'Wow!' moments: Tips and tricks from local newlyweds


Travis Evans & Michelle Ricketts

October 24, 2009

Location: Skylight Farm (family home in Stanardsville), dinner at The Lafayette Inn

Guests: 16

Engagement Length: 1 year

How we met: I bought my first (and second and third) road bike from him.

Budget: Less than $10,000

DIY: I took on the role of "wedding planner," which meant that Travis and I were intimately involved in every step of the process.

Splurged on: Our photographer, who was worth every penny.

Scrimped on: We made several lower-cost decisions based on the size and style of our wedding.

Something new: I was so excited about marrying Travis that I was focused more on him and the ceremony than on traditions.

Music: My mom surprised us with a harpist, Virginia Schweninger, for the ceremony.

First dance song: Since our group was small, we decided to have a dinner reception without the dancing.

"Wow" moment: The ceremony itself– we had two amazing ministers, Reverends Elisheva and Wade Clegg, who prepared a beautiful and personal service that was extremely touching. Reverend Elisheva's ceremony message was kept as a surprise to us and was worth the wait.

"Bridezilla" moment: The wedding invitations arrived in the wrong color and virtually unreadable. I was out of town and under a deadline, which caused a complete over-reaction on my part. Luckily, Travis took care of everything and the correct invitations were delivered in time for mailing.

Unexpected: We experienced torrential downpours up until about two hours before the start of the service. Thankfully, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and the sun came out for our ceremony.

Advice: Remember to keep everything in perspective and to not get caught up in the details– don't lose sight of the true meaning of your wedding. Days, weeks, and years down the road, it will not matter what the favors, place settings, or appetizers were.


Lauren Elizabeth Pool & Ryan Karl Grammer

May 30, 2009

Location: Christ Episcopal Church, reception at Powell Family Farm

Guests: 175

Engagement Length: 10 months

How we met: Ryan and I met on a blind date during our first year at UVA, became friends our second and third years, and become best friends our fourth year– six years of dating, engagement, and marriage followed!

Budget: $30,000-35,000

DIY: My mom and I planned the entire event; specifics included save-the-dates, welcome bags, menus, and programs– but the biggest thing we did ourselves was my wedding gown! My mom and I worked with a wedding gown designer, Charla Bjostad of Pleiades Bridal in Richmond, to redesign a Monique Lhuillier gown to be exactly what I imagined. My mom handmade the gorgeous flower on my hip.

Splurged on: Band and tent

Scrimped on: We did a lot of things ourselves and worked with alternate vendors. Our invitations were gorgeous, but we ordered them through the mail, and I wanted cupcakes instead of an elaborate cake.

Something blue: The monogram inside my dress.

Music: Coconut Groove Band from North Carolina– one of the favorite parts of our evening because it was something other than Motown; Shankar Srinvasan, an amazingly talented violinist and student at UVA for the cocktail hour; Paul Walker from Christ Episcopal during the ceremony.

First dance song: "I'm on Fire" by Bruce Springsteen

"Wow" moment: All of our guests moved from the cocktail hour on the porch around my uncle's house to the tent. My parents and Ryan and I held back a minute. My parents then walked down the path to the tent, and a couple of minutes later Ryan and I followed. We entered the tent and everyone was clapping and cheering, the band started our first dance right after we walked in, and we glided on to the black and white dance floor to do our first dance– it was one of my absolute favorite memories.

"Bridezilla" moment: Yes, there were a few– one was during one of my dress fittings three weeks prior to our wedding. Sometimes it is hard to step back and remember although your wedding is one of the most important days of your life, your guests are just there to have a good time.

Unexpected: How quickly the night went and how wonderful the memories have been after– there were times when I wasn't sure all the planning would be worth it, but without a doubt, it was.

Advice: Take risks to do something a little different and make the details sing with the love you feel for each other.


Leslie Morgan & Josh Lowry

November 21, 2009

Location: McGuffey Art Center

Guests: 95

Engagement Length: 14 months

How we met: We met watching WWE wrestling at a friend's house.

Budget: Under $11,000

DIY: The invitations, which I had printed at The Copy Shop on Elliewood Ave– we used color plates from an old book for the image on the front. I made necklaces for the bridesmaids, and my friend Kristen Bodensick made their earrings.

Splurged on: Flowers and cupcakes

Something borrowed: An old, blue handkerchief from my great-great aunt Jean.

Music: Friends played acoustic music for our processional and recessional. Our reception DJ was Steve Richmond.

First dance song: "True Love Ways" by Buddy Holly

"Wow" moment: A bagpiper escorted us from the photo session to the reception.

"Bridezilla" moment: I tried to avoid public bridezilla moments. Frustrations definitely mounted as the wedding drew closer, but Josh helped me remember to look at each obstacle separately and figure out what to do.

Unexpected: The bagpiper would also qualify as something unexpected.

Advice: Not to get overwhelmed, but take each thing as it comes. Also, if people offer to help, let them.


Ben Schnable & Vanessa Leech

April 25, 2009

Location: Farmington Country Club

Guests: 116

Engagement Length: 7 months

How we met: At a mutual friend's dinner party.

Budget: $40,000

DIY: Out-of-town guest bags, guest book

Splurged on: An outdoor cigar bar

Scrimped on: Favors

Something old: My earrings

First dance song: "Be Mine" by David Gray

"Wow" moment: The flowers were incredible– I don't know anything about flowers, so I left it all up to Randy and Joey of Floral Images Design Studio, and the centerpieces were amazing– not to mention our initials in rose petals!

"Bridezilla" moment: I'm pretty easy going, so I don't think I had one.

Unexpected: My veil kept flying into my face because of the wind, so after two minutes I yanked it off and threw it on the ground. That got a good chuckle from everyone– guess I wasn't meant to wear a veil!

Advice: Really cherish every moment of being a bride! This is the most memorable day of your life, but it flies by– it is worth all the hard work you put into it!


Jason Winall & Jessica White

September 18, 2009

Location: St. James Chapel at Michaux, reception at The Gazebo at Winall home (my father-in-law's house)

Guests: 100

Engagement Length: Almost 3 months

How we met: We met each other during a summer when I was home from college working as an intern at a local construction company in which he was one of their subcontractors– we started dating and have been together since.

Budget: We kept it around $10,000

DIY: We did almost everything we could ourselves– anything from planning, set-up, decorations, to serving and take-down. We even helped with some of the restoration work completed on the church in the months previous to the wedding.

Splurged on: Our photography was the single most expensive item, but it was definitely worth every penny.

Scrimped on: By not using a wedding planner, not having a full bar, buffet-style dinner in lieu of a sit-down meal, and by setting up and assembling a lot of the things ourselves we saved a lot of money in the long run.

Something blue: The sapphire stone I have in my wedding ring in lieu of a diamond.

Music: Typical wedding music but mostly country music was played– really whatever the DJ felt like playing.

First dance song: "Treat Her Right" by Sawyer Brown

"Wow" moment: For our guests, it was seeing us on the horse-drawn carriage that we used to go between places or the quaintness of the church in which we got married– it was built in 1882 and has a lot of history behind it involving the community in which my husband grew up in.

"Bridezilla" moment: None that I can think of– it was a short planning period, and I was the one with the vision of what it was going to be– but I am truly thankful to have such a great family and group of friends who helped me tremendously throughout the whole process.

Unexpected: How many little things are involved when planning your own wedding– especially when you are having the reception at a family place and are not using anybody else to be the one in charge of the coordination between the vendors.

Advice: Make sure that your day is a reflection of you and, if at all possible, keep things small and simple.


Brandy Stone & Owen Walker

October 16, 2009

Location: King Family Vineyards

Guests: 92

Engagement Length: 10 months

How we met: We met in Washington, D.C.

Budget: We set a budget of $30,000, however I was able to stay well under the budget mainly because we had under 100 people. Owen and I made a list of which components were most important to us and spent accordingly.

DIY: I became best friends with the staff at my local Paper Source store and created the save the dates, programs, seating cards, and table numbers. I also sewed travel shoe bags as part of the bridesmaids' gifts. My mom took amazing pictures of King Family Vineyard which we made into a photo guest book.

Splurged on: Venue. We planned a private wine tasting in the barrel room prior to the rehearsal. We also hired Melissa Burr of Jennifer Carroll Events as the day-of wedding coordinator. In my opinion, it was the best decision we made– she took everything off my hands.

Scrimped on: I fell in love with a Melissa Sweet wedding dress, but not the price tag. I was lucky enough to find a dress made by Paloma Blanca that was almost identical, but a fraction of the cost.

Something old: I wore an antique opal ring given to me by my grandmother, Virginia Stone. Sewn into my dress was an ivory lace applique from my mother's wedding dress.

Music: Montebello Quartet performed at our ceremony cocktail hour and Horizon played during our reception.

First Dance Song: "L-O-V-E" by Nat King Cole

"Wow" moment: We decided to take our pictures prior to the ceremony in order to take full advantage of the cocktail hour. Our "wow" moment was a private meeting in the vineyards before taking pictures.

"Bridezilla" moment: The closest I had was during my last dress fitting, the week prior to the scheduled pick-up date. They made the mistake of taking an inch in along both sides of the dress instead of taking the dress up an inch at the hem. Needless to say, the dress wouldn't zip up. Their solution was for me to lose weight in one week in order to fix it– that was a completely unreasonable request, so for the next week I made sure that they accommodated my schedule so that the dress could be fixed.

Unexpected: We had hoped to have the ceremony outside with the mountains in the background– we didn't expect the weather to be 40 degrees and rainy the day of our wedding. While the rain had stopped prior to the ceremony, the temperature was still very cold. So while our hearts were set on having the ceremony outside, we loved the indoor option even more. The large lit fireplace was our backdrop– it was very intimate, romantic, and warm.

Advice: For the couple– stay together the entire night. It's so easy to be pulled in different directions especially while trying to talk to guests. The night is about the two of you so enjoy every last minute together.


Kate Lynn Schirmer & Adam Nemett

June 20, 2009

Location: Veritas Vineyard

Guests: 175

Engagement Length: 1.5 years

How we met: In a poetry workshop at Princeton University, where we both received our undergraduate degrees.

Budget: Less than $50,000

DIY: I made and printed the programs myself, in addition to crafting table signs/instructions for the speciality cocktails, Polaroid photo station, and candy bar. My husband designed the escort cards to look like old card catalog files– we're both writers and a literary theme pervaded our reception. I sourced a lot of materials from DIY-ers on Etsy.com.

Splurged on: The dress, a Melissa Sweet design; alcohol, including many different kinds of Veritas wines and port served throughout the night and a special champagne brought in by my father; providing every individual working behind the scenes the same meal as our guests.

Scrimped on: Not much! We used basic color laser printing for our invitations, but included some "wow" factor by adding a colored overlay of a watercolor painted by Adam's father of the ceremony site landscape.

Something old: A diamond necklace made out of one of my grandmother's earrings, which my sister Liza had made for me.

Music: The Adrian Duke Project, with a total of eight musicians including a horn section and an extra female vocalist.

First dance song: Two different versions of "Just Like Heaven:" an acoustic composition recorded by local singer/songwriter Helen Horal, which Adam had created for his proposal, that then segued into the original, fast-paced tune by The Cure.

"Wow" moment: The ceremony was spectacular all around: from the view of the Blue Ridge framing us to the family and friends participating as officiants and performers to the special rituals and text we created ourselves. We felt as though we were at the center of a beautiful, personal little world. Also, our first glance at the ballroom, which Shawn Cossette of Beehive Events arranged phenomenally, was pretty magical.

"Bridezilla" moment: From what everyone says, I was a fairly "zen" bride. However I did burst into tears when, after three unsuccessful days of dress shopping, a saleswoman at Macy's in New York forced me into this awful satin ballgown and called me a princess.

Unexpected: How much genuine fun it all was. And everyone tells you this, but it really does go by in a blur– you will be processing for weeks.

Advice: Dance! I was really pleased to look back on all the photos and see both of us rocking out on the dance floor. That's really who we are as a couple, so I'm glad we got to just be ourselves in that way, even if it meant not saying hello to every single guest. Also, eat everything! Why miss out?


Jennifer Schulz & David Goodman

May 23, 2009

Location: Bristow Manor Golf Club, Bristow, Virginia

Guests: 85

Engagement Length: 12 months

How we met: Even though we went to high school together, it wasn't until we ended up in the same dorm at JMU that we realized how much we clicked.

Budget: David's parents gave us our reception as our wedding gift. Our contribution to everything else was about $10,000, which covered music, photos, attire, decor, favors, flowers, etc.

DIY: I'm a graphic designer so I loved that Bristow basically let me do whatever I wanted. We made lace luminaria for the walkways, wine bottle table numbers, hand stitched our programs, die cut favor bags... everything really reflected our aesthetic, and in the end it was really worth the energy.

Splurged on: Photos and rings– they're the only things besides each other that you'll have after the big day.

Scrimped on: My dress– I found a gorgeous designer silk gown for under $150. It was an amazing find, and the only thing I didn't change my mind on throughout the entire planning process.

Something blue: I found a blue topaz cocktail ring as my something blue.

Music: We love the energy of a live band, so we asked the Josh Walker Trio to play our reception. We used an iPod packed with our favorite songs for the cocktail hour.

First dance song: "Heartbeats" by Jose Gonzales, but we also made sure we were on the dance floor for "Sweet Thing" by Van Morrison.

"Wow" moment: Seeing our photos was so exciting. We really put a lot of details into each aspect of our day, and the photographer really caught that.

"Bridezilla" moments: Probably the ugliest moment happened the day I ended up screaming at my Maid of Honor over the phone because she refused to buy her shoes.

Unexpected: I didn't know I'd have to speak Hebrew during our ceremony.

Advice: Enjoy being engaged! It's stressful, but you'll miss the bridal magazines and craft parties once it's all over.


Mary Stubblefield & Daniel Bracey

August 1, 2009

Location: Sweely Estate Winery

Guests: 160

Engagement Length: 8 months

How we met: We met through my friend from high school, who was Daniel's fraternity brother at UVA.

Budget: $20,000-25,000

DIY: I used my mom's button collection and placed one on each guest's place card. I covered clear glass candle votives with a white eyelet fabric. We named each guest's table after an important dog in our lives, and we printed the dogs' picture in black and white, framed them in cardstock, and placed them in a stand made from wine corks. We made two clothesline of 8X10 black and white baby pictures of ourselves and pictures of us as a couple, attaching the pictures with wooden clothespins. We also printed our own programs and placed them in glassine bags, and printed our own labels for water bottles with a logo of our names and wedding date.

Splurged on: Food, venue, the band, the fun stuff for our guests.

Scrimped on: For flowers, we used a lot of palms and greenery which saved money in the floral department. Also saved on invitations, save the dates, and programs.

Something new: My dress and birdcage veil

Music: Jimi Smooth and the Hit Time Band– these guys played at several date functions that Dan and I attended at the beginning of our relationship.

First dance song: "Stars Fell on Alabama," Jimmy Buffett

"Wow" moment: Lead singer from Parachute, Will Anderson, played the acoustic version of "She is Love" as my bridesmaids and I walked down the aisle– the moment was perfect! (My brother is the drummer in Parachute.)

"Bridezilla" moments: I don't think so, although other people may beg to differ. I really made a conscious effort not to freak out over things that didn't exactly work out the way I pictured them.

Unexpected: The weather was perfect for the ceremony, then there was a huge downpour during the reception (which involved some minor flooding, but was beautiful), then it cleared up for our sparkler send-off.

Advice: Savour every moment during the planning process so that you don't have any regrets. Don't take each detail too seriously; no one really cares if the plate they eat off of has a gold or silver rim. Your main goals should be to get married and make sure everyone who comes has a great time.


Eric Flow & Meghan Tellone

September 25, 2009

Location: Christ Episcopal Church, reception at King Family Vineyards

Guests: 250

Engagement Length: 10 months

How we met: While we were friends at UVA, we went on a ski trip to Telluride, CO during our second year, and the rest is history!

Budget: Approximately $50,000

DIY: The save-the-dates– designed them on Adobe Photoshop, put them together, turned out better than we could ever find in a book, online, etc. and so much cheaper!

Splurged on: The band (BS&M through Sam Hill) and the catering (20 South)– did an open bar, the whole nine yards– wanted people to have fun and be well fed!

Scrimped on: Not overdoing it with flowers, worked more with decor and lighting.

Something borrowed: Socks– too funny!– I forgot to pack them and I wore Cowboy boots under my dress (the best thing to dance in) and had to borrow a pair from my mom!

Music: BS&M– it was a hopping party... dance floor packed all night!

First dance song: Our wonderful band learned "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher

"Wow" moment: Our first dance blew everyone away. Everyone thought it was rehearsed and it wasn't at all! At the end, Eric dipped me and everyone could see my cowboy boots– everyone talked about them, even today. I only wore them because they are comfortable and I didn't feel like spending money on a pair of shoes I would never wear again!

"Bridezilla" moment: Nothing too outrageous; it rained the morning of my wedding day and everyone thought I'd flip out. I actually stayed extremely calm– I was just so happy for the special day and being surrounded by friends and family.

Unexpected: Just that the day/ceremony/reception were all better than I could have ever imagined!

Advice: Do not listen to anyone– don't follow silly traditions if you don't want to. It is your day, and it will turn out beautifully if you had anything to do with it!