How to Plan a Wedding (Stress-Free)

After coming down from the high of planning a wedding, a hectic school year as a first year teacher, and finally able to take a breath into an already packed summer break, I had a moment to reflect on one of the happiest moments in my life.

Planning a wedding during your first year of teaching during a pandemic, I’m not sure if I recommend it, but I definitely would have done it all over again. Was it stress-free? Um, well not exactly, but I’ll explain. The experience has even had me contemplating becoming a wedding planner. I still might one day.

My engagement was not super short, but not long enough to mess around either. When I envisioned my dream wedding, I always pictured April with a year long engagement preceding it. So, when I got engaged Labor day weekend, I did have a mini freak out thinking I would have to move the dream date I had my heart set on.

But alas, my mom and best friend reassured me that they would make it happen if I really wanted April. I also worried about getting married within the school year, but we also worked that out too. We wanted to delay the honeymoon for summer, so we wouldn’t have to rush in packing for a wedding as well as a honeymoon. Plus, we could also celebrate Daniel graduating from university and my first year of teaching. We went to St. Thomas in the USVI and we highly recommend. So much fun!

While I really didn’t know how to plan a wedding besides the unrealistic expectations I saw in movies, I did know I had to start with the venue. We began to look the Monday after we got engaged. Yes. Labor Day Monday. I was just not messing around. I knew I was about to compete with 2020 brides who had to postpone their weddings, and I also had to take advantage of days I had off from work.

The first place we visited was The Oaks Events in Midland, North Carolina. I had another appointment set up that afternoon, but I almost canceled it immediately after meeting Michele and seeing what all The Oaks had to offer. Daniel and I were both blown away by the location, grounds, house, and accommodations. We did visit the second place, but decided to look no further and I called The Oaks to reserve the only date in April they had left: the first of their season, April 3. I ended up being the first bride to celebrate her day under their newly enclose pavilion where the reception took place! I felt so honored, and I know how hard Michele and Dallas worked to get it ready in time. They did such an amazing job preparing for my day, and I loved that they were a part of it all. Their crew took care of decorating, set up, clean up and everything in between. The day went so smoothly thanks to them.

The next you really should book is the photographer. I was a little lost in this area because I didn’t really know anyone besides a close family friend, who before I could even ask him, said “No. It would be like trying to photograph your own kid’s day.” He quickly recommended Ken Thomas and before I knew it, we had booked Ken.

Ken was thorough and had great ideas when Daniel and I didn’t even know what question to ask at times. He shot our engagement photos, my bridals, and of course, our wedding day. By the time the wedding came, it felt like a good friend was behind the camera. Ken was there to answer all our questions and did an amazing job. Not only is he a professional, but super easy to talk to and accommodating. I can not recommend him enough!

Now, with the short time frame and the organized person I am, I used a binder to keep all my wedding lists and timelines in order. It worked for me and helped me feel like I could accomplish it all in time. Once I had the venue, the photographer, then I snagged the DJ I knew I wanted since I was in high school.

My DJ was Wes Tucker, my former theater director from high school. He was my first and only choice, and before I actually nailed down the date with the venue and Ken, I texted Wes to see if he could do a wedding for the two dates that The Oaks told me was available. Whenever I fantasized about my wedding, I always imagined Wes and his wife April there to make the day even more special (and of course, it was. Wes even wore the shirt from my senior year musical during his pre-wedding set-up, which meant so much to me!). Once he gave me an answer, I then settled everything with The Oaks and Ken. So, within the first week of being engaged, I had the venue, photographer, and DJ booked. Maybe a bit uncommon, but having that much done in the busiest and most stressful time of my life (work-wise, not wedding stuff), gave me such peace of mind.

If memory serves correctly, I believe the outfits were settled next. When I first went dress shopping, my mom and I just went on a whim to see what was out there. I didn’t expect to find THE dress at the first shop on my first visit. I thought I would have my mom, maid of honor, bridesmaids, future sisters-in-law and mom-in-law there, but it just didn’t happen that way. It turned out to be a good thing I found the dress that soon too, because even though I ordered it in September, it didn’t come in until mid-February which only gave me a few weeks to get it altered in time for my bridal pictures (I wanted a picture to be unveiled at the reception, which meant I had to get bridals done a few weeks before the wedding). So, when looking for a dress, make sure you ask about when the dress will be ready, especially if your engagement is on the shorter side like mine.

It all worked out, but the nail-biting “will my dress get here in time” rumination definitely was a high stress factor for me. I feel bad for all the annoying calls I made to Dar-Lynn’s Bridal asking if my dress was in yet. I never wanted to be THAT bride, but I *think* that was my worst typical bride moment (I hope). I loved my dress though, and really didn’t want to put it back in the box after my day was over. It was just so pretty!

We got all the suits for the boys at Men’s Warehouse, and we also got them before Christmas. Finding their ties was slightly hectic. I fell in love with this tie that I found on clearance at Dillard’s (in general, I much prefer to find deals than just paying whatever). They just matched the bridesmaids’ dresses so perfectly, which I found on Amazon! We had several people on the hunt for these ties, but my maid of honor’s mom and sister were the ones who came in clutch. They live in Florida and found the exact number of ties I still needed. It wasn’t easy, but it all came together and I could not thank all the ones who helped me enough.

I also got my future nieces’ dresses off Amazon too. I just didn’t have time to do tons of shopping in stores, especially during a pandemic. I definitely did not have a typical planning process with having to factor in what was going on in the world. With doing most of my shopping online, I was worried that all the colors wouldn’t pull in together, but it all worked even better than I had hoped. Before I hit the buy button, I would send up a prayer hoping I could trust those online reviews.

The only vendors I had left to take care of were the cake/desserts, the caterer, and the florist. We did a tasting at The Smoke Pit late October, and fell in love with them. We actually were pretty much decided on them before we even went. The Oaks had listed them as a recommendation and once we found out they catered, Daniel and I were all about it. One of the biggest things we were not budging on was that the food had to be good and we didn’t want to wait forever to eat on the actual day.

Alan from The Smoke Pit was awesome and very laid-back. He knew his stuff and had thought of everything. We didn’t even have to tell them our menu or guest count until a month before the wedding. The food was so great and it all went so smoothly. When I would tell my other vendors who we selected as the caterer, they all said how great of a job The Smoke Pit does at any event they went to, which only made me feel even more reassured in my choice.

I didn’t worry about picking the florist or bakery until after the new year, so with the progress I made early on into the engagement, I relaxed between the holidays. Which was very needed. Planning a wedding allowed me to not work myself to death as a first year teacher and actually leave work at work, or at least not work super late in the night all the time.

Since Daniel and I don’t absolutely love cake and only eat it on rare occasions, we wanted to do a dessert bar and decided to go with Daphne’s Bakery that my friend worked at during that time. My friend even gave us a testing at her house by bringing home stuff for us! We went with key lime tarts, four different types of cupcakes, macaroons, and the best brownies in the entire world. I still dream about those brownies! We also did a small simple cake for the traditional cake cutting, which was delicious as well.

The Oaks helped recommend florists for me, and I decided to go with Flowers by Stacy, who was very familiar with The Oaks and good friends with the owner, Michele. Stacy did all the centerpieces, bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, and an amazing piece over the gazebo. I’m a little dumb when it comes to flowers and their names, but I told Stacy that tulips were my favorite and then I gave her the colors of my wedding. She then came up with these great, unique , and even cost-conscious arrangements. I loved my flowers and how well they tied in all my colors. I got many compliments as well on them!

I had two very special ladies who helped to make my day very special. I knew by marrying Daniel I was about to gain a large family, but I never expected to feel so loved and welcomed which has been such a huge blessing to me. Daniel’s cousin, Shannon Byrd, owns her own salon, and does nails. She agreed to do my nails and I had the best time talking and getting to know her better. She did an amazing job on my nails. I’m a little clueless on what to do when it comes to my nails, but knew I wanted something simple yet elegant. Shannon designed a beautiful lace design with my French manicure.

Stephanie Treece is also Daniel’s cousin and a hair stylist at Modern Salon and Spa. She agreed to do my hair and Steph was nothing short of amazing. We spent a good amount of time together too. I truly enjoyed getting to know her even better than before. She has always made me feel so welcome at all the family events, and throughout my engagement we grew closer. Stephanie was there for me for the hair trial, my bridal photos (which was a last minute change and I was grateful she could help me out), and the big day. She also did the hair for all four of my bridesmaids by just looking at a picture of what they wanted the day of! We had a great time with her that morning and it was just so special to me since we were about to officially become family.

Wayne Sutton was our minister for the wedding. He is also part of Daniel’s side of the family. We had the best time in marriage counseling with him and he did an incredible job for the ceremony. The counseling was probably my favorite part because Wayne made it so comfortable and easy to talk with him. He incorporated all we asked for and gave a special message. We love Wayne and it meant a lot to us that he was able to marry us.

I had the best vendors and highly recommend them all! Planning a wedding is stressful, but when you pick the right people, it makes everything a breeze. The people I worked with were laid-back, kind, and down to earth. My day was perfect. I won’t say we didn’t have a few minor hiccups leading up to the process, but that day truly was a happy and basically perfect day. I never wanted it to end!

The best compliment I received was from Ken though. After the wedding, he told us that of course he has been to many weddings and seen lots of stuff, but he said it was very rare to see families and friends so genuinely happy and excited to celebrate me and Daniel. We were truly blessed with an amazing family that became one that day. I had the best maid of honor and bridesmaids. I could not have picked a better group of girls to be there for me. I love them all so much. Daniel’s groomsmen were also great, and we all had a fun time together leading up to the wedding as well as on the day.

While there were stressful moments, the freak-outs were minor, and I only really felt the stress of not getting it all done during the wedding week. During those tension filled headaches and late nights working on wedding things, I just kept thinking to the reason behind it all, you know, marrying the love of your life.

Prior to writing this post, I just finished going through all my wedding pictures again as I put everything in albums, reliving that day over and over. But the best part of all, even though the wedding has come and gone, I get to look across the room and see the wonderful man I married. That day may have come to an end after seven months of planning, but I began a lifetime with my best friend and soul mate that day. Out of everyone that came together to make that day happen, Daniel was and still is my most favorite and best choice of all. When you meet and fall in love with the right person, everything does fall in place.

Venue: The Oaks Events

Photographer: Ken Thomas

DJ: TnT Entertainment (Wes and April Tucker)

Caterer: The Smoke Pit

Cake/Dessert: Daphne’s Bakery

Florist: Flowers by Stacy

Nails: Shannon Byrd Serenity Studios Salon & Spa | Facebook

Hair: Stephanie Treece (Instagram: @stephanie_treece)

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