Rachel Awtrey

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Behind the Scenes of a Wedding Day

A wedding day: every girl's biggest dream. I can't describe how much fun we had and how much of a thrill it was to see the fruits of all the labor at the very end. Planning seems like a nightmare to most, but I, with the help of my mom, lots of friends and an incredible party planner, would consider it one of my favorite parts of being engaged.

Here's a tip for the newly engaged or the soon-to-be fiancés: your wedding day is not what you are preparing for in this time. It's not the wedding, it's the marriage. If you put your heart into this day, tell those you love the (sometimes hard) truth of what matters to you most, and enjoy it-you've done it right. As soon as it becomes overwhelming, obnoxious or consuming, take a break, go on a date and host a conversation with your significant other about something else besides the wedding. Just some free advice..

I'm sharing a little bit of my inside experience as a bride. The truth, honesty, fun + messy parts of the process-not just what you see in the pictures or in movies. I'll share some secrets, fun tips, great vendors and helpers in the process along with some pretty fantastic pictures from our day shot by the beautiful, Jessi Nichols

V E N U E

We found our venue out of happenstance. Mom suggested it to me when we were first considering locations and of course, because it's what all daughters do, I said, "no." Fast forward a few weeks later, Thomas and I drove by the property, located in the heart of Historic Columbia and thought, "gosh, what a beautiful place to get married." My mom smiled and nodded in polite agreeance and we scheduled a tour. 

The Robert Mills House and Gardens in Historic Columbia, is a large white house with two brick buildings on either side with a grand front yard entrance and a large grassy backyard with tall oaks occupying the space. On either side of the house are gardens. One is a rose garden with a gravel pathways weaving in and out. Another is a wildflower garden with a fountain and another grassy lawn we used as a cocktail hour. 

The contrast between the white painted brick, the historic touch of the South, the modern feel of the outdoor garden venue paired with the archways that lay underneath the patio made for the greatest party location. No driving, no relocating, simple. (Highly suggest).

F L O W E R S 

One of the parts of planning I loved the best: people were so eager to help and step up. We had people popping out of everywhere running all of their talents and hobbies by us and asking if we would appreciate their service. I am so grateful that an extended family member did. Our florist was Thomas's aunt's mother-in-law. She owns a quaint florist shop in Columbia and has always helped with all of the family's weddings. She had a great eye and the most unique contributions when it came to deciding which flower for which costs. It's important to find a florist that will 1. listen to you and what you want and 2. team up with you to make the best bouquets or centerpieces without all of the additional costs. 

 

T H E  D R E S S 

I feel like I'm saying that every part of my planning process was my favorite, but for real: shopping with your bridesmaids, family and friends for your wedding dress, the wedding dress, is one of the most exhilarating experiences. You get to try on lots of fun dresses, with a pile full of people to affirm you, love on you when, let's be honest, us women aren't the kindest to ourselves. We get to see that, "oh wait, that Pinterest dress actually does not look the same on me" and you find something that fits your style not your board's. 

I walked away with a dress I would have never drawn up for myself. But, with the help of my best friends, family members and myself (remember your own opinion, too), I carried out a beautiful, classic yet modern dress I was so proud to wear. 

E X T R A   H E L P

I highly recommend that you have at least a "day of coordinator." I was blessed to have an entire planner that is a dear and close family friend that is not only good at loving people but is phenomenal at doing her job and making your day goes as plans. Of course, there are plans that go a little nuts the day of because everyone is trying to do what they know to do but to have that one person to keep it all together and arrange things is perfection. Taylor Batt, with Alyson Taylor Events (aka super woman) was the one to think of all the disasters waiting to happen before they did. she put out the fires before they arose. What a gal! Everyone needs a Taylor Batt on your wedding day. In fact, in your life!

P H O T O G R A P H E R 

When you start planning, sit down and list out all of your priorities, in order of importance. Photography sat at the top of mine. I was willing to pay a price to get moments captured by someone I trusted. Once the memories fade, the pictures will always be there. And, if you can't tell, I'm a picture-girl. I love me some beautiful pictures.

I found our photographer on Instagram (highly recommend) because I knew what her work looked like: beautiful, bright and consistent. I sent in an inquiry and she invited me to coffee (another plus).

You want your photographer to end up being someone you can rely on for that day. Someone you can go ahead and warn what the hard parts will be and give them the social freedom to step up and be your advocate in those situations. 

Jessi Nichols did that and I could not flaunt her any more. I am so so thrilled with the way our pictures (these pictures) turned out. 

Photography is worth the splurge, people. 

 
 

V I D E O G R  A P H Y 

Not only was photography worth the splurge to me, but videography was as well. I knew that what pictures wouldn't always capture, video would. I am grateful to have two great friends that are stellar behind a lens. Max Huggins and Austin Koon shot and edited our video and created the best montage of memories that we will always cherish and re-watch again, and again, and again. These two also acted as our body guards throughout the day, they scooped us up and escorted us through people to get the shot we knew we would regret not getting.

Communicate your needs to your vendors/people before the day of and if they're good, they'll keep you accountable. On that day, the detail shot or all the other things that were important to you will not be on your radar. 

I N V I T E S    +   A L L   T H I N G S   P A P E R 

I did a big "no-no" and order too many Save The Dates for too much money. That really hurt me in the budget that my mom and I created. When it came to invites, because I had shot myself in the foot with the Save The Dates, I had to be creative, think a little outside of the box. I turned to some of my really great and wonderful friends that love graphic design and showed them what I was envisioning for my invites and they created it! I mean, right down to the font, they were perfect. I went on Etsy and found really great floral watercolor images that I would carry out through my RSVP cards, Information Cards, etc. I ordered my inner and outer envelopes online and had my invites and other paper items printed at a local printshop. 

People, my invites + all other paper items (including the programs) were all under $100. Try and match that price online...

Advice: step outside of the "norm" and use your brain to come up with alternative ways to do what you want. These website, and sometimes vendors, are pretty sneaky and try and getchya where they can because they know you'd pay almost anything to make this day "perfect." 

F O O D   +   C A K E  

Oooooh, I wish there a rewind button just for our buffet. Forget the fancy menu, we wanted the deep south combo! We had all of our food catered from Palmetto Pig, a local BBQ restaurant. With BBQ, fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, baked beans, cole slaw, hush puppies and biscuits, no one left hungry (I hope).  We aren't really "fancy people" so a "fancy menu" just didn't fit us. 

The only food that was not catered by Palmetto Pig was the pimento cheese that my mom whipped up 20 pounds of and the fresh cut watermelon for cocktail hour. Thankfi;

I've been to a few weddings where I just haven't really been in the mood for cake, not because I don't like cake (ya girl loves cake) but because I wasn't really a fan on the flavor. One of our biggest hesitations about the cake was the flavor because everyone has a different taste pallet. We came up with a solution: a cake bar. We had 7 different flavors from chocolate to carrot to vanilla and raspberry to caramel and more. That's a great way to please the entire crowd. 

 
 

Honestly, this was the part I was most anxious about. Not because I would be walking down the aisle to my soon-to-be husband; but, because of all the people that would be there to watch. Ceremonies are great but a little weird if you ask me. It's a great celebration with an audience, I think they call that a play...

There's a lot of pressure to make sure everything goes as plans: don't trip down the aisle, don't stutter on your vows, don't lose your veil in the middle of your ceremony (guilty). But, it was critical to me that in the midst of everything going on that our ceremony felt real. I didn't want it to seem like a show. We got rid of a lot of the traditional stuff that you'll normally find in the program. We added the parts that were significant to us: communion, a prayer from our guests and bridal party, a music selection that would remind us of "the day" every time we heard it, etc. 

 
 

Thomas and I decided that we would write our own vows: we wanted them to be similar to each other's yet incorporate a lot of our promises in our relationship to help the transition be as smooth as possible, spiritually and emotionally. 

I asked Thomas in the midst of the wedding planning process, "what means the most to you on our wedding day? What is one detail you cannot live without." He answered, "I want you to come through doors." It was a silly request because we were married outside. Naturally, there are not doors. But, we were able to put our hands on some and rent them for the day to fit Thomas's wishes. He still had the "grand entrance" he had always imagined and I still got my breezy, birds chirping ceremony that I had always dreamed of.

 
 

This, my friend is what you'll have to make your wedding day all about: compromise. Listen to one another, be up-front about your dreams, aspirations and desires. This will avoid a lot of conflict when decisions are made out of assumption and tempt the other to get upset over something that could be really silly and pointless (like for us, what point the groomsmen walk down the aisle LOL). 

A topic for another conversation, what it's like on your wedding day if you've lost a parent. But, honestly, this was one of the hardest hurdles for me.  I thought about my dad greatly in the planning process but it never seemed like he was actually missing out, until that day. If this is something that you are preparing to go through, it will be okay. In all the ways that I knew I would have to find a stand-in, I did so with purpose and affection so that I would be comforted in these moments. My brothers walked my down the aisle, one on my left side, one on my right. My grandfather gave me away to Thomas (a sweet moment I will never forget).  

 
 

We wanted our ceremony to also be a worship service. We included music from our favorites, Hillsong, Phil Wickham and more. We took communion together as our first act of marriage and afterwards we had our bridal party and congregation pray over us. Thomas crafted and made by hand a cross that was draped in a floral arrangement for our alter. It was a time that we dedicated to our relationship not being the "end goal." Thomas and I wanted to take the opportunity to have all of our friends and family gathered to declare the purpose of our marriage: to glorify the Lord. I hope we did just that. 

All we wanted was a party and, I may be biased, but it was exactly that. We had a DJ (Carolina Dance and Sound) that brought his own laser lights, had a dance floor laid down, turned up the music, said, "yes" to requests, had glowing market lights strung from oak to oak to light up the night and we had a hard time shutting the party down. 

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We, like a lot of weddings, ate our dinner during the reception. Thomas and I decided to eat out with everybody else. However, we switched it up a bit and ate at a table just the two of us. This was my favorite because we were able to enjoy our supper with each other while also still enjoying the company of our guests and being involved with them since we knew this time would only last for a short while. 

 
 

We both had 10 people on our side the day of and we don't regret it one bit. We'd get the "oh my! That's a lot of people" response quite frequently. But, we asked for a party, didn't we? There was always someone there to fix my hair, fan me when I got hot, have a glass of water for me ready to go, have a joke for me to laugh at, put my veil back in when it fell out.  We loved it. 

Thomas's guys were a blast as well, they kept us girls cool, calm and collected. While the bridesmaids and I were getting ready, the groomsmen and my groom went skeet shooting the morning of. I'm jealous. 

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All of our cousins, nieces and nephews went down the isle as our flower girls and ring bearers. Yep, all of them. Again with the party thing. They loved the parade of throwing flowers, one of them even ran. I was told it was the cutest thing ever and I'm pretty sad I missed it (I was behind the rental doors). 

 
 
 
 

At the end of it all, I am thankful that we made adjustments when we saw fit. We made that day ours but also kept with tradition and loved every bit of it. It was more than just the wedding to us, it was the start of an embarkment that is still continuing today. So, after the curtain falls, what will you want to remember most? A sigh of relief or tons of giggles and "that was so much fun!"?

 

xoxo,

Rachel