Reception Centerpieces

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of ideas and examples for your table centerpieces out there. I have quite a few on my “Ideas for Weddings & Parties” board on Pinterest if you need some inspiration. I found this idea for ours on Pinterest, but I tweaked it a little to match our wedding theme. You can view the original pin here.

I gathered 27 mason jars in various sizes (I ended up using only 26; one of them was really tiny!) and I didn’t even have to buy them. All I had to do was get on Facebook (small town girl, remember) and ask if anyone had any jars that they no longer needed or wanted to part with.

You will want a good sized work station. To do this project, you will need mason jars, ribbon of your choice, and a hot glue gun. For display you’ll need flat bottomed clear (or colored if you’d like) pebbles, water, and floating candles.

To start, measure around the jar and add about an extra half inch. Cut your ribbon accordingly – the extra half inch is for glue. I used the same ribbon that I did for the ring pillow and the flower girl basket, so I glued the sheer ribbon first and the turquoise over it. The seam where the ribbons are glued looks like this:

Outside of the jar, where the ribbons are hot glued down.

A view of the inside of the jar. You can see how the bottom ribbon is glued to the jar, then each new spot of glue is put directly over the first.

Once your initial ribbons are glued, decide what ribbon you will be using for the bow. You could also use some other kind of embellishment for the front if you prefer. I used a thin lavender ribbon for some, and the same 3/8 in for others (I didn’t plan it that way, I ran out of the turquoise part way through and ended up using the lavender until I got more turquoise). Instead of tying the bow on the jar, use this bow tying tutorial to tie free bows and hot glue them in your desired spot.

For display at the wedding, fill roughly the bottom 1 1/2 to 2 inches of the jar with the pebbles, fill with water up to the top of your ribbon, and float a candle in them. (You need floating candles… regular candles don’t float. I thought most everyone knew this, but Andy and a few of my friends didn’t! I found mine for about $3.50 per 8 pack at Fred Meyers.)

Our assortment of jars turned out really nice, and once they were on the tables filled with water and had the candles lit it was even better. Here’s 3 of our various jars. You can see the three different bow styles I ended up doing.

Finished centerpieces, minus the pebbles.

Personally, my favorites were the ones with turquoise bows. It was what I originally wanted and I just thought it looked best. I even saved two of them after the wedding and I have them sitting on our mantle with our unity sand ūüôā You could tweak this to match your wedding style or theme and your wedding colors. It’s a very easy project and looks great on tables!

Ceremony & Reception Decorations

Planning the decorations was probably my favorite part of the wedding. I found a website called eFavorMart with decorations, fake flowers, gift boxes, and lots more. I got probably over 90% of our supplies there. And everything is cheap.

To save on cost and on time, our ceremony decorations were very minimal and simple. I tied bows on the aisle end of all the pews and framed the doorway at the back of the sanctuary with tulle. Combined with the aisle runner (which was pulled during the ceremony rather than before) and the unity sand table on the stage, it looked nice and was very simple. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the doorway, but here is a picture of the pews and front of the church:

I got turquoise and lavender colored sashes from eFavorMart, and alternated them on the ends of the pews. You can also see the lace covered unity sand table at the front, and the rolled up aisle runner at the base of the stairs.


Our reception was a much bigger decorating task. For starters, the site was way too small for our reception. I was told it had a capacity of 360 people… Maybe 360 people standing shoulder to shoulder and packed in there. Second, there were cabinets, book shelves, a copy machine, and closet doors. Even decorated, it would have looked tacky. So I spent some extra money and went to Walmart to buy king and queen sized white flat sheets. We tacked them to the ceiling in front of the cabinets, in front of and around the book cases, and covered the copy machine. It looked 100 times better! We also draped Christmas lights behind the sheets on the cabinet wall. It looked so good!

From eFavorMart, I ordered satin, pin-tucked table runners in both lavender and turquoise. I also got 3 bolts of white tulle and 3 bolts of turquoise. I used white table cloths, ran the table runners lengthwise on each table, and placed our party favors, centerpieces, and bubbles on top. Here is how it looked at the end. I wish I had a before image!


You can see how packed it was in there. In the end, everyone had a great time and we really enjoyed it ourselves. But I can’t help but wish we had gotten another venue!

Party favors don’t have to be extravagant or expensive, but it is a nice gesture. We got 200 2×2 inch favor boxes from eFavorMart, filled them with Hershey’s kisses and hugs, and then tied ribbon around them with bows on top. It was so incredibly time consuming, but we did it and they looked great!

A close up of our favor boxes. I used both lavender and turquoise ribbon to mix things up. You can imagine how long this took!


I also made our centerpieces. I got the inspiration off Pinterest, and I’ll post a how-to soon. I got 26 mason jars, hot glued ribbon and bows onto each of them, put clear pebbles in the bottom, filled them with water, and floated floating candles in them at the reception. They came out so good, I saved two for myself and put them on our mantle in our home. You can find lots of other centerpiece ideas both at Pinterest and on TheKnot. It’s worth going through them, there are so many good ideas!

The Reception

The time has come to plan the party portion of your big day, otherwise known as the fun part! Same as with the ceremony, you need to find a venue first that is available on your date (again, this is assuming you are having separate venues). If at all possible, you should visit venues in person and get a tour to see how big the space is and what you’ll be working with in terms of table set up and decorations. You should have your venue booked at least 4-5 months in advance. Here are some questions you need to ask:

What is the room capacity?

Are we allowed to bring in a caterer and/or our own food?

Do you have any requirements concerning decorations such as candles, tacks and pushpins, or adhesives?

Will we be able to set up and decorate the day before the event?

Where are (or are there) cleaning supplies we can use?

Where is the best place to put the DJ? (Look for at least two outlets that can be dedicated entirely to the DJ. A room corner usually works best)

Do you have tables, chairs, and linens?

Keep in mind that you should have a decent gap between the end of your ceremony and the beginning of your reception to allow for pictures (unless you take your pictures before the ceremony. This ruins the whole “groom can’t see the bride before the wedding” but some people do it. I myself was completely against it, even though some wanted us to do it that way). I planned our day with a 2 hour window between for pictures, and we did pretty good sticking to that. We were only 15 minutes late to our reception, and nobody even noticed.

Once you have your venue, seek out a caterer or decide on your foods. We went against all “wedding etiquette” I had found and we had a potluck reception. Small town folks love potluck get-togethers, and for weddings everyone makes their best dishes. You can’t go wrong with that. I asked guests to bring their best finger food to share and our families provided punch, plates, utensils, and napkins. (And of course dessert was also provided – the cake. Duh!) Both of our mothers made a few dishes too. We had so much good food! And it saved us so much money. Caterers can cost thousands of dollars, and in my experience the food is not always that great. You must check with your venue to see if you can host a potluck or even bring in your own caterer. One venue I went to said I had to have a professional food caterer and couldn’t bring in any outside food except the cake. Another venue I spoke to told me I had to use their catering service.

You should book a DJ no less than 1-2 months before your wedding. Most DJ’s don’t fill up for events that early, so this should be a safe time frame. Some people are bound to tell you that a DJ is just an added expense and you’d be just fine playing music off your iPod. No. They have obviously never planned a wedding reception. A DJ does more for you than just hit play on a fancy device. Your DJ should be able to introduce the wedding party, announce reception events when they are going to happen, and keep music flowing seamlessly. They enable you to enjoy your party without having to play host. Ask around to find out if there are DJ’s in your area that people you know recommend, or that have good reviews.

We were incredibly blessed with our DJ, Marc. He wanted to be there a half hour early to set up and be able to play music while guests were arriving, and bought music that we wanted played that neither of us had. Marc met with us on our time schedule two separate times to go over the location, playlists, the reception events, names of the wedding party members, and all the other details. He brought in a few lights, his own table, and all of his equipment. I sat down and made a general playlist for him, and also made him a playlist on my iPad of songs that we already owned that he didn’t need to buy. We paid him $500 for 4 hours of work, and I know he could have charged a lot more. He didn’t charge us extra for arriving a half an hour early or for the music he downloaded.

In addition to having a playlist, you will need to have a typed up copy of your reception flow of events. The events include the introduction of the wedding party, first dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance, bouquet and garter toss, and cutting the cake. I have posted our events timeline here for you to use if you’d like.

Lastly, decorations. You should begin buying and collecting your decorations at the beginning of your engagement to help save money and to avoid the “cost shock” of dishing a large amount of money at one time. Here you can find some decoration ideas and a little bit of advice. I hope this helps you sort out your reception. I’m sure the stress is beginning to build if it hasn’t already. Just remember to take a deep breath, pray for patience and strength, and maybe take a day or two off from planning. It could do you a world of good!



“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

In Memory Candles

Having “In Memory” candles is a personal choice and not a tradition at weddings, although there are marketed premade candles out there. I couldn’t justify spending $20 or more on a candle, so I made ours. I went to Walmart and bought two ivory, unscented pillar candles (I think they were $1 each) and two small square mirror plates to set them on (these were about $3 a piece). I already had silver glittery alphabet scrapbook stickers at home, but I went to Michael’s and got some pearl and corner embellishments to add to them. Using tweezers, I carefully placed each letter and number on the candles. The use of tweezers prevents getting your skin oils on the stickers, and also helps you keep them straight. Since they are going on wax you can easily peal and replace them if they begin to go askew (but don’t worry, they hold on great once you press them on hard! Ours made it 2 months in a tote and then all the way from Anchorage to Kodiak – 250 miles).

You could also tie or hot glue ribbon onto candles, use rhinestones, or whatever else your little heart desires. (Paint, pen, and markers do not work so don’t waste your money on those attempts). You can find small photo clips at Invitations by Dawn that you can use on your bouquet ribbons or could clip onto ribbon attached to your candles.

Here is how our candles looked when I was finished. They looked great up on stage, and cost about $5 a piece with all the materials.

Our candles for my Grandmother and Uncle.


You can choose to incorporate these into the ceremony, or just have them already lit when guests are arriving. I had my parents walk to the front together and light them at the beginning of the ceremony before my mother took her seat (the church we were married at has doors and stairs both at the front and back of the sanctuary, so my father went downstairs and circled back up and around to get me!)

Remembering loved ones lost in this way on your wedding day can help bring you a sort of peace, especially when it was someone you were close to and loved very much, who would have been there in life if they could. I prayed that morning that maybe God would let them look down on us and watch, and because of the peace I felt before I walked down the aisle I have faith that He did.



“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:18-19 ESV)

Ring Pillow & Flower Basket

Since I couldn’t find a pillow and basket in my wedding colors at a low price, I decided to make my own. This was my first craft for our wedding, and it obviously lead to many more! It’s very easy, and I hope this is easy enough to follow.

You will need:

– Tacky glue

– Ribbon in your wedding colors

– Small rhinestones (optional)

– Small sewing kit

– A plain ring pillow and flower girl basket


I got my ring bearer pillow at Walmart for about $11. The tacky glue, ribbon, and rhinestones I got at Michael’s. (I apologize for some of the photos. They were taken with my phone and aren’t that great!)

My plain ring pillow from Walmart.

Wrap your chosen ribbons around the pillow to get a measurement and cut accordingly. I used a wide sheer purple and a narrower solid blue to layer. Trim the edges of the wide ribbon so it looks like it disappears behind the main bow (if your pillow doesn’t have a bow or anything on the front, you can make a bow using either white ribbon or one of your wedding colors and tack or sew it to the front. Here is a great bow tying tutorial). Because one of my ribbons was sheer, I stitched them to the pillow under one of the bow ears, with the solid ribbon under the sheer.

Stitch or glue one end under the bow, making sure the ribbon is lying over top and centered on whatever preexisting ribbon is there (if your pillow has one). Flip your pillow over and pull the ribbon flush so it lays tight and flat against it. Stitch it where the existing ribbon is stitched to create the handle, then stitch it again in the same place on the other side. Wrap it back around to the front and stitch the end under the opposite side of the front bow. Then do the same steps with your next ribbon (if you have one), laying it centered and flush just like the first one. If this ribbon is wider and sheer like mine, don’t make it part of the handle. Instead, cut it and stitch or glue it where the handle starts and do the same on the other side. The underside should look like this:

The backside of the pillow, showing the handle or hand slot for the ring bearer.

The front should look something like this:

The pillows front side, almost finished.

I used a thin purple ribbon to add to the tying ribbons that hang off the front. I cut them to the same length and stitched them up underneath the heart embellishment. I also decided to monogram the pillow with rhinestones. Put some tacky glue on a paper plate and use tweezers to carefully pick up each rhinestone, dip the back of it in the glue, and position it on the pillow. Create any design or monogram you’d like! I’d suggest practicing on a flat surface first though ūüėČ Tacky glue goes on white but dries clear, so if it comes out around the edges you won’t see it when it dries.


The flower girl basket I bought at Michael’s, for somewhere around $12.

The before image of the flower basket.

I did the same ribbon overlay here as I did for the pillow. Blue first, then purple. I used tacky glue rather than stitching. Glue one end to the middle of the bottom of the basket and let dry. Then pull tight and flush and glue the remaining end to the inside of the basket. (I glued mine close to the bottom on the inside, so when it was full of petals you could see the ribbon on the sides.) Do the same on the other side, and then repeat with the sheer ribbon, or whatever other ribbon you’ve chosen. I tied bows around the four ends of the handles to add a girly touch for my nieces.

Here are the finished products. Inexpensive, easy to make, and made to match our wedding perfectly.

The finished basket and pillow.

The Ceremony

You should begin planning your ceremony out early on in the planning process. This takes time and patience, so the more time you give yourself the less stressed you’ll become.

Once you have chosen your date, start looking into venues (otherwise known as locations to non-bridebrained people). Do you want a traditional wedding in a church or are you thinking of an outdoor scene? Maybe a large convention center suites the two of you. It’s entirely up to you. However, I would advise asking both families what their preference would be. Some families will really want you to be married in a church (but if that isn’t your thing, be sure to nicely remind them that although their opinion is valuable to you, it is your wedding and you’d rather hold it elsewhere). Check prices and available dates before you set your heart on anything.

You should also decide if you are going to have your ceremony and reception in the same place or opt for separate venues. We were married in our home church and had our reception in another church’s banquet room. I kinda figured having both in the same place could turn into a logistical nightmare – setting up for the ceremony, then having to break it all down and set up for the reception in a matter of hours would have been hard. But I have seen this done twice for smaller weddings and it actually worked out quite nicely. (For those of you that are going to have separate venues, I have reception planning tips in the The Reception category.)

When you figure out your ceremony venue, determine how long you need it for and when you’ll be able to decorate. We decorated the church the day before the ceremony, when we did our rehearsal. On the day of, the wedding party arrived two hours early so we could get ready there (if you can do this at your venue, I highly recommend it. You’ll be nervous as it is, and being able to just go and get everything done in one place will be nice). The ceremony was about an hour long, so I reserved the church for a 4 hour block just in case.

The officiate, the person who actually marries the two of you, is typically any priest, pastor, or judge. If you live in the state of Alaska, anyone can marry you as long as they go to any courthouse and get the appropriate documents. We were married by a former pastor, now missionary, and very dear friend of our families. You will want to meet with your officiate ahead of time at least twice to go over your ceremony details (such as time, place, ceremony timeline, etc). They also need to be at your rehearsal. Chances are, you’ll be getting married by someone who has done it before, and they will know how everything works and will be able to offer advice. You should ask them when you meet with them if they have any guidelines or conditions. They should also know how the rehearsal works. You might want to appoint or find someone that can help “direct traffic” both during the rehearsal and the actual ceremony. Most churches have a wedding coordinator who knows how to do this. This person will tell the wedding party when to walk and where to stand.

Two important things that take place during the ceremony are exchanging your vows and the unity candle or unity sand ceremony. Decide if you are going to use traditional vows or write your own. If you choose to write your own, check with your officiate to get the okay and give them a copy to approve once you write them. You should write them within 3 months of the wedding, to make sure they’re as perfect as you want them and they’re nicely polished. Also decide if you want to do a traditional unity candle lighting or want to give it a modern twist and go with the unity sand ceremony (or neither, if you’d prefer…). We did the unity sand ceremony. It symbolizes the same “two become one” message as the candle and also symbolizes that you can never be separated. Afterward you’re left with something beautiful and decorative for your home that serves as a constant reminder of your unity (instead of a candle you’ll never light again). Visit here for more information on a unity sand ceremony and how it works.

Our unity sand container and vases, sitting on our mantle in our home. We chose white and black for bride and groom instead of our wedding colors. You can’t see it, but it is engraved with our initials and wedding date. We got ours at David’s Bridal.

The ceremony timeline (order of events) is not something every couple will have to do themselves. Our officiate told us it was entirely up to us, and I ended up arranging the whole thing from scratch. Your officiate may have one predetermined for you. I have posted our timeline here. You can use ours if you’d like or edit it to fit your ceremony style.

We had two “In Memory” candles at our ceremony, so there is a place on the timeline where those were lit by my mother (they were for her brother and my fraternal grandmother). In Memory candles are a very nice way to remember loved ones who are no longer with us who you know would have been there if they could. My grandma was a very wonderful woman who I was close to when I was young. I missed her more than ever in that moment. My uncle was a great, gentle, and caring man who loved my sister and I very much. I would have given anything for them both to be there. If you want to do this, ask both families if there are people who they want candles for. Andy’s family didn’t have anyone. (I made our candles myself. You can see the project in my DIY & Crafts section.)

Decorations and music are the last details you should think about. I have an entire separate post for decorations here as well as where to order everything you could possibly need for cheap. I also have pictures of our decorations and some of the crafty things I did. You can find hundreds of wedding ceremony songs on the internet, and order CD’s if you aren’t going to have a pianist or violinist. Our wedding party walked to ‘Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desire’, my dad and I walked to ‘Pachelbel’s Cannon in D’, and at the end we all walked out to the Peanuts theme song! I had one pianist and one violinist.

*Don’t forget to get your marriage license within the allotted time frame and pick your witnesses. It may seem obvious, but the legal portion of weddings sometimes gets forgotten!



“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man’. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:22-25)

Wedding Photo Checklist

Here is the checklist of photos I gave our photographer. I organized it by time frame so our photographer could easily go down the list as the day progressed. Feel free to copy paste and print it if you’d like to use it! I hope this helps!

McCarty Wedding Photo Checklist

  1. Pre-Ceremony
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† A picture of the wedding gown (optional alternative: with bridesmaids gowns too)
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bride & Bridesmaids dressing and getting ready for ceremony (doing makeup & hair)
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bride with mother fastening her necklace
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Solo picture of the bride after dressing up
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Pictures of bride and bridesmaids all dressed up
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The bouquet/shoes/any accessories
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bride with her father
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The groom and groomsmen dressing and getting ready for ceremony
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The groom with his best man
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The groom fastening his tie/putting on his suit
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The groom with his groomsmen all dressed up
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bridesmaids and Bride/Groomsmen and Groom praying

2.   At the Ceremony

  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Pictures of decorations and guests arriving/finding seats
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The groom and officiate waiting at the front of the church
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen, ring bearers, flower girls)
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The bride and father walking down the aisle
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The groom when he sees his bride (this one is priceless!)
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The father giving away the bride
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Beginning prayer
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† A close up shot of the couples joined hands
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Exchanging of vows
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Exchanging of rings
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Unity sand ceremony
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The infamous first kiss
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bride and groom exiting sanctuary

3.   Formal Wedding Photos (both in the church and at an outdoor location)

  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bride and Groom with brides parents/grooms parents
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Entire wedding party (multiple poses and both locations)
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bride with bridesmaids/Groom with groomsmen (both locations)
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bride with her parents/Groom with his parents
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bride and groom together, close ups too (multiple shots and poses, both locations)
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Wedding rings (both in hands and on fingers)

4.   At the reception

  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The grand entrance of wedding party
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Newlyweds first dance
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Wedding cake, buffet table, and gift table
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Newlyweds at table (with wedding party too)
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Father-daughter dance
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄúDollar-Dance‚ÄĚ
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Bouquet and garter tosses
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Groom dancing with his mother
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Guests dancing
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Cutting of the cake (and the smashing it in the face‚Ķ)
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Any toasts that take place
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Newlyweds talking with and greeting guests

Choosing A Wedding Photographer

This one might be long, so get comfy. Being a photographer myself, I could go on and on about wedding photographers. But I’ll try to stay to the point.

You should book your photographer 2-3 months in advance to ensure you get one you like, they have an open slot for your wedding, and so you can pay them over time (if your photographer allows this – it is definitely something to try to negotiate).

When sorting through potential photographers it’s perfectly okay to be stingy and nit-picky. This is your wedding, and at the end of that day it will all be over and all you’ll have left will be the pictures that your photographer gives you. You need them to be good ones. I instantly threw out photographers who didn’t have an online gallery and photographers who had never shot weddings. Shooting a wedding is very challenging, and is similar to sport or action photography. You need to be able to predict the next move in order to get the best shots, so having someone who has experience with wedding photography goes above and beyond any other photographer. It is also important to be able to look at their previous work. This tells you their style, their angles, whether they shoot in just black and white or just color (or both, which is a plus!), and what kind of quality their photos are in. Here are some things to look for:

Look for focus – Are the main subjects blurry or off-centered? Is the image focused in the wrong spot or at the wrong depth? (Such as a photo of the bride and groom but the image is focused in the background)

Look for noise – Are the images grainy? Do colors seem blotchy?

Look at poses – (If they’ve shot more than one wedding…) Are the exact same poses used in every wedding? Do the subjects look posed or do they look natural and relaxed?

Look at exposure – Do the photographers pictures have a trending underexposure (or overexposure)? Meaning are the majority of their photos too dark or too bright?

Look at editing techniques – What kind of contrast are you seeing in their work (are the darks super dark and the lights washed out)? Do they add to or photoshop their photos too much? Are their colors over-saturated?

Price is a major concern with photographers. A lot of them think it’s perfectly okay to charge you out the wazoo, but here’s a little bit of the truth. Yes, their equipment is expensive. Yes, the editing software they use is expensive. And yes, sorting through upwards of 1,500 photos (or much more) and editing them takes a lot of hours. But I’ve never met a photographer that didn’t enjoy their work. And there is no reason to get paid a vast amount of money to spent 7-8 hours at a party doing something you love and then going home and sitting on your butt going through the photos. I’m sorry. Not happening.

One of the photographers I contacted wanted $1,500 to spend 8 hours with us, give us a couple prints, and a disc of our pictures. I just about died. I would advise not to spend anything over $1,000 on a photographer, and even that is pushing it. I would rather say don’t go above $800, but getting a good photographer at that price for an all day event can be hard. This is why it is so vitally important to know before you hire if you like their work or not. If you think it’s so-so, look elsewhere. But try not to settle. If it comes down to two or three photographers that are available and that you love, let the lowest price win. [I can not stress enough how important it is to look at their previous work…]

Once you have chosen you photographer, here are some things to work through. Ask them if they have payment options or if they will let you pay them between now and the wedding. This spreads out the cost so you don’t have to fork out that much money all at once. Find out how they give you your photos – do they actually print out prints for you or do they give you a disc with printing rights. All I needed was a disc, so that also helped me choose a photographer. With a disc you can email your wedding photos, post them on Facebook, and print them off cheaply either at home or at WalMart. You should also make a list (or find one on the internet) of specific photos that you want taken. If a photographer isn’t willing to follow this, find someone else. (If you do this…) I would advise making it extremely clear that this is what you are hiring them for. Be sure that they are going to get those photos for you.

Meet with your photographer in person when you hire them. Give them your checklist of photos and ask for some kind of contract or information in writing about the set price and what you will be getting. It may also be beneficial to take your own notes in your wedding planner. I wrote down my photographers name, the hours I was paying her for (1 PM – 8 PM with a 1 hour break, making for 6 paid hours), the time she estimated it would take for her to have our photos ready, and the price/hour she was charging us.

This should make dealing with wedding photographers a breeze for you. I have published the checklist I gave our photographer here. Feel free to copy, paste, and print it if you would like to use it! You may also add to it if you’d like.



“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV)

Gift Registires – Where To & Not To

Oh yes, this time has come. Gift registries can be a serious nightmare, not gonna lie. But before we get into that, I’ll give you some tips.

When we were registering, someone told us to take the number of guests you’re inviting, multiply by three, and register for that many gifts. This gives your guests lots and lots of things to choose from for you two. You should also register at a minimum of 3 different retailers, again giving your guests a selection. We did not register for that many gifts, and we only registered at 3 retailers. We found that more guests purchased from our Bed, Bath, and Beyond registry than our other two (which was fine by us! We love them), but that was also the store we had the most gifts registered for. I think we got more money and gift cards than anything else (which again was fine by us!)

As you probably saw in the Invitations & Save the Dates post, we registered at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, JC Penny, and Sears. BBB was absolutely wonderful. The registry consultant sat down with us, filled out all the paperwork with us, and even walked around the entire store and scanned items with us. We must have been in there at least 3 whole hours. But it was so much fun. Best part about the BBB bridal registry is after your event, if you don’t get everything you wanted, you can go back and get 20% off anything you buy. We made a killing after our wedding! And got everything we needed for our home together. My advice: GO TO BBB. RIGHT NOW. Okay maybe not right now, but definitely register there.

Sears and Penny’s were not such great experiences unfortunately. For JCP, we drove all the way downtown to the Anchorage store, just to find out they don’t do registries in-store. You have to do it all online. And the lady we talked to was very rude to us. So not all bad, but online registering isn’t as fun and it’s a little harder since you can’t see the item or check it out.

Our experience with Sears was terrible. Downright awful. I never should have bothered with them. Before going I signed up online so I wouldn’t have to do that part in the store. Then when we got there and asked about registering for gifts, the first couple associates we talked to didn’t know what the heck we were talking about, and when we found someone who did they didn’t know where the scanner was. Someone ELSE found the scanner, then no one knew how it worked. I finally got a manager who knew how everything worked, and he helped us set it up and start scanning. Not 10 minutes into scanning the scanners battery died… Oh LORD! I took it back to the counter – where four girls had been standing around chatting and joking so loud we could hear them from the next department – it took me a minute to get their attention, and when I did they didn’t know how to change the battery. One of them actually took it from me and said “What is this? Why do you have this? Who let you have this?” Oh I was furious. I got the manager again, told him what was going on, and after fidgeting with the scanner some more we gave up and left. I was so angry. The customer service was so bad (I’ve been there two other times and gotten the same cruddy service). The other con is their online registry doesn’t make gifts you’ve already received unavailable, so multiple people can purchase the same gift. Which happened to us. Duplicate gifts wouldn’t be an issue if Sears would issue you store credit. No. They told me it would be returned to the original credit card. Meaning the person who purchased the gift would know that we had to return it!

Oh my, that makes me mad all over again just thinking about it! Okay, off my soapbox here. You should think about doing your gift registries right around 5-6 months prior to the wedding, and definitely before sending out your invitations (since you’re going to make those registry cards, right?).¬† Also, don’t forget to add your registries to your wedding website when you’ve finished! (I found that Bed, Bath, and Beyond and JC Penny’s both automatically showed up on our website. Which was awesome.) Other places to think about registering are Scan Home, Lennox, Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, Target, and Pottery Barn. Among many others I’m sure.

If you have a great experience, or a terrible one, please share! (Or vent, whichever you need)

I thought this was an appropriate verse to go with this. It reminds us that God’s light shines through us as Christians, so no matter how mad we are about a gift registry, we should still demonstrate the heart of Christ to those we deal with.


“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise your father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV84)

Invitations & Save The Dates

This is one of the most expensive parts of a wedding, and strangely also one of the easiest (perhaps cost and difficulty level have an inverse relationship…) Invitations can cost you hundreds of dollars, and combine that with RSVP cards, Save the Date’s, and registry cards, you could easily be looking at upwards of $1,000 or more in paper.

First, Save the Dates are definitely not a must. They are spendy, and there is little to no way around it. They are, however, very cute, very nice, and a great way to send a happy announcement to all your friends and family of your engagement and your chosen wedding date. If you choose to send Save the Dates, keep in mind that you should not send them to folks that will not be receiving a formal invitation. This should go without saying, but I stated it just in case…¬† A couple places to order them from are Wedding Paper Divas or Vistaprint. Wedding Paper Divas has hundreds of super cute designs. Vistaprint does too, and theirs are much cheaper (I’m a huge Vistaprint fan, you’ll find out shortly).

Your invitations should be mailed out about 2-3 months before the wedding. I mailed ours 3 months in advance, and asked people to RSVP by May 1. David’s Bridal, Wedding Paper Divas, Invitations By Dawn, and Vistaprint all have beautiful, unique invitations and matching RSVP cards. I went through Vistaprint for mine, and I was one extremely happy camper. I got 150 invitations and 150 RSVP cards both with white envelopes for $120.23, not counting shipping (which was $17.60 to Alaska). They were printed on card stock, the colors were perfect, and I was very impressed with the quality. Everywhere else I would have paid well over $300, maybe upwards of $500. For something most if not all people are just going to throw away? No thanks!

Wherever you choose to get them, the site should tell you what information to put on the invitation such as time and date (duh), address of the venue, address of the reception site, time of the reception, etc. On your RSVP cards, put a place for your guests to write down how many will be attending from that family or group. I also saw a neat idea (on Pinterest of course) to put a line for your guests to request a song they’d like played at your reception. It will help you get an idea of guests taste in music and it makes it kinda fun.

Here’s what our invitation package looked like:

The RSVP card goes in its own envelope, then that, a registry card, a photo, and the invitation all go inside the big envelope.

A tidbit of advice: buy a stamp with your address on it for this and for when you write all those thank you cards after the wedding. Your hand will thank you. I went through and stamped every RSVP envelope with our address on it so guests could just throw a stamp on it and drop it in the mail. Your choice though.

Since we didn’t do Save the Dates, I went to WalMart and printed wallet sized copies of one of our engagement pictures and put one in each invite packet. It was inexpensive, and it let everyone see our faces. The registry card I made myself. I went to WalMart and bought the perforated business cards by Avery, downloaded a free template from their website, and designed the cards in Microsoft Word. I was able to print them from my own printer, and I added the stores we registered at and the URL for our wedding website. This turned out to be an excellent idea and I highly suggest doing this yourself.

The registry cards. The bride and groom was a clip art picture off the internet, and the fonts are regular ones from Word. Very easy!


“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23)