Okay- so now that we have the sappiness out of the way, let’s get down to the planning portion of our wedding. I spent the last year planning the day, and while it was fun, it could be challenging. It was hard finding the right vendors to understand our vision, execute it properly, and for a fair price. Every second of research, phone calls and emails were worth it, not because our flowers were beautiful or the DJ played all the right songs. But because it was ours, it was exactly what we wanted and more, and we were surrounded by so much love and support. Also, I could eat pizza again. ADIOS, WEDDING DIET!
Our wedding day truly was the greatest day of my life thus far, and I know Michael feels the same way. We put a lot of thought into every element, but never taking it too seriously. We wanted a big party with all our friends and family, and that’s what we had. I wanted to share today all of our vendors (and a few tips!) for any other brides out there, or maybe someone who’s just looking ahead (I don’t judge!). I had a few hiccups, but ended up loving every single vendor I used- some even becoming my friend…not by choice. I told you, I made them.
THE VENUE: The Townsend Hotel
Since stepping foot in to the Townsend Hotel almost 20 years ago, I knew I would want to get married there someday. Or at least throw a Harry Potter Pajama Party or something (I was 7 sooo..). So when it was time to pick our venue, it was the first and only spot that we looked. We met with the events coordinator, Lizz, and hit it off right away. She understood our vision, and knew we wanted an elegant, classic affair, but with pizza and trap music. Over the next year, Lizz was my basically my best friend. She was on top of this wedding like Pitbull on a remix. She was organized, meticulous and made planning incredibly easy. The Townsend Hotel is very great-Gatsby-esque, and possesses a standard of elegance that was beyond anything we could have imagined for our wedding. We were treated like royalty, even at 2AM after the reception, when they delivered an extra pizza and two plates of mashed potatoes up to our room. Choosing the Townsend Hotel for our wedding was the best decision we made, besides getting married and committing to a lifetime together and stuff.
*The Townsend also catered the dinner and their bakery made the cake, both of which I still dream about on a weekly basis.
THE DRESS: Mira Couture, Chicago
I searched all over for a dress in Metro-Detroit, and was so disappointed when I couldn’t find a single thing I loved. Entrepreneurs listen up! There’s a major market here in Detroit for non-traditional wedding dresses. I didn’t want anything super sparkly or pouf-y, it’s just not my style. I wanted something bridal, but non-traditional. After striking out in Detroit, My mom, step-dad, sister and I spent a weekend in Chicago looking for the right one. We booked a 3 day trip, when in reality, all we needed was 3 hours. My first appointment was at Mira Couture, where I was greeted with immense kindness from Addie, my consultant. The dress that ultimately ended up being mine (designer was Daalarna), was the very first dress I tried on. I want to be very clear about this, I think the whole “Say Yes to The Dress, bawl your eyes out, find the meaning of life moment” is a little dramatic and unrealistic. When I showed my family the dress, they undoubtedly told me that this was my dress. It was me to-a-tee. And I LOVED it. But I didn’t cry, like I’ve been conditioned to believe that sobbing over a dress is the indicator- so we spend the next 48 hours going from shop-to-shop, trying on dress after dress, finding plenty of good, but realizing that no dress made me feel like that first one. We ordered the dress and veil as soon as we got back to Michigan, and over the next year, through emails and fittings, and more fittings, Mira delivered me a dress beyond anything I could have imagined. They treated me with respect, honesty and true kindness. They really cared about my happiness on our wedding day. Their selection was incredible, with instead of racks and racks filled with similar looking dresses, their selection was carefully curated and beautifully chosen, at all different price points.
*The guys tuxedos were from The Tux Shop in Birmingham. They were wonderful to work with and each guy had the perfect fit. Except our friend Paul- he split his pants getting too low to “Rake it Up”, so that was probably his own fault.
THE FLORIST: Jeffrey Floral Architecture
The flowers were really the only area of our wedding in which I really struggled. I know nothing about flowers, other than I can get carnations for $2.99 at Trader Joe’s. I knew what I liked, but needed someone to tell me how to do it. We actually booked one florist, which after our trial, left me drinking straight from a bottle of wine when we got home. It was clear we didn’t share the same vision, and that there would be no effort from their side to deliver something we loved. That’s when I found Jeffrey. I was at our venue for a meeting one day, when I looked around and noticed how beautiful and unique their flowers were around the lobby. They gave me Jeffrey’s info, and now I am his #1 fan/borderline stalker. We met and I knew I was in good hands. I showed him photos of what I liked, and within minutes, he told me he had this and just leave it up to him. I trusted him like an old Italian grandmother. He’s not a florist- he’s an artist. He creates the most unbelievable arrangements, full of creativity, originality and beauty. He created a perfect ambiance for the evening, and made me semi-obsessed with him in the process.
THE CANDLES: Detroit Rose
I’ve talked about Detroit Rose candles before- they’re my absolute favorite and I am a big fan of the creator, Dierdre. So when I had the idea of doing a custom candle to display on our tables, I knew exactly where to go. Deirdre and I emailed back and fourth, talking about the mood we wanted for the room, and how we could convey that through scent. She sent me a bunch of samples, and together we found the perfect mix: rose, amber, vetiver and cardamom. She even designed a beautiful custom label for us to bring it all together. Our custom candle filled the room with the sweet scent of rose and pure romance (as romantic as Cardi B & The Ying Yang twins blaring through the speakers allow for). It is one of my favorite things we did for the wedding, because now every time I light one in our home, I am reminded of the love and happiness of that day (and have the urge to belt out get low in my living room).
THE BEAUTY: Hair-Kevin Styles @ Luigi Bruni, Makeup- Katrina Malota @ Luigi Bruni
I have been seeing Kevin for my hair color for a few years now, and I knew it was love at first foil from the day we met. Kevin is truly an artist, and was one of the first people that truly made me feel beautiful- and that goes beyond hair. He is kind, funny, and unbelievably talented. My hair was the least stressful thing about our wedding, because I knew I could leave it in Kevin’s hands and he would create something beautiful- and he did! I truly think there is no one better in town not just with hair, but to have by your side as you get ready for your wedding. He brings a beautiful energy, and sees each woman as a beautiful individual-and he celebrates that through his work.
I usually hate having my makeup done. In the past, it’s usually just been a lot of bronzer and eyeliner so dark and thick I still look like I listen to Hawthorne Heights (NEVER FORGET!). So I was nervous when I knew I would need to get my makeup done for the big day. I had known Katrina through coming to the salon and working with her on a project for work, and we always just seemed to click. When I went to my makeup trial with her, I explained everything I never liked about having my makeup done, and when she told me that black eyeliner wouldn’t even get near my face, I knew I was in the right hands. Katrina, like Kevin, is an artist. She’s an icon, and she has the ability to take your features, and celebrate them through her mastery. She made each of my bridesmaids, my mother, and myself, feel so beautiful- while keeping each girl true to herself. She doesn’t use makeup as a disguise, but to an enhancer to what she already sees in you. Her glowing energy is contagious, and I will forever be grateful for how she made me feel on our wedding day.
THE QUARTET: Rondo String Quartet
I knew that when I walked down the aisle to Michael, I wanted doves to be released and Andrea Bocelli to come down from the ceiling just belting one out. Then I got a hold of a budget and decided a string quartet would be just as beautiful. I searched high and low, but it was the Quartet’s director, Lisa, that really sold me. She was incredibly organized, responsive and kind, especially in the last few weeks when I became a bit scattered. The quartet even learned “A Sky Full of Stars”, our favorite song, to walk down the aisle to. It’s also worth mentioning that Rondo played at my mom and Paul’s wedding, a few weeks after, and played the MSU and UofM fight song as the processional. Almost makes me wish I would have stuck with violin in middle school. ALMOST (I was last chair I had no choice, really).
THE DJ: Max Schuler
I love music and knew exactly what I wanted to dance to at our reception, so hiring a friend with DJ equipment seemed like a no-brainer for me. I’ve known Max since elementary school, when we used to wait at the bus stop together. He is sincerely one of the kindest people I’ve ever met- when some kid made fun of me on the bus (something about a Hollister denim skirt and my bird legs), I remember Max standing up for me and not joining in- so it was really special to have him provide the music and mood for our wedding. We met a few times and got the general vibe. We didn’t want anything cheesy or over the top (if I heard "Cupid Shuffle" there would be hell to pay), just romantic and fun. BOY did he deliver. . From Bodak Yellow to Celine Dion to Roll-Out (special request by my mom- seriously), Max kept the party going all night, and I am so thankful for his thoughtfulness in playing certain songs and keeping the vibe right. UNFORTUNATELY, I was Max’s last gig, so you can’t have him. I wanted to give him credit where credit it due, and make a point for picking your own playlist!
THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Sandra Floering, For The Love of It
I searched high and low for a wedding photographer, often discouraged when I stumbled upon cheesy-azz photos in their portfolio. I found Sandra & For The Love Of It on pure luck. I saw some wedding photos on Facebook, found the photographer and got in touch with him-only to find out he wasn’t available. But he recommended "For The Love of It" to me, and I will forever be grateful. One look at Sandra’s portfolio (free of any prom-esque portraits) and my search was over. We skyped a couple of times, but didn’t actually meet in person until the morning of the wedding. I can’t put into words the energy and talent that encompasses Sandra and her husband, Grant. It felt like we were hanging out with friends all day long-really talented, hard-working friends. Sandra & Grant made us feel comfortable, at ease, and most of the time we didn’t even notice they were snapping away. They somehow perfectly captured the happiness and love that surrounded us, and gave us a gift that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. Sandra then did my mom’s wedding a few weeks later, and then one of my best friend’s a few weeks after that. By now, I consider Sandra and her husband like family, and I will think of her every time I get misty-eyed looking at a photo of my husband and I (or the one of me stuffing my face with donuts. THEY’RE ALL GREAT).
THE VIDEOGRAPHER: Bo Parker, Afterglow Film & Photo
We weren’t going to get a videographer. I researched and just found them too expensive for what you got. I didn’t just want a 5 minute trailer to remember the day, but more comprehensive footage because I knew most of the day would fly by me, and I wanted to be able to go back and remember. I enlisted the help of my Facebook friends ( which I did for a lot of things and you guys came THROUGH). Shout-out to Sara McNeill who lived in my dorm in college, for she mentioned a videographer who was also Central Michigan Alum! After chatting with Bo, the founder, we decided to go for it. His pricing was fair, his energy electric, and not only did he give us a trailer, but an hour-long feature that included quiet moments of the day I didn’t even know he was filming. When I watched our trailer for the first time with tears streaming down my face, I knew that hiring not just a videographer, but Bo specifically, was some of the best money I ever spent. Other than the time I paid for a wand at Olivander's at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and then got chosen BY Olivander to practice spells. But it's a close second.
THE DAY OF COORDINATOR: Andrea Solomon
I was happy to plan our wedding- wedding planners are expensive and basically, I wanted to be the J-LO of this thing. But after hearing from multiple brides that a Day-Of-Coordinator was key to a smooth and seamless wedding day, I went on the hunt, finding Andrea Solomon. If I was J-LO, she was the beautifully pushy Italian father that got sh!t done (if you haven’t seen The Wedding Planner, you have some homework to do). We really wanted to be like guests at our wedding, and enjoy the day. We didn’t want to worry about if the tables would be set up correctly, or if the bus was going to be late, or if we left for pictures on time. Andrea handled every single thing on the day of our wedding. She got everyone to pictures on time, oversaw that the room was set up correctly, put out placecards, held my veil as I walked, even took all of the gifts and cards up to the room, along with a pizza for later. She allowed the both of us to just enjoy the day, and not worry about a thing other than trying all three flavors of the cake.
THE GETAWAY: Detroit Classic Car Rental
I knew from day one I wanted to ride away from the church in a classic car. I have a photo of my aunt and uncle, who have been married for over 50 years, on their wedding day, in the back of a classic car right after they said their “I do’s”. I looked on craigslist, but found some really sketchy offers (a 1986 Toyota is NOT classic guys). I eventually stumbled on Detroit Classic Car Rentals. We were able to go out and look at the car, a 1959 gold Bentley, and I was in love. It was the perfect addition to our day, and I was so happy that Mike and I had a few quiet moments to ourselves after the ceremony to soak in the magnitude of the moment. Mike (not my Mike, a second Mike!), the owner, couldn’t have been any sweeter or easier to work with. He decorated the outside of the car with flowers and ribbon, making us feel like royalty. Do you think they would be willing to pick me up from work a few days a week? I DESERVE IT (I do not deserve it)!!
THE LITTLE THINGS:
Mike and I were trying to ball on a budget, which is very tough when you’re planning a wedding. Add the word “Wedding” to anything (Wedding place cards, wedding napkins, wedding socks) and I swear there is a 75% up-charge. I tried to find the craftiest way to do things, and then realized I am awful at crafts. This is where Etsy came in. On Etsy we found vendors to do our place cards, cocktail napkins, donut bags, itineraries, all of our signage, table numbers, even vintage maps of where we met and where we were getting married. I LOVED working with small businesses, they took such pride in their work and everything had so much thought and hard work put into it. Every detail felt so personal because we got to work on it with someone directly. Also it all saved me a lot of time, glue, and my sanity.
*A few of you asked where I did all my embroidery (my denim jackets, pajamas for bridesmaids, handkerchiefs, etc.) I did everything at StitchWorks Embroidery in Berkley.
A few things I learned along the way:
1) If you don’t like something, speak up. I was about to use a floral vendor I ended up not liking, and having flowers that were less than great, all because I was too scared to speak up and tell them I didn’t like it. It wasn’t until my mom said something that I was willing to speak up and be honest. It's your day and your money- spend it wisely!
2) Most things are completely negotiable. I was able to negotiate costs for just about everything, by making minor adjustments. Again, don’t be afraid to ask for a little wiggle room.
3) Think about what you like in everyday life, and how you can interpret that into the day. For instance, we LOVE the cider mill (okay, I love the cider mill), so instead of a cocktail hour we did a cider and donut truck (Petey’s Donuts, the ULTIMATE!! They even gave us a few bags filled with donuts for our room later). It wasn’t traditional, but it was fun and very us, and our guests loved the sweet treat too.
4) Don’t get caught up in the small stuff. I ordered a bunch of my favorite beauty things to have in the bathroom at the reception for people to enjoy. I spent hours ordering things and getting it all together. Well, a hotel guest came in and stole it ALL before the reception even started. It would have been nice to have, but I don’t think anyone being able to spray their face with Caudalie Grape Spray was a make-or-break it for the day.
5) At first, I really kept Mike out of the planning (best wife ever!!!!). I thought there was no way he would want to be involved with flowers and quartet music. But when I asked him his thoughts, I realized he had quite a few, and wanted some specific things. Having his input made our wedding really feel like it was the things WE loved, not just me.
6) It’s about the marriage, not the wedding. Never lose sight of that.
And there you have it! I really mean it when I say I loved and appreciated everyone of our vendors. It’s important to have people that love what they do, because that energy will pass on to you, making your day that much sweeter. It’s time consuming to do the research, but it’s worth it in the end. I would try to dedicate an hour or two every night to wedding things, and after that we would set it aside. It was important to not be totally consumed with it, so that we enjoyed the process. I won’t say I never got frustrated or discouraged- weddings can come with a lot of tension. But every time I started to get worked up, I reminded myself that if all of this were to go away, Michael would still be my husband at the end of the day. And I’m sure we could have found cake to eat, too.