Planning My Own Wedding
On 6.12.21, I married the love of my life. Despite planning our wedding during the midst of the global pandemic, we found a way to stay positive, adapt, and ultimately have the most perfect day. Here's how we did it:
We started planning our wedding almost exactly a year out. We would have started planning even earlier, but our venue was closed due to COVID and it took us a bit to get a response. We knew we wanted to get married at a monument in San Diego that was very meaningful to both of us: Spreckels Organ Pavilion. We found out you could actually get married there and we rushed to fill out the appropriate permits to make our reservation. We felt that as cliché as it was, a June wedding would be perfect weather-wise, and because a lot of our guests had to travel, a Saturday was the best day to book. Once the ceremony venue was booked (our first must-have of the wedding), it was time to look for a reception venue so that we could start piecing together all other vendors. We established early on that we wanted the wedding to have an elegant, romantic feel and that we wanted all of our guests to really enjoy our wedding. We didn't want it to be just "any old wedding" that guests felt stuck attending. We wanted it to be a memorable experience for everyone. We researched both reception venues and other vendors A TON, because we know how important it is to thoroughly check out everyone we hire/work with. We ended up booking our reception at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park because of its 1) proximity to the Organ Pavilion, 2) ambiance/natural decoration, and 3) it felt good that our money was going to a nonprofit.
Once the venues were booked we booked our photographer, which was our 2nd most important wedding aspect. We went with Splashes of Time, and we also booked our catering company, Ranch Events. We felt incredibly lucky to have found Ranch Events, because our contact, Bernardo, helped us feel so at ease throughout the entire wedding planning process. Ranch Events took care of our table settings, tables, chairs, linens and napkins, cuisine, and cake. Once Ranch Events was secured, we researched DJ/MCs and finally went with Tunes and Prints, a husband and wife duo who was absolutely amazing! Our florist was the very last piece that we locked in, and my husband and I both agreed that if we had more money to spend we would have spent it here.
To prepare for our wedding day, we gathered everything we would need to take down to San Diego for the wedding and organized it all in clear bins that we labeled to make it easier to unpack things before the wedding. I can't even tell you how many times we got paranoid that we were forgetting something and opened up all bins and cross-checked lists just to make sure we had it all. We assembled everything as much as we could before packing it away to ensure for easy setup and clear instructions for those in our wedding party who were helping us set up.
Looking back on this week, we do wish that we had hired a week-of coordinator for our wedding. Because we were very stressed out with wedding to-do's close to the wedding and we had spent more money than we originally planned due to pandemic accommodations, we just didn't have the time to thoroughly research coordinators, and we did not have the resources to hire one. We decided our resources would be better spent on making our wedding come together at that point. We arrived in San Diego 3 days before the wedding, which was perfect. It gave us just enough time to do last minute errands without having enough time there to obsess and over-stress about everything. The first day we spent the entire day driving and getting settled in. The second day, we did our last minute shopping and we invited out of town guests over to Coronado for a beach bonfire hangout. We chose to have our wedding in San Diego (despite living in Sacramento), because it is a city that both Kyle and I have really fond memories of together. Our hope was that guests would make a whole weekend of our wedding, and that each of them would have the chance to make some of their own memories and grow to love the city as much as we do. The beach bonfire was the perfect welcome to kick off our wedding weekend. After a week straight of stressing, we were able to just relax and enjoy the company of those we love at the bonfire. The 3rd day we were in San Diego was the day of the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Due to COVID restrictions, we decided to restrict the rehearsal dinner to just the wedding party and make it more of a causal pop-in style event. After the rehearsal dinner, we invited the wedding party and their plus ones down to the pool deck to hang out and that turned out to be one of my absolute favorite nights of the whole wedding weekend.
->We really wanted our wedding party to have some time to get to know each other so that they weren't walking down the aisle with a stranger. Hosting these pre-wedding activities was crucial to the fun atmosphere that we wanted to create for our wedding, and was the perfect combination of two families and friend groups. By the end of the wedding, some people in our wedding party that did not know each other previously even exchanged numbers and scheduled other future activities with each other.
After hanging out at the pool, it was time for Kyle and I to go to our separate suites and attempt to get some sleep. Once I got to my suite, I went into full planner mode and began to set up the suite as I wanted it to be when the girls all arrived the next morning. I laid out their gifts and cards on the entry table, I put champagne and breakfast fruit in the fridge, I laid out the breakfast pastries on the table, I hung up my robe and placed my slippers under it, I hung up my dress, and I put out all of my detail shot items on a table in a separate area so they were ready to go when the photographers arrived the next day. I did a face mask and eye masks and tried my very best to fall asleep. I opted to have my two Maids-of-Honor stay in the suite with me so I wouldn't have to be alone with my thoughts or up by myself. I'm so glad I did this, because they made it a fun girly sleepover.
I woke up about 2 hours earlier than I was supposed to because I could not sleep. I woke up feeling a little anxious but excited. Listening to my own planner advice, I chugged a bottle of water and forced myself to eat some snacks for breakfast because I knew that as soon as all of the ladies were there and we were getting ready that it's very possible I'd forget to eat and drink water. I took a shower to wash off all of the jitters and I took a few quiet moments to myself to really soak in the moment and tell myself to breathe. I originally thought that if I woke up alone on my wedding day that I'd feel really lonely, but honestly it was nice to have a few moments to gather myself before everyone woke up/arrived at the suite. I even started writing out the vows that I had saved on my phone. After all of the ladies arrived, time flew by! Before we knew it the photographers were already there. Getting ready photos happened so fast, and then it was already time to head over the the ceremony site for first look photos.
We could have planned the first look photos a little better, because once the Bridesmaids got there we were waiting a while for the Groomsmen, and we also realized we would all be waiting in the parking lot. The parking lot at Balboa Park on a Saturday afternoon was also pretty busy, so there were a lot of people waiting around for a parking spot. While we were waiting in the car, my sister saw that the Groom was walking past and quickly threw a blanket over my head so he wouldn't see me. We have a picture of that somewhere... Once the wedding party all found parking spots we were able to do the first look no problem, and everything after that worked out pretty well that day.
-> I'm really glad we ended up doing a first look, because it really helped with the pre-wedding jitters. It was also really nice to have a quiet moment with each other before all of the guests started arriving and we had to share the day with them. I highly recommend doing a first look!
Walking into the reception area after the first look (and before the ceremony) was a dream come true. It truly was magical to see how our vision came together right before our eyes. Our vendors were all amazing and took direction so well, and our wedding party jumped in and helped out TREMENDOUSLY when it came to putting up decorations. By the time we got to the reception area to help set up, most of it was already done. Although I had the chance to rest, I am a restless person by nature so I just spent the extra time before the ceremony walking around in awe and taking lots of pictures before the guests filled out the space. The ceremony was about to start and then my nerves kicked in once again.
The wedding party all made our way to the ceremony entrance and positioned ourselves in line in front of what seemed like the longest aisle I had ever seen. The music started, and I think I blacked out because I don't remember anything that happened before it was my turn to walk down the aisle, and my dad says "Are you ready?" to which I nervously replied with "No." and he let out a little laugh because we both knew that this was the right decision for me. He started walking and so did I and I honestly don't remember seeing anyone in the audience (or any of the many bystanders who were watching the whole thing). I just remember thinking that I have to get to Kyle, and I have to do so without tripping on my ridiculously high (but gorgeous) heels. I made it without tripping, and before I knew it my dad gave me a hug and was gone. The ceremony flew by (and I was probably telling myself repeatedly not to lock my knees), and I mostly just remember the vows and afterwards when we were pronounced husband and wife. Kyle and I were both so nervous and excited that I don't even think we waited for our officiant to say "You may now kiss the Bride," I think we just went for it as soon as he said husband and wife. We walked down the stairs to dance down the aisle to the reception area and of course- I tripped.
We entered the reception area for cocktail hour and were immediately whisked away by our photographers (as these things go) to get some shots in the reception area. Unfortunately the pictures lasted a little longer than we were hoping for and we missed our whole cocktail hour (and there were no pictures of cocktail hour), but the photos did turn out amazing. We assembled for the grand entrance and we didn't really give our party any direction but to have fun and we probably could have worked on that haha. But overall no one remembers who did what for the grand entrance.
Kyle and I sat down and immediately our catering team came up to bring us drinks, which we were SO thankful for! As Kyle and I were sitting at our sweetheart table making jokes and talking, we kept reminding ourselves to take little moments to look around us and soak everything in, which I would ABSOLUTELY recommend to every couple because the wedding day really flew by. While dinner was being served, we started to go around to each table to say hello and thank you to the guests for coming. We only got to half of the tables before our dinner was served, and we were ushered back to our table to eat while it was still hot. The dinner was amazing, but Kyle and I talked so much that I didn't get to eat too much before it was time for toasts. I didn't want to be eating while the parents spoke, so at that point I had finished eating. We had each of our parents speak, along with my Co-Maids-of-Honor and Kyle's Best Man. The speeches were all so nice and made us both laugh and cry. We were welcomed into each others' families with open arms. The rest of the night was just lovely and seemed all too short. One of my absolute favorite parts of the night was when we broke out the led foam light sticks during dancing and we saw friends and family all on the dance floor having the time of their lives. It felt like the blink of an eye and then we were ready for the grand exit. Our guests lined the walkway out to the park and Kyle and I ran through them and out into the park. We realized then that we had no other grand exit plans besides that. No getaway car was waiting for us, so we just danced in the park and listened to fireworks off in the distance for a bit before heading back to the venue to help clean up.
We did not expect nor ask anyone to stay and help us clean up but once again our wedding party was AMAZING and were already almost finished putting everything back into our bins by the time we got back. The wedding ended, guests trickled out, and Kyle and I joined some of our friends in Gaslamp for a wedding afterparty. Long day, long night, but all worth it. We just wanted to soak up every possible minute of this day.
Kyle and I drove back up to Sacramento the very next morning (which I do not recommend), and that next day (our first day of being married) just felt kind of rushed. And we had to spend it in a car all day. It would have been nicer to stay in San Diego one more day so that we could actually enjoy our first day of marriage, and maybe celebrate once more with our friends and family by doing a brunch or activity. But we were on a mission to get home, unload all of our wedding bins, pack for the honeymoon, and get ready to leave that next morning for the airport (which would then put us on planes for about 3 days of travel). We could not wait to start our honeymoon. We packed for the honeymoon half-asleep and hastily, so I'm amazed we didn't forget anything. And we left our house a mess with wedding stuff, which was not so fun to come back to. But the honeymoon was absolutely worth it.
Preserving the Memories
One of the best decisions we made was to have a photo guest book. We loved to see the handwritten messages from guests next to their photo strips from the photo booth. Looking back, I do wish that we took a little more time between the wedding and the honeymoon to think about what/how we wanted to preserve the memories of the day. Because we left for the honeymoon so quickly, I did not think to preserve my bouquet or the cake, or even go through the bins we brought back from the wedding to see if anything was missing or needed to be tended to before we left for 2 weeks. My advice to future Brides/Grooms is to really think about what kind of mementos you'd like to have from your wedding day and plan ahead to make sure that those things are taken care of before you leave for the honeymoon.
Luckily, I have some amazing friends who thought ahead better than I did. I have a really artsy friend who handmade me some jewelry dishes and a potted plant with imprints of leaves and flowers from my wedding on them. I have another friend who was a Bridesmaid and sent me a glass frame with pressed flowers from our wedding that were arranged around our save-the-date, which had our wedding date on it in big letters. Both of these gifts were some of the most thoughtful gifts that I have received, and I am so thankful to have friends who think ahead. We'll be proudly displaying these items in our house for years to come, and we'll never forget the memories we shared internally.