A few weeks ago, I attended an amazing local workshop put on by two of my friends, Jamie and Kaci, called Bride School Workshop. It was perfect timing to kick off my wedding planning! The weekend Eric and I were engaged, I texted Jamie and was like, “I need to come! But we can’t tell anyone yet!” Haha. I’m so glad I was able to partake in this day. In a nutshell, Bride School is a one-day workshop where local experts give brides the guidelines on wedding planning to create the day we dream of, on the budget we’ve allotted ourselves.
They had different “semesters” with a different “professor” for each. I’m going to quickly go over a few things I learned from my day, to help all of you brides-to-be! And if you’re local here in Grand Rapids, they will be having another one in March. I’d highly recommend it. I had so much fun and learned a lot about planning a wedding on a budget, how to do things yourself, and when to hire a professional.
PLANNING + BUDGET
In this session, we learned to listen to what’s important to you. Name your top three things you want to focus on at your wedding, and spend the majority of your budget on those items. To me, it was photography, venue/location and a fun party. So! I’m focusing my budget on a great photographer, the cutest barn, and lots of food/drinks/dance jams for a fun party. They gave us a few guidelines - like your catering should be 40% of your budget, photographer 8%, etc. It was super helpful to take a look at my amount of guests and to determine a budget. Personally, I’m hoping to keep my budget around $10K for 100 guests.
Our professor, local DJ Adrian Butler, gave us some great tips on how to provide entertainment for your wedding. First to think about is… band vs. DJ? A few tips… meet the DJ or band before your wedding, requests from guests are good, keep bar close to the dance floor, keep older guests away from your DJ and keep your dance floor small for more energy (and better photos!)
INVITATIONS & STATIONARY
In this session, we actually got to sit down and practice our calligraphy! I learned that I am horrible at that amazing hand-lettering you see everywhere on Pinterest. Haha! Thank goodness for typefaces you can purchase! We talked about how your save-the-dates and invitations set the tone for your wedding. I want a simple, rustic feel for my stationary items. Also a good tip - invitations go out 6-8 weeks before your wedding!
Photography is a huge thing for me. I loved photography long before I started my blog, but even more so now that I’ve been blogging for so many years. Our professor, Sam of Shutter Sam Photography, said you want your photographer’s style/aesthetic to be the same as you want your day to look like. For me, I wanted a photographer who was consistent, experienced, and had bright/clean photos with a rustic feel, just like I want our wedding day to be. A few tips: make sure you have a connection with your photographer, and check to see how your photographer shoots a FULL wedding, not just a few photos in their portfolio.
Videography is another important thing for me. I especially decided to hire one after this workshop, because they told us that 98% of brides regret not hiring a videographer. Eric will laugh at me because I just sit at my computer watching wedding videos, and crying. I’m such a girl. But this was big to me! Just look at what videographers offer in a package. It was important to me to have a 5-minute edited video, along with access to all additional footage shot throughout the day.
For the catering session, we sat down to an amazing meal of a deconstructed chicken caesar salad. It was SO good! Food should (again) reflect the theme of your day. And also? What are your favorite foods? Your wedding should reflect you and your groom. Since Eric and I are having a small, rustic barn wedding, we decided to go with country foods. Pulled pork, mashed potatoes, buttered corn, and home-cookin’ foods. A few tips I learned? Have a late night snack! Order in pizzas, hire a food truck, or have a french fry bar! I’m planning on having a popcorn cart with seasonings, toppings & personalized bags! Popcorn is my favorite, so do what is you.
Think about your wedding’s theme, and your dress should match that style. I’m thinking an off-white, simple, embroidered or crocheted dress? You should also think about what style of dress makes you comfortable. For me, I’ve always loved sleeved dresses. Think about the items in your closet you love most, and use those as inspiration! A few tips I learned… make sure you don’t have to “hike” anything up, and choose a color that works best for your skin tone. Ivory is typically a safe choice.
Experience design was great to help identify key elements that are important to you, and to consider all touch points that help create a unique event. This included seating chart planning, signage, wayfinding, furniture, centerpieces, you name it. Close your eyes and walk through your venue. Where should a welcome table go? Your dessert table? Your bridal table? How do you want it all to look? And again? Just think about what makes you and your groom YOU, and what you want your day to be like. I’m thinking pumpkins. Lots of pumpkins. :)
WEDDING CAKES + DESSERTS
Jason from our local favorite bakery, Cakabakery, came to talk about desserts. And we even learned how to frost cupcakes! A few tips? Make sure you know delivery fees, and have cake service available through your bakery and/or caterer. Think about cute cake toppers! Plan on 1.5-2 treats per person. Think about your theme. For our fall wedding, I’m planning on assorted pies and cider donuts. A wedding cake will be the most expensive thing you order if you decide to go that route. So if you're looking to save money, look at providing multiple options - cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, etc. You can always order a small cake for you and your groom to cut. That's what we're doing!
For our floral session, we learned how to put together a beautiful arrangement. It’s actually quite easy and affordable to DIY your own flowers, but it can be time consuming, so beware! You could also get creative and do unique bouquets for your bridesmaids - pine cones, wheat grass, etc. Flowers are not SUPER important to me, so I will cut back on this in my budget a bit. I’ll have a bridal bouquet, and smaller bouquets for my bridesmaids, but will skip on centerpieces and boutonnieres. It’s all in what’s important to you.
DAY OF COORDINATION
I love making timelines. It’s probably because I’m just a super organized person overall and have always been a list-maker, but this was a fun topic for me. A few weeks before your wedding, just make sure you sit down and create a timeline. Most of your vendors will require one, and it’ll be helpful for your bridal party to know where to be and what time. And during your day of, don’t forget lunch/snacks for your bridal party! Be sure to send your finalized, detailed timeline one week before your wedding. And if you can't afford a day-of coordinator, just make sure you have family members or friends willing to help keep everything on schedule that day. You'll want to relax!
I hope I was able to give you some great tips and things I learned at Bride School Workshop! I learned so much more, but I can’t tell you everything, so you’ll have to go for yourself! Hopefully they’ll end up taking this on the road someday. I could see so many brides (especially crafty DIY gals) benefitting from this workshop. I'll be sure to announce on my blog and social media when they confirm the date of the next one.
All photos by Shutter Sam Photography