For those who wanted to hear about our wedding plans…or for those who are looking for tips and ideas…here is a glimpse into the many details of wedding planning!

The moment I knew we could truly get married this year, I started planning our wedding in earnest. Even before I had a ring on my finger, I was putting to paper the dreams I’d dreamed of that special day.After a night of little sleep, my mind racing with ideas, I knew I had to write out my ideas so they wouldn’t keep running around in my head. I’ve never been a notebook person, but decided the wedding notebook idea sounded most sensible. I printed off worksheets from OurMarriage.com and WedPlan.com and organized them behind tabs in my three-ring binder: Checklists, Ceremony, Reception, Wedding Party, Flowers, Registries, and Honeymoon. Later, I discovered that when you do your gift registry with JC Penney, they give you a lovely wedding planning notebook for free. It has all the tabs and checklists, designed just for Penneys by Alexa and Elizabeth Lluch, authors of Easy Wedding Planning Plus. Between the worksheets and the extra pieces of notebook paper behind each tab, I had a logical place to write down each idea. I knew I’d be digging out the notebook and a pencil at midnight, but I hoped then I could get to sleep!

I signed up with both TheKnot.com and TheWeddingChannel.com, but chose to use The Wedding Channel because of their personalized wedding website address. JC Penney also offers a free wedding website through WeddingSolutions.com.

I downloaded Microsoft Excel’s Wedding Budget Template and started figuring out all the line items I could eliminate.

Then, I waited for him to show up with a ring so that I could get to planning in earnest!

On Valentine’s Day, my man took me on a walk over to our house site, knelt down on one knee…and put the most beautiful ring on my finger. I was the happiest girl in the world! Especially when we set the date and I realized I got to marry my beloved fiance in just 14 weeks!

Before the week with his family was over, I’d designed the invitations (according to an idea I’d had for a long time). A background of some of the letters we’ve written to each other over the years, with a picture of us above a text box with the date and details, all printed as a 4×6 photo at Costco, then mounted on butter yellow cardstock.

As soon as we got home, I went wedding dress shopping with my mother, grandmother, and little sister…and found the dress on our second day of shopping. I had actually tried it on the year before, when wedding dress shopping with Natalie just for fun–but I’d completely forgotten about it. The bridal shop still had my name on file, so they pulled out my card and found they still had a dress I’d tried on the year before (on sale, this time!). When I walked out of the dressing room, Mom started crying and Jessica started jumping up and down. It was the perfect combination of vintage yet classy, antique yet not outdated, modest yet daring, simple yet elegant, both Southern and Country, and totally unique, just like me! But of course, you don’t get any more details until Natalie posts wedding pictures.

It can be dismaying to wade through rack after rack of strapless gowns with low necklines. (Be sure to read about modesty on your wedding day at the GirlTalk blog.) But I was thrilled to find a dress I didn’t even have to have altered for modesty’s sake! I wasn’t so fortunate with the bridesmaid dresses. I soon discovered that I would never find sage green bridesmaid dresses that were fit to wear in public, and there was no time to special-order them from a bridal shop. A phone call to a dear seamstress friend, and it was settled. She had the perfect pattern, and we found just the right fabric on sale. It felt like the wedding planning was half done!

After calling through the phone book, I found out that every photographer seemed to either be booked on that date or charge an arm and a leg. But to me, the pictures were the most important part of the day (other than the groom, of course)! Eventually, through word-of-mouth, I found a Christian photographer who: took great pictures, on a digital camera (a must for me, since I knew he would take lots more pictures when not restricted to rolls of film), offered the CD for sale (prints are literally a hundred times cheaper at Costco than they are through most photographers!), and only did photography part time (which meant he had other ways of putting food on the table than breaking wedding budgets).

Later, after I figured out approximately what everything else would cost, I was able to hire a videographer, too. (Another Christian!) Through this I learned to always ask for a budget package. I didn’t need streaming video of my wedding available online for a month, nor did I care about a deluxe leather album for my photos when I already have a Creative Memories wedding album. Everyone seems to have that “secret” lower-priced package–be sure to ask!

My dad’s cousin was kind enough to continue the family tradition of making (delicious) wedding cakes for all the cousins. I had fun looking through her books and choosing a heart-shaped cake design, with a frosting technique that creates the look of a basket weave.

The local florist retired long ago, but she still does weddings…and we were thrilled when she agreed to do mine. She’s the one person I haven’t settled all the details with yet. But I’m planning on carrying yellow roses, with bridesmaid bouquets of coral with touches of blue.

Microsoft Excel was a life-saver for the guest list. Merritt and I both typed up our guest lists, then he sent me a CD with his file so I could add it to mine. Addressing all those envelopes didn’t take half as long as I thought (though the addresses for the B’s were probably easier to read than the W’s). The love birds stamp, and the postmark from the little town of Bridal Veil completed our love letter theme!

Merritt and I never knew spending other people’s money could be so exhausting until we did our gift registry! We spent lots of time going through each store, to compare what was available, before we started registering. Even though we had to go back to each place several times, it was worth it in the end to keep from getting so overwhelmed. The checklist from The Everything Wedding Book was helpful to make sure we remembered what we needed. And Merritt became a pro at those little scanners you register with! Linens ‘n’ Things was fun because of the wide variety of items. Sears has tools and appliances but the scanner tool was a nightmare. Though JC Penney lacked the smaller items, it was by far the easiest place to register, with the coolest little scanner and free gift wrap and shipping for gift-givers.

Even before the invitations were sent out, gifts started coming in. I appropriated a small spiral notebook to keep track of all the gifts, so I didn’t forget anyone. I decided the only way to keep up on thank you notes is to keep up, right from the beginning. So each time we get a gift or card I write it down, write the thank you note, and put a check mark by the giver’s name so I know I’ve thanked them.

Ever since my cousin Melissa learned to play the piano better than me (that didn’t take much–and then, she got way better than me: now she majors in music!), I’ve been asking her to play the piano at my wedding. I had fun compiling a list of songs for the prelude music, many from the good old Reader’s Digest family songbooks. Then I used the latest version of Windows Movie Maker (which comes free with Windows SP2) to put together a slideshow of pictures, set to two of our favorite Country songs: “Me & You” (Kenny Chesney) and “What Did I Do to Deserve You” (Bryan White). (If you want to spend a little money on the slideshow, ProShow Gold by Photodex is a great program!)

For the reception, we’re planning to serve M&M’s, mixed nuts, and punch along with the cake. I found yellow plates and napkins at the dollar store, forks on sale at the grocery store, and big bags of M&M’s at Costco. In the process, I discovered that the dollar stores have whole wedding aisles now–from favors to bubbles, you can find it for $1! (But sometimes, it’s still cheaper at the craft or party supply store. Shop around before you buy. And then save every receipt in case you find a better deal and can return it.)

While Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette is a classic wedding planning book, and even Eric and Leslie Ludy have written A Perfect Wedding, the book I referenced over and again was The Everything Wedding Book. A must-have for keeping the budget in line isBridal Bargains. (And check out Midday Connection’s March 20th interview with Cara Davis for “Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot.”)

When Merritt was here last month, we bought our marriage license, had a great time of counseling with our pastors, and completed our gift registry. Then he loaded up the trailer with my belongings, as well as our woodstove and the appliances we’d found while he was here, and headed home to start building our little home. The countdown was just 8 weeks then… Now we have a roof to go over our heads, I have a shower next week, my maid of honor (guess who!) is arriving in 3 weeks, and I get to marry my man in 5 weeks!

Next week I need to make a list of what pictures I want taken, make that list to tell the groomsmen what to do when, and figure out a complete schedule for the wedding day… Happy wedding planning to the rest of you brides!

33 Comments

  1. Wedding consultant says:

    Well written, great job. For anyone who wants to get well prepared, this lists of things to chek will definitely be helpful ahead of time.

  2. Bethany Bennett says:

    Gretchen,

    Thanks so much for sharing your wedding plans, tips, ideas, books, etc. etc. I’ve been keeping a file of stories, invitations, tips, books, and lots more to make it easier when my turn comes to plan my wedding. Your story is going in my file.

    Will you tell us where you *went* on your honeymoon *after* the fact? How long will you be gone?

  3. Chantel H. says:

    Oh, Thank you so much! This was so timely… right when my sister to be and I were wondering… where do you start?

    Thank you so much, and best wishes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    -Chantel

  4. “Merritt and I never knew spending other people’s money could be so exhausting until we did our gift registry!”

    I had to giggle when I read this! My own dear man and I spent an entire week going online and to the stores we were registering with, and even now (4 months later) I am still periodically tweaking the registery list. It’s a tough job trying to figure out what is needed to outfit a new home and what colors/items should go in which room, etc.

    I’m so glad that everything is going well with the planning!

  5. aussietigger1980 says:

    This is a brilliantly helpful post that I will be sure to remember to access when I need it! Currently, I have heaps of friends getting married…so perfect opportunity for me to take notes! ๐Ÿ™‚ Sounds awesomely special! Richest blessings to you both!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the planning advice. My wedding is set for April 2007, so I certainly understand the patience required by a bride in waiting! My man is working a long way from me for the next 10 months and decided he didn’t want to start our married life with his being absent for a large part of it. Thank you for sharing information about this wonderful season of your life Gretchen. By your example (and the example of Natalie and the rest) I feel encouraged and challenged to be all I can be for His glory. Especially in preparing for the high calling He has assigned me, being good wife.
    Yours in the Faith,
    Kate W.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad that you chose the Wedding Channel, Gretchen. Lots of couples at my church use that so people can read about how they met, the wedding details, sign the guest book, etc. Have fun wedding planning:)

    ~Allison

  8. How fun!! Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Anonymous says:

    It might be too late now or not what you want, but mms.com sells custom mixed bags of m&m’s.

    I absolutely LOVE M&M’s, I definitely will HAVE to keep that idea in mind for my wedding.

  10. Anonymous says:

    AWWW!!! That will be so pretty. It’s neat that you’ll have a lot of music variety. God bless as you continue working on your wedding plans:).

  11. Anonymous says:

    Gretchen,

    Thanks SO much for the “helps” and fun details!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m glad you’re sticking to the traditional wedding music! (I work for a wedding coordinator and FEW brides chose the traditional music!)

    Very cute picture, y’all look so happy together and you look like you go together!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Have you ever noticed how most couples LOOK like they go together?!!???!? ๐Ÿ™‚

    I feel like I know you. . .and I’ve never even met you before. . .and probably never will! Thank you for sharing with us pieces of your life!

    Yes, I would VERY much enjoy seeing wedding pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you again for the post and information!

    HLH

  12. Gretchen Louise says:

    The traditional wedding march will be played when I walk down the aisle. We will walk out to a blend of the traditional recessional and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

  13. Anonymous says:

    Just out of curiosity: what song will be played when you walk down the isle?

  14. What beautiful invitations!!!! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Maybe after you get back, Natalie can tell us where you went?! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wedding planning sounds so exciting and here I am just reading about it (and daydreaming, wishing and sighing, of course. I’ll have to remember a bunch of that stuff for when I get married. Lovely article, Gretchen.
    Love,
    Rachelle

  17. Anonymous says:

    Oh! The wedding invitations are beautiful…very unique as well:).

    Oh well about where you’re going for your honeymoon. I’m sure that you’ll have a wonderful time wherever it is!:)

    ~Allison

  18. Gretchen Louise says:

    I added a picture of our invitation, and details of our favorite Country songs. But sorry, folks, I’m not going to advertise to the world where we’re going on our honeymoon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anonymous, yes, of course you may print from our website! If you can’t print through your internet browser, try copying what you wish to print, and pasting it into a word processing program. Hope that helps!

  19. Thank you so much, Gretchen! I LOVED reading about all your planning! And thank you for sharing that DARLING picture! :o)

    Along with “Owen family”, I too am curious as to what your favorite country songs are. :o)

  20. Thank you for sharing all the details, Gretchen! (I always love all the “tiny” details about everything :-)) It sounds like it’ll be absolutely beautiful. I, too, was going to ask, if you’d be able to post a picture of the invitations? It sounds beautiful and so unique! Another question that several have already asked…where are you going for your honeymoon? May the Lord richly bless you two!

    ~Brianna

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been viewing your blog for years. I’ve enjoyed it very much. Besides that I’ve learned so much and been encouraged by many of your entries.

    Would it be asking to much to be able to see your wedding invitation? Could you post it on here and share it with us?

    I have another question: Am I allowed to print your material? Sometimes you write something I want to print and stick into my Bible. I’ve found that it just doesn’t print. Is there a reason for that? Some of the articles you write are worth keeping and re-reading. You don’t know what an inspiration you’ve been to me through the years.

  22. Thanks for sharing all those details, Gretchen! It’s a delight to get to experience a little bit of this with you. I’m going to have to file away all the tips for when I marry. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Glad to hear you registered at Linens-N-Things. I happen to work at one, and am always getting to help darling couples with their registries, or planning what will go on mine someday. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for all the details, I loved reading them and I will keep them in my mind in case I ever plan a wedding for myself.

    Where are you going on your honeymoon?

  24. Such fun details, Gretchen! I loved reading about everything – one of the best parts is the great deals you got – I love your practicality!

    Your invitation was adorable. So *you*!!! I so wish I could be there to witness the beautiful declaration of your love for each other…I know it will be a wonderful day! Looking forward to lots of pictures. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (hint hint, Natalie!!)

  25. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing the wedding plans! I always LOVE to hear about other peoples weddings…not to mention looking at pictures of the wedding to:). By the way, that picture of you and Merritt is so cute!!:) One quick question. Where are you planning on taking your honeymoon?

    ~Allison

  26. Owen Family says:

    What’s your (& Merritt’s) favorite country songs?? :o)

    ~Chelsea

    p.s. thank you for sharing the planning of your wedding – it’ll be a great resource!

  27. Natalie Marie Nyquist says:

    Awesome my sissy ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Wow…that is a great article…very practicle…I love your writing style…while I wont be planning a wedding probably for a couple of years (only God knows)…(-:it will be nice to have this in the back of my mind, for the future! Thanks Gretchen!

  29. Rebecca's Corner says:

    Gorgeous description of a joyous event! I am so happy to see your day coming together. God bless! (I cannot imagine how excruciatingly long 5 weeks must feel, but it only adds to the anticipation and excitement!)

  30. Rebecca's Corner says:

    Gorgeous description of a joyous event! I am so happy to see your day coming together. God bless! (I cannot imagine how excruciatingly long 5 weeks must feel, but it only adds to the anticipation and excitement!)

  31. Whew…thanks so much, Gretchen. You gave us all of the details, which is what I like! I also love the fact that your wedding is going to be humble, sweet and unique to you and Merritt. Too many people go all out with the expense and forget that a wedding is supposed to be a public declaration (and therefore reflection) of the love that you share.

    I remember telling a friend of mine at church that I wanted to get lots of the extras (like paper plates etc) at discount stores and she laughed and said “But it’s your wedding! You can’t do that!” But you can do that, as you’ve shown us (and I know it will be beautiful). Nothing beats a sincere wedding, one where the bride and groom’s pure love for eachother overpowers everything – even the beautiful dress!

    Just one thing – are you just having a cake reception, or are you serving a sit-down meal/buffet?

    Naomi (Very excited for you, even thought we’ve never met)

  32. Rebecca's Corner says:

    Gorgeous description of a joyous event! I am so happy to see your day coming together. God bless! (I cannot imagine how excruciatingly long 5 weeks must feel, but it only adds to the anticipation and excitement!)

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