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  • Rachel Reynolds

Our Wedding! (and some planning tips)

Hi friends!


This past weekend was extra special because Curtis and I got to celebrate our one year anniversary! Wow, time really does fly by. It seems like just yesterday we were walking down the aisle, cutting our raspberry buttercream cake, and blaring ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ with our friends and family. It truly was the most magical day!




Because I wasn’t really actively blogging before, today I thought it would be fun to give you a little recap of our wedding, and even share some tips if you’re up for them! I should start by saying that when we first got engaged, I was 100% convinced we should elope. I just thought that the whole wedding industry was super overwhelming and expensive.. (and it is) - but I’m so grateful that I had a change of heart because there really is nothing like having all of your loved ones close to you to celebrate. (I also found some ways to cut costs, which I will share throughout this post!)


And it’s not just about the wedding day alone either - I think the whole planning process was just a really special time to grow together as a couple and as a family. To me, it almost felt like marriage boot camp - haha! We had to do a lot of things that were not as romantic as one might think when it comes to wedding planning - like budgeting and saving and compromising. I just really enjoyed every part of it, and I really wouldn’t change a thing.


Wedding Planning Background:

Okay, so that’s a little background on how we got started wedding planning! Once I started opening up my mind to having a small wedding, Curtis and I sat down and set a budget, and then I started looking at wedding venues! I didn’t want to get married in the city because that just seemed overwhelming (I think I had a very lazy approach to wedding planning now that I’m looking back on it, haha - but hey, sometimes lazy = easy!). My grandma lives in Geneva and I spent a lot of time there growing up, and it’s just the cutest town ever. Think Stars Hollow meets every Hallmark movie, and that’s Geneva :) For example, there was a big Christmas Walk and parade in town on our wedding day, and the carolers even came to surprise us and sing songs during the reception! I mean, you just can't even plan things like that.





Okay, so I’m not kidding when I say once we decided on Geneva, everything fell into place. I looked up a few venues online, but one stood out to me: The Herrington Inn. It. was. perfect!! We got engaged in early October, and started looking at venues around December. I called The Herrington and spoke to Racquel and asked her if she had any dates in December (because I figured a year would be a good amount of time to plan) and she did! We scheduled a time to go check out The Herrington and meet with Deanne (the Director of Events) and we just felt like everything was right - we signed the contract that day!





As most great wedding planning love stories start, I immediately got to Pinterest. Once we had the date set - I had the vision. Romantic, intimate, and maybe a little dark and moody. I kept saying it wasn’t ‘Christmas themed’ per say, but more like romantic themed with sprinkles of Christmas - does that even make sense? I have to laugh at myself. Basically, I wanted to play off of the decor that The Herrington already had up (which we could have moved if we wanted, but we loved it), so there were Christmas trees and lights - but I didn’t want to go full-on Christmas and have like candy canes on the invitations, if that makes sense. Okay, so now you know the vibe.


Y’all.. I’m telling you - from there everything pretty much just cruised right along. The Herrington made everything SO easy (and no, this is not a sponsored post, haha!). Because we were getting married there and not at a blank event space, we didn’t have to worry about any rentals or catering. All of their food is so good and they had tables, chairs, linens (and all that good stuff) already in house. Our package even came with a cake! I just felt like we were checking off boxes left and right. If you're looking for a less stressful planning experience, I highly recommend choosing a place that does a lot of things in-house!





Vendors:


As far as other vendors, The Herrington had a list of preferred vendors (like florists, DJ, makeup, etc). I got quotes and talked to a few of each vendor, but honestly - the ones that The Herrington initially recommended were just so great - easy peasy!


Floral Wonders did our flowers and they were just so lovely to work with. They’re based in Geneva but they do weddings all throughout Chicagoland and I just can't recommend them enough (Caitlin was always so professional and fun to work with). They totally made our floral dreams come true, and I loved that they always respected our budget. Because of the season, we took advantage of all of the beautiful greenery - so really the only florals we had were our bouquets, boutineers, a few bud vases, and cake flowers. For our centerpieces, we did fresh greenery around gold lanterns and more greenery down the aisle. I loved how everything came out!




DJ Scandall was our DJ and y’all…what can I say - that man kept the party going. He was absolutely the best entertainment we could have asked for, not to mention an incredibly talented DJ. Curtis and I had a bit of an eclectic playlist we had put together for the vibe of the wedding - a mix of EDM, Blink 182, country, and Christmas music - haha - and DJ Scandall just RAN with it and killed it. Shoutout to Scandall.






We got SO lucky with our photographer, Alaura Creative, and I can’t recommend her enough! Funny enough, we actually met her because I entered one of her instagram giveaways, and that’s how we won a free engagement shoot! When we did that shoot, I just loved her style and personality - and it was a no-brainer to ask if she would do our wedding. Her style just totally matched with what we were looking for (those romantic, dark, and intimate vibes), and I couldn’t be happier with our photos.




Curtis and I decided that we would have one kinda ‘extra’ vendor - and I’m so glad we did. We decided to have a Live Painter at the wedding, and ahhh it was just so much better than I could have even imagined! We met with Michael Latala at his studio before our wedding and he was an absolute gem. We could have just hung out and talked in his studio for hours! When we met with him, we went over what we would want painted and the style we were going for, and then after that he was at the wedding painting it! Not only am I obsessed with how the painting turned out, but Michael was just so nice to have at the wedding. As he was painting, guests could come up and talk with him and he was just so welcoming. We even used a picture of the painting as our Thank You cards so that the guests could see how it turned out!







I could go on and on forever about every little detail and every decision we made - but then we would be here all day! So, I’ll make a list of our vendors and some tips - and if you happen to be wedding planning, please feel free to reach out to me! I’m no pro, but I truly loved every part of the process and am always happy to help!




Photographer: Alaura Creative

DJ: DJ Scandall

Florals: Floral Wonders

Live Painter: Michael Latala

Wedding Dress: Winnie Couture

Hair / Makeup: Montage Salon & Spa

Invitations & Menus: Minted

Vow Books: Starboard Press

Signage: Myself and my friend Chandler! (We thrifted a lot of them and I made a reel about how we turned them into Wedding Signs)




Let's get into some tips!


Tips (Money Saving):

To disclaim - I know that planning a wedding is not all about the money - but to pretend that money isn’t a big part of it would be a little crazy.. As someone who has anxiety about spending a lot, I’m happy to talk about some of the things we learned that helped us!


Keep it small:

It’s not going to be easy - but try to keep your guest list small. We were also planning our wedding when big events were still a little iffy, which made this a lot easier. I think we invited about 95 people and our final count was around 75.





Look at alternative dates:

We had our wedding on a Friday and it literally saved us thousands of dollars. Not only was the venue discounted, but a lot of our vendors had a different Friday vs Saturday rate. It also gave our guests an extra day to recover ;)


Suburbs vs City:

I’ve never planned a wedding in the city, so I have no idea if this is true, but I just feel like we weren’t nickeled and dimed so much in the suburbs. I’ve heard of places having all kinds of fees - like wine pouring fees and cake cutting fees, and maybe we just got lucky but we really didn’t run into any of that. (bonus: parking was a breeze)


Have fun with the details, but keep it simple:

I love details! There are a lot of ways to make your wedding personal without going crazy with the details. For instance, I loved our custom vow books, our signature drinks, and our photo guest book! But I drew the line at renting different chairs or linens than the ones that came with the venue - honestly it just seemed like a hassle and a lot more expensive, and I have to say I was not thinking about chairs whilst walking down the aisle - that would probably be a whole separate issue.





Take advantage of the season:

As I said, we really took advantage of all of the greenery since it was Christmastime. Try to pick florals that are in season :)


You can ask for discounts:

Okay, so as a small business myself, I wouldn’t necessarily ask another small business for a discount - because they really are putting in so much work and it takes a lot of resources. But for some of the bigger things - like a dress - maybe I got lucky, but it seemed like when we went dress shopping the stylists always seemed down to throw in a discount - so hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask!





FB Marketplace is a magical place:

A lot of things in the wedding industry are only used once. One week before our wedding I decided I wanted a back-up reception dress in case I got hot in mine (TG I did this) so I hopped on FB Marketplace. A girl in Chicago had JUST gotten married and I bought her wedding reception dress right from her for I think like 50 bucks. She got it dry cleaned and my friend Leighann picked it up and brought it to me literally on the wedding day - haha. I loved it and danced all night!





Find a healthy balance with DIY:

As a creative, it was really hard for me to let go and not try to do it all myself. At one point I was researching how to keep Costco flowers alive in my grandma's garage. And hey, there’s nothing wrong if you want to do your own flowers - I say go for it! But when Curtis looked at me and said, do you really want to be in your grandma’s garage with a spray bottle spraying down flowers every couple of hours on the day of our wedding I was like you’re right… probably not. Sometimes you really should just leave things to the pros. (Shoutout to Curtis).


But my friend Chandler and I had so much fun thrifting and designing all of the wedding signs! Except for the part when Chandler had a back spasm because we had been bent over peeling vinyl for 12 hours.. (the biggest shoutout to Chandler, she’s the real MVP, and I really don’t know what I would do without her…).


I also painted a champagne bottle and all of our signature drink signs! I was def happy with the amount of things we DIY’d and the amount that we outsourced.






Tips (Overall):

Okay, enough about money - here are some of my overall wedding tips!


You have to do you. The best part about planning your wedding is that you can mostly do whatever you want! Again, it can be easy to get caught up in thinking about what will please everyone else, but it’s your day and you should do what you want - because you can and you will go crazy trying to please everyone.





Okay so not to immediately contradict myself (whoops), but while you’re doing you - try to think of others. Here I’m talking less about traditions and more about tactical things. Your guests are coming in from all over, so try to accommodate them the best you can :) Things like having gluten free cupcakes and trying to make sure you have an appetizer that’s dairy free are small things you can do. If your budget allows you to, I think having a shuttle to and from the venue is a very nice gesture, especially because we don’t need any drinking and driving!




If people want to give speeches - let them! Everyone warned us about having too many speeches and to keep them short, but honestly they were my favorite part of the reception. We had the best man, my sister, dad, and Curtis's dad all give speeches and there was not a dry eye in the house.





If you can, you should totally have your dog in your wedding. I swear this was the best day of Leo's life! All of his favorite people were in one place! Also it just made me feel really calm to see him - and he definitely added humor to the ceremony when he got out of his leash walking down the aisle :)





Personally, I think less is more when it comes to the bridal party! I couldn't have asked for better women to stand by my side and I truly don't know what I would do without them. I had my 3 sisters, and then my 2 best friends were usherettes. Curtis had his 3 best friends stand up, and then my cousin was another usher and our good friend Q was the officiant. Not that it totally matters, but it was nice to have an even number :) My niece was the best flower girl, and Leo was the best ring bearer!









The Millennials Getting Married FB page was my wedding bible. I’ve never really been active on a FB page, but oh my gosh did this one answer all of my questions. You can search for almost anything and find the answer - which was very helpful whenever I had a random thought! The trick though is to not start comparing once you’re in the group, because some of the weddings on there are just next level.





If something goes wrong at your wedding, that’s okay. Everyone always talks about how perfect and amazing their wedding was - hey, I even think that’s been my whole post! But in reality some things did go wrong, and I’ve realized that’s more common than not when it comes to planning an event. It’s okay to be bummed if something goes wrong, but try to not dwell on it or let it consume the magic that is your special day!





And finally, you have to have to have to stay true to the reason you are planning this wedding. We’ve heard it before - do you want a wedding or a marriage? It can be easy to get caught up in the color of the invites or if your appetizers are allergy friendly, and that’s all great, but it’s not the reason you’re getting married. I just think that having that consciously streaming through my mind kept me really excited.






To Recap:

Like I said, there is truly nothing as special as all of your family and friends together to celebrate love. Especially after the crazy years leading up to the wedding when no one could get together, I honestly didn’t realize just how magical it can be. As far as the actual wedding day itself - ah, I wish I could just relive it over and over! I’ll never forget turning the corner to walk down the aisle and seeing everything - friends and family (even Leo!), candles everywhere, and best of all - my husband!!! The whole ceremony is a bit of a blur, but I just know that we both cried a lot.


Planning a wedding is both a tactical and emotional thing. In this post, I feel like I mostly talked about the tactical - because I think that’s what might be the most helpful. But to be emo for a second, let me just say there is nothing better than marrying the love of your life and making lifetime promises to each other. People would ask us right after we got married if we felt any different, and initially I would think ‘no, it feels about the same!’. But that’s actually not true. I really didn’t think Curtis and I could get any closer, but we did. We’re committed to life, and I’m beyond lucky to have him by my side! This past year has truly been the best year of my life, and I’m so excited for all the years to come.





For our anniversary, we went back to The Herrington! This time of year is just so special because they outdo themselves with decorations. We got massages and had an amazing dinner! They even put chocolate covered strawberries in our room. It was the perfect little staycation - it’s actually a lot more relaxing when you’re not actually getting married - who knew!


And there we have it! If you’re in the wedding planning season, let me just say congrats! It really is such a special time. Before you know it, you’ll be married for a whole year :)


Cheers! Rachel








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