A lot of commenters have asked me about what it was like to plan a wedding while also studying for the bar exam. It’s that time of year again, so I figured I’d address that now.
Studying for the bar exam was, without a doubt, one of the hardest things I have ever done. Maybe THE hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was time-consuming, intellectually challenging, and physically and emotionally exhausting. You know what else is all of those things? Wedding planning. So here are my tips on how to combine the two without going insane.
Choose your date wisely.
The busiest time of studying for the bar exam is the last month before the wedding. The busiest time of wedding planning is the last six to eight weeks before the wedding. Unless you have a lot of help, I would recommend picking a wedding date that’s at least two months after the bar exam. We got married exactly two months and four days after I finished the bar exam, and I’m happy that we had that much time in between the two.
Well, my recaps are done, and I can’t think of any other posts to write. So, I guess my time at Weddingbee is over. All right, see ya, hive! It’s been real!
Just kidding, I think you deserve more of a good-bye than that. Which is to say, I’d like to write a few more paragraphs. You know, milk it for all it’s worth.
In an attempt to be helpful and share my infinite wedding-planning knowledge with brides who haven’t yet reached The Other Side, I decided to put together a list of sources for all sorts of wedding-y things that I discovered when I was planning. Consider this my Weddingbee dissertation. Actually, consider this my bibliography.
Vendors: If you’re not in the Chicagoland area, this probably won’t be helpful.
Image via Jennifer Shaffer Photography
You know how celebrities always say they were nerds in high school, but what they really mean is they got good grades and participated in school sponsored activities, and probably got lightly teased by their friends for not being bad at math? Like Cady Heron basically. That’s not me. I wasn’t a fake nerd. But I also wasn’t a real nerd, either. (Sticking with the Mean Girls analogy, I wasn’t a “sexually active band geek,” though at my school it was more like “sexually active Model U.N. kids” because I swear those people went through every permutation of coupling imaginable.) I got good grades and took AP classes and all that jazz, but I wasn’t nerdy enough (or cool enough?) to be friends with the actual nerds.
Starting high school was kind of a shock to me. I had graduated eighth grade with a class of 25 and entered high school with a class of over 700. I was extremely, painfully shy and uncomfortable in my own skin, and I was hesitant to talk to people unless they reached out to me first. Actually, some vestiges of that personality still remain. Just last week, someone told me they were shocked by my blogging voice because it didn’t fit with my shy personality. So you guys get the real me, I guess
But let’s be real here, I looked like this. And that was me after a slumber party makeover. And after I’d discovered the straightening iron.
I was too awkward to talk to boys in high school, let alone go to dances with them, let alone date them. My core group of friends were all too scared to talk to boys. I literally talked to like five boys during my time in high school, and none of them were actual friends. I went to one homecoming dance with a group of girls, and then some friends awkwardly arranged my date for prom senior year.
Damn it feels good to be back! Hi, hive, long time no blog. The Swords are back from their first beach vacation and they are the epitome of bronzed gods. False. They only managed a wee tan (that has since left them) and one good day of sunburn (OK, that was just me).
Day One: Really White
Day Ten: Less White
Before the wedding, I bordered on obsessive over capturing our guests’ advice and comments. I saved all of my shower and wedding cards, requested advice in our RSVPs, and made fill-in-the-blank guestbook pages for guests to draw on and, yes, provide advice.
Personal pic of my grandma’s approval of Mr. Unicycle. For the record, he’s not quite a doctor yet.
The guestbook pages and colored pencils were set up in the back corner of the room, and unfortunately the majority of our guests didn’t see them. The ones we did get, however, were great. And here are three artsy shots of the setup, because why not?
Want to copy our wedding playlists? Well, you’re in luck, because I’m about to share them with you, from the beginning of the day to the end.
I thought I would make a playlist for this since I planned out every single other godforsaken detail of the day, but I ended up just switching on my ’90s Pandora station. Needless to say, NSYNC and Britney were played.
Photo by Jennifer Shaffer Photography
Probably rocking out to Michael Jackson or something.
I asked the church pianist ahead of time if he could play instrumental versions of some secular songs. He said yes, as long as he could find the sheet music. I sent him a list of six songs, and he responded that he was able to play three, and unable to find the sheet music for two. If you’ve been following along with the math, you’ll realize that leaves one mystery song. So I’m not sure which three songs he was able to play or which he actually played, but these are the four that he wasn’t not able to play:
Again, since I was busy freaking out in the church basement and vestibule, I have no clue what was actually played. I’m sure our guests enjoyed/didn’t listen to whatever it was, though.
Even though my recaps are dunzo, and I’ve probably overstayed my welcome here, I do have a few posts left to share with you guys. By far, my most popular post according to Pinterest is the 10 Wedding Photos I Need post. It caused a bit of controversy in the comments, but my photographer seemed very grateful for the guidance. I wanted to show you how the vision compared to the reality:
1) The groom’s reaction as the bride walks down the aisle:
One of the things that we decided late in the wedding planning game (and kind of on a whim) was working with Wedit, a video aggregation service of sorts. Essentially, we looked high and low for a videographer in our budget, and pretty much gave up. Instead, we opted to buy a bunch of FlipCams on Black Friday to give to people during the wedding then edit it all together ourselves. Well, then we happened upon Wedit four months later for a STEAL on a wedding deal site and I couldn’t resist, so we sold those FlipCams on eBay and booked Wedit.
We decided to pass out the five Wedit FlipCams to the the Baconator’s little Bro, a bridesmaid, a guest from Chicago that knows lots of local folks, a Minnesotan friend that we met in England who is super outgoing, and we mounted one on a tripod at the back of the ceremony. With these folks picked out, we were able to get some behind the scenes action from the morning, the tea ceremony, the wedding ceremony and lots of the reception.
Video compiled by Wedit / Videos shot by friends / Song by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warner
I know, I know, the video quality isn’t great, but it’s actually really awesome on the DVDs. Well, except the darkness…the darkness is because candles are great for ambiance, but not for video. The same can be said for the dark dance floor: great for dancing and ambiance, bad for video.
Our limo dropped us off at the hotel after the wedding, the same hotel where Mr. Unicycle and the guys had taken photos earlier that day. Our room was tricked out with its own kitchen and living room! I later found out that my aunt had called and upgraded us to a suite. She also sent along chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne.
Photo via Renaissance Schaumburg
Mr. T and I left the reception venue separately. He had to bring the cooler from the trolley back to his parents’ room, and I had to get my clothes from my parents’ hotel. My best friend and bridesmaid walked with me back to the hotel. I was in my wedding dress, carrying my heels in my hand, walking through the middle of downtown Chicago on my wedding night without my brand-new husband. I could not stop laughing because it felt like something out of a movie.
Eventually, I made my way to our hotel room for the night. I took off my wedding gown and replaced it with the dress from our rehearsal dinner, and Mr. T and I headed over to the same bar where we’d had our rehearsal dinner the night before. We drank beer and ate nachos with our friends and family members from out of town. It was so nice to have that extra time with them. One thing I’m really happy about is that we got to spend a lot of quality time with all of our guests on our wedding day. I’m so glad that we weren’t liberal with the guest list.
A little after midnight, we headed back to the hotel and quickly fell asleep. The next morning, I awoke to the sun coming up over Lake Michigan, which illuminated the aftermath of our wedding day.
After the last song ended, the DJ basically kicked everyone out. We had planned a magical sparkler exit that would look something like this:
Image via National Geographic / Photo by Ruth Ritter
Since the guests all had to get downstairs and outside, then line up with a lit sparkler, we figured we had time for a private last dance. I didn’t count on our guests suffering from drunk deafness, though. To this day, people tell me how confused they were about pretty much everything I had the DJ announce.
“I didn’t know that was the last song!”
“Suddenly people were just leaving!”
“When did the photo booth officially open?”
“I wish I had known you had a guestbook.”
Now that I’ve shared the whole wedding from start to finish, I’m so excited to finally write one of my favorite posts to read: Inspiration boards versus reality boards. Did our wedding actually look like what we’d planned for over two years ago?
Here’s the inspiration board that I shared right when we first started planning. A few things definitely stand out: Red, red, red, balloons, whimsy, TOMS, and Chucks.
Collage created by me / Sources: (1) Ceremony via Once Wed / Photo by Brooke Schwab Photography, (2) Hair Flower by He Knows My Name on Etsy, (3) Flowers via The Knot, (4) Ceremony via Once Wed / Flowers by The Blooming Bride / Photo by Brooke Schwab Photography, (5) Shoes by TOMS, (6) Invitation by Minted, (7) Macarons via Delectable Deliciousness, (8) Chicago Map by ORK Posters, (9) Photo by The Nichols / Event by Lizze Belle Event Planning, (10) Sweets Table by Amy Atlas, (11) Photo By Stephanie Williams Photography, (12) Tea cups via The Knot, (13) Cake Topper by Lollipop Workshop on Etsy, (14) Chuck Taylors via Inspired Occasions / Photo by Lindsey Janies Photography, (15) Invitation by Felice Design on Etsy
And here’s what it all looked like after 18 months of planning!
It’s been over a year since I wrote this post about our last dance song. In case you’ve been in suspense since last March, we decided to use the song, but we had our DJ edit out the awkward beginning because Mr. Unicycle didn’t like the lyrics, and I didn’t like the tempo anyway.
Let me tell you, this may have been the second best wedding decision I made (the first being the groom). I know I raved about our candy buffet, our photographer, our photobooth, and pretty much everything else, but this song was the best part of our reception. Allow me to set the scene.
We’re on the dance floor cutting a rug. The night is wearing on; our guests are wearing drops of alcohol that missed their mouths. Friends from high school are gyrating with friends from college. Our parents’ friends are getting drinks with our friends. My bridesmaids are blacked out. Everyone’s having the time of their lives.
The song ends, and the DJ announces that it’s the last song of the night. Cue fun. Everyone cheers in recognition, and I quickly grab the people closest to me to begin the shoulder-to-shoulder sway. (I wanted nothing more than to dance in the middle of a giant shoulder-to-shoulder sway circle, but I knew I had to make it happen myself. As Billy Zane said, “I make my own luck.”)
Photo by Jennifer Shaffer Photography
After several hours of dancing, photos were starting to look like this:
…which meant the end of our reception was near. We planned the final two songs with our DJ to end the night right. The first was the Notre Dame Fight Song.