Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Destination: Naples

Engaging Affairs has two brides-to-be on staff, which makes for lots of fun (and even more wedding talk)! You all know that Sara is recently engaged and will be blogging on the trials and tribulations as she plans her DC wedding. One of our faithful associates, Grace, is also engaged and will be getting married in just a few short months. She's been planning her wedding in Naples, Florida although she lives in DC and has some unique insights into what goes into putting together a wedding long-distance. So for all of you ladies planning (or thinking of planning) a destination wedding, Grace has some tips on how to survive and keep your sanity!

Three months to go! I can’t believe my time being a fiancée will soon be over. As Monica Geller on “Friends” would say, “Soon I will just be a stupid wife” ha! But what a wonderful ride this engagement has been.

It began with a beautiful, surprise of a proposal, followed by the wonderful support and love of my family and friends. But soon after that came the planning! It felt like the moment after the ring hit my finger it was time to plan! Questions arose from friends, family, co-workers and perfect strangers like, “So when’s the big day? How many people are you having? Where are you getting married? Are you going on a honeymoon?”

If all these questions didn’t stress me out enough, it was the constant feeling of worry that everything may not be as perfect as I have always pictured my wedding to be. Especially while working with the best wedding planners in DC…beautiful weddings is what we do…so when the time came to plan my own wedding, I wanted the same. So here I am with nine months of planning behind me, but I am rearing up for the next three, which will probably be the most exciting yet! So here’s a synopsis of my last nine months…in the life of a wedding planner and soon-to-be-bride!

Our vision began as a Caribbean wedding on an island, somewhere far, far away. Now, mind you, I love DC, but my family resides in FL, my fiancees’ family is all over the place and after the chanting at the dinner table on our engagement night, “Destination Wedding, Destination Wedding,” we figured it may be the best idea. But let me tell you, it’s hard planning your ideal wedding from thousands of miles away! Most of the destination wedding packages we encountered were a bit too cookie-cutter for us. And after working with Engaging Affairs and seeing so many amazing weddings, I really wanted to add a special touch.

So after much, MUCH research and talk, we both decided to have our wedding near my parents' house in Florida. It’s at a beautiful club in Naples, The Club at Mediterra, with a Mediterranean feel and gorgeous landscaping. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque wedding. (Found the place, check!) After the search for the venue completed, my fiancée and I spent the better time of June, July, December and now January hopping back and forth to Florida making arrangements, meeting with photographers, videographers, cake designers and music ensembles (check, check, check!)
One weekend, we met with 6 photographers and 8 DJs! What a ride! But we were efficient! That’s one thing to remember when planning a wedding far from your home…call ahead, schedule meetings, make a timeline and take lots and lots of notes to remember who you met and what they said. Believe me, after your 3rd glass of wine on the plane ride home, you and your fiancée will be bickering about whether DJ Zizzy was the one that use to sing on cruise ships or the one that asked if he could sing along with the music as he DJ’d! TRUE STORY!

So after securing all our vendors in Florida for the wedding, I definitely wanted to ensure I received wonderful engagement pictures in our hometown of DC. Renee Michele was the photographer that my fiancée and I were lucky enough to book for our engagement shoot. Not only is she a wonderful, professional photographer, but she’s sweet, energetic and very creative! If you ever have the chance to work with her, take the opportunity!

But as easy as it was for me to find vendors in DC, especially working with the best in the biz, it was extremely difficult blindly choosing vendors for my wedding without local knowledge! Tons of questions went through my mind when researching and finding our vendors. But I learned that the best thing to do IS to ask tons of questions! Don’t feel bad, just do it! It’s your wedding day so don’t be shy when explaining exactly what you would like and how you would like it. They won’t know unless you tell them. This has been a hard part for me. I’m used to being on the other side of things and seeing how hard the vendors work. Therefore, it’s difficult for me to not be sympathetic or understanding to their needs. So good thing I have my sister or my fiancée with me when the caterer starts to say, “Wouldn’t the macaroni and cheese look perfect for your centerpiece?” Ummm…

So here we are, with three months to go. The end of this month will be our last visit to Florida before the big day in April. Time is going by so quickly. For the three days we are there, we have scheduled our last meeting with the club/caterers, my last (hopefully) dress fitting, our last run-through with the florists/lighting technicians and our last bits of designing with our cake decorator. On top of all of this, at the end of the month, it will be the last time I can call myself a fiancée in the month of January…but next year I’m excited to be calling myself “just a stupid wife.”