ADVICE FROM A GROOM / ANDREW

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Hello there everyone, let me quickly introduce myself. My name is Andrew and my beautiful wife Chelsea is really the reason why you are all here. I am a teacher, a proud dog parent, an avid reader, a novice movie critic, a video game player, and overall huge nerd. Chelsea asked me to write a blog post about the wedding planning process from my perspective. At first I thought she was crazy because I still feel like I know nothing about wedding planning. But she assured me that many people are like me, unaware of the majority of wedding traditions and protocols, and might enjoy my viewpoint. Chelsea is in the industry and has been steeped in Southern wedding culture her entire life, while I was pretty clueless. So here goes…

One of the things that annoyed me the most during the planning process was when people would say things like: “well the wedding day is all about the Bride” or “now that you’ve gotten her to say yes, you don’t have to do anything else for the wedding” or “just let the Bride do whatever she wants, it’s more important for her”. All of these types of comments really got under my skin because a) it should be about both of us and b) I want my opinions to be listened to and valued. The big problem is that.I have no idea how colors work. Like no idea what colors match or combine to craft a welcoming “warm” space vs a “cold” space. My big idea for our wedding was to take all of the things I loved, which includes: video games, books, maps, etc. and all of the things Chelsea loved, which includes: pixar, succulents, the color gold and put all of those items in the room. Bam! That would create a space that is both myself and Chelsea and boom we are done. If that statement made you hurt just reading it you understand how Chelsea felt. Chelsea is wonderful at taking the concepts and “feelings” and somehow translating that into a consistent theme, I blame her creative side for that. Both Chelsea and I were approaching this planning process from radically different viewpoints with very different priorities. As you can guess this led to a lot of frustration and quite a few fights. The thing that confused me so much was WHY Chelsea would care so much about *fill in the blank*, or why *fill in the blank* wouldn’t work for our day. It was maddening!

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What eventually helped us make a major breakthrough in our wedding planning process was actually pretty simple. We sat down, and talked about our priorities and took turns explaining why things were important to us. It helped me understand Chelsea’s vision and it gave her the opportunity to explain her rationale for many of the wedding planning choices she was making. It also helped me do the same for my own vision and rationale. This simple act really turned our wedding planning process into a fun thing that I actually looked forward to. Both of us were able to be on the same page and to really understand what aspects of the day really mattered to each of us. Chelsea has taken this idea and created a “Priorities Checklist” that she shares with all of her clients and you can find it here

After doing this together we found that there were really 3 things that I cared about for our big day. 1) Food 2) Drinks and 3) lodging for my family and friends. The first two are pretty obvious but the third needs a little bit of explanation. I moved around a lot growing up and my family is pretty spread out. I also went to college up in Massachusetts so many of my friends, including groomsmen, are also spread out. This meant that I wanted a venue that could be both our ceremony and reception area or that the two were in walking distance that way people didn’t have to be so worried about driving around a new location or worry about parking. When it came to selecting a venue Chelsea really only cared that it would allow us to take beautiful photos. Now that we both knew what we valued in a venue it made the selection process easy and was why the Vineyards at Betty’s Creek was such a great fit! This priorities talk also helped me not only care but actually be useful in aspects in the wedding other than my big three. Because even if I didn’t care a lot about the flowers or the plates, not only did I know Chelsea cared I knew WHY she cared. This was so important for me to be able to give good opinions and to fit into the overall vision for the day.

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Figuring out your own priorities as a person and as a couple is so important and surprisingly hard to do because the entire wedding industry is telling you what is “important” to have on your big day. I would advise you to avoid websites like “The Knot”, pinterest, and major wedding magazines when trying to figure out your priorities. Websites like these typically tell you the “10 things every wedding needs” and other such articles that will make you think that certain things are “essential” for your wedding day. Not only do you have the entire wedding industry trying to tell you what you “must” have but you will most likely have family and friends telling you other things you “must” have. Try to block out a lot of this noise until you can sit with your partner and figure out your own priorities first. This made me a better partner because even though I still didn’t know too much about the way weddings are “supposed” to happen I knew how we wanted our day to happen. After that we could safely go to family, friends, and the internet to find ways to make our vision a reality rather than being dictated by outside forces.

I know I’ve been harping on the priorities talk a lot and this isn’t to say that after our one talk everything about wedding planning was easy. There were still plenty of frustrations and teary eyed planning session; but this discussion put us on the same team with the same goals, and a list we could come back to and tweak as needed.

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Well that’s all for my article, hopefully you enjoyed my perspective on things and thanks for being part of the CMP family. My wife pours her heart and soul into this business and is so thankful for all of you who have supported her and let her be part of your stories. Thank you for all you do to make my wife’s passion a reality!

All photos were taking by Emily Chidester Photography at our wedding in September 17, 2016

PRIORITY EXERCISE

So... you are engaged!?!?!?! Ahhhh! Yay! How exciting! Congrats!! Woooo! I AM SOOO HAPPY FOR YOU! Sorry if that is a little strong from a perfect stranger, but I truly believe that marriage is one of the greatest gifts you can enjoy. Finding your person and being able to go through life together is one of the most amazing experiences ever! You get to marry your best friend and you get to merge two lives into one, which is as great and as messy as it sounds! I am sure that there are a lot of thoughts and emotions running through you right now in this time and I am sure your phones and social media pages are blowing up with congratulations already.

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 If you haven’t been asked already be ready to be asked “when is the date?” and “what are you doing for blank?”. Those “blanks” are going to start piling up, trust me. Chances are you have no idea how to plan a wedding, for many of you reading this, this is your first time planning one of these things after all. The wedding industry is HUGE and the rabbit hole (or pinterest hole) is endless. As soon as people hear that you are engaged they will give you all of the things that a wedding “must have”, both sides of the family are going to give you their thoughts, and the internet if full of billions of websites to “help” guide you through the process. All of these voices, visions, and thoughts can quickly become impossible to manage.

 I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom, I am so excited for you and I hope that I can help! I want to help relieve some of that stress and to make sure that your big day is one that you will absolutely love. So, how can I help? As a wedding photographer I have seen my fair share of weddings, and I have been a bride myself so I have first hand experience. Yet even for someone like me that is in the industry and thought she had the whole wedding day idea figured out this process was a not always easy! It turns out that in all of my planning and dreams I had forgotten one key element: my future husband. A couple days after we got engaged, I was ready to jump right into planning; my fiance, Andrew, was not. My creative mind was moving a mile per minute. And from my point of view, Andrew and I had talked casually about our day, so we were going to be on the exact same page once the planning started. But let me be honest here, that was pretty far from the truth. What we discovered was that both Andrew and I had different expectations when it came to putting together a wedding. First piece of advice, Andrew and I both strongly believe that a wedding day should be created by the couple. It isn’t just the bride, and it isn’t just the groom’s responsibility. It’s a celebration about the couple & God’s wonderful union of marriage, and therefore, the couple should have a huge influence on what the day looks like, feels like, and how it is celebrated. Now of course there are always hiccups and snags, with rules that are in place by vendors, or expectations of family members, but we are here to encourage you to tailor your day to you as couple. If you love the normal traditions ( I grew up in the South, so I mean southern traditions) then great! If you don’t, don’t be afraid to try something new, or say no to something that doesn’t work for you. How cool would it be if you thought of a new unique way to celebrate your love on your wedding day, and it became a tradition of your very own.  Both you and your significant other are going to have hopes, dreams, and obligations for the wedding day that may be unknown to the other and these need to be brought up early in the process to avoid as many headaches and stress as possible.

 In order to do this, I recommend doing the Priority Exercise. What is the Priority Exercise? Well before you start talking about your wedding day with others, go get coffee, drinks, or be comfy at home with your new fiancé and do this little exercise. Be warned, this might spark some long conversations, so be prepared to talk. Also, if you don’t get it all figured out right away, don’t worry. Just recognize the areas where you need to talk before anything is reserved with a deposit.

Now that you are both comfy: first, write down these 10 categories on a piece of paper, then sit opposite your future spouse so you cannot see their paper. Now, write a number 1 through 10 next to each category based on what you personally think is the most important on your wedding day when it comes to solely planning party details. 1 being the most important, 10 being the least. When I say “most important” I want you to ask yourself these three questions to answer your priorities.

  • How much happiness will it bring you?

  • How much money are you willing to be spent on it?

  • How much of your time will it take to plan/find this category?

 Try your best to give a number to each category, and understand in wedding planning, things and priorities will change, and that's ok. You just need to understand where you are now. Are you ready? Ok, ready, set, go….

When you are done, scoot closer to each other and reveal your papers to each other. Go through the list, and see where the other person put their 1 through 10. Does it surprise you? Is it what you expected?

 Now don’t panic, if your numbers don’t align! It actually would be weird if you were perfect across the board. When we started out, Andrew and my list would have probably looked completely different.  But let this be the place where the conversation begins. Star your top two, and explain to your partner why those things are important to you and why you see them as a priority. If you could make a new list right now, could your top two, and your fiancé top two be the biggest priorities on your day? If not, you just might need to talk a little more. If so, you are well on your way! The goal is to be able to create one priority list that you both agree on, and feel good about as you march into wedding planning. Hold your heads high, you got this!

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Now a huge thing for you guys to understand, this list might not correlate to the timeline of when you should book things for your wedding. It will just help you know if your venue is number 7 on your list, then it shouldn’t be the most expensive thing you purchase. I would consult other sources for when to book, or hire a wedding planner.   

 Also, my biggest hope is that this list will become a powerful tool in other conversations as well. If parents, family members, or friends are going to be heavily involved in your day, then make them do this activity with you and your spouse-to-be. You and your fiance can have your established list, and once again see where expectations match up, and where they fall flat. Getting everything out on the table early on will help set expectations correctly, and make the whole planning process much smoother for everybody.

Overall I am so excited for the both of you, I know this is going to be a season, but you can do it and CONGRATS again! 

Hold your heads high, you got this!