Yes - I can feel your eyes rolling, and I can hear the Liz Taylor jokes (or for you millennials, the Kim Kardashian jokes). The eye rolls and jokes are further fuelled by the fact that I am a professional wedding planner. (OK - now you’re laughing out loud…)
I write this post today, not to share my romantic foibles, but to share my wedding planning journey. With this, my third wedding, I have learned a lot; not just about finding true love, but finding the courage to celebrate it my way. Allow me to explain.
My first wedding took place in my twenties. After studying and living for some time in Toronto, I returned to Guelph (my hometown) to marry the boy everyone expected me to marry; to have the wedding everyone expected me to have.
At this time, I was working in restaurant management and thought I knew everything about planning the perfect wedding: country club venue, fancy hors d’oeuvres, wedding magazine flowers and dresses, a plated dinner of roast chicken and mixed vegetables, a five-tiered wedding cake right out of Martha Stewart’s Weddings and meticulously posed portraits. Oh it was perfect! I hated it. It wasn't me, but my parents were footing the bill and I didn't feel like I could speak up. So, I ate my rubber chicken and smiled for the photographer as I cut my plastic cake. In fact my face hurt the next day from fake smiling.
That marriage lasted a year.
My second wedding was in my thirties. Professionally, I had moved from restaurant management to catering. I regularly worked weddings - beautiful, grand weddings - and I silently shook my head, “That’s not what they really wanted… look how much money they’ve wasted... this is so silly… I won’t make that mistake again.”
So I eloped. We drove to Niagara Falls and got married. Then we drove home and sent out announcements after the fact. That’s it. Who needs a wedding? I was so obviously above all that.
I spent the next ten years regretting it.
So here I am in my forties. Now a professional wedding planner and re-united with a former love (the one that got away!). When it came time for this wedding, I was determined that it would be our wedding, on our terms.
My work with other brides and grooms had armed me with a list of what I liked and what I definitely didn’t. My life experience also lent to the planning of this celebration. From the guest list to the venue and the menu - our celebration was uniquely ours: a sunset ceremony followed by a selection of our favourite foods served gourmet style at chef attended stations. And the cocktails - even those were carefully chosen with our personalities and our memories in mind.
This wedding day ended up going exactly how I wanted it to go and it was all because I decided that day was about what me and my fiancé wanted and not about what anyone else thought it should be or perfecting some Pinterest puzzle or Facebook fantasy.
But of course that didn’t stop plenty of in-laws, friends and family from drilling me with questions and suggestions. I listened. I gave consideration. I even compromised (my mom insisted on chairs for the ceremony - she was right!). But, I never gave up our vision.
Choosing a capable wedding planner is the best thing you can do. I would like to say I handled this on my own - but I didn’t. I got help when I needed it. My best friend also happens to be a wedding planner and I hired her! I’ve held enough brides’ hands through this process to know that I was going to need someone to hold mine. Someone professional, someone who was working for me - not Aunt Gladys and my cousin Sue!
Interview wedding planners like you would any other employee. Make sure you see a portfolio and references. This person will run interference for you through this process. This has to be someone you trust, someone you can be honest with. They have to be in your corner and they have to know what they’re doing! Remember that weddings are cash cows for vendors and they know they can sell a bride just about anything if it’s cute and has lace trim. Your wedding planner should have the contacts and know-how to tame these savages.
My third wedding was perfect. It was elegant, fun and affordable. I didn’t obsess over flowers, cake toppers or trains. I was able to focus on what really mattered: me and my husband. And when it was all all over, my feet were bare, my husband’s tie was missing and the tacos and burgers were devoured. I can’t stop staring at my pictures and smiling at the memories.