Continuing to play catch up on things we did many moons ago…
Shauna and Mike had a great plan for a fun and casual wedding – head to an Irish pub, get hitched the beer garden, spend the evening alternating breaks on the grass with spins on the dance floor. After all, what is a summer night in Chicago, if not spent on a patio seat with a cold brew in hand?
Sometimes, the weather does not quite cooperate with our delightfully imagined plans. It rained in the early afternoon. As we were setting up chairs outside, the clouds gathered and threatened to unleash a torrent. Shortly before the ceremony was set to begin, the downpour started. And that is why we make back up plans!
Shauna and Mike, along with their guests, were great sports as we quickly rearranged the schedule, moving everyone into the pub for a pre-ceremony cocktail hour. That gave the rain enough time to stop (almost as soon as it had started), and gave us enough time to quickly towel dry the chairs.
The ceremony, though slightly delayed, was absolutely lovely, with a stunning couple and some gorgeous post-rain light. Shauna wore her mother’s wedding dress, which she’d had restyled to better suit her tastes, for the ceremony. We really love it when heirlooms can be passed down and re-imagined this way! And rather than the traditional wedding party, these two chose to have their families walk down the aisle instead.
All photos were taken by Emilia Jane Photography and are reposted here the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are not available for reproduction, redistribution, or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.
[This is a post I originally wrote for A Practical Wedding. It seems like the perfect wrap-up to this chunk of the series, so here it is again with a few edits/updates, in case you missed it the first time around.]
Hi, My name is Cindy, and I am a Stage Manager. I’m addicted to paperwork, checklists, sharpies, and starting on time (which, I’ve learned, is a near-impossible task). If you’re like me, you probably don’t need to read this post. But if you’re currently keeping track of your guest list on the back of a greeting card (I recently met with a client to discuss her upcoming wedding, and she whipped this out of her purse and started counting check marks…), or you’d be hard-pressed to find your photographer’s phone number if she doesn’t show up on time, you may need my help.
1. Get Organized
This is the hardest and most important step.
You need to set up a system for yourself to keep track of the big picture and all the little details. Get a big binder and divide it into tabs for each big part of your wedding. Here are some you might want to start with and what’s likely to go in them. You can use this binder from the get-go and include inspirational pictures and ideas as well, if you want.
Important Info (for me, this is a couple sheets in page protectors before the other sections; it’s the stuff you’ll reference most often on/right before your wedding day)
Contact Sheet – Name, Cell Phone Number, & Email Address of everyone with a role in your wedding (vendors, wedding party, family members, officiant, anyone needed for pictures)
Timeline – Detailed breakdown of what happens, when it happens, where it happens, and who needs to be there – for the entire day, including getting ready & getting home or to the hotel after the party is over
Checklist – of everything that needs to be brought to the ceremony or reception, and who is responsible for bringing it; this should include detailed directions on decorations, seating assignments, signage, and other things that need to be setup
Venue information, including floor/seating plans, and any needed setup
Copy of your ceremony text
Copies of any readings on separate sheets of paper (heavy cardstock is a good idea!)
List of your processional/recessional order and music to be played
Your marriage license, ready to be signed!
Anything else related to your ceremony
Venue information, including floor/seating plans, and any needed setup
Playlist for the DJ, with special songs (first dance, etc.) noted
List of who is giving toasts & list of people you want to remember to thank!
Anything else related to your reception
Guest List, including any dietary restrictions your guests may have, or meal choices if applicable
Seating Assignments, if you’re doing that
In addition to the guest list, you might also keep track of gifts received & thank you notes sent in this section.
Many of you may find this section optional. However, if you are coordinating dresses and/or suits for a large wedding party and/or parents, that could go here.
Depending on your personal organizational style as well as what things you’ve opted to do for your wedding, you might put any of these in another section or exclude them entirely.
All of them. You do have contracts, don’t you? (If you don’t, ask for them! At the very least get their commitments in writing via email, order, or invoice, and stick those in here.)
You probably noticed a bunch of paperwork referenced in that list (Contact Sheet, Guest List, Timeline, Checklists, Playlist, etc.). I recommend you use an online document service (like Google Docs) for these things. That way you can access them quickly from just about anywhere when you think of something that needs to be added or edited, and you and your partner can collaborate easily.
2. Make Backup Plans
Ok, now that you’ve got everything in one place, there are probably some things for which you should have backup plans. Examples are: outdoor events, which should have an indoor location secured in case of inclement weather; flower girls/ring bearers who may be suddenly shy and unwilling to walk the aisle in front of all those people; your iPod playlist which should be copied onto someone else’s iPod too!
3. Find the Missing Details
Consult online checklists or friends who’ve gotten married, ask a planner – whatever. There is probably something you forgot (reserved signs for your family’s seats? someone to press play on the iPod? toasting glasses your grandmother sent you a month ago?), and if you take a little time now to check your list twice, you’ll figure it out before the big day arrives and thus avoid panic.
4. Hire a Wedding Stage Manager or Sweet Talk a Friend
A stage manager is not optional. Not because you need someone to plan your wedding for you, because, obviously you already did that in step 1. But because on your wedding day, you do not want to be setting up chairs and centerpieces before you run back to the hotel to get ready, wearing a watch to keep things happening on time, or talking to the catering manager every twenty minutes about what food to bring out and which tables go where.
Do you have to pay for this? No, you absolutely do not. But know that a professional has done weddings and events before yours and will help you with or even do all of the steps above for you. (Please go read this article on Offbeat Bride by the awesome Ang of Lowbrow Events about what a wedding coordinator does). If you go with a friend, choose wisely. This is not a job for the social butterfly who makes everyone feel welcome and gorgeous at the party just as soon as she shows up late and without her potluck dish…again. This is a job for that friend who sends out the evites with driving, parking, and public transit directions from three different starting points and can usually be found apologizing for being ten minutes early with an extra bottle of wine in hand.
I know everyone’s schedules are crazy and it’s hard to get people in the same place at the same time, but even if it’s fifteen minutes the morning of the wedding, try to schedule at least a quick walk through of your ceremony. Practice walking slowly, unless you want to be like me and beat your future spouse down the aisle.
6. Relax, Get Married
Hand over your binder, your watch, and your cell phone to that person you designated in Step 4 (preferably the day before) and simply be present. Soak up all the moments in the first day of the rest of your awesome married life.
Ask your baker how to cut that first slice of cake. They often place dowels and plates in and between layers so that it doesn’t slip or fall over; it’s better to cut around those, yes?
Make a shot list for your photographer. Even if you aren’t doing formal, posed photos, you know there are people you’d be sad about not getting a picture with. Write it down and check it off.
Decide in advance what you’re going to eat on your wedding day (before the reception) and the days before. Put someone else (great job for your best person) in charge of making sure you eat. And choose healthy stuff that you know won’t upset a nervous stomach.
If you’re having any kind of welcome party or rehearsal dinner in your home, especially if you live in a condo or apartment building, let your neighbors know ahead of time or be prepared for them to throw big hissy fits about it. (I speak from personal experience.)
Write your thank you notes as soon as you get gifts. I cannot stress this enough. (A friend has a rule that she cannot use a gift or deposit a check until the note is written – an excellent rule.)
If you’re getting married outside (or spending time outside right before your wedding) and you burn easily, for the love of all that is sacred, please wear sunscreen. Lest you have a big red blotchy area on your chest that is not in the shape of your gown’s neckline. (Yep, that’s me.)
Little Phrases from Theatre that May Help You
Finally, a couple of my favorite phrases from theatre that may help you keep perspective and/or sanity:
The 6 Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Productions. Or weddings in this case.
There is a very fine line between “The show must go on!” and “This is stupid, I’m going home.” If something about your wedding seems like way more trouble than it’s worth… it probably is. Cut it without guilt, and move on.
“It’s just a show, it’s just a show, it’s just a show…” This is my mantra when people are being pains in my butt or I’ve just messed up a cue and I’m beating myself up about it. It happens. Point being, it’s not life or death (unless it is, in which case your stage manager will be calling 911, administering first aid, and otherwise handling it) so let it go and refocus on what’s ahead.
→ Got more stage managing questions? Need some spreadsheet templates for your wedding? Please feel free to email me – cindy AT craftybroads DOT com. We also offer wedding coordination in Chicago and beyond. Schedule a meeting time here.
Liz and James found me through A Practical Wedding, and like most couples who find me that way, they were:
1) Super in love with each other
2) Really nice and awesome people
3) Focused on the most important thing (the MARRIAGE), while still caring about the details of the wedding…
4) …But totally ready to hand all those details off to me so they could focus on the occasion and enjoy the day.
In short, my favorite kind of clients.
You guys, you would be hard-pressed to find a couple more adorable with each other than Liz and James. They are both just the nicest people, and so clearly head-over-heels in love with each other. They met at the University of Chicago, and decided to have their wedding on the gorgeous campus. (Honestly, I don’t know why you wouldn’t take advantage of the beautiful, historic architecture if you had the chance. Which I guess is why I keep getting clients who are having their weddings on this campus. But I digress.)
One of the things that struck me most about this wedding was how open everyone was – Liz, James, their parents, families, and friends – with their feelings. I could see on each person’s face just how much they all care for one another and were so happy to celebrate this marriage and their families joining together. From Liz’s walk down the aisle to a teary father-of-the-bride giving a toast at the reception, there were many tears of joy (some mine) shed over the course of the day. I think this is the epitome of what a wedding should be – an unadulterated outpouring of love from everyone present celebrating the creation of this new family.
It was a beautiful day, and beyond all the emotions, Liz and James put a lot of work into a carefully curated aesthetic for their wedding, so I have to point out some of my favorite details!
First, they really like good food. And you know how I feel about that. City Provisions served a buffet of delectable Mediterranean and comfort foods, which I think I was not alone in loving.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about one of my favorite florists, Lynn at Pollen Floral Design. Liz collected a LOT of milk glass vases for the centerpieces, and until I arrived on the big day, I assumed it would be a kind of standard one-large-vase-per-table centerpiece kind of thing. NO. I should have known to expect more from this bunch. I mean, just look:
I just love the way Lynn uses less-traditional flowers to make bold arrangements, and I love the unexpected twist of such an eclectic assortment of different size and shape vases. Just gorgeous.
I’d like to end by saying how awesome it was to work with a couple that truly shared the work of planning a wedding – James was one of the most organized people I’ve met, and I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to work with a couple who both played equal parts in the planning process. It makes me so happy when I see egalitarian relationships in action – yay!
All photos were taken by Emilia Jane Photography and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.