First anniversary reflection

I cannot believe that it’s been one year since our fabulous wedding in Las Vegas. I feel like the event was such a whirlwind that while I didn’t stop talking about it for about a month, I never really had a chance to publicly share many of my favorite parts … so forgive the sappy as I chat endlessly about how awesome my husband is and how happy we were with our big day.

Getting Ready

Our wedding day really started at 10am, but I was so excited that Icouldn’t sleep, so I woke up around 7am and made some breakfast, and we just enjoyed our lazy morning of eggs and coffee before the craziness set in. I think this “last relaxed moments as engaged” was a nice transition for us, and while I’m sure it wouldn’t work for everybody, because we were staying in a hotel and having an evening wedding, it was easier to break tradition and hang out in pajamas before the madness.

Around 9:30, the flowers arrived to our hotel room, and when the makeup artist/hair stylist arrived at 10, I called my MOH & mom to come down to my room while I kicked Ben out. There were also quite a few friends that I hadn’t seen yet (the drawback of a destination wedding is that people arrive at crazy times), so I invited many of the stragglers to my room that morning to hang out while I was getting ready. I had mimosas, coffee, pastries and yogurt available for snacking, but most people (who also had full kitchens in their rooms) brought their own breakfast, and/or came along with a 12-pack of Coors Light to take the edge off the hangover from a Friday night in Sin City.

Having friends and family around during this time definitely took the edge off my nerves (which had started to creep in) and kept things loose … especially when we were killing time before the First Look and decided to all climb on the beds for a jump fest!

makeupbed-jump
First Look

Because we didn’t get married until 6:30pm and didn’t want to spend the whole day apart, we started at 1pm with a First Look and Strip tour to get some fun pictures before the wedding. And herein lies my first and best piece of advice for couples planning your wedding: FIND A PHOTOGRAPHER YOU LOVE.This does not mean that you need to find the most expensive photographer, or the most prestigious, or the one who has been published in the most magazines. Not relevant.

Instead, focusing on finding a photographer that you want to hang out with. If you’re like me and put a premium on having great photos, spend some time vetting your options to find somebody whose company you enjoy.

I probably emailed a dozen photographers and immediately connected with the one we chose, which was especially important for us because we were coming from out of town and needed some local input to make sure our plans weren’t crazy.

Leading up to the wedding, Rachel functioned as a quasi-wedding planner for us via e-mail and Skype, vetting locations and discussing timelines (and often saying “there’s no way we can make it to that landmark in the time we have, what about this alternative?”).
Then, when we finally met on the morning of the wedding, it was an easy transition, because we felt like we’d known each other forever and had clear expectations.

strip-walk

Just a leisurely stroll on a Saturday afternoon.

Ben says that going into the wedding day, he was a bit wary when I told him, “Oh yeah, I booked us for 5 hours of photos before the ceremony” because his experience is mostly family portrait photography. But then once we hopped in the limo and Rachel just captured us exploring the Strip and being ourselves, we both loosened up and just enjoyed each other’s company (and also the wonderful help from my best friend/MOH, Kristen, who was always ready with lip gloss and helping with dress placement).

bellagio-kristen

Waiting for the limo to pick us up at the Bellagio

In fact, we both agree that the time we spend together before the wedding created some of the most relaxing, enjoyable memories of our day. So for those of you on the fence about a First Look: DO IT.

(And if you want pictures as awesome as ours, you always have the option to hire Rachel. She travels anywhere and is worth her weight in gold!)

first-look elevator kiss-aria bellagio-tiegrabbellagio-gardens
Family Photos

Around 4pm we went back to the Wyndham to get some family photos. Our limo was late (stupid Strip traffic), so we showed up late … which actually worked out, because it meant all the family from both sides had already arrived!
We had a quick cheer then went straight to work, once again reminding people that we had hired Rachel to get all the family photos so we wouldn’t be taking requests, but they could stand behind her and get the same shot if they’d like. It made the process move super-smoothly … except one moment Rachel caught where Uncle John tried to slow down the process. As you can see, Ben & I treated it like a bomb was going off.

family-bombthreat

Moral of the story: Don’t mess with a Type A bride’s timeline on her wedding day, especially when she’s running late and technically hasn’t even gotten married yet.

family-casebolts family-nuppsfamily-shursons
The Ceremony

We all headed over to The Platinum Hotel, which is one block off-Strip (behind Bally’s, so it has a gorgeous view of the Strip). The ceremony occurred at sunset, so we got this beautiful, natural soft evening glow in ceremony photos.

When Ben & I discussed our ceremony in advance, we knew we wanted two things:

  1. Not too long — 25 minutes max!
  2. Not too formal — we wanted this to feel like us, and we are not a very serious couple.
aisle-dad

One of the easiest ways to set the informal tone: My dad walked me down the aisle to the theme song from one of Ben & my favorite shows, The West Wing.

Similar to our experience with the photographer, we met the officiant Pete about 15 minutes before the ceremony, but had been e-mailing with him to make sure we were all on the same page. Of course, Pete chose not to mention to us that he was from Chicago, instead revealing during the ceremony that he was a die-hard Bears fan.

bears-fan

When it came to choosing readers, the choice was obvious — Ben & I had been set up on a blind date in 2009 by a section of my family, and I had read the same Bible passage in almost all their weddings.

readers

Ben almost convinced me to just put the readers’ names in the program … but I decided to throw them a bone and give them 6 hours notice to prepare.

Since we got married at a hotel and were able to customize our ceremony, we decided early on to write our own vows. I held it together emotionally the whole day, until that part … and then I nearly lost it (thank goodness for my MOH having tissue handy!).

ceremony-crying

Kristen and I both started to lose it. Ben, predictably, held it together without a problem.

Then the first kiss and we were out of there! Time to get some cake in my belly and some dancing started!

recessional

The Music: Laissez les bon temps roulet!

If you know anything about Ben & me, you know that we love to sing. We are not necessarily the most talented singers in the world, but what we lack in skill, we make up for with enthusiasm. So early on, we knew that our reception would be fueled by karaoke music.

Some of the hardest decisions in wedding planning came down to music selection. When you have a fiance who never stops singing, how can you narrow down your playlist? We spent weeks debating the song for our first dance (for a while we were dead-set on a Sam Cooke song until I realized that all the songs I loved were about infidelity).

jackie-atlast

Jackie destroyed the song for the first dance … thus setting the tone for an amazing night of karaoke performances and dance-offs.

We eventually landed on a song that didn’t have a lot of sentimental attachment for us, but that we knew my former roommate Jackie could crush in karaoke: At Last by Etta James.

Jackie set the stage for karaoke as the major entertainment method for the night. Although we had a few “regular” songs, especially early on in the evening, we were told that at the end of the night, the DJ had extra karaoke requests. We knew that karaoke would be a popular option but figured that it would probably fade out as people got bored and just wanted to dance … but in fact, the opposite was true. Here are the diverse songs we can remember our amazing, talented guests singing (and if you can remember more, please add in the comments):

  • “Kung Fu Fighting” Carl Douglas
  • “Hold On” Wilson Phillips
  • “Forever in Blue Jeans” Neil Diamond
  • “Sweet Caroline” Neil Diamond
  • “Crying” Aerosmith
  • “Gimme Some Lovin” Blues Brothers
  • “Don’t Stop” Ke$ha
  • “Total Eclipse of the Heart” Bonnie Tyler
  • “Mustang Sally” Wilson Pickett
  • “Say it Ain’t So” Weezer
  • “Another Piece of my Heart” Janis Joplin
  • “Our Song” Taylor Swift
  • “A Whole New World” Aladdin

time-life-duet

Ben & I finished off the night with a duet of “I Had the Time of my Life” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

So ... what'd you do today?

“So … what’d you do today?”

wedding-cake-smash

Like anybody expected us to be one of those polite couples who don’t smash cake. I’m surprised it wasn’t worse than this!

wedding-mirror-dance

Don’t tell Jackie, but technically our first dance was right after the cake-cutting, to Justin Timberlake’s “Mirror,” because Ben had been singing it to me non-stop all summer …

first-dance-icecream

… followed by some random song by the DJ before the first dance. Ben lured me out to the dance floor with ice cream. Man knows the way to my heart.

holdon-wilsonphillips sweet-caroline

 The Dancing

The next morning over mimosas at the poolside cabana, somebody asked Ben what his impression of the wedding the night before was, and his answer will go down in infamy:

I expected that much singing. I did not expect that much interpretive dancing.

ribbon-wandsThe stage for interpretive dance was set accidentally, when I made decorative ribbon-wands for people to wave as we walked down the aisle as a couple. (For those of you reading this many years into the future: Pinterest was a big thing in 2013; ideas for how to personalize and DIY your wedding projects were neverending.)

When I was hot gluing all the ribbons, I assumed that they’d make for a nice photo opp then be discarded … but Ben’s cousins thought otherwise, and performed the World’s Most Amazing Interpretive Dance to be Choreographed in Less than Five Minutes! (cue Cyndi Lauper … now:)

cyndi-lauper

More interpretive dance was interspersed, including the fact that I’d chosen “Some Enchanted Evening” as a surprise song for the father-daughter dance, and the version chosen by the DJ ended about 3 times, so my dad & I ended up just signing and gesturing wildly “Once you have found her, never let her go!

Other songs for interpretive dance: “Kung Fu Fighting” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” (which yes, did include some Dan-Band references a la Old School).

 

Conclusion

This past weekend, on our one-year anniversary, Ben & I accidentally had a long chat with a girl who has been engaged for 2 weeks. She asked us tons of questions about our wedding, and what we kept coming back to was this:

Our wedding was exactly what WE wanted. It wasn’t what our parents would have planned, or what our friends had done … but it just felt like us. And in retrospect, that was the most important thing to us: that the emphasis was on making our day fun instead of worrying about it being perfect.

whole-group

Yes, major family members were missing, which was incredibly disappointing. Yes, our schedule got thrown off. Yes, our cake-cutting was almost a disaster.

But at the end of the day, we had accomplished our goal: agreeing to spend the rest of our lives together. And we had done it surrounded by supportive family and friends, who had traveled from all over the country to witness & celebrate our love for each other.

elevator-kissNow, we get to spend the rest of our lives surrounded by photos and memories from that incredible day. And we could not be more grateful to everyone who helped to make our day so perfect.