Seeing as it’s the most time and effort I’ve ever dedicated to one event, and the biggest thing I’ve ever done, I figured I’d write about my favorite day – the day I married my best friend!
The date: May 6, 2017.
The engagement: August 31, 2016.
If you’ve already done the math that means you’ve realized I had less than a year to plan. It felt like forever, and not enough hours in the day at the same time.
Tommy and I really didn’t want a big wedding. In fact, we mulled over “eloping” or just getting married on our own several times. We just didn’t want to make a large deal out of things or spend a whopping amount of money (that we didn’t have) on a matter of hours. As you can imagine, being the last child, mom was pretty intent on seeing her baby girl get married. Then, the performer inside me decided I wanted that piece of being the center of attention, and to share our magical moments with the people we loved: so I got to work.
Where to start?
Figure out your budget. I knew where I was getting money and approximately how much. I made a spreadsheet from day one, and monitored expenses the whole way. We set up a separate checking account just for expenses. People don’t believe me when I tell you you can plan a wedding for less than 10k, but you can. I know you can, because I did: it’s a lot of organization, planning, and attention to detail. Don’t forget some sacrifices.
We needed to pick a date. We didn’t want to sweat it out in the Charleston sun, and we also didn’t want to stand in the middle of a rainstorm. Rain is hard to avoid, but we do know you are going to be DEAD hot in the summer. I wanted to avoid things like spring breaks, mothers day, graduations, as much as possible.
Tip: pull county calendars for yours and surrounding areas including colleges. I couldn’t avoid everything so we did have to deal with Charleston School of Law graduation that Sunday, but that was nothing had it been College of Charleston or a spring break.
We knew we wanted to incorporate what we loved so much about Charleston into our wedding-the lowcountry scenery. Therefore, it was important that our wedding have outdoor elements.
I originally went with the idea of beach ceremony followed by a reception “somewhere”. We toyed with a few different ideas, and nothing struck my fancy until Barbara (Tommy’s step mom) mentioned the Isle of Palms exchange club one afternoon while we were sitting around having drinks on the back porch.
Immediately upon leaving their house we drove by, and it was PERFECT. I knew that was our venue. It sits ON the water, and offers views of the outside scenery we love so much, even if its raining! And to be even more extraordinary, it fit my budget! To rent the club for 24 hours cost less than $1,000.00. To make matters more magical, all that money goes straight to charity.
The exchange club was fantastic because they were relaxed about most things. The drawback with a venue like this one is they don’t offer “other services”. Inclusive venues help out a lot when they provide your catering, entertainment, bar, etc. I was willing to make that sacrifice for what I got in exchange.
Once Tommy and I knew when and where we were getting married, it was time to decide who was going to be invited. This was the hardest part of the whole process. If you don’t get in a spat/fight/argument over your wedding guest list….well you are either a robot or a bigger, better and nicer person than me. It’s tough, and weddings are emotional as it is. How I wished I could’ve invited everyone I know and love, but with our budget and a venue capacity of 100…that wasn’t really feasible. And to be honest, Tommy and I really wanted things to feel intimate. It’s hard when you have conflicting feelings of wanted to include everyone, but wanting things to be small and intimate.
Save the dates: This was a money saver for me, because I did electronic save the dates rather than paper ones. Honestly, why not save the environment, and yourself some money at the same time? I would guess that 99% of the people you are sending these to have and check their email regularly. It’s also a good way to see if people are GETTING their save the dates, and you have the option of an early RSVP on the knot, so you can start planning your numbers in advance.
These are the magical people the make your wedding happen. They are your fairy godmothers/fathers, and heaven sent angels from above. Treat them with special care and kindness. Our wedding would not have happened without some really special people helping us out.
The Brides Beautification
The Dress – Free People
Well, who ISN’T excited to pick out their wedding dress? I’m obsessed with my dress, and I spent a whopping $150.00 on it. Ya, you heard me. NEWS FLASH: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SPEND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON YOUR WEDDING DRESS TO LOOK LIKE A QUEEN. No judgment if you do-that is YOUR prerogative as a bride. I’m just saying- you’ve got options. I knew I wanted a “whimsical boho look”. I was browsing my favorite brands and websites- Free people, BHLDN, etc and there it was. I mean really, it was so plainly obvious, and everyone I showed it to simply said “well, that’s your dress.” It made matters more magical (magical is my wedding word, by the way) that I had a family friend who works for Anthropologie and therefore got me the dress at 40% and then offered to pay for 1/2 as a wedding gift. AMAZING! And guess what, it was PERFECT.
It helps that Carrie (my photographer) makes me look like bomb diggity in EVERYTHING she shoots.
You’re probably wondering if I’m sad that I didn’t get to “try on” wedding dresses. Well I DID! Even though I knew I probably wasn’t going to spend a bunch of dough on a dress, I went and tried some on as a right of passage. With bestie Bristol in tow we rolled into The Bridal House in Mt. Pleasant. We had a fantastic time, and the owner couldn’t have been nicer. I was honestly impressed at the prices of several of the dresses I tried on coming in at under $2,000.00. They had a discount rack too with some $300.00 dresses. It was a great time, and I was glad I went.
Here are some pics of the dresses I tried:
They were all lovely, but my dress was and still is CERTAINLY the “one”.
I got my shoes at Nordstrom Rack for a whopping $70.00!
Bridal Party Dresses
Headpiece, Veil, and Alterations – Emily Kotarski, Emma Katzka
I know my mom was a bit sad that she didn’t get the “picking out the dress” experience. That’s just not how things worked out for me. So, when she was in town with my grandmother, and aunt Becky I made an appointment to try on veils and headpieces. I had found a blog featuring Emma Katzka and her headpieces, and FELL.IN.LOVE. I just knew I had to have one for my wedding! Emma was going to be out of town when my mom, aunt, and grandmother were here, so I tried on pieces in advance with friends and narrowed down my choices for my next appointment with family in tow.
I brought my dress, and discovered that Emma shared space with Emily Kotarski who is a seamstress with her own studio full of custom gowns and veils. I had been on the hunt for someone I trusted to do alterations, and there she was! She also did a custom tulle veil approximately the length of my dress which was to DIE for.
All in all I ended up with a crown, bracelet to match, veil, alterations, and a STUNNING look from these ladies. It felt so special because they were local, and everything was HAND MADE. I ended up borrowing blue earrings from Tommy’s Aunt Julie which hit something borrowed and blue!
My Aunt Becky helped out with my headpiece as a wedding gift, and my dad bought me my bracelet 🙂
(above) This is Emily who made the veil and did my alterations and my sweet friend Bristol
Hair & Makeup
These ladies are magical. They made me look like the total QUEEN that I felt like the big day.
Makeup: Becky Blair with iLash Studio
I knew Becky from her days at Salty Girls (a local boutique that is sadly gone), and she is my eyebrown diva- for real if you need your eyebrows or lashes done…GO SEE HER! Becky did temptu airbrush make up on me, with a more natural eye and pretty intense lashes. We did a trial for my engagement pics, and I looked like a damn rockstar.
About a week before the wedding Becky waxed and died my brows and then tinted my eyelashes. If you’ve never done this….do it. I have long lashes, but they aren’t very dark. If I had the money I would do the amazing false lash sets they do there. Day of, Becky did individual lash extensions and they looked DIVINE.
engagement shoot makeup
Hair: Lara Lovitt with Gibson.
Lara is one of my sorority sisters from my CofC days. She is cute as a button, and does GREAT hair. Not only did Lara do my hair day of but she brightened me up, without making me look like a bleached barbie with some baylayage a few weeks before the big day.
I wanted my hair out of my face, but loose and whimsical at the same time. My hair is NOT the easiest to work with but Lara was great. She was patient with my at my trial, and banged out some rockin’ hair day of.
She and Becky BOTH came to the beach house where I was staying to do everything which made everything so simplistic. I enjoyed them being there, and they were so easy to work with and communicate with prior to the wedding. It makes a big difference working with people that make you feel comfortable.
Check out that side swoop!
Tan – I am the palest person on the planet, and I am NOT about skin cancer. I did a custom organic MOBILE spray tan with Beachy Clean Skincare. She comes to your house, and tans you. We did a trial at least a month before to check my color, and problem areas. We got it PERFECT The second time around so I had a flawless natural looking tan!
Schedule your tan here: https://www.schedulicity.com/scheduling/bco8cs
Tommy got his Peter Milar suit from Grady Ervin and we LOVED working with Steve there. He waited a little late to get the shirt, and we had one ordered from Brooks Brothers and got a pretty good deal and a good fit! We opted for a tie rather than a bowtie and did a fun pocket square for he and his brother.
Carrie Elizabeth Gabbert
IF YOU CAN’T ALREADY TELL MY PHOTOGRAPHER WAS AMAZING! This was an important choice, and I was reminded numerous times NOT to skimp on the photographer. I’m so glad I didn’t, but honestly feel I got a fair and GREAT deal on Carrie. She included an engagement session which gave us the opportunity to get to know eachother.
I’ve never seen more beautiful pictures IN. MY. LIFE
Not to mention Carrie had some of her own personal stuff going on, but was still there for us the whole way. A definite professional through and through.
Food & Alcohol
Once you get everybody there you gotta do something with them…so let them have cake!
Cake by Kelly at Mirabelle Bakery – http://www.mirabellebakeryonline.com/
I actually picked out my cake before I secured a caterer. Again, Tommy and I wanted to go low budget here. We did not want to spend thousands of dollars on something that people EAT to look pretty for a matter of minutes. In addition, we didn’t think everyone would really eat cake, so I went small.
We banked on about 85 guests but I got a cake for about half that many people: we still had cake left over. Tommy’s Aunt Doodle also made lemon squares and lady fingers for the non-chocolate loving crowd because our cake was CHOCOLATE ON CHOCOLATE. Kelly with Mirabelle was great to work with, and after a LOT of research was cheaper than Publix (and more delicious). We did a simple 2 tier circular cake and added our own flowers. Look how cute!
Catering – The Market at Hambys
Again, working with a budget we thought smaller. I love to eat (I’m always hungry if you ask my husband), but food at weddings is always a connundrum to me. I feel awkward sitting down and eating unless it’s a sit down dinner, and I certainly didn’t want that. I wanted people to eat, but for it to be EASY to eat, and not to heavy: I wanted LOTS of fill you up finger foods: I finally settled on Hambys who did croissant sandwiches of pimiento cheese, chicken salad, caprese skewers, shrimp, crab cakes, farm boards, etc. Tommy also bought a boat load of boiled peanuts from the Peanut Dude. It was perfect and really affordable: mind you nothing fancy. My price tag included people to set up, execute, and take down. Food came in less than $1,500.00.
From my serving days at Five Loaves I had a friend, Chelsea, help me with the alcohol. She tended bar and brought everything over that we purchased. We served beer, wine, and one mixed liquor drink of her making which was a HUGE hit. We had plenty with TONS left over. I was so lucky to have a her help me out in this area, because I’m not sure what we would have done.
I had really cute custom cups made off of Etsy with little dogs made to look like Atticus and Pip, our initials and our wedding date.
**We did purchase an insurance policy on our own since we didn’t use an insured and licensed bar company so that everyone was covered. It’s $100 for a million worth of coverage. It’s worth it.
Decorations & Flowers & Invites
This was hard ya’ll. I had so many pinterest boards, emails, and honestly DREAMS about table decorations, flowers, altar arrangements, etc. Flowers are expensive, florists are expensive, rentals are expensive, on and on and on.
Invites & Programs & pretty little things – Dee Ruel
So, I feel that invites “set the tone” for the wedding. It certainly did with mine. I didn’t have any “color scheme” picked out but just had vague ideas of what I wanted involving soft coastal (but not tacky beach) colors. I wanted things that remind you of the water and ocean. I told Dee all my ideas, and I’ve only been buying jewelry from her FOREVER, and she gave us five different options for invites which were ALL TOTALLY BOMB DIGGITY. She somehow delved into my mind and knew what I wanted even when I didn’t. Ahhh thats just Dee for you. She also did my programs, which came out fantastically, and her color scheme really set a theme for me that I needed someone to.’
Another money saving tip: I did electronic replies. The knot tracked all my RSVP’s for me, and I also made an email for the wedding in case people had issues with the Knot. It saved money, time, and the environment. Nobody needs 347143 envelopes.
And of course I got thank you cards to match!
I also got some pretty pieces of jewelry for family members for the wedding that were oh so cute.
Rentals – Hughes
I lucked out that my venue came with tables, but the chairs were a no go and had to be rented. I also rented cocktail tables for outside along with all my linens. These came from Hughes Events, and it was super easy to set up and deal with.
I collected, bought, borrowed, and made most of the decorations. The “bud vases” were little assortments of jars I found at Marshalls. I bought votives on amazon. I used gold accents and lanterns from there as well including several things that belonged to my mother like silver tussie mussies, and cups as accent pieces for the tables. Bristol and my mom made wreaths for the doors and fireplace. I had koozies left over Bristol had made for our wedding shower, and napkins Betsy made for our engagement party.
We did a remembrance table with a sign honoring all our “wedding angels” that couldn’t be with us including my sister, Amanda, Tommys grandparents, my Dad’s parents and Mom’s father (we’re lucky Judy and Bill are still rockin and rollin!) Rudy, and other loved ones.
Instead of a traditional guest book we had a matted frame that people could sign which is now hanging in the house!
Joanna King – Flower Queen
Joanna King was like a gift from heaven who was a last minute find. I thought I had secured a limited services florist which fell apart pretty last minute. Mandy (Tommy’s sister) remembered Joanna who had done the flowers for her wedding and such a great job. She was Tommy’s art teacher when he was in school! We reached and out and she was ready and willing! Yall, she worked SO hard, and made everything so incredibly perfect. She listened and knew what I wanted, and made my dreams into reality. She knew I had a thing for dream catchers, so she MADE them for me out of doilies, and strips of satin from her mothers 1940’s wedding gown. I mean ya’ll….. It was absolutely everything. OH and I have this huge crush on lavender so we had lavender EVERYWHERE which was thrown upon us as we had our recession!
My mom and friend Bristol also made some really amazing living floral wreaths which turned out GREAT!
Bride’s Bouquet – Out of the Garden
One thing Joanna thought I should get done on my own because I had such specific ideas was my bouquet. I did not want a tight, rounded bouquet. I wanted a big statement piece that was earthy with pops of color. I hunted around and was delighted to find out that Out of the Garden really had the best deal! I sent them inspo pics, and they did a FANTASTIC job. It was in so many pictures, I was willing to shell out some bucks for that one special floral piece.
Again, hashtag blessed (“#blessed”). Tommy’s (oh and now my) cousins Lee and Vikki are fantastically talented musicians — no I mean for REAL. They gave us the most beautiful gift of music.
I wanted pretty non traditional music, so I walked down the aisle to “Lovely Day” and we recessed to “Here Comes the Sun”. Can I just say it made my heart MELT?
They played music after the ceremony for a bit of a cocktail hour and then we utilized “DJ Spotify”…yes it works when you’re on a budget, and it made for a fine and fun evening! I would have loved to swing for a band, but it just wasn’t in the budget.
Bride and Groom’s First Dance – “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
Father Daughter First Dance : “In My Life” by the Beatles
Mother/Son First Dance – “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy” – The Tams
Tommy and Boo had a little help from Eva Cate and Rutledge
Check out some dance floor happenings below:
You might notice people wearing hats on the dance floor. I had ordered a custom hat with the dogs picture on it for Tommy. The girl who I ordered it from ended up making me a few hats with different fun pictures of Tommy and I as kids and our friends that I had scattered around at the reception.
After the dances, it was time to settle in for some toasts and there were some good ones! Thanks to my dad Butch and Tommy’s dad Dickey for kicking things off. There was the epic 18 minute long speech by Walsh, Tommy’s brother, my niece Lily’s rap, and then finishing it off sweet and nice were Bristol and Betsy.
Tommy and I weren’t getting married in a church, and we aren’t members of a church here so we were thinking outside the box on an officiant. We wanted it to be personal, and someone that knew the both of us. We chose a friend from law school, where we met, who happens to be a solicitor, so we figured he’d carry some authority 😉 You just need to be a notary to marry a couple in South Carolina. Thanks Chip! Chip really took the job seriously (as we knew he would) and did a great job. I sent him ideas of what I wanted the ceremony to look like, and then he personalized it himself as well. I wanted to write our own vows, but that didn’t sit well with Tommy so we compromised. I wrote the vows that we repeated back to each other so they were custom, but we didn’t read them off paper. Chip wrote the service in a little book that he gave us to keep.
Again, we didn’t want a really big wedding so we thought small. This was harder for me than Tommy. I guess I always thought about “who my bridesmaids” would be as a girl, but after being a bridesmaid several times I know it can be a big financial obligation. That being said I knew my friends would be there and opted to keep it in the family. I was my sister’s MOH, and since my sister couldn’t stand by my side it was really special that her girls, Lily and Mary Ross could. Tommy had his brother and of course the two boys (our dogs, Atticus and Pip).
Eva Cate (Tommy’s sister’s little girl) was our flower girl (she had been DREAMING of this job), and then Rutledge, the oldest of Walsh (Tommy’s brother) was our ring bearer.
My brother walked my mom down the aisle, so it was special he was able to be there.
Tommy’s mom did a blessing for us, which was a great touch as she’s such a wonderful story teller.
Our dog, Rudy, who was a big part of Tommy and I’s story passed away shortly after we were engaged. I wanted him to be a part of our day, so I had decals made out of his actual paw prints and had them ironed on to the bottom of my dress, and to a pocket square and hankerchief for Tommy.
Christina Jervey did my stackable engagement rings, so I knew I wanted her to do our bands. Going back to budget I was going to go pretty plain and simple. My mom surprised me by taking her original wedding ring and melting the gold and placing the marquis diamond into a ring for me. It’s beautiful (as you can see above), and a really special piece. We did a pretty simple silver comfort fit band for Tommy.
Day of and Pulling it All Together
All I can say is make sure you have HELP. You can plan till you turn blue in the face but you are OUT OF COMMISSION day of. I was blessed with a special angel, Biz Foxworth. She basically met with me a few weeks before, got in touch with all of my vendors and was there all day until the end making sure everything went as closely as possible to planned (let go of things being perfect). I don’t know how anything would have happened without her.
Also our family was IMMENSELY helpful in manual labor set up. They deserve an award. You know who you are and thank you.
The morning of was calm. We did a yoga class at the house, and my sweet friend Scarlett surprised me with a breakfast and champagne. It was perfect, because I was DEFINITELY nervous.
Tommy and I did a first look at the house, which I am VERY thankful for. It got the nerves out of seeing him, and got A LOT of pictures out of the way. We set aside time later in the evening for “sunset” pictures, which was a major plus.
The day wouldn’t have been possible without the loving, emotional and financial support of our family and friends, especially our rock star parents: Susan, Becky, Butch, Dickey and Barbara. YOU ROCK! We are so thankful for everyone who celebrated with us physically and in spirit. So many of you made LONG journeys from Tennessee, Florida, Massachusetts, Louisiana and more. It wouldn’t have been the same without you and everything you did made everything EXTRA special. We love you all more than you’ll ever know.