We did: Secrets of saying "I do"



Names: Mark and Sarah Raffinan

Date: July 2, 2005

Ceremony: a farm in Free Union

Reception: Farmington Country Club

Guests: close to 150

Engagement: 15 months

Budget: Worth every penny, but a whole lotta $$$!

Weather: Wonderful! Clear, low humidity, 90 degrees

Menu: Passed hors d'oeuvres, then a full-service dinner Music: Uncle Henry's Favorites provided bluegrass music for the ceremony and cocktail hour. Then we switched over to Motown/dance music with a great band called Horizon.

Best: Having an event planner to make all of our dreams come true with none of the stress of having to pull it off ourselves. We really got to sit back and enjoy the entire weekend. The best part of the actual day would have to be when we read the vows that we had written to each other. Our interfaith minister had taken us through a long process of getting ready to stand up there and be married, so the vows were a culminating moment that meant a lot to us.

Worst: The only thing that bums us out is that we might never have that much fun again in our whole lives!

Unexpected: The only "unexpected" things were some of the dance moves that we saw guests trying to pull off.

Advice: 1) Decide what you want (not what your mom or the magazines tell you you "should" want) and 2) Hire an event planner who is going to listen to those ideas and make them happen


Names: Erin Davis and Charles Keiningham

Date: October 29, 2005

Ceremony: UVA Chapel

Reception: Glenmore Country Club


Engagement: 9.5 months

Budget: $50,000

Weather: Sunny, high of 56

Menu: Full service dinner

Music: DJ from the DJ connection

Best: One great thing was that Charles' cousin Colin returned from the war in Iraq just two weeks before, surprising everyone. The best thing was having all of our family and friends in one place, like a big family reunion.

Worst: Before we knew it, it was over!!!

Unexpected: Erin's sister, who was a bridesmaid, had a sick child running a very high fever and had to leave immediately after the wedding to take the little guy to the doctor.

Advice: Don't bother registering; no one pays any mind to that. Don't cut corners– if there's something you really want that you've always dreamed of, find a way to have it. And oh– relax, smile, have fun, and don't sweat the small stuff– you certainly don't want to be labeled a Bridezilla.


Names: Jen Chafin & Lee King

Date: April 9, 2005

Ceremony: UVA Chapel

Reception: Omni Hotel

Guests: 85

Engagement: 15 months

Budget: $10,000

Weather: After a week of rain, our wedding day was the sunniest and warmest day of the year to that point.

Menu: Buffet and heavy hors d'oeuvres

 Music: DJ

Best: Lee and I met in the fall of 1995 as first years at UVA. When we began planning our wedding almost 10 years later, there was no question we'd be married in Charlottesville, despite the fact that we moved to Seattle only a couple of months after getting engaged. The best moment by far was seeing each other in the Chapel– but bringing everyone we loved together in Charlottesville was the icing on the cake. To celebrate our love and commitment in a town so full of memories was an absolutely amazing experience.

Worst: Debit card spending limits. Keep in mind that no matter how much you have in your bank account, the bank won't let you spend more than your daily limit. Don't wait until after a delicious rehearsal dinner– and lots of wine– to find out what that limit is. Our phone call with Wells Fargo was 45 minutes lost with our guests that we'll never get back!

Unexpected: Lee's aunt surprised us by putting together a hilarious slide show of childhood photos that ran on loop during our reception. It was sweet and definitely entertaining for our guests!

Advice: Enjoy every minute of being surrounded by your closest friends and family– even the stressful times. The stories of things gone horribly wrong are more entertaining anyway!


Names: Sean and Caitlin Gallagher

Date: November 5, 2005

Ceremony: UVA Chapel

Reception: Boar's Head Inn

Guests: 65

Engagement: 11 months

Budget: Approximately $30,000

Weather: It was a beautiful, sunny day, 77 degrees! The beautiful Virginia foliage was at peak color.

Menu: Cold passed hors d'oeuvres and hot stations for the cocktail hour on the patio outside; then a buffet dinner.

Music: Organist Norman Allen for the ceremony, and a live swing band, The Red Hot Smoothies, for the reception.

Best: The entire day went off without a hitch.

Worst: Sadly, Caitlin's father and stepmother passed away six weeks apart in June and August 2005 (respectively). They were an important part of Caitlin's life, and they were heavily involved in the wedding planning. We chose to go on with the wedding as planned, because that's what they would have wanted. But having them in attendance would have made the day perfect.

Unexpected: It's always surprising how quickly the cost of each element of a wedding can add up and how easy it is to have an intimate gathering turn into a much larger production.

Advice: Don't lose sight of what a wedding is. It's not to impress your friends and family; it's to celebrate your love for one another in the company of your dearest family and friends. So just take a deep breath and remember what a wedding is really about. You'll be celebrating this special day with your loved ones, and you're marrying the person you will be spending your life with.


Names: Rob and Alison Anderson

Date: May 7, 2005

Ceremony & reception: Jefferson Vineyards

Number of guests: 90

Engagement: 18 months

Budget: $20,000-25,000

Weather: 70 degrees, clear

Menu: Open bar, beer, and Jefferson Vineyard wines, passed hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour, plated salad with buffet meal by C&O catering.

Music: DJ by Astro DJ's, Virginia Beach

Best: In having a smaller wedding with only family and close friends, we felt that we were truly sharing our wedding with the people who matter most in our lives. Worst: The limo didn't show up to pick up the bride and her bridesmaids from the hotel to go take photos. They ended up driving themselves. Later, the limo company denied we had a reservation.

Unexpected: Besides the limo, our wedding officiant was a half-hour late. Even so, all in all, it was a perfect day. All the planning paid off, everyone had a good time, and it was a day to remember.

Advice: Be very specific about who is invited to your wedding. We had several people RSVP with multiple additional people who were not invited. It caused a lot of extra headaches and stress that could have been avoided.


Names: Meghan Reppert and Sebastien Lehembre

Date: December 18, 2005

Ceremony: UVA Chapel

Reception: Clifton Inn

Number of guests: 100

Length of engagement: 10 months

Budget: $20,000

Weather: 40 degrees and sunny

Menu: A sit-down dinner at the Clifton Inn. There was wine and champagne, but not a full bar.

Music: We had a wonderful DJ, Tommy Nelson.

Best thing: We loved having a wedding that was small enough to know everyone. Each person there really meant something special to us.

Worst thing: Pulling everything together before the wedding. There were so many last-minute things to do.

Unexpected: I said 'I will' too soon. The entire night was too fast– it was over before we knew it.

Advice: Enjoy it and get lots of pictures!


Names: Anya Scott and Stefan Bechtel

Date: June 11, 2005

Ceremony & Reception: Our home, Free Union Road

Guests: 60

Engagement: four months

Budget: $3,000

Weather: After much hemming and hawing, sunny and 80

Menu: Indian buffet. Fabulous wedding cake from HotCakes

Music: Gospel, jazz

Best: Having the wedding in our back yard and greeting the guests in a bikini and no make-up 20 minutes before the start of the ceremony; having an excuse to hang out with out-of-town friends for days before the event, walking down to take our vows hand in hand, barefoot, omitting from our vows any of the traditional nonsense that we find offensive.

Worst: Weather was touch-and-go (will it or won't it rain?) until an hour before the ceremony. Then it got gorgeous.

Unexpected: Brother-in-law showed up in shorts. Not a good move.

Advice: We decided right away not to try to impress anyone, and that made the whole thing light and free and fun. It was also a good idea to do a seating chart and avoid the possibility of our most tattooed friend sitting next to the new mother-in-law. Just throw yourselves a great party, that's the best advice.


Names: Julia Casteel and Adam Racine

Date: September 10, 2005

Ceremony: Hebron Lutheran Church in Madison

Reception: Glenmore Country Club

Guests: 135

Engagement: One year

Budget: We'll just say I'm lucky I have such nice parents.

Weather: The weather was gorgeous! Sunny and in the 80s

Menu: Passed hors d'oeuvres, salad, plated dinner, wedding cake in four amazing custom flavors created by the pastry chef, and Crusties (a favorite from Radford where I went to college) shipped in and heated and brought out late in the evening.

Music: DJ, Rick Haggard

Best: There are actually two bests. The first is the amount of fun our family and friends had. When the reception ended, no one wanted to leave. People are still talking about it. The other best thing is the overall look of the reception. It was exactly how I had envisioned it. Between the lanterns and lighting and the centerpieces with so many flowers and hanging votives, decor, and cake, it was truly breathtaking.

Worst: That it came and went so fast. People told us the day would be a blur, but we told ourselves that we would take it one minute at a time and take it all in. It was still a blur.

Unexpected: How sad I was when it was all over. I had spent so much time planning that I had a lot of free time after returning from the honeymoon. I was also surprised how weird it was not to speak to some of our vendors on a daily basis anymore. I felt like I should send them emails saying, "Hey, how are you? Long time no talk."

Advice: If you have a "vision" for something like your flowers or certain favors or using a tent rather than a ballroom, stick to your guns. Both my mother and my husband thought I was crazy multiple times throughout the process. But once they saw everything together, they both apologized and agreed that I was 100 percent right. Grooms, learn quickly that you have very little say in the planning process. The quicker you accept that, the easier on both you and your bride-to-be.


Names: Kevin and Carolyn Coppersmith

Date: August 6, 2005

Location: The ceremony was at Lee Chapel and the reception was at Evans Hall, both on the campus of Washington and Lee in Lexington

Guests: 140

Engagement: 15 months

Budget: $35,000

Weather: Sunny and humid. Just as the bridal party was about to leave the chapel after the pictures had been taken, we heard thunder, so we sprinted to the reception hall. The second we got through the doors it started pouring!

Menu: We had a cocktail hour with passed appetizers followed by a seated dinner.

Music: DJ. The first dance was "I want to be your everything," by Keith Urban

Best: My husband's toast. The entire room teared up. And having my dad walk me down the aisle: he had been diagnosed with cancer the year before and had made a full recovery– so he could be there with me as I walked down the aisle. That meant so much to me. And having our families there and so happy– that was really the best thing.

Worst: I regret not having a videographer, especially since my father and my husband gave the most beautiful heart-felt toasts. I'd give anything to go back in time and record them. Also, my husband and I were so focused on saying hello to all our guests that we didn't spend any time together at the reception. And we didn't dance at all after the first dance!

Unexpected: My cake had a beautiful topper of fresh flowers in a silver bowl, and when the florist set it in position, it was too heavy and collapsed into the cake. Also, my mother-in-law arranged for everyone to throw lavender at us as we left the reception– and the buds got in our eyes, ears, throats, noses, and they were so fragrant that we were sneezing and had watery eyes all night long! Oh, and my husband and I had decided not to exchange wedding gifts, but the day of the wedding he surprised me as I was having my makeup done. He had my maid of honor deliver the gift to me– he gave me the most beautiful pearl earrings to wear that evening, and wrote me the most incredible love letter. Of course I couldn't stop crying, I was so touched.

Advice: Splurge on the dress! It was the one thing I was aware of all day and all evening. I was so excited and overwhelmed that I wasn't paying attention to any of the details we'd put so much thought into, but from the moment I put on my dress I felt wonderful and got so many compliments. Also, my husband and I planned our wedding from New York, and since my mom was six hours away, she couldn't help with a lot of it. So my fiancé came to all the appointments, and we picked our invitations, place cards, programs, table numbers, flowers, bridesmaid dresses, and tuxes together. It made the wedding feel like ours and not just mine.


Names: Hallie and Brendan Farley

Date: June 18, 2005

Location: Ceremony and reception at Ash Lawn-Highland

Guests: 180

Engagement: A little over a year

Budget: $30,000, but we ended up going over, surprise!

Weather: A beautiful summer day. Clouds drifted in for a scary moment, but the rain missed us. It was perfect.

Menu: We had a buffet, with a few different areas including a quesadilla station, shrimp and grits and different kinds of salads. The highlight was a margarita bar with choices including mango and strawberry.

Music: The band was great, The Many Moods, and they played everything from Louis Armstrong to Prince.

Best: Walking back down the isle, after saying our vows. Brendan and I were both smiling like lunatics. We were husband and wife, it was the first time that we really saw our grinning friends and family, and we were on our way to a spectacular life together (and a great party). We will always remember that moment.

Worst: The day had to end... The time went by so quickly that in the blink of an eye, after a year of planning, it was over. Good thing weddings are followed by honeymoons...

Unexpected: The amount of fun we had on our wedding day and at the reception. It ranks as one of the best parties Brendan or I have ever been to, although we are a little biased.

Advice: Try to remember that it's just one day (which will be over too quickly). So, as my Dad would say, 'Don't sweat the small stuff!'