The Rain Plan

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

With two-thirds of our wedding outdoors and another soggy day on the horizon, the fact that early November is usually dry makes no difference. It’s time to consider Plan R, aka the Rain Plan.

When we signed our contract with Honey Lake Plantation we were given the option of booking the ourdoor area for one price, or the outdoor area and the chapel as backup for a slightly higher fee. I suppose a slight upcharge in the beginning, though, is better than having to pay for a tent at the last minute. And while the chapel is lovely, it’s just not where we see ourselves getting married!

The Chapel at Honey Lake Plantation

The Chapel at Honey Lake Plantation | personal image

Inside the HLP Church | image via

Inside the HLP Church | image via

If I’m not mistaken, the stained glass in the church is the oldest in Florida (I feel like I’m back in docent lessons at the other plantation I worked at way back when) and the mid-day light coming through them would be gorgeous, but the space is just so big and heavy for our little, light gathering.

Still, I’m glad we’ll be covered in case of inclement weather.

At our planning meeting, though, I did think to ask where we’d hold the outdoor coffee and cocktails in case of rain–that was something we hand’t discussed and while there is a vestibule in the church it’s not nearly large enough to work.

The DoC’s answer was the White Ballroom. Also a touch on the small side, I would imagine, if we had to utilize the space, we’d have some room to walk around the hallways and lobby even if they were setting up for an evening event in the main part of the gathering hall. The White Ballroom though, man, is it gorgeous. Super chi-chi, it’s a favorite for bridal portraits and the infamous dress shots.

The White Ballroom, Honey Lake Plantation | photography by Terri Smith Photo

The White Ballroom, Honey Lake Plantation | photography by Terri Smith Photo

Image via Style Me Pretty | Photography by Laura Yang

Image via Style Me Pretty | Photography by Laura Yang Photography

 I suppose if it’s looking like rain I’ll track down some umbrellas, but the venue does have a small fleet of golf carts to get people between buildings should worst come to worst. Thankfully, unless we’re dealing with sideways rain (not impossible, especially when the wind decides to tag-team), our reception space should keep us all dry enough. I’m more concerned about it being too cold that day with the Owl’s Nest being, essentially, a big screened porch, but even then I’m sure we can rent some space heaters if necessary.

Or drink more wine!

Still, I’m hoping for a brisk fall day for our wedding. And in a couple of months I can start stalking the weather incessantly.

The Other Sort of Rain Plan

We recently had a bump in the road that has upped the stress-ante as far as wedding finances are concerned. While still hoping for the best, I sprang into worst case scenario mode and looked at our options: what could we cut, how can we make sure we uphold our obligations without wrecking our future, that sort of thing. This is what I’d call a metaphorical rain plan and now that we have it in place, I feel a lot more confident on both scores, even though I hope both types of rain plan stay in the theoretical.

While we plan in what feels like a bit of a bubble, wrapped up in our color schemes and themes, there’s a big world out there that doesn’t really give two pins about our plans and might just send us ass over teakettle before it’s all said and done. Someone loses a job, a family member becomes gravely ill or worse, or the car dies. Schtuff happens. We plan for what to do in case the skies open on our wedding days, but I think it’s worth taking some time to come up with contingency plans. The ‘in case of emergency break Champagne glass’ sort of thing. It goes along with setting priorities but it’s more than that, too.

In the face of big life events, wedding details can seem trivial, but they also represent continuity. Life goes on. Laughter over tears. Maybe spend some time this weekend thinking up the answers to those what-ifs that could try to derail your plans. Not to add stress to your already full plate or borrow trouble, but to make sure you’re ready. Just in case…

Do you have your rain plan(s) in place?

Thinking Our Way Through the Day

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Back in high school I had the opportunity to intern with some local event planners and get a behind-the-scenes look at some amazing, large-scale events. I also spent a lot of time reading back issues of Special Events magazine and reading books on running your own catering business, and one of the best pieces of advice I read, one that I’ve used with every party I’ve every hosted or helped with, is to do a mental walk-through of the event from the perspective of the guest to make sure you don’t forget anything.

Depending on how much help you have planning your wedding, you may not need to do such a thorough session yourself, but it never hurts to figure out what questions to ask.

Since a Day-Of Coordinator came with our venue rental, I don’t have to worry about where the garbage cans will be/where discarded plates will go, but I still do this sort of run-through so I can better communicate to her what I see for our day. Since the DoC is there to fulfill our wishes, and knowing we have a few different ideas of how we’d like things to go, it’s up to us to know what we want.

As far as the timeline goes (aka the first hurdle to jump), we worked backwards from “the main event” aka the ceremony at 11:45am to figure out the earlier events. To give the guests time to arrive and us some time to mingle, we decided to start “cocktail” hour 10:30am and start herding guests to the opposite side of the fountain for the ceremony and then process in a somewhat orderly fashion to the reception venue just to the right.

Or, for the more visually minded among us:

HLP Mock-Up

On our last visit there I was happy to see that yes, really, the “front” of the circular drive is deeper than the “back” and that the right offshoot opens up to the driveway which will help channel our guests one way rather than encourage then to wander higglety pigglety hither and yon.

This also tells us that with cocktail hour starting at 10:30, the photographer doesn’t have to arrive until 9:30 or 9:45, which means we Road Trips can actually sleep in til 7 or so before I have to stumble off to the showers to start getting pretty. (Mr. Road Trip, like most grooms, is much more low-maintenance. If it takes him more than 30 minutes to get ready I’ll be shocked!) We’ll technically have our photographer 8 hours, so if we wanted to traipse around for more photographs after the reception we still have that option (though I suspect we’ll be on emotional overload by the time our guests start to leave and want nothing more than some peace and quiet).

Since we’re providing the music ourselves, this also tells us how long our playlists for each portion of the wedding need to be, which our DoC will be pressing play and pause on (one less thing to assign a friend to be in charge of).

And with that done, now it was time to start drilling-down into the details of each part of the day.

Timing Is Everything

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

For our original wedding vision, though the locations and reception menu were in flux, I was pretty much set on a sunset ceremony.

Image via StyleMePretty | Photography by Our Labor of Love

Image via StyleMePretty | Photography by Our Labor of Love

Not only was it very romantic, sunset for our wedding day was predicted at 6:49pm which was just perfect as it was on the clock’s upswing.

Years ago a bride-to-be come into the shop to order her invitations and Mama Leadfoot commented on the very precise time she had written into her wording. It wasn’t just “half past two” or “two thirty in the afternoon” but two thirty-ONE in the afternoon. She explained that her daddy was the luckiest person she ever met and he said getting married while the clock was on an upswing was lucky, so that’s what she was gonna do!

While I’m not overly superstitious, I do think that doing little things like this certainly can’t hurt. For me it’s more about going in with the right intentions and the right mindset, and the clock being on an upswing is a physical reminder of those good intentions.

According to a little bit of Internet research, the clock-upswing superstition is common in China, but seems to have filtered throughout the various cultures. And while the notion seems to focus more on the minute hand, I figured if one hand going up was good, then both would be double-good!

When we switched our wedding from sunset to mid-morning, it became a matter of deciding how early was too early. Neither of the Road Trips are the cheeriest morning people, so too early wasn’t a great idea, not to mention asking our guests to be up bright and early wouldn’t be the most hospitable thing. Mid-morning seemed like a good idea, but we also knew that most of our guests would be driving about 45 minutes to get to our venue, which could make an even a mid-morning start a bit touchy.

Good thing we were already thinking it’d be fun to have the cocktail hour before the ceremony, so that gives us some wiggle room if people aren’t really up and moving as early as need be. (Not to mention gives us plenty of time to get ready in the morning without having to get up at the crack of dawn.) And since I never had any intention of hiding away in some bridal lounge before the ceremony, it also gives us plenty of time to greet our guests, take some photos, and generally make merry before the ceremony.

How did you determine the timing of your wedding?

Our First Planning Day

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

One of the downsides to booking our venue and the DoC that came with it, is there was a looong gap between reserving it (April 2012) and any planning meetings for the event which start at 6 months out.

More than ready to get this show on the road, I emailed our contact (who was also our DoC) this April to set up that first planning session. Imagine my alarm when the email bounced back as a non-existent address. Realizing that staff changes could have happened in the past year, I didn’t panic too much until I resent the email to the main weddings@ address and it came back as restricted!

Now, rationally I knew that we had a signed contract and they’d take our deposit, so there was no way we weren’t having our wedding at HLP. But rational thought is not always driving this bus–sometimes I think my brain has this worst case scenario blanket over the top of it as I always seem to jump to it and play through the what-ifs for hours. I’ve done this throughout my life so I’m used to it, and at times I think it helps me be prepared for when things actually do go awry, but it was a few tense days, waiting for someone to return my calls, worrying that in the transition our contract had been overlooked and the venue might have been double-booked in the last year.

Bride Brain illustration by Miss Road Trip

illustration by Miss Road Trip

Turns out our original contact had opted not to return after her maternity leave (which, hey, more power to her) and that the current event planner just hadn’t gotten down to us on her list of folks to contact. Now, I’m still pretty irked that we weren’t notified of the personnel change since it does affect us, but after talking with our new planner, Stephanie, I felt much more at ease. Whew!

Meeting set, and scheduled for the only Saturday in May that there wasn’t a wedding going on there, I wondered why it’d take 2 hours for this meeting considering how much we’d already discussed with the former planner via emails, etc. before we signed the contract.

Well, folks, count 2 strikes for the former event planner because she left the incoming staff no. information. whatsoever. As in, when we sat down with Stephanie all she had was a copy of our contract, not even the proposal (with all the details) that the contract was based upon. And there was no way to get into the former planner’s email records either.


Good thing I’m also the type to over prepare, just in case of situations like this!

Unfortunately, more than just the staff had changed since we booked Honey Lake for our wedding.

  • We weren’t the first couple to have been promised colored table linens at no extra charge, but since it was’t specifically in our contract and just a verbal agreement, it wasn’t one we could make stick. So now we’re looking into rentals vs buying outright.
  • Thankfully we did have the BYO wine and signature cocktail written into the contract, because they no longer allow that! Still, we’ve opted to go with them providing the beer on-consumption for the guests that prefer that over the wine we’re providing. And while they do require bartenders these days, they also provide them at no extra charge, so that works out all the way around.
  • They’d also asked if we would be willing to change our lodging option from the Obo Suite (little 1-bedroom quarters attached to the main lodge) to one of the Pines cottages. While I wasn’t super-thrilled to give up the suite, the cottage does give us more getting ready room (2, 2-bed rooms, each with full baths) plus a sitting room but it’s slightly less charming and sort of overkill on the beds (it sleeps 8!). Still, they were concerned that the hunting party that rented the lodge for that weekend might make our stay less that serene, and I can appreciate that.
  • And on the very good front, they’ve now added sound system support for the grounds–originally it was only available in the main event spaces and the chapel. The fee for using their system is probably double of what renting the Passport system and speakers we were planning on, but the lack of hassle having to pick up/set up/break down/return the equipment ourselves is worth the convenience fee.

Oh, and it turns out we’re actually allowed to hang stuff on the walls! Bonus!

The main thing I wanted–no, NEEDED!–to get out of this meeting was table information. See, for months I felt like I was spinning my wheels on some big projects because I couldn’t really see how everything was going to go together. So once we walked the spaces with numbers in mind and started talking about specifics, I was galvanized into action by the time we got home and started revising my lists that night. Finally I knew how many centerpieces I needed and how many tables we would have for the cocktail hour and just where everything would be.

And a good thing, too, because suddenly our long (28 month) engagement is down to just under 4 months and I’m not sure I could have survived any more waiting around!

Did you have to deal with any panic-inducing moments from your venue or other vendors?

Project Wedding Album | December 2012

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

So back on our anniversary I decided to scrapbook this last year before the wedding. I did pretty well with putting November together, but then got totally sidetracked with the holidays and never got around to the December pages until just recently. Unfortunately, sometime in early January, my computer decided to “fix” some files on my memory card.

Apparently “fix” means delete the entire December folder from the SD card, and do it so well that no recovery program I tried could resurrect it. Bye-bye December photos!

Thankfully I had some photos from my cell phone and the few I’d copied from the card for blog posts, though those aren’t usually the ones I’d scrapbook. Still, we make do, right?

Week 5 of 52

Week 5 of 52

Week 6 of 52

Week 6 of 52

Week 7 of 52

Week 7 of 52

Week 8 of 52

Week 8 of 52

Eight weeks into a year of 52 doesn’t seem like all that much, but then I realize I’m up to Week 18 in my notebook and that feels like quite a ways along.

And yes I’m being much more conscientious about backing up my photos to multiple places on a much more regular basis. And I’ve ditched the one SD card that seemed to be the source of all the issues (this was not the first such incident–I have maybe 4 pictures from our Halloween party when originally there were close to 100… sigh). Learn from my mistake, folks.

At least I know we have PLENTY of pictures to choose from in January 😉