Wedding Advice for Newly Engaged Couples: Janna from Sparkly Love

How long after your got engaged did you begin planning the wedding?

Erik proposed six months after we closed on our first house. For financial reasons, we decided we were going to wait a little while before getting married. I started looking for things I wanted immediately after we first joked about putting a ring on it. We started seriously planning one year before our wedding.

How did you determine the wedding’s budget and who contributed what?

We never had a set number written on a piece of paper as to what we wanted to spend on our wedding. We considered each element individually and decided what we felt comfortable spending on that particular item. We decided that we weren’t going to get things just because we could afford them, and likewise, we weren’t going to spend more than we could afford so that we could have a certain kind of wedding. A wedding is one of the most important days of your life - but it is still just ONE day.

My parents and Erik’s mother came to us immediately after we got engaged and said “I will be giving a wedding gift of X amount if it helps you plan.” We never anticipated any money from our families for the wedding, so although the gifts were uber-appreciated, we didn’t do anything extra because we knew they were coming. We stuck to the amounts we felt comfortable with for each part of the wedding and I’m really proud of us for doing that, because there were a lot of areas where I just wanted to throw the checkbook at vendors and say “blow everyone away.”

How did you keep track of your wedding planning?

EXCEL! I love Excel. I have Excel sheets for my Excel sheets. I created my initial invite list in Excel (which made it easy to do a mail merge and print labels for the envelopes). Then added columns for replies and later gifts to keep everything organized. I also had tabs for money spent, vendor contact info, and music selections.

When you discussed the wedding, what 5 things where most important to the two of you and how did you incorporate them into your day?

Wow, toughie. In no particular order:

  1. I think location was always huge for us. We were thinking “beach” from the beginning. And although the location of that beach changed throughout the planning process, it was always a beach that we wanted, and that’s where we ended up.
  2. Affordability was also very important. We weren’t strapped for cash (we agreed that we were going to have a wedding we really wanted so we would wait until we were able to afford we wanted) but we were always conscious of what we were spending and tried to make the most affordable decisions possible.
  3. We wanted unique and personal touches. Things like having our dog in our wedding photos, pictures of our parents cutting their wedding cakes on our cake table, and crossword puzzles on the back of our programs with words about us and our relationship.
  4. We were always going to do a first look. We may not have told our parents that from the outset but for us this was never even up for debate. The idea of seeing each for the first time in front of over 100 people who were just STARING at us seemed frightening. We wanted an intimate couple of minutes together before the day started to speed. Looking back, I’m so happy with our decision. Erik and I were both infinitely more excited for the ceremony once all the nerves were out. It allowed us to really take in every bit of it. Plus, the pictures came out AMAZING!
  5. I think that number five was something we didn’t know was so important to us until late in the process. Deciding that we wanted a videographer probably should have happened earlier but it was seeing a video that moved me to the point of tears (as discussed in this post on my blog) that made me realize how important this element really was. I cannot wait to see the finished product so I can tell you how right I was and how it was worth every dime!

Did you register for gifts and was it a good experience?

We did register for gifts, kind of, well yes, but… As I mentioned, Erik and I owned our own home before getting married. We had all the things we needed already. We thought it was silly to register for things that were either nicer versions of things we already owned or things we would put in our already too packed kitchen cabinets to gather dust.

But, we got very mixed feedback when we suggested not creating a registry. While some said “that makes sense, you guys have lived together and have what you need,” others said “it’s awfully presumptuous to not register and just expect people to give you cash.” We decided to create a small registry at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Erik enjoyed shooting the gun at things that are WAY too expensive for most of the people attending our wedding (which I could argue is more presumptuous than asking for money). Then, I wrote a poem about how we had all the things we needed, but if you were the type who liked to “wrap up a gifty, Bed Bath and Beyond has things that are nifty.” We included the poem, with our registry info at the bottom, on a little card that went out with the invites. It worked! We got nothing off of our registry, but we did get a 10% off completion coupon from BB&B in case Erik wants to pick up some of the stuff he added!

Could you share some wedding planning advice for newly engaged couples?

For me, it was so tempting to just run out and start buying things that I thought were pretty as soon as I got engaged. For me, that meant lots of trips to return things, or elements that were purchased early on never got used because they didn’t fit once the final product came together. My first piece of advice would be to sit out and decide what you REALLY want and then build off of that until you have a solid vision of your day. If you have a certain flower you want to use, this might dictate what season you should have your wedding, unless you want to pay tons to have them shipped in.

Ask lots of questions and do lots of research. Becoming educated about weddings will ensure you get the best price for things and that you get exactly what you want. The last piece of advice I have is stay true to what you want. Sometimes you are going to have to put your foot down and maybe upset your mom for a day. But guess what? Your mom loves you and she’s going to get over it when she realizes how happy this decision makes you! If the two of you want to fly to Bora Bora and get married on the beach, then come home and throw a killer BBQ in your backyard to share the pictures/video with all your friends and family, DO IT (You’ll probably save money!!)!

Where did you splurge and where did you save?

I saved in a LOT of places. I got 50% off the per-head cost of my venue (which included cocktail hour, food, all-night open bar, linens, tables, chairs, and staff) for picking a Monday holiday. A family member made my wedding cake (which I designed!) as a wedding present. I designed, printed, and assembled my invites. I DIY’d my ceremony decorations, programs, centerpieces, table numbers, and favors. I negotiated awesome prices with my florist, transportation, and DJ. I’d say the only real splurges were photographer and videographer. Just remember, you get what you pay for! If you want amazing photos and video, you need to pay those vendors for the hard work they are doing (and that extends beyond the wedding day)!

What specific cost surprised you (pleasantly or unpleasantly)?

I was pretty shocked by the price of transportation. Our ceremony and reception were in the same location, but that location was 30 min from our home, so I wanted to make sure that the wedding party and their dates had a safe ride to and from. We needed a ride 30 min in one direction at 4pm and a 30 min ride back at 11pm. I talked to ten different companies, and all but one told me that I needed to rent a vehicle for the entire time of the event (4pm-11:30pm) and pay hourly even though we were only using the vehicle for an hour out of those 8 hours. In addition, CT has laws about the number of passengers allowed in a limo (8) so if we went with a limo, we would need multiple vehicles or multiple trips, which would add to the amount of time we needed.

The other option was to get a bus or party bus. The total damage for any of the options was well over $1,000 on the low end and close to $3,000 on the high end. Several times I decided to scrap transpo altogether and have people drive themselves, but then I would have nightmares about out of town friends trying to find their way back to my house after a 5hr open bar and started searching again. I finally found a company that let me rent a 24 person shuttle bus and split the 3hr minimum package between pickup/dropoff. Even then, $600 is a lil pricey for 1hr of service, no?

Could you share a favorite DIY project from your wedding?

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Image Courtesy of: Linked Ring Photography

My favorite project to make were my ceremony aisle decorations because they were so easy to make and looked so good. My favorite DIY finished product was our program fans.

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Image Courtesy of: Janna of Sparkly Love

My bridesmaids would probably punch me for saying that though. I did not realize how much labor was involved in making them until it was too late. I blogged about that too.

Image Courtesy of: Janna of Sparkly Love

Then there were the signs I made for our seats at the reception. I realized the day before the wedding that I never made any. I panicked and decided to run over to the beach in town and try to find some small pieces of driftwood. I had used driftwood to make a big sign for the wedding so I figured this would tie in. I managed to find two great pieces. After the rehearsal dinner, I drilled holes in them, tied white ribbon, and painted “Mr.” on one and “Mrs.” on the other and gave them to my mom to take to the venue. Well when I got to the venue, I found out we had these huge fabric arm chairs and there was no way to hang them. We never even used them, well except when I used mine as a necklace at the end of the night!!

Most of what I did, I created from scratch. If anyone wants .pdfs or .indd files of anything I made, let me know, I got an A+ in sharing in pre-school.

Did you have to handle any tricky or delicate issues while planning your wedding and how did you cope with them?

I had a couple. One of the largest was with one of the groomsmen’s mother. She and her husband were invited to the wedding and obviously so was her youngest son, as he was a groomsman. However, she was angry when she found out that her other son (30 years old) wasn’t invited because he and Erik had been friendly as children.

And when I say she was angry, I mean that she called Erik’s mom and told her that she had to call us and tell us that we had to invite him or she would be “very upset.” What upset me the most is that she didn’t say a word when I sent out my save the dates in October. She waited until May when she got her invite to voice her disdain.

I was bothered, especially since there were a lot of people that I didn’t invite on my side because, I mean come on, you can’t invite everyone you’ve ever been friends with in your life. This thing costs a lot of money. My future MIL called the groomsman’s mom and told her that the other son could come. I was more than a little cranky about it for a day or two but then put it in the “I can’t do anything about this” jar and walked away.

The other was dealing with “I know more than you about weddings so you should do what I tell you” people. I love “I know a lot about weddings so I’ll share some of my experiences with you in hopes you will benefit from them” people, so do not confuse the two. The first variety make you feel like an idiot and can frustrate you to the point of “steam shooting out of ears” syndrome. It took me a while, but I learned that the best solution is a huge smile and a little “wow, that sounds great - I’m going to look into it when I get home,” followed by mentally deleting everything they said.

Could you share some wedding day advice for newly engaged couples?

  1. Set a schedule. And don’t just keep it to yourself. Have someone in your bridal party who you know is calm under pressure, or someone in your family who will be around all day keep track of it as well. Run your schedule by your vendors. They have done this before, A LOT. I sent my schedule to my photographer, videographer, stylist, and day-of-coordinator to make sure everything looked feasible. Did I leave enough time for getting ready? Will we need more time for photos?
  2. Build extra time into your schedule. Not hours, but 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there will save you a LOT of stress on the day of. We had 30 extra minutes after pictures before the bus came to get us as a result of me padding the schedule. Since we did the first look photoshoot, the whole bridal party was already together. We went back to my house and had a quick impromptu bbq and shared a few beers on the deck before heading off to the venue. It definitely lightened the mood and made for a happy bridal party!
  3. Take some time for the two of you during the festivities, even if it’s only a few little minutes. We did the ceremony then were rushed off for more pictures, then upstairs to a back room to prep for introductions, then the dances, then food, then QUICK run outside to get pics as the sun sets, run back up for the toasts, now finish eating, oops time for the cake, now there are fireworks, run out and take pictures in front of them. Plus, every time we sat down someone was running over for a picture with us or to tell us how wonderful everything was. And while it’s totally appreciated, gosh you barely have a second to breathe! After the fireworks pictures we told everyone we were heading upstairs, but instead we snuck off to the garden behind our ceremony location and sat by the waterfall on a bench just the two of us. I rested my head on his shoulder and we just took a minute to be us. We laughed as I realized I had forgotten Erik was wearing a mic during the first look and I’m pretty sure I was saying weirdo things and I'm slightly embarrassed that Travis from Serendipity Studios is going to have to listen to them as he edits our wedding video. We only sat on that bench for two minutes, but they are probably my two favorite minutes from the whole day.

Could you share your favorite photo from the day and tell us why you love it?

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Image Courtesy of: Linked Ring Photography

Ok this is an easy winner for me. The photo was taken a few minutes after our first look. There was a fallen log and I was more than happy to walk through the woods in my gown and plop down on it. I think we were getting stiff/awkward because Candice from Serendipity Studios (who was assisting Travis that day) told me to grab Erik’s tie and for some reason when I started playing with it, we totally loosened up. When I look at this photo, I just feel all of our love and all of our happiness. It’s so intimate, but so silly at the same time.


Thank you, Janna! Your wedding must have been so much fun (I love beach weddings!) and what great advice about giving everyone copies of your schedule to preview before the wedding!

Would you like to ask Janna any questions about her wedding experience? Leave a comment and we'll try to get back with you! Check out Janna on her blog, Sparkly Love, and be sure to follow her on Twitter.