Icing on the cake

What began as a Google search to prove it existed became our wedding cake topper.

I love dragons. To the extreme. I have many toy dragons given as gifts — big ones, small ones and ones that roar when squeezed. And they have names. But I digress.

One evening the discussion turned to cake toppers. I remarked how cool a dragon cake topper would be. My mom eyed me skeptically, not believing such a thing existed. Then the previously mentioned Google search started.

We quickly discovered there were tons of dragon cake toppers. Most were thin frames of dragons molded into a heart shape. This amused us for much longer than it should have.

Toward the end of our dragon journey we found a woman with an Etsy shop who made cake toppers that resembled all sorts of creatures, even dragons. In fact, it was her dragon cake topper which changed our search from silly to serious.

Two dragons sat atop a gray clay heart, noses touched in a kiss and tails wrapped together in a smaller heart. The male dragon was dressed as a groom with a black top hat, and the female dragon wore a white, lacy veil.

My heart swelled at the sight of the cake topper. I knew I wanted it for our wedding cake. When I got home I showed my fiance the photo and he loved it. I ordered the topper the next morning. The craftswoman would send it out a few weeks before the wedding so we still had months before it would arrive.

Nevertheless, when it arrived, it was everything we desired. The colors reflected the theme of our wedding and the dragons were even more adorable than in the photo. The topper was also much heavier than we anticipated. Too heavy to put on a cake without crushing it. But this didn’t deter us. Our precious husband-and-wife dragons sat prominently beside our cake on our wedding day, matching the cake perfectly.


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Invitations: Part One

There are many, many places to get invitations. Some people make them by hand; others buy generic versions at Michael’s or Walmart and add little personal touches. Our invitation endeavor was much simpler. My fiance’s aunt and uncle work at a card company in California which makes beautiful cards and invitations of all shapes and sizes. This was evident in every birthday or holiday card we received in the mail.

When I texted his aunt saying we wanted them to do our invitations, and asking what we should do next, her messages were filled with joy. My phone (an older model at the time) could barely handle the influx of texts!

The first order of business, which I believe would be the same with any card vendor, was to review the website. Several choices were available, all pretty in their own ways. Some I liked immediately, so I easily narrowed it down to three or four.

I wanted my fiance’s honest opinion on what he liked and disliked. I admit my technique was slightly underhanded to obtain this information. I told him I’d already reviewed the online samples and really liked a few of them. I asked him to look at everything and then tell me his favorites. I figured we could compare each of our choices. He agreed this was a good way to go.

After a few minutes, he also picked three or four he liked the best. What happened next totally shocked me. His favorites were the same as mine. Exactly the same as mine. I knew our tastes were similar, but, that’s very similar! It was a pleasant surprise, one we still laugh about today.

We eventually chose our favorite which had a chalkboard theme and complimented our venue’s rustic feel. Our next task was deciding who to invite. Many couples have problems narrowing down their guest list. This was another interesting experience for us. But that’s a tale for another time.



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Wedding Party Woes

Choosing the people in your wedding party is a happy time. Many couples find creative, fun ways to break the news. Some brides craft and decorate small boxes which contain the name of the bridesmaid (or maid of honor) along with a couple of wedding-related trinkets. Whether you celebrate your wedding party choices with fanfare or keep it simple, who you pick is also important. These people stand by your side, possibly sign your marriage certificate and help you retain your sanity before and during the wedding.

Our experience was slightly bittersweet because many of our friends lived several hours away, or in different states. We each had someone in mind for a best man and maid of honor, but felt disheartened at first that we didn’t have more than that. Was our wedding party too small? Did we not have enough friends? It was a lonely place to be, but we were the ones who put those thoughts in our heads.

We asked our two friends to be the best man and maid of honor. Each enthusiastically agreed. Their happiness ignited our joy. Suddenly, we didn’t feel so sad about a four-person wedding party. It felt intimate. Once we accepted this, we were content. We didn’t feel the need to add more people.

Your wedding party may be large or small. Honestly, the size doesn’t matter. If each person involved is special to you, and is happy to be included, then it’s right. Simple as that.



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Let’s Dance!

Remember the list of 200 wedding songs I mentioned before that I was so excited to have? Well, even among all those songs, I couldn’t find THE song; the song for our first dance. I liked most of the songs on the DJ’s list, but none of them were quite right for our first dance as husband and wife. For that I had to get creative.

I started a running list in my head of all our favorite songs. Did any have special meaning? Was there a song playing in the background when we first met? Despite our efforts we couldn’t remember a song with any significance.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed one day I saw a “Scrubs” post. As a fan of the show I enjoy the occasional throwback to the episodes, which my fiance and I have watched many, many times. The post was of J.D. and his girlfriend at the time wearing wizard hats with a catchy meme written across the photo. Then it struck me! The song from that episode was awesome; an uplifting, romantic tune we both loved. I grabbed the information sheet for our DJ and on the “first dance” line I wrote “Hey Julie” by the Fountains of Wayne.

Anyone familiar with the song knows it’s not typical for weddings. No slow dancing to this one. It was upbeat, fun and perfectly encapsulated us. I knew it may surprise a few guests but this would make our first dance memorable.

No one else dances that first dance except for you and your future spouse. You see into each other’s eyes, no one else’s, and will always remember one another’s smiles and laughter. Let your first dance song encompass the spirit of your relationship and set the tone for your future.



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Capturing It All On Video

With wedding puzzle pieces falling into place, my next thought was capturing our day. Video was a no-brainer. And so was my first choice for a videographer. I’d met him briefly at the wedding show; he had a good product, great reviews and was easy to talk to. We quickly set up a meeting.

The day of the meeting arrived. I waited in the coffee shop for the videographer, scanning the crowd inside. I didn’t remember what he looked like, yet I somehow thought I could find him among the other customers. After a few minutes I received a text from the videographer saying he’d arrived and seated at a corner table. I looked over, saw a man put his phone down, and knew it was him. He’d been inside the coffee shop the entire time! Smiling and shaking my head, I approached him and introduced myself. He was also booking up fast, especially for the summer.

Usually I don’t make decisions quickly. I think, research, think some more, move onto consideration, sprinkle in a little more research and then make a decision. But with these wedding vendors I was under a time crunch. They did spectacular work and everyone wanted them. I didn’t have time for my usual lengthy decision-making process. I had to trust my instincts.

And I did; with the videographer and several other decisions. I don’t regret a single choice I made for the wedding. Trusting my instincts resulted in an amazing day I’ll always cherish. If you like to consider every angle before making a decision, like me, I challenge you to go with your gut. Let go of that long process. This time, make your choice based on how you feel.



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Adventures in Table Decorations

Once we chose the venue we measured the tables to estimate how many guests per table, and how to decorate around place settings accordingly.

Currently, I had one table decoration; personalized purple and gold M&Ms placed in small bags. This was also my take-home gift for guests. Other than plates, utensils and glasses, my tables were bare. Stark white and not decorated. Oh boy. Where would I even begin?

Like so many of my wedding decisions, I knew what I did not want. I liked flowers, but beyond bouquets and boutonnieres, I wasn’t using flowers for table decorations. I knew I’d never find homes for all the arrangements after the wedding. But that forced me to be creative. I searched Pinterest, Google Images, asked friends and debated the pros and cons of each with my mom and fiance. I had no idea table decorations would be such a big part of my wedding planning.

I bounced back and forth between candles (real or fake?), water beads, candles floating in water, mason jars and countless other ideas.

I finally arrived at an option I liked: glass bowls filled with purple and gold beads, with electric tea candles sitting atop the beads. However, even this choice evolved over time. The main concept was the same, but we later encircled each bowl with fake purple and yellow flowers.

Reaching a final decision took months and many shopping trips. Recalling the journey from new idea to finished product makes me remember that in wedding planning, and in life, to not forget the details. We always try to see “the big picture” but it’s usually fuzzy and unclear. Don’t ignore the details of your wedding, or the smallest moments of your day. In each, you’ll find clarity. The path to “the big picture” suddenly becomes clearer because you’ve shifted your focus. Now you’re planning with passion and things fall into place.



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So Much Music, So Little Time

“What kind of music do you like?” isn’t usually a question that confuses someone. Everyone knows their favorite genres, songs and artists. I know these things, but drew a complete blank when the DJ asked during our first meeting.

“Well…I like a lot of things, I guess.”

Her sweet, knowing smile told me she’d received this type of answer before. Still smiling, she handed me a list of the 200 most popular wedding songs in 2014. My eyes grew large; this is just what I needed! A pre-made list I could add or remove songs and check off the ones I liked.

We firmed up the details, going through her contract and information sheet line by line. She asked me questions regarding the venue, date, people involved in the bridal party, etc. I answered her questions diligently and proudly until we rounded back to the music question.

“I like a lot of genres. Can I just tell you the music I don’t like?”

She nodded. Success! I requested the types of music not to play. I knew this DJ was the one for our wedding. She was confident, seasoned, kind and easy to talk to. She was almost like having a wedding planner and DJ rolled into one. Even though her partner would be our DJ for the wedding because she was already booked, I was completely confident he would be just as great (spoiler: he was!).

Knowing there were other brides waiting to meet with her, and book her for the same day, I eagerly signed the contract and paid via card using her iPhone. That was another new experience. I felt tech-savvy and accomplished. Now I had another assignment; review the list of 200 songs and mark what I liked and disliked.

I checked off another item on my wedding to-do list. Suddenly this wedding planning business didn’t seem so hard. I could handle this. And so can you.


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Finally, We Have a Place to Go!

It would be very embarrassing to call on wedding vendors without a venue booked first. But that almost happened to me.

We narrowed our choices down to two places located on opposite sides of the valley. We viewed each place once and were leaning toward the first venue because everything else paled in comparison. They were nice places, of course, but they didn’t have that intangible rightness the first did.

When we arrived on the property, a fully functional farm and wedding venue, it had a distinct homey feeling, probably because it is someone’s home. A dirt road led up to the front desk and a happy dog greeted my parked car.

A friendly-looking man appeared near the main lodge, and the dog ran back to him. He introduced himself and after a quick jaunt in the lodge to meet his mother, also the owner, we jumped inside his truck for a tour of the ranch.

Even during late winter the ranch was beautiful. We visited the cozy wood cabins before arriving at the grand hall, a gigantic barn built by the people who lived on the farm. Our guide said he would open the doors for us so we could see the “money shot.” Apparently many brides chose to make their breath-taking grand entrance through these magnificent wooden doors.

The doors slowly opened and revealed the interior structure. There aren’t many things which take my breath away, but this did. My fiance and I stood in silent awe. Our guide wasn’t kidding when he called this the “money shot.” I knew this was the place, and the remainder of our tour only confirmed that. A rustic, handcrafted, two-level barn could house our ceremony and reception. It was had changing areas upstairs, a full kitchen and bar. We spent some time back at the main lodge chatting with the owners; down-to-earth, kind-hearted people who truly knew how to host an amazing event.

We left that day without booking them. But it didn’t take long for us to call back and reserve our date with the ranch. Just like with the dress, you’ll know when you find your venue because you’re unable to imagine your wedding happening anywhere else.



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Planning, Sorting and Scheduling — Oh, My!

I ordered my dress. I set a date. Now I needed to find vendors to play music, take video and cater.

One of the benefits of attending the wedding show was all the people I met. There were vendors for every wedding thing imaginable. And I had duplicates and triplicates of all their cards.

I poured out all the brochures and cards I’d gathered from the wedding show. I sorted everything by type of vendor. I tossed aside some of the business cards I wasn’t interested in, decreasing the amount of things to sort through. I felt like I had accomplished something when my wedding show schwag was thoughtfully sorted into piles on the floor.

I had a game plan. Cake could wait, and so could a caterer, because the wedding was over eight months away. But I’d heard DJs booked quickly, especially the one I wanted. I took her card and put it in my purse. I would call on Monday. Then a videographer after that.

Sorting through everything took a while but made my future endeavors much easier. I knew the vendors I wanted. Now I started the next phase of my wedding journey: contacting these businesses and booking their services.



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Don’t Panic!

Wedding vendors fill up fast, especially the good ones. Fortunately I didn’t have to find this out the hard way, but there were a couple close calls. It amazed me how many brides had the same wedding day as me and wanted the same vendor I did. Small world, huh?

I knew we had a tight-knit community, but it gets even smaller when you’re planning a wedding. Suddenly every woman on the street is a potential bride-to-be and planning her wedding for the same day as yours. And her phone call to reserve a vendor may have come in just minutes before yours.

I’m not saying wedding planning is cutthroat, or that you should make it that way. Nobody wants to be a bridezilla, but you need to be on your toes to get what you want for a wedding. Is there a particular DJ you want to book? Don’t wait! Get on the phone and meet with her. If this person is as good as you believe, she’s probably almost booked solid. You need to call, set up a meeting and hopefully book her for your wedding. Repeat this process with other vendors you want.

So, does being in control of what you want for your wedding make you a bridezilla? Definitely not! Be confident in your choices and decisions. Take decisive action when necessary, but always maintain a positive attitude and practice compassion.



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