Now you all know I'm excited as all-get-out to feature Lara and Darin's DIY wedding in a meadow in –you guessed it–Mammoth Lakes. Lara DIY-ed most of her mountain meadow wedding, making her own centerpieces. For other elements, she relied on professionals, including hiring a D.J. and having her dress custom made. She serves up some classic hindsight advice today, such as speak up early if you don't like something by a wedding professional, and get your partner in on the action early. Read more about Lara's low-key wedding.
Briefly tell us a bit about your wedding, the planning process, what inspired you and/or any special elements you incorporated.
I was engaged for a little more than a year so I had plenty of time to plan and enjoy my engagement, however you can never start planning too early because even with all that time I still felt a bit anxious as the event got closer and closer. We had our wedding outdoors in a meadow in Mammoth Lakes. We were able to convince our local Catholic priest to marry us outside (probably had something to do with the fact that we would be the last wedding he performed before he retired), which meant a lot. I was actually very inspired by my husband (then fiance) who said from the very beginning of the planning process that we should just have a big party and invite all of our friends. He didn't want it to be too formal because then we wouldn't be able to afford inviting a lot of people. My motto was simple yet elegant and not only did it take some of the pressure off, it turned out great. Our friends are still talking about how fun it was to this day! So listen to your husband-to-be, he does have good ideas.
What are three things you're glad you did?
- Hired a DJ: At first we were just going to have our iPod playing in an effort to save some money in this area, but at the last minute we realized that music is an extremely important part of a party and it helps keep the fun going so we hired a local DJ and he did an amazing job.
- Had my dress made: I loved the first dress I found in a bridal boutique in Southern California but it was WAY over my budget. I then found a second dress that I loved at JCrew, but it only came in ivory. After realizing that it was important to me to have a white dress on my wedding day, I took the JCrew dress to a local seamstress and had her copy it in white. It made my dress that much more personal.
- Had the whole thing outside, in one location: The convenience of having the ceremony and the reception all in one spot couldn't be beat. I loved that we had the ceremony and then everyone simply picked up their chairs and carried them about 50 feet to the reception tent and dance floor.
Three things you wish you had done?
- Picked a better first dance song: While I like the song we danced to for our first dance, which was John Denver's Follow Me, now that I look back I'm not sure it is actually fitting to our relationship.
- Had speeches/toasts: I guess this could be a good and bad thing. We had an afternoon ceremony and a cocktail reception. Because things were casual and there was no set time for speeches, we actually forgot about them because we were having so much fun. I think some people would have liked the opportunity to say something.
- Said something when my dress was originally goofed up: While I will always be happy that I had my dress made it did turn out to be a source of stress. The woman that I originally worked with did a fantastic job all the way up until my final fitting. When I went to try on the dress she had somehow cut the hem too short and crooked. As I stood in her living room looking at my feet sticking out I didn't know what to do. We'd had such a great time together until now and I knew she had worked so hard on the dress. So I took it home, only commenting that it was a little shorter than I had thought it would be. Once at home, I freaked out and took it to a tailor in Southern California who had to rebuild the whole bottom half of the dress. I regret not saying something to the original seamstress because I know she would have wanted to make it right for me.
Three things you wish you hadn't done?
- Freaked out when I was putting my dress on the day of the wedding: Every time I had tried my dress on before the actual big day, I had put it on over my head. When the wedding day came, I went and got my hair and makeup done. When I went to change, I realized it would be tough to get the dress over my head without messing up my hair, but I didn't think it would go on if I stepped into it, so I had my bridesmaids try to put it over my head. When I felt it squashing my hair, I freaked out. After several attempts I conceded to try stepping into it and it went right on without messing up my hair. Don't be stubborn on your wedding day!
- Waited until the night before and after the rehearsal dinner to put the flowers for the table settings together: We got our flowers from the local grocery store. They had put the bouquets and boutineers together for us but just gave me a bunch of loose flowers that I was to put in our DIY vases for the tables. I picked the flowers up in the afternoon the day before the wedding, a few hours before our rehearsal dinner. I should have put them in the vases then, but decided to wait until after the rehearsal dinner. However, the dinner was so fun it went really late and I came home just wanting to go to bed, but instead had to cut flowers and put them in 20 vases. It doesn't sound like much now, but it was overwhelming then.
- Made programs: At the last minute someone convinced me that we needed programs to let everyone know who was in the wedding party and so on. I scrambled to write them up, print them and fold them myself only to end up with a whole box of programs at the end of the wedding that no one used.
Three things you wish you hadn't worried about?
- The guests (as much as I did): We had a lot of non-mountain guests attend the wedding and I fretted about the weather, the bugs, sunscreen, and so on since we would be outdoors. I wanted my guests to be comfortable so I sent out several emails reminding them to wear comfortable shoes, hats, sunscreen and more. I think it came off as being a little overbearing.
- The transportation: The meadow where we were married is on Forest Service land and we were only allowed to have five cars parked at the actual meadow, which went to the priest and the caterers. Everyone else had to park about a half mile away and either walk or take one of the shuttles we had arranged to the site. My husband-to-be and I worried that people would not allow themselves enough time to get out to the site and would miss the ceremony. We didn't need to worry as everyone made it in time.
- The fact that the DJ was watching the ceremony and forgot to play music at the end when we were walking back down the "aisle" together: After we had said our "I Do's" and kissed we turned to walk down the aisle and it was silent. Our DJ was suppose to be playing "Another one bites the dust," but there was nothing. It seemed awkward to me and I felt a little embarrassed, but my brand new husband simply raised his hands and cheered and then everyone started clapping. It turns out our DJ had left his booth to come watch the ceremony and didn't get back to his setup in time to play the walking out music. No one seemed to care but me, so I really shouldn't have worried.
What is your very best hindsight advice?
No one is going to notice or even remember if little things go wrong at your wedding, so don't sweat the small stuff. Have a good bar and good music, and be realistic about your budget and your priorities. It's not a competition, it is the beginning of something very sacred, just remember that and you'll be fine.
- Photography: Susan Morning (Except for fire truck, vase, sign and other reception details)
- DJ: D.J. Rodney O.
- Catering: Linda Door
- Beer: Clocktower Cellar
- Lodging: Alpenhoff Lodge and Snowcreek Resort
- Tent Rental: Sierra Rentals
- Dance Floor: Hayden Cabin (Southern Mono Historical Society)