By Marissa McCormick, Assistant Editor

Being engaged while working at a wedding magazine is something I never thought would happen to me in my entire life. When explaining my unique situation to people I usually say, “I’m like a Romantic Comedy character.” Cue “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind as it montages through my workday. I type furiously at my computer with a pencil holding my hair as I accidentally spill my coffee on myself. It’s quirky, right?

Planning Tips Blog Engaged Wedding Magazine Richmond Weddings Tips Advice Engagement
Erin Schrad Photography

While I spend my days helping local brides plan and find inspiration for their dream days, I realize I know next to nothing about ACTUALLY planning a wedding. Contrary to what most people think I do, I’ve never planned a wedding. When people call into the office, mistakenly thinking we’re a wedding planner, I usually say something along the lines of, “Oh gosh I could never do that!” And suddenly, as I’m sitting with three different guest list google sheets in front of me and nowhere to start, I feel like all of my prior wedding knowledge is wasted. 

One of my favorite things I get to do in my position at Richmond Weddings™ is writing Feature Weddings every Wednesday. Couples can submit their wedding to Richmond Weddings™ and I get to write their love story. Being a sap, I usually end up crying over my keyboard as I tell our readers just how he popped the question. Note to readers, if your boyfriend/girlfriend wakes you up very early on your birthday/anniversary/first holiday together and wants to “make breakfast” they’re going to propose to you. Or if they want to take you on a hike early in the morning, the question is coming. I’m speaking from experience as my fiancé proposed to me at the end of a hike very early in the morning. 

Planning Tips Blog Engaged Wedding Magazine Richmond Weddings Tips Advice Engagement
Buddy Harlow Photography

By writing these weekly love stories, I’ve been exposed to about 2 years worth of inspiration. While it can be overwhelming at times, I find myself remembering a wedding I wrote a couple of months ago that had a color scheme I loved or a seating chart I just had to steal. Like a Pinterest inside my mind, unknowingly, I had a wedding theme planned out. 

This has been a common trend in my wedding planning process so far…thinking I have no idea what I want, then when the time comes to make a decision, I know exactly what I want. Here, let me give you an example. My fiancé and I went ring shopping at Diamonds Direct about a month before he proposed. We walked in there, a combination of nervous and excited, and I thought I would be lost. But when we got there, diamonds sparkling everywhere, I was suddenly calling the shots. “I want a single, oval-shaped diamond with a skinny band to be paired with a simple gold wedding band,” I said, the helpful salesperson quickly jotting down notes. My fiancé was both impressed and skeptical since I told him in the car ride over I hadn’t even considered my engagement ring. 

Planning Tips Blog Engaged Wedding Magazine Richmond Weddings Tips Advice Engagement
Kristen Camielle Photography

The truth is, and I think most girls can attest to this, I’ve been planning my wedding since Pinterest was invented. My “One Day” board has suddenly become relevant and surprisingly enough, my taste hasn’t changed too much. While I don’t want to wear a black ombre dress that my emotional 8th grade-self pinned, I still want simple decorations with an emphasis on greenery and florals. 

Something else that has surprised me while planning my wedding is how much I don’t want to be a DIY bride. When looking for our venue, we looked at two options. One had everything included, catering, planner, and rentals, a true one-stop-shop. The other we would have to coordinate and bring everything in on our own. Again working in the wedding world, I thought I could do it. But one night into planning, I realized I was in way over my head. While sipping my umpteenth glass of wine, I tried crunching the numbers, again and again, leaving off the live band here and dropping the late-night snacks there. I was STRESSED and we hadn’t even put a deposit down yet. 

From there, it was a really easy decision thanks to our realization of what kind of couple we are. More than just convenience, we wanted a stress-free wedding where we could sit and relax, enjoying the company of our closest family and friends.  We picked Bryce Mountain Resort in Bayse, Virginia. A gorgeous, quaint resort that my fiancé and his family have a special connection to. Plus, even in my “One Day” Pinterest Board, I wanted to get married in the mountains. We’re planning on doing our cocktail hour at the top of the mountain, our guests taking the ski lift up, a glass of champagne waiting for them at the top. My mountain wedding dream is coming true! 

Planning Tips Blog Engaged Wedding Magazine Richmond Weddings Tips Advice Engagement
Bryce Mountain Resort

Picking a date was, again, easier than we thought it would be. Both my fiancé and I have dreamt of a fall Virginia wedding, and who can blame us? Technicolor leaves and crystal blue skies, serving hot apple cider at the cocktail hour and cozying up around fire pits as the night comes to a close. But, we got engaged in November 2018. And while I didn’t know what I wanted out of my wedding right away, I knew for a fact that I wanted a long engagement. So Fall 2019 seemed way too soon and Fall 2020 seemed like light-years away. We decided one night while we were out for drinks, “Why not May 16th, 2020?” JMU was out of school and wouldn’t be crowding the local area, and it was in between our parent’s anniversaries, perfect! 

Here seems like a good time to explain that both my fiancé and I are also very laid back people. Picking a date and venue is an incredibly important decision, and I get the feeling it’s not usually this easy to pick a date to start the rest of your life.

Planning Tips Blog Engaged Wedding Magazine Richmond Weddings Tips Advice Engagement
Kristen Camielle Photography

As of right now, we’re about 10 months out from the big day and, since we have a long engagement, we’ve been doing about one thing per month. But like the clicking sound before a drop on a roller coaster, I can see the amount of work we have to do in the upcoming months. I’ve found my photographer and working on the other moving parts. From where I am, here are a few pieces of advice, straight from the mouth of a Romantic Comedy character. 

  • Go with your gut about vendors. I found my photographer, completely random and from a blog I follow. I reached out and we happened to hit it off immediately. I had a gut feeling about her (I also did some serious social media stalking) and booked her before we even met. We met during our engagement photos and are in love! 
  • Book your DJ now! Our DJs book 12+ months in advance, so when you’re looking for your photographer, look for your DJ too. 
  • Establish your wedding budget first. I’m lucky to have my parents helping with my wedding, so having that (not so) awkward conversation with them ASAP was important. Once the “honeymoon” phase was over and we were ready to start planning, it was great to know where and how we could look. Because, word to the wise, the weddings you see on Pinterest cost A LOT of money. There’s a reason they look expensive!
  • Create a spreadsheet for your budget. Thankfully my dad is uber-organized and had an Excel sheet, complete with formulas and color coding, to help me navigate. 
  • Establish your guest list second. When you tour your venue, you’re going to have to do some math in your head and knowing how many guests you’ll have is critical.
  • Realize you can implement food, themes, etc. into other events besides your wedding. Our venue doesn’t allow outside caterers, and since food is such an integral of our relationship, we were at first reluctant. But, we realized that we can have our own food at our Rehearsal Dinner or even Bridal Shower. You’ll be surprised how many events come up once you’re engaged. 
  • Read Real Richmond Weddings. Like I mentioned before, seeing a real-life wedding and hearing their story is sometimes better than a Pinterest Board. Plus, we ask our Real Richmond Couples to give us their best piece of advice, this is priceless information people!

This week I’m trying on wedding dresses and I know I have to get the idea out of my head that it’s going to be like Say Yes to the Dress. Marissa, Randy Fenoli is not going to pop out and tell you that you look fabulous. I’ve listened to our vendor’s advice and I’m bringing a small group, just my mom and my sister, my MOH. They’ll have enough opinions for the whole boutique.

Then I’m finding my DJ and sending out our Save the Dates. Finally, people will have physical proof that we’re getting married. My invitations are one aspect of my wedding I’m most excited about. I’m lucky enough to have a professional graphic designer for a brother, and he offered to make our invitations, creating the perfect first impression for our big day.  

Planning Tips Blog Engaged Wedding Magazine Richmond Weddings Tips Advice Engagement
Kristen Camielle Photography

While I know some stressful days and nights are ahead of us, I’m also getting more and more excited. One thing I’ve been coming back to every time I get stressed about the big day is what almost every Real Richmond couple says is their favorite part of their wedding. Looking around and seeing every single person they’ve ever loved in ONE room. Yes, it might rain and yes, my dream dress might not look great on me, but I don’t think I’ll care about that on the day of. I have a feeling I’m not going to stop smiling the entire day. Note to self, look into teeth-whitening. 

Follow along with me during my planning journey! I’ll be updating every couple of weeks, taking you through the ins and outs of my wedding day. Plus, use our planning tools to help create your own wedding day. Happy Planning!