Planning a Wedding From 3,000 Miles Away

Actually, it’s 2,815 miles…but who’s counting?

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At my bridal shower last month, four different people asked me a version of the same question: “How’s it going, planning from so far away?”

Honestly, I don’t know how to answer this question, really. It’s like when I was a kid, and my friends would ask, “What’s it like to have divorced parents?” I would always think to myself: Well, I don’t know. What’s it like to have married parents? I only know my own experience. Sure, I’ve worked in event planning. And I’ve helped a lot of my friends plan their weddings. But, this bad boy is all me, start to finish.  And Bob the Builder. Me, AND Bob the Builder. :-)

I can tell you how I’ve been managing, in the hope that anyone seeking guidance can find some here.

1. Know What You’re Looking For. 

This one is key, and that’s why I’ve put it first. Know What You’re Looking For. The surest way to drive yourself crazy is to not give yourself any parameters. When we began this crazy planning journey (15 months ago!) we were talking about a New Jersey Vineyard wedding, Labor Day weekend, under a tent. Well, a few hours of internet research and many phone calls to venues later, we changed our minds. And that’s OK. You have to start somewhere. The options in WeddingLand are vast, varied, and overwhelming. When we returned to the wedding drawing board, we were able to rule out vineyards, and traditional banquet halls. We also changed the location to Philadelphia, which narrowed down the list even further.

But this isn’t just for the big-ticket items like location and venue. This holds true for even the smallest details – like, cake toppers. If you, right now, did a Google search for cake toppers, you would be faced with over 100,000 results. True Story.

So, do yourself a favor and make some decisions early on, even if they turn out to be the wrong decisions and you have to change your mind.

2. Be OK with Plan B

This one has been really difficult for me, because I am a Planny McPlanerson and I like things to go the way I’ve decided they should. But sometimes, every vineyard in New Jersey is booked solid until the fall of 2014. Sometimes, your wedding venue is sold, and they renovate everything, and you are left to make the best of what remains. And that has to be OK. It has to be, because you are 3,000 miles away and there is nothing you can do about it anyway.

Image from Pinterest, no external source credited

Image from Pinterest, no external source credited

I am working very hard to become more flexible, and not just in my yoga practice. Just this week, my venue informed me that I may not be able to have my ceremony in the room I want it to be in, and they asked me to consider a Plan B. I’m not going to lie to you guys, I was 100% upset and very irrational. I moped around about it all day long. Thank God Bob the Builder was out-of-town and only had to deal with me via text. I know myself well enough to know that my knee-jerk reaction to change (well, change that I don’t initiate) is resentment. I also know that my resentment usually dissipates in 24-48 hours. So, I just sort of sat on the decision for a while. I am happy to report that today (72 hours later) I am looking for a solution that I can be happy with. I think I’m close. I’ll fill you in on the deets later. Promise.

3. Technology is your Friend.

Here’s the stone-cold truth. Aside from one gal that works at my venue, I have not met ANY of my wedding vendors in person. NOT ONE. When I think about this for too long, it gives me the cold sweats. So I try not to dwell on it.

I feel very confident about their abilities, and in my choosing them. However, if they were standing in a room with me, I may not be able to pick them out of a crowd. Well, some of them, anyway.

I’m sure by now you are thinking that I am a nut job for hiring people who I have not met, but I’ll explain.

I took two trips to Philadelphia just to pick the venue. Until the venue was chosen, I couldn’t hire anyone else. That process took a little longer than expected, and then before I knew it, we were a year away from our wedding day. If you’ve planned a wedding than you know that most vendors book out a year in advance. I didn’t want to risk losing out on a photographer or DJ just because I couldn’t fly in and meet them in person.

Enter, Skype! Using Skype, I was able to “meet” my DJ, Matt, and have a long introductory meeting. Also, I Skyped with my Photographer, Marisa, and we introduced our cats to one another. In between cat meetings, we also talked about photography, never fear.

I hired our Day of Coordinator and our Florist over the phone. As well as my Makeup Artist. My Hair Stylist and I have only emailed.

This is the truth of planning a long distance wedding.

I researched my butt off before hiring anyone. If you are going this route, I highly suggest checking out WeddingWire, Yelp, and WeddingBee before signing any contract with anyone for anything. I made sure to read all their reviews – the good and the bad ones – before making my own judgement. Sometimes it just came down to a gut feeling. When I was Skyping with Marisa, our photographer, I thought, “I could totally spend the day with this gal! I like her!” So, that, coupled with her gorgeous photos, made that decision very easy.

Sometimes you have to just take a leap of faith.

Everyone whom I’ve hired is a professional. None of them are new to the wedding industry. I take comfort in that. I firmly believe in hiring someone to do an awesome job and then getting out of their way so that they can do that awesome job. No one needs (or likes) a micro-manager. Also, these guys produce weddings every single weekend. They know what’s up.

Side note: All of your vendors should have a Facebook page, Twitter account, and an Instagram. Stalk them. Follow them. Nothing makes me happier with my decision than seeing my florist post an amazing snapshot to Facebook.

I mean, seriously? GORGEOUS.

4. Get and Stay Organized. And Mobile.

Get organized early on. I bought myself a red leather-bound notebook/folder and I keep everything that is not a digital file in it. It’s super useful for list making. I like to physically write out a list and then cross things off it. It makes me feel accomplished. Also, I keep my fabric samples in there so they are always with me when I’m shopping.

personal photos

personal photos

Anything that comes to me in a digital file gets saved to my Google Drive. And I have the Google Drive app on my iPhone, so all the files are always with me. Here’s what is currently on My Drive:

personal photo

personal photo

Make sure, as you’re organizing, you rename all your files to something that actually makes sense to you. Almost every file I received was named, “BrideNameGroomNameWeddingDate” and if you kept them all like that, you would lose your mind. Make things as brain-less as you can, because when it’s crunch time, and you NEED to find the room block contracts, you don’t want to have to search through five files to get there. That is a recipe for a Bridezilla-sized meltdown. And no one wants to see that.

5. What’s It Worth to You?

This one has just started to rear its ugly head at the three-month mark. You see, when you’re planning a long-distance wedding, you have to consider A LOT of logistical issues. The biggest one I’ve been dealing with is…STUFF. All the Stuff you “need” for a wedding: ceremony programs, guest book, flower girl basket, ring bearer pillow, card box, welcome bags, favors, bathroom baskets, cake topper, votive candles, flower vases, seating charts, escort cards, table numbers, menus, kids activity books, gifts for Team Bridal and Groomsmen, MY WEDDING GOWN.

All these THINGS. How will they get to Philadelphia?

Do I ship them? If so, to whom? To the hotel where we will be staying? Directly to my venues head office? To my Dad’s in Connecticut? My sisters in law in New Jersey?

Do I take an extra suitcase and try to fit everything in there, hoping that my airline doesn’t lose the bag? I mean, it’s Murphy’s Law that they would misplace that bag, right?

Do I carry on my giant ball gown with me on the plane? Do I buy an extra seat on the plane for it? (P.S – I’m not doing that. That’s insane. But I’ve read about gals who did!)

Photo: Weddingbee

Photo: Weddingbee

But all of this boils down to: What’s it Worth to You? I’ve totally changed my mind about some of the wedding items I’m using, because I just don’t want it badly enough to ship it to Philadelphia, worry about it breaking/getting lost, and then shipping it back home to Los Angeles.

Case in point (one of many, but I won’t bore you with all of them) – Ring Bearer Pillow:

ForEVER, I have wanted this for our ring bearer:

Photo Credit: Paloma's Nest on Etsy

Photo Credit: Paloma’s Nest on Etsy

I had big plans to get it personalized with a beautiful quote and our wedding date, and then keep my rings in it on my nightstand after the wedding.

But.

This lovely gorgeous ring dish is $85.00 after shipping, and then once I get it to LA, I have to ship it again to Philadelphia and then back home again to Los Angeles. So, the actual cost of using this ring bowl is now well over $100. And that’s assuming that all goes well and it does not get damaged in transit. I had to say to myself, “Is this ring bowl worth $100+ to you, when you include the possibility of it breaking?” The answer, sadly, was no. It’s not worth it to me.

So, Plan B.

Photo Credit: Romancing Juliet on Etsy

Photo Credit: Romancing Juliet on Etsy

This sassy ring bearer pillow is only $30, including shipping. I can pack it in my luggage and the likelihood of it breaking is slim to none. One less potential disaster averted. This is how I am thinking these days. Every minor decision has to be carefully weighed, because you need to figure out how every little thing is going to travel 3,000 miles with you. It’s exhausting.

So, if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been writing much, this is why. I’m up to my eyeballs in logistics. So. Not. Fun.

Basically, this is how I’ve been planning my long-distance wedding. I am sure I’ll have some more insight after the wedding is over, so I’m sure there will be a follow-up post.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from other brides planning a long-distance wedding!

How did you stay organized?

What did you do with All The Stuff?

Please tell me what to do with my ball gown!

4 Comments on Planning a Wedding From 3,000 Miles Away

  1. SIL L (y)
    July 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm (3 years ago)

    First, on behalf of all of your NJ SIL’s, we will take care of whatever you need us to! I immediately have a few ideas of how we can make things a little easier. We’ll talk later.

    I find this all so funny. When I got married no one had a computer. The “internet” was something you put between your tent and the picnic area. Skype was a fictional creature you sent kids to hunt……..oh wait, that’s a snipe I think. Long distance wedding meant the Philly relatives had to drive over the Walt Whitman to South Jersey!

    We were engaged for over a year but I was still in school and MacGyver wouldn’t let us set a date until I graduated. I graduated in May, we set the date based on when all of the vendors were available and we were married that October. So I completely understand your “do I really need that” theory.

    The way I see it your check list is:
    Great location – CHECK
    Good food – CHECK
    Good music – CHECK
    Perfect couple – DOUBLE CHECK

    The rest is inconsequential and will be perfect because of the above list!

    Love you girl! We can’t wait!

    Reply
    • thatbridesgotmoxie
      July 15, 2013 at 7:55 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks SIL L! We love you too! And we cannot wait! 89 days to go!

      Reply
  2. thatbridesgotmoxie
    July 15, 2013 at 10:28 am (3 years ago)

    I think you are doing a great job. That Bob guy is one lucky, and I am sure, handsome man!

    Reply
    • thatbridesgotmoxie
      July 15, 2013 at 7:55 pm (3 years ago)

      Here’s what’s hilarious. The above comment was left by the one and only Bob the Builder. He didn’t realize he was logged into WordPress as ME.
      Bob the Builder, you so crazy…

      Reply

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