planning was all done by the time they came, there was still a bunch of little stuff that crept up on us and it was great having extra sets of hand to help get everything done. My mom and grandma washed and dried so many dishes and glasses.
MY GIANT LIST. I created a Google Sheet so Mike and I could each contribute to it. I also liked that I could access it on my phone as well. For the first week or so, I just dotted things that popped into my head. Then I created separate sheets within the doc: Schedule, Miscellaneous, Food & Drink, Table, Environmental, and Vendor Contacts. I think they’re pretty self-explanatory, but:
For schedule: I made a timeline with 30 minute increments of when everything that would happen the day of.
For miscellaneous: I had a list of everything I’d need to wear, flower girl dresses, honeymoon details, wedding bands, etc. Kind of anything that didn’t fit into other categories.
Food & Drink: Mike took charge of this tab and created grocery lists, timing for cooking, and a list of what champagnes, wines, liquor, and mixers we needed to get for the night.
Table: I actually looked at a lot of pictures of tables at various weddings on Pinterest and just wrote down a list of everything we’d need for the table. From chairs to butter dishes. It helped referencing photos and writing EVERYTHING down. Because we had such a small guest list, I opted to buy everything than rent. (I knew we’ll host more things once we can safely and it’s not the worst thing to have a 16 sets of silverware, wine glasses, champagne flutes, etc on hand!)
Environmental: This was a section dedicated to everything in the backyard. Tackling our backyard in a short timeline was the most challenging part. We needed to do everything from install a fence (!!!) to pressure wash the patio. I kept a list of everything that needed to be done in that department.
Vendors: I did keep a running list of every point of contact I had.
The Google Doc isn’t the cleanest when I look at it now, but it kept us organized and gave us a clear sense of what we needed to finish, what we still needed to do, and what was confirmed and what had arrived. For example, if I had “silverware” on the table sheet, I would leave the space next to it blank until I found a few options. I’d add links as I found them, then delete what we decided against, and bold it once it arrived at the house. I also broke things down into smaller tasks (which is how I handle everything in my life in general). At any given date, I could go in and know what still needed to be done. It really helped me not only stay on top of the long to-do list but also eased a lot of would-be anxiety because I knew I could do everything if I just kept chugging along. It never felt overwhelming or impossible (which surprised me)– I was like a woman on a mission and, armed with my list, I felt totally capable of getting it all done.
Also, it helped having one spot to write everything down because throughout the planning process, we’d think of something and just add it to the list so we didn’t forget and could address it later.
THE VISION: I actually put together a vision board in Photoshop that helped me work through how I wanted it to look… and to explain to others. I think when we kept saying “backyard wedding” it wasn’t fully accurate for what we were going for. That’s the image at the top of the post!
I had two points of “inspiration.” The first was the flowers. I wanted flowers everywhere. Since we were saving money for a thousand reasons (no band, no invitations, no venue, no seated dinner for hundreds of guests, no travel, no hotels necessary, etc.), I went wild with the flowers. It was by far the biggest expenditure but worth every freaking penny. Since we got married at home, I knew having flowers everywhere would “elevate” it into something special. I knew right away that I wanted to work with Kerry Patel and I knew I could whole heartedly trust her. (Frankly I knew she’d do such a great job that I could wear pajamas and it’d still feel like a wedding.) She lives in the same town so she came over and I walked her through what I was thinking and sent her a few inspo pictures… then I let her do her magic.
The second thing that really drove the vision of the wedding was knowing I wanted to use the Vista Alegre Rueben Blue plates. I bought every dinner plate I could find on Replacements.com and eBay and the rest of the wedding was spun around the bow plates. (This sounds insane and maybe it was, but it worked for me!)
THE DETAILS. This is where I had the most fun!! I knew I had all the big stuff taken care of and just started to dream up little details. I spent hours searching for great flower girl dresses. I looked up every rental company that delivered to our town until I found the perfect tables and chairs. I hand-embroidered hankies for all the women. I embroidered our monogram on the dinner napkins. I whipped up and printed little “programs” on scalloped invitations I found at Staples. This is where I’m my mother’s daughter for sure– she taught me from an early age the fun of the details!
While the flowers set the scene, the details are what tied everything together.
WHAT I FREAKED OUT ABOUT. Besides just having general anxiety around the pandemic, I do have to admit that I turned into a slight bridezilla around two items: the flower girl dresses and the fence. As I mentioned on Sunday, I left no stone unturned when it came to the flower girl dresses and I was PUMPED to get them in…. but there was a four week shipping period and they were shipping from Spain. There are, understandably, many shipping delays right now so I was hoping for the best. We were on a tight timeline and they ultimately arrived with plenty of time, but I started to panic that they wouldn’t fit and I’d have to go back to square one or something. I did send a few follow up messages to make sure they’d show up and they did and they fit and they were beautiful.
The fence…. was a whole ordeal. We’ve been trying to get our fence put in since May. The guy ghosted us, then we got back in touch with the company but had to restart the process. Then the permit for the city was denied. Then we tweaked the fence and the permit was resubmitted and approved. But then we needed the survey people to come out to restake the property but they were hard to pin down. I finally left a voicemail begging them to call me back. We had the survey people come the nine days before the wedding and the fence was installed the following day. When all was said and done, we got the fence in and it looked great, but it was a longggg process. (The best part of the fence is that we needed one anyway– the wedding really put a fire under our butts to just get it done!)
WILL WE DO A PARTY LATER? Almost certainly, yes. The plan is to do some kind of anniversary party down the road (when life allows) so we can celebrate with all of our friends. We have an idea for what we want to do but it will probably be at least two years down the road. It’s hard to think out that far, but that’s the plan.