From a recent bride has been. (*Warning: long post ahead*)
Holy cow. It’s crazy to me that 1) most of my 2018 was spent wedding planning, 2) I’ve been married for almost 3 months, 3) there is SO much that goes into wedding planning and it’s not easy. I honestly marvel at those who manage to get engaged, plan their wedding, and get married in less than a year.
When Ryan and I got engaged, Ryan specifically stated he did not want a long engagement. In fact, he didn’t even want to go over a year. I, however, was 1/4 of the way through my senior year of college and knew anything less than a year would be way too stressful with graduation. So, a year it was. Engaged on October 6, 2017, and married on October 6, 2018!
Looking back on it, wedding planning is just straight up stressful, no matter how long you have to get it done. There’s so much to do and it really just depends on how motivated you are to get it done and/or figured out.
I’m writing this “letter” to all the bride-to-be’s out there because I worked really hard to save us as much money as possible, but also because I’m hoping my tips, tricks, and experiences will help another bride to save a little money and have the best wedding experience as possible! I know how stressful it can be, but just try to remember, at the end of the day, you get to marry the love of your life and that’s all that matters. (Bet you haven’t heard that one before, have you?) Anyway, without further ado, here we go.
Do. It. Yourself.
(If you can). I’m a fairly crafty girl. I love making things myself (or with a little help). Between myself and my two grandmothers, we made a lot of different things for my wedding! If you’re not particularly crafty, consider asking someone who you’re close with who is crafty if they will consider helping you out! This could be a great way for you and that person to bond, and most people would be honored to help use their skills to help make your day as special as possible.
Wedding Stationery (Save The Dates/Invitations/Ceremony Programs/Thank Yous)
Using my graphic design skills, I designed our save the dates, the inserts for our invitations, our ceremony programs, the thank yous for the reception, and our thank yous for those who were kind enough to give us a gift. (Speaking of which, shameless plug: If you need help designing any wedding stationery and/or want something different than the run of the mill designs off of Walmart.com or Shutterfly, I’m your girl!! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be glad to help!!)
For our save the dates, I designed them myself, using some of our engagement photos taken by Patryk Openchowski, one of my friends from college (and also our videographer)! We got them printed at Costco because it was only $26 for 100 of them and every other website I quoted wanted at least $85 or more for the same amount. We invited about 250 people to our wedding, so clearly 100 printed save the dates wasn’t enough. So how did we do it? We emailed a PDF of it to everyone that we didn’t mail one to! Stamps are EXPENSIVE. And it was easier for us to email them to the younger guests.
With the help of my Grandma Uitermarkt’s card making skills, we designed the full invitations, and with the help of my mom, mother-in-law, husband, and both grandmas, we all worked together to put the invitations together. I designed all of the inserts for the inside. My Grandma Uitermarkt and I cut out over 1,500 leaves…all of which had to have stems drawn in them, and some of them were even brushed with some ink to give them dimension so they wouldn’t look so “flat”. I hand-wrote each guests name on the outside of the invitation so it would be clear as to who was being invited and if they could bring a guest with them. Both moms, grandmas, Ryan and I all helped stick on the leaves and stuff the trifold envelopes. I’m so proud of how these turned out! They’re by far the coolest thing I’ve ever designed.
While I was designing the inserts for our invitations, I went ahead and designed a “Thank you” card to be put out at every seat at the wedding to show our gratitude to our guests for coming and how much it meant to us to have them there with us on our special day. I also designed another thank you that we wrote on and mailed out to those who were very kind and gave us wedding gifts and cards. I wanted to do something more personal than just a “thank you” card from Walmart. My thinking behind it was at least this way it could be hung up on people’s fridges if they wanted (kind of like a Christmas card) instead of just read and then thrown away.
Veils can be EXPENSIVE. We looked at them some when I was wedding dress shopping and when I finally found the dress, I started to figure out which type of veil I wanted to go with it. The kind I liked most was just plain tule that came down to my waist. Want to know how much that veil would have costed us if we bought it from the place I got my dress? $275. Want to know how much my veil ended up costing? $3. How do you ask? I bought a 10 pack of plastic veil hair combs on Amazon for less than $1 and my Grandma Spoelstra (Aka Momo. It’s weird to call her ‘grandma’) found the tule for $2. She sewed it together for me (because she’s a seamstress and I know nothing about sewing, but if I really had to, I’m sure I could have watched a YouTube video on how to do it..in fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what she did.) Even if I wanted my veil to be a little more…decorative, I could have glued beads onto it myself or had her sew lace appliques onto it. Mainly, what I’m trying to get at here is that we saved $272 just on the veil alone and it looked just as good as the one from the bridal store would have. (And also you really only wear your veil during the ceremony and then you take it off so is it really worth spending $275 or more on??)
If you know me, you know my love for candles..and more specifically fall scented candles. I was looking through Pinterest for different wedding favor ideas, keeping in mind that we didn’t have an unlimited budget and if we were going to be giving something out, it would need to be something relatively cheap. I found a pin that was for 30 wedding favors under $1. I did more research and decided that I’d like to make my own candle favors for my guests because that would be a pretty..personalized gift from me/us to them (Ryan doesn’t really care). I bought the wax, scents, and wicks online. We bought the votive candle holders that I made them in off of someone we knew who was selling them on Facebook as their daughters had just gotten married and they were trying to get rid of wedding stuff. We got 144 votive holders for $15 (talk about a steal). Instead of buying candle dye, we used some old crayons we found in our basement and cut those into small pieces and melted them in with the wax to give the candles different colors. Momo and I spent a couple of afternoons measuring and melting the wax, adding the scent, and pouring them into the votives to dry. They turned out so well and were the perfect little party favors for our guests! We had three different scents: coffee (who isn’t surprised?), cinnamon bun, and snickerdoodle. They were a hit! I’ve had some of our friends tell us the various ways they’ve been using them, including one (male) keeping them in his car glovebox and when his car “starts to smell” he opens up his glovebox and the smell from his candles freshens up the car and then he puts them back in the glovebox for next time. I’m glad people are liking them as much as I do!
To go along with our fall theme, we were also going for a hint of rustic. We didn’t go all out, have our reception in a barn and drink out of mason jars with burlap decor everywhere, but we did have some of that stuff throughout our wedding. One of the things I was pretty proud of were the palettes. We got the palettes for free. Ryan works for an electrical company in Sully and their wire comes in shipments on palettes and then the palettes just get thrown onto a pile to be either thrown away or burned. We snagged one from there (many of them were broken but we found a good one) and my mom got one from some construction workers who were building a house just down the street from their house. Momo and I painted them with chalkboard paint I bought at Theisen’s for maybe $15 (I don’t quite remember how much it was) and then once they were dry, I used some of the calligraphy skills I had been working on to write out a schedule of the evenings events and the dinner menu using chalk markers (maybe $3-$4..I don’t remember). So total, these ended up being around $20 total to make and it kept me from having to answer the question “what’s for dinner??” or “when is the dance going to start?”.
Something to think about when planning out your wedding ceremony is if you want to have an accompanist play a song during the signing of the marriage license and if you are going to do some sort of “unity” something. Instead of doing a unity candle, some other ideas I looked at were unity sand, unity painting, and the one we decided to go with was a unity cross, which was a wooden cross with three ropes hanging from the sides and the top and then you braid three strands of rope together to signify that “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
-Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
A couple of friends of ours had done the same thing at their wedding and I really liked that idea. We looked around online but to have one of them made (or custom made) for you was EXPENSIVE. Almost all of them on Etsy were well over $100. Ryan decided he could make us one for cheaper than that, and that’s what he did! He spent less than $30 on ours. He bought the wood, drawer knobs (because those worked better than large nails), the rope at Home Depot. Using the tools that were available to him, he cut, sanded, and put it together and then he, along with the help of my father-in-law, stained it a couple of times with some wood stain they had at home. Then he added the drawer knobs and tied the rope around three of them and BAM. Unity cross.
During our ceremony, we braided it together and wrapped it around the bottom, while our accompanists sang a song and our witnesses signed our marriage license. Now we have a special piece of decor for our house to remind us of the day we were braided together with God in our marriage.
Another way we personalized our wedding experience was by designing some custom napkins and koozies for the bar area. I have my love for turtles and my husband has a liking for goats, so those were put onto some cocktail napkins. The koozies we bought online from Totally Promotional and we ordered 150 (which was way too many because we only had 180 people coming to our wedding but, we’d rather have too many than not enough and the pricing wasn’t much different for that many vs. 125. However, I wasn’t crazy about the “P” that was going to be put with the layout we liked, so we asked for a serif P instead of a scripty P. They agreed and we got a look we liked and wanted! The koozies were also a hit, but we did have quite a few left over. Bonus: We got a “Bride” koozie and a “Groom” koozie which were kind of fun for us to have at the reception.
I feel like nowadays, mason jars are a staple of wedding decor. Somehow, somewhere, a mason jar is used as either a form of decoration or as a drinking glass. We acquired some mason jars for free from some people we knew who also had just been through the whole wedding process and were just looking to get rid of them. I didn’t help with this portion because I had many other things to finish before the big day, but my Grandma Uitermarkt and my mom glued some twine and some fake fall leaves to them and then my bridesmaids put clear marbles inside of them along with the little candles that we were using as part of our centerpieces. We put two of them on each table, along with some more fake fall leaves, the centerpieces our florist made, and some small pumpkins and gourds. The tables turned out super cute!
Before our reception started, we had a cocktail hour. The bar was open for those of age to grab a drink and Momo had made a couple of different snack mixes for people to munch on, along with the giant bag of mixed popcorn that my new in-laws got for that as well. The snack mixes were a hit from what I heard and they were the perfect little snack before dinner. I didn’t get to eat any of it as I was busy, but I’m glad everyone else enjoyed it. At one point, one of the places we were looking into bringing us a bar to the venue and serving, were requiring us to purchase appetizers through them. At the time, we were desperate for someone to serve the alcohol for us and we were willing to pay for those if that’s what it took. However, it fell through and we ended up finding another company to provide the bar for us, but the idea of the appetizers did sound good, so we made some snack mixes ourselves + some punch for those who can’t/don’t drink.
Skip a DJ
This was a huge money saver for us. As much as having a formal DJ would have been convenient, DJs can be pricey and there’s no guarantee that people are going to stay very long once the dance starts anyway. We knew our “dance” probably wouldn’t last very long, as Ryan doesn’t really dance, and I knew by that point in the day, we would be tired and ready to end the day.
We asked one of my good friends to be the emcee for us, and he announced us as we walked into the reception. He was going to give more announcements, but it became easier for whoever had the mic to give the directions as to what was going to happen next. Ryan’s dad gave the dinner instructions after opening us up in prayer, and then I ended up giving instructions when it was time to take some group photos and when it was time for dessert.
We were fortunate enough in the fact that our venue had a sound system that we could use, including two big speakers and a microphone. That saved us money on having to figure out that part on our own. The sound system also came with an auxiliary cord which was perfect to plug my phone in and play music off of the Spotify playlists I had created for the day. If you don’t know what Spotify is, it is an online music streaming service/app that allows you to listen to unlimited amounts of music and make as many playlists as you want when you subscribe. A subscription is $10 a month.
We then designated one of our friends to be in charge of the music. And then our Emcee announced our first dance, the father/daughter dance, and the mother/son dance. After that, we did a dollar dance. It was so fun for me to be able to have some one-on-one time with some of the guests that were there that I may not have otherwise had the chance to have. When that was over, I changed to my wedding dance playlist and hit shuffle and then those who wanted to stay and dance could! Filled with classics like The Cha Cha Slide and other (clean and appropriate) dance music, the playlist played for probably about another hour until the party had died out and all that was really left were people helping to clean up. If you’d like to check out my wedding playlist, here you go!
Cheaper is sometimes better
Growing up in Pella has embedded in me the typical Dutch stereotype of being “cheap”. Aka, I’m not looking to spend a lot of money if I don’t have to. In fact, I rarely buy clothes directly from the retail store themselves anymore, and instead, do most of my shopping at secondhand stores. Why pay $50 for a t-shirt? Or $75 or more for a pair of jeans?
So, that being said, I am always on the hunt for a good bargain. When thinking about a wedding and how much just the essentials might cost alone (the venues, catering, photographer, etc), I had instant anxiety. HOW could I make this cheaper? And this is not to mention all of the smaller purchases that you don’t really think about at first but end up making along the way. Like shoes for the ceremony? What shoes are you going to wear? Your old beat up converse? Maybe. Nike Tennis Shoes? Probably not, but if so, more power to you. I knew for sure I was not going to wear heels. (Excuse my french but) Screw. That. 8+ hours in heels?! No thank you. I also can’t really stand flats because I have high arches and my feet end up killing by the end of the day. So that narrowed it down to some sort of sandal. I mean, my dress was long enough anyway that nobody was really going to see my feet anyway.
I had a specific pair of sandals that I wanted to wear on my day. I had boughten them at Target a few years back and they were comfy and would be perfect for the day. However, they had definitely seen better days and were starting to look very worn. No big deal right? I’ll just go back to Target and buy a new pair! Wrong. They did still carry that sandal but in every color BUT white! They had black, brown, tan, silver, and even PINK, but no white. So, I was super bummed. But then I had the idea to check on Poshmark and see if maybe, just maybe I could get lucky and someone would be selling a pair on there in my size. Poshmark is an online marketplace where people sell their used, or new clothing and accessories. After some searching, I found the JACKPOT! A brand new pair of the exact sandals I have and they were only $11! (Plus some shipping of course.) But, brand new from Target they would have been about the same price. I was just happy I found them!
Shoutout to Alyssa for being the best personal attendant and for helping me put my shoes on!
Bridal Shower/Bachelorette Party/Rehearsal Dresses
Now, some may say I’m “extra” about certain things, and they’d be right…as much as I hate spending a lot of money on new clothes, I am also one of those people who think they need a new outfit for every slightly exciting occasion. Whoops, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. So, I definitely wanted a new white dress for my bridal shower, a new white dress for my bachelorette party, and a new white dress for rehearsal dinner. “But Aimee, you just said you don’t like buying brand new from the store, so did you find all of those different dresses at a secondhand store?” Nope! I bought all three of them off of Wish.com! Wish is a super cheap website/app but you have to be careful with sizing when you order clothes because some things come from other countries where their “large” is a U.S. medium. Most items posted have a sizing chart with them, so if you know your measurements, that helps. Sometimes the items are also not very good quality so be mindful of that (see-through and cheap looking). I actually bought 4 dresses off of Wish, but one of them was WAY too small and very see-through. I requested a refund and they gave me my money back without even having me go through the hassle of shipping the dress back.
The other three dresses worked perfectly for each occasion, though! I had Momo shorten my bachelorette party dress because the original went down past my knees and I didn’t like that so I had her shorten it a bit and then it was perfect! I spent $24 TOTAL on all three of my dresses! (Plus shipping of course. But $24 on the dresses themselves.) $24! Total! That’s less than the cost of one new dress from Target. Amazing.
Fall Decorations (Pumpkins/Gourds/Mums)
Since we were having a fall wedding and I love fall, I, of course, wanted our decorations to reflect that it was a fall wedding. I had seen many different ideas on Pinterest of how to incorporate pumpkins into wedding decor, and I decided I wanted to use some small ones on our tables as a part of the centerpieces. Momo knew of a guy just North of Pella who grew pumpkins and gourds and sells them. His pumpkins were a “self-serve” kind of business, which meant we got to go there and pick out whichever and how many pumpkins we wanted of all shapes, colors, and sizes. We brought home probably 7 or 8 ice cream buckets full of small pumpkins and gourds for just $16.50 (they were $0.50 a piece or less)! We washed them the next day and then left them in the boxes we had to dry. We did buy them a little early for our wedding (I think we went around the end of August/early September) and so some of them did not make it to wedding day, unfortunately. But that’s okay! We ended up having enough anyway without those because Momo and Popo grew some in their garden so it worked out. Momo also thought we should have some bigger ones on the stage during our wedding ceremony with the fall mums that were up there (did I mention that she took a trip to Amish country in Southern Iowa and got a palette of 15 mums of various colors for $6-$7 a piece instead of the $12-$16 a piece they would have cost from a local flower shop?) and so she went back and got some larger pumpkins and gourds to help decorate the stage and the reception. They looked great!
Check out Facebook Bridal For Sale pages
If you’ve started wedding planning at all, you may already know this, but there are lots of bridal swap and wedding for sale groups on Facebook. I know that I was a part of a Southern Iowa Bridal Swap page, one from the Quad Cities (I went to school in Dubuque so while I was living there, that page was helpful), and one for Des Moines. Half the time, you can wedding decorations for sale on your local “garage sale” pages on Facebook also. (Pella For Sale Group is an example of one from where I am from.) People post their wedding decorations, ask for recommendations, and vendors even advertise their services on pages like that all the time! I bought a couple of different decorations for our wedding off of bridal swap pages, including these Mr & Mrs wooden little signs that sat in front of us at the head table. They were super cute and only $5! And remember those votive candle holders I told you about that we used to make our candle favors? Got those off of Facebook too! You never know what you’re going to find on some of those pages, but it’s always worth a shot to look or to post an “ISO” or “In Search Of” and see if anybody has what you’re looking for but they just haven’t gotten around to posting it on there for sale. I know my mom and I have a good amount of stuff we want to get rid of now that the wedding is over, we just haven’t taken the time to post about it on Facebook yet. Someday we will get around to it…someday. All I’m saying is, it’s worth a shot to join those pages and see what other people have to offer because half the time, the price is going to be way cheaper than buying them brand new at Hobby Lobby, Michaels, or other stores. And most people only use all of the “Mr. & Mrs.” and “Bride & Groom” decorations once so someone else might as well get some use out of it.
Tables and Tablecloths
Some wedding venues include the rental of their tables and chairs in the cost of booking their venue. However, some don’t necessarily have 25+ tables and enough chairs to seat all of your guests. So, that requires renting them from somewhere else. We looked into it and it was going to be kind of pricey for how many guests we had invited. So how did we save ourselves on that cost? We borrowed tables and chairs from somewhere else! The Pella Historical Village had some tables and chairs, but not enough for the number of guests we had. So we went looking elsewhere. We ended up borrowing the tables and chairs from my grandparent’s church, just as long as we cleaned them up and brought them back to the church before Sunday morning. I’m so glad we could do that because finding enough tables and chairs for the number of guests we had was stressful. And with the tablecloths on them, nobody could tell that they were different than any of the other tables. The only things that were different were the chairs, but honestly, is it really that big of a deal? As long as someone has a place to sit, that’s all that matters.
Speaking of tablecloths, have you ever heard of www.tableclothsfactory.com or www.efavormart.com? If not you should check it out because they have every sort of linen you could want for your wedding and more. We purchased 15 tablecloths from EFavorMart for $5 a piece. We looked into renting tablecloths, but it made more sense for us to purchase them ourselves and then resell them later. Be sure to check both sites to get the best deal because they run different specials at different times.
Cake and Cake Decor
Let’s talk wedding…dessert. Ryan and I didn’t really want to do cake for our dessert because we had heard a couple of horror stories from friends who have gotten married that had ordered 6 or 7 sheet cakes for their wedding and then they only went through a couple of them and so they were left with 3 or 4 sheet cakes that are now taking up space in their freezer. Not to mention the money they lost by purchasing that many cakes and then those cakes didn’t get eaten. But how do you know? How do you know how much to have and how many guests will even eat it? You don’t. You just have to guess. But when we went to a bridal expo (which is something you should definitely look into going to because they’re great for meeting various vendors who can provide you with different services for your big day), we noticed that most of the cake vendors wanted $1.50+ PER SLICE of cake! When you do the math, that can add up pretty quick. So after some thought, we decided we wanted to go with ice cream for our dessert instead of cake because I don’t know about you but I’d much rather have leftover ice cream taking up room in our freezer than leftover cake.
However, when others were told we would not be having cake, some threw a hissy fit and demanded we had cake. After hearing about that, our family-friend “Aunt Lynn”, who was making the cake for Ryan and I to cut (because what kind of wedding would it be if we didn’t at least cut a piece of cake and feed it to each other?) offered to make us a sheet cake or two to please those who were unhappy we weren’t having cake. God bless her because she put out a fire that I was not really willing to fight. If it were up to me, we would have just had the ice cream and the cake for us to cut and that’s it.
Wedding cakes are known to be pretty decorated. I, of course, wanted ours to represent our fall theme. However, flowers for cake decor (real or edible) are pricey. I ended up buying some edible fondant leaves off of Etsy and Lynn decorated our cake up really nicely! I also purchased our custom cake topper off of Etsy. It is super cute! We now have it sitting on a shelf in our kitchen. We broke off the plastic legs (the part that went into the cake) and now it sits nicely on a shelf. I spent $12 on the fondant leaves, and $14 on the cake topper (which was a little pricey, but it was custom made with our name on it and our wedding date, so it was worth it to me).
We used Spotify various times throughout our wedding day. I talked about how we used it instead of hiring a DJ, but we also used a Spotify playlist I created for the wedding ceremony (music for when guests were arriving, for the processional, for the bridal processional, and for the recessional). If we wouldn’t have used my Spotify, I would have had to purchase each song that I had on that playlist and I would have had to put them on a flash drive. But I asked my wedding coordinator through the church if it was possible to use my Spotify and she checked into it and we could use my playlist so that saved us some money and I could customize it up until the night before! And, I picked a surprise song to walk down the aisle to that Ryan didn’t know about beforehand. (Aka when we practiced at rehearsal, the sound guy played a different song.) This really allowed for raw emotions (especially on Ryan’s part ;)) and it was awesome. (He doesn’t cry. Like. Ever. So it was really special for me to be able to pull those tears out of him as I walked down the aisle to marry the man of my dreams.)
Use your connections for your benefit
Mandy – Our Florist
I’ve known Mandy Klyn, owner of M. Klyn Floral Design, for 6 years. We met through CITEC (Central Iowa Teens Encounter Christ) when I was in high school. While at the bridal expo, we ran into each other and talked about my wedding plans and if I had a florist yet. I didn’t, but after talking to her, I did and another thing was figured out off of my long checklist of things that needed to get done.
Mandy was great to work with and boy does she know her flowers. I loved that I could tell her exactly what I wanted and she helped make my vision (as a girl who knows absolutely nothing about flowers other than the fact that they are pretty and fun to receive) a reality. She helped me incorporate all of my fall colors that I was wanting. Sunflowers for the gold, Orange dahlias, and maroon roses, along with the cool brain looking flower that I saw on Pinterest! And she made the corsages and boutonnieres for other members of the wedding party. (Aka the groomsmen, dads, grandpas, grandmas, and mothers.)
She also created gorgeous stage decorations, which were taken to the reception and reused behind the head table and she made all of the floral table decorations for our centerpieces. We had so many flowers leftover at the end of the night, but I saved some of them and dried them and put them into a shadowbox to be displayed with one of our wedding photos.
Patryk – Our Engagement Photos Photographer/Wedding Videographer
Oh my goodness. I could go on and on about how incredible Patryk is. As I mentioned earlier, he was so kind and took our engagement photos (for FREE). He wanted to work on building his portfolio and we were the perfect candidates. They. Are. Beautiful. We honestly are so blessed to know him. He captured us and our relationship perfectly, all the while also capturing the fall essence. (Ryan and I started dating in the fall, got engaged in the fall, and got married in the fall so you could say fall is our favorite season.) Here are a couple of my favorites:
Patryk also was our videographer for our wedding and I cannot recommend him enough to anybody looking to have a video made of their special day! Because not only did he capture our day perfectly, but he also told the story through the video. It is incredible. And it makes me cry every time I watch it. He worked so hard on our wedding day, walking around with his large camera and stabilizer, capturing anything and everything he could. And in 4k which is high enough resolution to get screenshots out of to turn into nice (not blurry) photos! He purchased new audio equipment right before our wedding to make sure he could capture everything he needed for the video, AND he brought his drone and flew it around the church and downtown Pella to help capture the essence of our day (which was cold and rainy but it ended up being okay.) I am so thankful for him and all the work he put into our wedding video. AND for working with me and making sure to get a shot list of what I wanted and for screenshotting various parts of the video so I could have more wedding photos than what our photographer got. I 300/10 recommend him because his work is incredible. If you’re interested, you may message me and I will get you in contact with him, or you can just email him at email@example.com!
Cailee, Abby, and Justin – Our Accompanists
We were so blessed to not only have our Brother and Sister-In-Law sing/play a beautiful song for us while we signed our marriage license and braided our Unity Cross but also one of my good friends, Abby, also sang and played the piano. Abby and Cailee’s voices harmonized so well together and the piano and the acoustic guitar just made it that much better. I am so thankful for each of them and that they could play that special part in our day for us.
Kasey – My Hair Stylist/Makeup Artist
Kasey has been one of my good friends since sophomore year of high school! We worked at Culver’s together back in the day, went on our fair share of adventures, and even had our graduation party together senior year. Kasey went on to beauty school and I went to college. She now works at BareMinerals as an assistant manager. She’s great at makeup, but she’s also great at doing hair. She kindly agreed to do my hair and makeup for my wedding. With a couple of weeks to go before the wedding, I visited her in Des Moines and we did a hair and makeup trial and then on wedding day, she made me look b e a u t i f u l. I am so thankful for her and her skills! This saved me from having to go to a salon and pay boku bucks to get my hair done, and I knew I could trust her. I have trust issues when it comes to my hair and also makeup because I don’t really wear that much makeup on a daily basis and I didn’t want to look like a clown. I wanted it to look natural and she accomplished that and more. I am so thankful for her and her friendship over the last 6 years!
Bonnie – Our Caterer
Living in a small town like Pella, you know a lot of people. And sometimes that can work for your benefit! In this case, Bonnie, our caterer, was the head chef at Ryan’s high school. Ryan knew her from there and his brother an sister-in-law used Bonnie as their caterer for their wedding on November 11, 2017. Bonnie was super easy to work with and allowed us to build a custom menu which was awesome because it made our wedding reception more personalized to us! We had parmesan ranch chicken breasts, roast beef, green bean casserole, my aunt’s party mashed potatoes, my other aunt’s pasta salad, my mom’s Oriental coleslaw, and dinner rolls. Unfortunately, I didn’t eat much of it because I was too busy and didn’t have much of an appetite. Bonnie got the recipes from my mom and made enough to feed our 180 guests. She also got the ice cream and toppings for us for dessert! Since it was cold, not many people wanted to eat ice cream, but that was okay. Two gallons of ice cream made their way to our freezer and the rest was returned. Ryan and I loooooove ice cream, so it’s been super convenient for us to have some of that in our freezer instead of driving to go get some every time we have a craving.
Lynn – Our Pastry Chef
Lynn blessed us by making our cake(s) for us, which I talked about earlier! She did a fabulous job and the cake was delicious! We didn’t have too much leftover, which was a good thing. I am so so so thankful for her and her baking skills and the fact that she so willingly made our cakes for us. We are blessed in so many ways!
Tim – Our … Spool Table Man
Tim is Ryan’s supervisor at Center Point Electric and recently got married as well. Sometimes, they get very large wooden spools wrapped in wire. Tim took a couple of those home and repurposed them (like I did with the palettes) and sanded and stained them and turned them into tables for their wedding! He even cut a hole in the middle so they could put buckets filled with ice and bottles of alcohol in them. Tim was kind enough to let us borrow two of them for our wedding. We only ended up being able to use one of them because of the amount of area that was left in the tent after we got 25 tables in there. The spool was used in our one small “decoration” corner. I was sort of bummed because I had purchased and made many decorations for our reception throughout the summer, and a lot of them didn’t get used because of the space limitations, but some of them did get used and that’s what matters!
Siara – Our Fellow Graphic Designer/Bridesmaid
Siara was gracious enough to create a slideshow of photos of Ryan and me from when we were babies until now, along with a Snapchat filter for our reception! I am so thankful for her because she saved me a lot of time by doing those things for me. I could have easily done them myself, but throughout this whole wedding experience, I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and to not try to do everything yourself. The slideshow of us is so so cute. And SO many of our guests used our Snapchat filter, which was awesome! I am thankful to have such good friends in my life, and she is one of the greats.
My family helped with the wedding in all sorts of different ways, from both of my grandmas helping with the crafty things and more, to my mom helping contact the various vendors and getting everything lined up so the day would run as smoothly as possible, to my dad researching different things on the internet like lighting for the outdoors (his favorite past-time is researching things on the internet) to my Grandpa Uitermarkt helping cut out leaves for the invitations, to my Grandpa Spoelstra (Aka Popo) helping find a tent when the forecast called for rain and I was stressing out majorly, to my brother Ben and my new brothers Daniel and Justin for being groomsmen and standing by our side on our special day, to my aunts and uncles for all helping out in various ways throughout the weekend. They all helped in one way or another and I am so thankful for each and every one of them.
Also if you know the Pastoor’s at all, you know that Jeff is a phenomenal cook and his food is always incredible. It was special for us to be able to have him prepare and serve our Rehearsal Dinner the night before our wedding! We had brisket, bacon mac n cheese, strawberry pretzel dessert, and other food that I don’t remember but man was it GOOD. Ryan and I often go to Mom and Dad P’s house for Sunday Dinner because Dad’s Cookin’ (which you should check out his page on Facebook! It’s full of his yummy recipes and pictures of his food) is on the menu and why cook ourselves if he’s already making something great? ;)) I am thankful for my In-Laws and all that they do for us.
Alyssa and Vickie – My Personal Attendant and Her Mom
Let me tell you something, the Sajnaj girls have been through so many weddings that they could probably run a wedding in their sleep and I am so so thankful for them. Alyssa kept me sane and everything running smoothly while I was internally stressing out about the fact that I wasn’t seeing Ryan until I walked down that aisle. She helped me carry my dress and made sure I looked good in photos, among a lot of other things! Her mom was a HUGE help on Saturday morning when it was time to finish setting up the reception. I am thankful for them and their leadership in a situation where they may not have known very many people if any, but they got it done and honestly, I’m not sure how it would have gone without them. Shoutout to Nicole Toro for introducing Alyssa and I and for that week in Puerto Rico that led to a great friendship!
Amanda, Lindsey, and Christa – My (Other) Bridesmaids
These girls deserve a shoutout because they are the ones that kept me sane and listened to me vent nonstop over the last year and there is nobody else I would have wanted to stand by my side on the biggest day of my life. They threw me a super fun bachelorette party, looked beautiful in their bridesmaid’s dresses, and hyped me up nonstop throughout this whole wedding process. Amanda gave a great speech at the wedding (Maid of Honor duties), Lindsey always made me smile (even when I was super down), and Christa always kept it real with me when I was overreacting or worrying about things that I had no control over.
Ryan – My Husband
He deserves the biggest shoutout of all. While my girls kept me calm, he was the one there to hold me when I was crying because I was stressed beyond measure, he listened to me crab over and over about things that probably didn’t even matter but they mattered to me, he helped me as much as he could with wedding stuff, and after all of it, he still married me. Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve him, but I know that God put us together for a reason and I am beyond thankful.
Don’t skimp out on certain things…
I am so incredibly happy that we picked the wedding dress that we did because honestly, that dress made me feel like the prettiest girl in the world. Dress shopping can be a long process and it’d be easy to just give up and settle for a dress that you kinda like, but trust me when they say that when you find the right one, you just know. I went back and forth between a couple of dresses and if I’m going to be honest with you, I thought about going with the cheaper of the two just because it was cheaper. But when I put my dress on, something felt different. It flattered my body type and made me feel so beautiful and I could not wait for Ryan to see me (which wasn’t until I walked down the aisle)! So my advice to you is: don’t give up and settle for a dress because you’re tired of searching for “the one” AND don’t settle for a dress that only makes you feel kinda pretty in. Find the dress that flatters your body type and makes you feel beautiful.
While at UD, I was talking to a professor about the struggles of finding the dress and his advice to me was to go with the one that I wanted and the one that made me feel beautiful because if I wasn’t happy with my dress choice then that would show in our wedding pictures and throughout the day of. I know it may sound silly to think that a dress could alter your mood that much, but it’s true. I think if I would’ve gone with the other dress, I wouldn’t have felt as good about myself as I did on our wedding day. You deserve to feel as beautiful as possible on your special day!
Oh man. Wedding photography is important, especially if you’re someone like me. Make sure to do your research before selecting a wedding photographer, though. Ask yourself:
- Do I like their editing style?
- How much do they charge?
- What “perks” do I get with how much I’m paying?
- Do we get any physical prints back from the photographer or do I have to go to Walmart and print them off myself?
- Will they have a second photographer there to capture some of the more candid moments while the main photographer captures the wedding itself?
- Do we get copyright release or will we have to post every photo we got with a huge watermark on top of it?
- What are their reviews like on Facebook/The Knot/Yelp?
- How many hours do we get them for?
Once you’ve decided on a photographer that you may have capture the day, meet with them and talk to them in person. This way it puts a name to a face, you can really find out what they’re all about and what you’re paying them so much for (because let’s face it, wedding photographers are EXPENSIVE) and you can figure out what sort of personality they have and if they’re willing to listen to your ideas as the customer, or if they’re very set in their ways. Each photographer is different and you want to make sure you get 1) what you pay for and 2) the best experience as possible.
Personally, we’ve been having issues with our photographer. We are now 12 weeks post wedding and don’t have all of our photos back yet, even though we signed a contract saying we’d have them all back in 4-6 weeks after the wedding. We have tried so many times to get into contact with her and she is very poor at responding. We’ve texted her, called her, left her voicemails, sent her Facebook messages, and have emailed her multiple times and she has very seldom responded. She also gives us a lot of false hope when she does respond by telling us they will be done in the next 2 weeks and then 2 weeks goes by and we don’t get our photos and then she gives us an excuse as to why they’re not done and says she will have them done in another 2 weeks and then it doesn’t happen again and the cycle continues. We asked her for specific photos (like family photos so we could send out Christmas cards, and some individual photos to wish some special people in our lives a happy birthday) but she wouldn’t upload those. In fact, we didn’t get the family photos back until the day after Christmas. ANNOYING. My family and I are so beyond the point of fighting her about it frustration that we are just exhausted. We just want our photos that we already paid her for (because you have to pay most photographers in-full before the wedding day) back. So, that being said, make sure as much as you can that your photographer is going to take your wedding and your wedding photos seriously and that you will get them back in a timely manner.
The photos we do have back are decent. I will say she is much better at posed shots than at candids. And we didn’t really get much for candids. I am not sure what happened to the photos from the second photographer that was supposed to be taking candids.. All I’ve seen is what she has uploaded online and that hasn’t been much until this last week. We are still waiting on all of the photos from our reception which is super annoying but the whole situation is annoying and I’m over it. She has deleted her Photography Facebook page, so there goes leaving a review on that one, but I may still leave one on The Knot. Nobody should have to go through the lack of communication and poor customer service we’ve received from our photographer.
Ryan and I were dead set on having a fall wedding. And as time went on and we found a venue for the reception, the more the idea of having it be outside appealed to me. We had our reception at the Pella Historical Village which was perfect for all of my out of town guests to be able to really experience Pella and it’s Dutch heritage. Our options were to either have the reception outside in the courtyard like others have done in the past, or inside the Scholte Church/Heritage Hall. However, Scholte Church and Heritage Hall both could only hold 100 people each and with the number of guests we had, if we would have been indoors, the reception would have had to had been split into both of those buildings, which means half of our guests wouldn’t have been able to sit in the same room as us. So, we decided we wanted to have it outdoors. That way everyone could be in one place together. We knew the weather could be an issue, we do live in Iowa after all, but we were hoping and praying for the best.
As wedding day got closer and closer, the forecast began to call for rain. Talk about stressful. What were we going to do? Move it inside? I didn’t want to do that! But I also didn’t want to get rained on either….. After stressing out for a couple of days, my grandparents did some searching and found a giant party tent that we could rent from a True Value in Newton because Pella Rental doesn’t rent tents. It was not cheap by any means, but this tent literally saved the day. It was just big enough to fit all of our guests inside of it and it kept everyone dry, it allowed for us to at least set up our tables and chairs underneath it the night before and they didn’t get wet or blown away during the storm on Friday night (and man did it POUR), it had sides on it so it kept the wind from blowing on us and making us cold(er), and it allowed us to all be under one roof together and that was the best part in my opinion. Sure, we were maybe packed in a little like sardines and sure, we had to move some tables and chairs for when it was time to dance, and sure, the bottom of my dress is ruined from the mud, but it worked out just fine and I wouldn’t have wanted to change it for anything.
Someone told us that with the tent set up and the lights all strung inside of it, it made the night feel very magical and special. (Did I mention that the tent also saved us a little money because we were going to have to buy poles to string our lights outside anyway, but the tent was already built with poles which allowed us to hang the lights in the tent and not use any of our extra poles we bought and then we returned them!) I’m not sure about “magical”, but I do know that it was very special. It was kind of like we made our own venue, and just put it on the Historical Village’s ground. Either way, I’m so glad we had that tent.
Other Wedding Tips, Tricks, and Thoughts
I might be biased but my bridesmaids were the best. It was such a blessing for me to be able to merge my hometown best friends with my college best friends and to have everybody get along so well. In fact, the bond is still going strong today and we all tag each other in memes and talk via Snapchat or Facebook daily.
All of my bridesmaids have different body types and I wanted them to feel just as beautiful in their bridesmaid’s dresses as I did in my wedding dress. My one requirement was they were the same color (‘Oasis’ from David’s Bridal to be specific) but they could choose any style they wanted! I think this ended up working out perfectly and each girl got to wear a dress that they liked and felt comfortable in. I’d call it a success.
I had all of my bridesmaids + my grandmas wait outside of the room where I got dressed and turn and face the wall. I came out and got positioned, counted to 3 (Momo couldn’t wait and turned and looked early… Cheater) and they all turned around and saw me for the first time at the same time. It was so special for me to do that because their reactions were genuine, priceless, and kept my emotions in check if it was all happening at once instead of multiple times. And the pictures of the reveal are SO CUTE.
I gave all of the girls and my personal attendant a thank you gift for being my bridesmaids and standing by my side. In each gift was a larger candle made out of leftover candle.. ingredients(? Not sure what to call them) and they were put into jelly jars and made a teal color to match their dresses. I also got them blanket scarves (an idea I stole from my sister-in-law) to wear when we took photos outside. The scarves looked super cute with their dresses and the fall colors of the bouquet and they’re a practical gift that the girls can reuse in their daily lives.
You’ve probably thought about getting a hanger made with the wire twisted and bent to spell out your soon-to-be new last name. Do it. It’s worth it for those pre-wedding photos of your dress hanging up. Am I using mine currently, post-wedding? No. But once we clean my dress (which became a MESS from the reception) I’m going to hang it back up on that hanger and put it away until we move when we buy a house someday.
TAKE AS MANY PHOTOS AS POSSIBLE
Even just writing this blog post made me wish I/we had taken more pictures. Pictures of the tables and centerpieces, little things that I had done throughout the weekend, heck even more candid photos of the weekend itself. I only have a couple of pictures from Rehearsal and Rehearsal dinner which is kind of sad to me, but it is what it is. We also haven’t gotten all of the photos back from our photographer yet, so maybe she will have some more that I don’t know about (I know there will be some of our first dance, posed photos, and things like that but maybe she got some other candid shots.). If you know me, you know that I live my life through photos (Exhibit A: this blog post). Pics or it didn’t happen, am I right? But our day went by so quickly, which I was told it would, but I wish I remembered more of it. Looking back through photos does help me remember some, and our video was perfect for helping me remember some things, but I wish I had more behind-the-scenes photos to help me remember the whole day and not just what was spent in front of the camera. So. Take photos. LOTS AND LOTS OF PHOTOS. Take individuals with everyone that you can, because you never know when you may want them for birthday wishes or when that may be the last photo you have with someone. Plus, you may have a photographer experience like we did (which I really really hope you don’t) where we are now at 13 weeks post-wedding and still don’t have all of our photos AND we didn’t get any to begin with until 5 weeks after the wedding and then more until 10 weeks after. I cherish the photos people took on their phones because for a while, that’s all I had. So take the photos. You may get tired of it as my husband did, or you may love it as I did. Just do it. It is worth it.
Weddings take so much planning. They take so much time and work and effort just for the day to go by so quickly and then what do you have to remember it by? Sure you may have a better memory and remember more of your day than I do…I’m still suffering from “Bridal Brain”, WHICH IS A VERY REAL THING! The more we got into wedding planning and the longer my to-do lists got, the worse and worse my memory became and I struggled even remember what I did the day before, let alone what I was supposed to get done that week for the wedding (which is where physical to-do lists came in handy. I’m a total list person and I need to write things down or else I forget. Who cares if you have 37 different to-do lists, mostly with the same things on them? If it helps, it helps.) Just please please please take as many photos as possible because your wedding day WILL go by like the blink of an eye and then you’ll be like me, 12 weeks post wedding and struggling to remember some of the details from your day. But hey, it’s okay because at the end of the day, I did get to marry the love of my life and all of the stress and worrying was worth it. Our day was near perfect and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. So, I know it sucks right now being stressed out and feeling like you have a million things that need to get done, but trust me, it’s worth it. I hope some of my tips and tricks helped and that you’re able to use some of them and have the best wedding day as possible because YOU deserve it.