WEDDING- They did! Newlyweds weigh in

The guest list, the location,  the menu, the music, the dress. Planning a wedding takes time and– most times– a hefty chunk of change to boot. But as these newlyweds attest, neither a monster-in-law nor a monster storm can ruin this special day. As one bride puts it, "You only have one first wedding– make it great!" Amen.

Names: Sarah Babcock and Josh Krepon

Date: September 16, 2006

Ceremony/Reception:  Veritas Vineyard & Winery

Guests: 115

Engagement:  16 months

Budget:  $30,000

Splurged on:  Dress (Vera Wang), invitations, photographer

Scrimped on:  DJ (vs. band), Favors (none!)

Weather:  Perfect– low 80s. It was overcast all day, but the sun broke through the clouds right before the ceremony

Music: DJ Jon Garland played a mix of '50s, '80s, and current hits.

First dance song: "You Send Me" by Sam Cooke

Best: Looking back at the porch of Veritas while we were taking our photos with the sun setting and all of our guests mingling with bluegrass music (Uncle Henry's Favorites) playing in the background

Worst: The end of the reception. The night was so perfect that we did not want it to end!

Unexpected: The guest list shrank at the last minute due to illnesses, accidents, and everything else imaginable.

Advice: It's clichéd, but enjoy every moment, even the chaotic moments leading up to the big event. Planning your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and the end result will be magical.

Sarah Babcock and Josh Krepon


Names: Ashley Wroth and Chris Bibb

Date: October 7, 2006

Ceremony/reception at: The Greencroft Club in Ivy 

Guests: 135

Engagement: 10 months

Budget: $10,000, but we blew that by $25,000

Splurged on: Flowers, I think. Everything else was very reasonable

Scrimped on: We had a DJ instead of a band and no videographer. We had my sister-in-law put all our wedding pictures from Will Walker on a CD/DVD to music. It was wonderful and cheap! We used the music from our wedding favor which was a personal CD

Weather: It was  about as bad as it could get for an outdoor wedding at 6:30pm. It had been gorgeous all week but the day my family started arriving (Thursday) there was a torrential downpour. Three inches a day Thursday, Friday and Saturday with 25 MPH winds the day of and only 42 degrees! 

Music: We had a DJ..Superjock JJ. He was awesome! We gave him a list of songs that we wanted played and he totally accommodated us. We never felt like he had more control than us. He was very professional and so much fun! I would have him dj everything if I could!

First dance song: "When I Fall in Love" by Natalie Cole

Best: We have been to so many weddings and when they announce the bride and groom for the first time, most of the time the guests clap quietly or throw a whistle. Our entire tent erupted when we were announced after the ceremony. People were on their feet, whistling, hollering, yelling, clapping. Then, they did it again when we were announced at the reception! It was breathtaking!

Worst: I have to say the weather. Everything else was so great and went so smoothly but you can't do anything about the heavens opening up. The good thing was it stopped raining at 6, the ceremony started at 6:30 and was over at 7, so we took pictures outside until 7:15 when it started to rain again. I guess "someone" decided we had had enough.

Unexpected: My parents [Ashley's] divorced when I was very young and haven't spent too much "amicable" time together in about 30 years. Since the wedding, they have dinner together, they will have brunch, and they even shared some wine at the holidays. That has been the most overwhelming thing for me, and it's all thanks to Chris (as he likes to point out to all of us).

Advice: Enjoy every single minute of your engagement and wedding, even the bad times. You blink and it's over. If you spend all your time fretting over making everything perfect, you will miss out on the little, wonderful things that are going on around you that you can never get back. You only have one first wedding...make it great!

Sarah Babcock and Josh Krepon


Names: Stephanie Cornwell and Todd Keppich

Date: April 23, 2006

Ceremony: Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA/ Veritas Vineyard and Winery, Afton, VA

Guests: 80

Length of Engagement: 13 months

Budget: My parents were extremely generous.

Splurged on: Photography

Scrimped on: Music, transportation, no videographer

Weather: It poured the day before, Saturday, and the outdoor wedding that was planned at Veritas had to be moved inside. Sunday (my day) was sunny and beautiful with highs of 65. It was everything I'd hoped for.

Music: We had a DJ who played a combination of 70's and 80's stuff that everyone likes sprinkled in with dance music from today. Part way through the reception all [Virginia Tech] Hokie guests were invited out to do the Hokie Pokey. We had a great time, and it was a hit.

First dance song: The songs we originally loved and enjoyed together weren't really appropriate for a first dance, so we decided to go with an obscure classic that when we hear again– which will be rare– we'll both be brought back to that moment at our wedding. It was "Ribbon in the Sky" by Stevie Wonder.

Best: The ceremony. In the Episcopal Church, they have nine "prayers of the people." You can choose one or all to be read. We had our friends and family read them from the pews. So while we were facing each other we could hear the voices of our friends and family saying these meaningful prayers and wishing us well. It was heartwarming.

Worst: Planning. From the beginning, I knew this would not be fun. So we hired a wedding planner to help, and she was a godsend. I'm not what you'd call "your typical bride." It was not my finest hour.

Unexpected: My dress was an issue. We were having some problems with the buttons staying closed on the lace.  Anytime I'd go to hug anyone, they'd pop open. I dealt with it by thinking it would be fine, I just kept my bridesmaids handy, and they'd discreetly put me back together each time it happened.  

My mother had another idea. Next thing I know, I'm sitting in my dress, in a child's size chair (we were getting ready in the nursery) with my mother behind me armed with thread and a needle. She sewed the dress together where the buttons were on the lace. I never panicked and never thought twice about it until I got home with my new husband and he had to pull the scissors out to cut me out of the dress.

Advice: Relax. As much as you plan, the only thing you can do when it's all said and done is enjoy. I made sure I remembered everything. I took deep breaths and I took the time to take it all in, but I didn't relax. 

The other thing is to take the time to get the little things done before everything happens. I procrastinated writing Todd a note that I wanted him to get before the ceremony. So instead of hanging with my girls before we left for the church I was upstairs writing to him, and I should have been able to make time to do that before.

Stephanie Cornwell and Todd Keppich


Names: Kathleen Kambic and Ben Blanchard

Date: July 29, 2006

Ceremony/reception: Jefferson Vineyards/Omni Hotel

Guests: 150

Engagement: 16 months

Budget: We spent more than we expected but not so much to give my dad a heart attack.

Splurged on: The dress and open bar.

Scrimped on: The table setting (buying tablecloths on eBay and chair covers) and got the least expensive chairs for the ceremony

Weather: The weather was very humid but overcast. A short sprinkle delayed the ceremony by about 15 minutes. Then it cleared for the ceremony and pictures and started up again as we were on our way back to town on the trolley. We took the weather for good luck.

Music: Soul music played by The Heartbeat of Soul. They were so energetic and fun.

First dance song: "Green Eyes" by Coldplay

Best: Everyone had a great time and danced the whole night. The music was great, including the polka interlude.

Worst: Not being able to eat the chocolate covered strawberries and drink the champagne in the honeymoon suite because we were so tired and fell asleep.

Unexpected: How little time we got to spend with each other that weekend.

Advice: Enjoy the whole journey, good and bad– it only happens once.

Kathleen Kambic and Ben Blanchard


Names: Brenda Hatfield and Darin Martin, Jr.

Date: October 21, 2006

Ceremony/ reception: Grace Episcopal Chuch, Keswick/Glenmore Country Club

Guests: 140

Engagement: 10 months

Budget: $30,000

Splurged on: Photography & wedding dress

Scrimped on: Flowers, we only used flowers for the church and for the wedding party, and the six bridesmaid bouquets were used as center pieces at the family table for the reception. We also saved on the cake by having a friend of a friend make it, which turned out perfectly!

Weather: A beautiful fall day, sunny and not too cold, the leaves were just changing color, the weather was perfect!

Music: DJ

First dance song: "At Last" by Etta James

Best: My cousin was able to perform our ceremony making it that much more personal.

Also, the photography, by Jen Fariello, we got so many compliments from all our guests on what an amazing job she did. She was everywhere and was able to capture every fun moment for us and made our wedding experience spectacular, definately worth the "splurge."

Worst: The DJ was not very organized

Unexpected: How fast such a long day can fly by!

Advice: Do your homework when it comes to DJs and photographers, they are two very important parts of a reception. Also, remember only you know when things are not going as planned no one else does, so relax!

Brenda Hatfield and Darin Martin


Names: Emily Bean and Brian Thiede

Date: May 13, 2006

Ceremony/reception: UVa Chapel/King Family Vineyard

Guests: 135

Engagement: 13 months

Budget: $32,000

Splurged on: We splurged on our photography, wedding location and setup (tents etc).

Scrimped on: The dress. I had already picked out my dress and was planning to buy it full price when I found it on sale for only about 20% of the original price at a sample sale. We also chose less expensive flower arrangements (used candles in centerpieces, etc), and didn't have favors.

Weather: Perfect! About 72 degrees, sunny, fair. It was supposed to rain at exactly 4pm when the ceremony started but the skies were clear until after nightfall. A perfect May day in C'ville.

Music: Jon Garland, DJ

First dance song: "True Companion" by Marc Cohn

Best: Everything was amazing, but the look on Brian's face when I said my vows was the highlight for me.

Worst: We didn't know until the day after, but the wait staff misplaced some of the champagne so many of our guests did not have champagne for the toasts.

Unexpected: After dance lessons for Brian, my parents, and me, we all forgot everything we learned when the time came for the first dance and father daughter dance. I expected that I would be crying during the sentimental dances but instead we all laughed the whole time because we couldn't remember the steps.  

Also, my engineer father gave a great toast during which he managed to weave in the movie Armageddon and thermo-nuclear weapons. It was hilarious, and I definitely didn't expect it!

Advice: Select a few things during the planning process that you are willing to invest the most time, money, and energy into and don't stress about the rest. There's no such thing as a perfect wedding so it's important to know which aspects you care about the most. 

Also, only invite great people who mean a lot to you.  
Emily Bean and Brian Thiede


Names: Tara Smith and Konrad Sarosiek

Date: June 10, 2006

Ceremony/reception at:  University of Virginia Chapel/Farmington Country Club

Guests: 100

Engagement: 17 months. Konrad and I met at UVA. We dated for just under five years, when Konrad unexpectedly swept me off to Paris and proposed underneath the stars on the Eiffel Tower.

Budget: I don't know

Splurged on:  Band, photographer, and open bar

Scrimped on:  Party favors

Weather: Most perfect day imaginable! Beautiful, not a cloud in the sky and fortunately not too hot!

Music: The Brothership, a band from Durham, North Carolina.

First dance song:  "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong

Best:  The kiss, of course! And making the wedding a whole day affair– we spent the entire day celebrating with our family and closest friends!

Worst:  Honestly, everything was perfect... But I happen to have the best mom in the world who made sure everything went as planned.

Unexpected:  Choking up before walking down the aisle with my dad, but then feeling the most amazing rush of happiness when he gave me away to Konrad.  

Advice:  1.  Sneak away with your husband and take a few minutes just for yourselves to take everything in– your guests won't notice, and it means a lot to have that moment together.

2.  Let your mom help you plan. She is one of the people in the world who knows you best, and it will be one of the most amazing memories you share.

Tara Smith and Konrad Sarosiek


Names: Katherine Dowling & Marc Axelbaum

Date: October 7, 2006

Ceremony/receptiont: Keswick Hall

Guests: 200

Engagement: A little over nine months

Budget: More than some, less than others

Splurged on: Band and alcohol and having it at Keswick 

Scrimped on: The cake (it was terrible but luckily we had a three tiered dessert tray on each table with mini pastries), the dress (Amy Kuschel in San Francisco– it was gorgeous and I liked it better than the dresses that were three times the price).

Weather: Cold/windy/drizzly but the next day was gorgeous

Music: Sound Connection out of DC– they were


First dance song: "Shining Star" by the Manhattans

Best: The energy and love the whole wedding weekend. People had an amazing time. We were able to take over all of Keswick so we had a "captive" audience.

Worst: Weather. We were supposed to have the ceremony outside, but we got great pictures and no one seemed to care except me!

Unexpected: My Mom and sister made amazing goodie bags for each room from scratch with a treat from each state to which Marc and I had a connection. People loved them. 

Also, getting listed in the New York Times Sunday Styles

Advice: Enjoy every moment and don't sweat the small stuff because someone else will.

Also, make sure no one with really big hair is seated in the aisle for the ceremony because it is a huge distraction in the pictures of the walk up the aisle! We are hoping our amazing photographer Jen Fariello can photoshop her out! 

Katherine Dowling and Mark Axelbaum


Names: Allison Orr and Drew Larsen

Date: August 5, 2006

Ceremony/reception: First Presbyterian Church/farm of the bride's parents

Guests: 250

Engagement: 15 months

Budget: Just be ready to be flexible

Splurged: Having an outdoor wedding, we provided a mobile bathroom trailer– a "luxury loo"

Saved: On table frills, and by providing homemade favors by the bride and groom.

Weather: Beautiful 85 degree day and cooler evening after 10 days of 100 degree days.

Music: Ceremony prelude, processional, and recessional all were classical music selections provided by members of the Piedmont Chamber Players.  A memorable solo by Alli's sister accompanied by an acoustic guitar provided a special moment during the ceremony. More classical music at the cocktail hour and dinner was followed with great fun dancing to music provided by the Houserockers.

First dance song:  "Doing It All for My Baby"  by Huey Lewis and the News

Unexpected: The best surprise was how smoothly everything came together. Even though our family had recently been touched by tragedy at the time of our wedding, our wedding day served as a timely reminder for how much we were loved and, ironically, how much we had to be thankful for.

Advice: Don't be afaid to be sentimental. Include little touches in the ceremony to honor loved ones who cannot be with you on your wedding day. Focus on the important things– your love for each other and for your family and friends– and not on the details you will never remember in 50 years.

Allison Orr and Drew Larsen


Names: Amy West and Peter Pollak

Date: May 13, 2006

Ceremony/reception: St. John's Historic Chapel in Gordonsville/Clifton Country Inn

Guests: 90

Engagement: 18 months

Budget: $20,000

Splurged on: Our reception site and our photographers, Bill and Anne Holland. The whole experience– especially the way their photos captured so many emotional moments– was truly priceless.

Scrimped on: We saved money by making our own programs. Peter decided to share some fun with the guests, so the programs included historical wedding trivia, blurbs about our families and members of the bridal party– and even Sudoku! 

Weather: We got lucky. The forecast predicted evening showers, so we ended up renting a clear plastic tent to cover the outdoor veranda and the dance floor, but the rain held off. It was a cool May day in Charlottesville, and we loved the effect of the tent's lights when the sun set.

Music: We made playlists for dinner using our iPods and hired a DJ for the cocktail hour and after dinner dancing.

First dance song: Our first dance song was changed at the last moment– somehow the DJ didn't have "Angel" by Sarah McLaughlin. My maid-of-honor grabbed us right before we the dance started and asked for an alterate song! We had been listening to "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt earlier in the week, so it was fresh in our minds.

But if you know the song, you know we chose this song without really thinking about the lyrics, including a very loud curse word in the middle of the song! We were laughing so hard that we almost cried when that happened. There was an audible sound as a few jaws hit the floor. Whoops!

Best: Marrying my best friend and spending a weekend with everyone that is most important in our lives. We were so fortunate to have Amy's grandfather and Peter's grandmother in good health and so many relatives travel from overseas, including Peter's parents and Amy's sister.

Worst: Not getting to eat enough of the appetizers!

Unexpected: How vivid the memory is. We both thought the wedding day would go by in a blur, but we were able to relish each moment.

Advice: Make it your own, say "thanks," find ways show your friends and family just how much their presence (not presents) mean to you, and, finally, somtime during the wedding day, don't forget to take a step back, look around at all of your guests, take a deep breath, smile big, and enjoy the moment!

Amy West and Peter Pollak
PHOTO BY Holland PhotoArts