WEDDING-I do's... and don'ts: Newlyweds weigh in on big day



Mana Behbin and Richard E. Baltimore Jr.

May 12, 2007

Location: Civil ceremony on the croquet lawn, Persian ceremony on the front lawn at the Clifton Inn, reception in the main dining room (dinner) and on the terrace (dancing) at the Inn

Guests: 92

Engagement: 11.5 months

Budget: $60,000

Splurged on: Wedding dress and photographer

Scrimped on: Programs

Weather: Our ceremony was delayed by 45 minutes because of rain. After the rain, it was partly cloudy and then the sun broke through.

Music: American Dumpster

First dance song: "You're the One" by the Black Keys as performed by American Dumpster

Best: The service at the Clifton Inn and Jessica Sheffield's day-of coordination.

Worst: A drunken errant toast by a guest

Unexpected: Rain

Advice: If you're going to stress out, stress out about the little details while planning the wedding so that on your wedding day you can hand it all over to a day-of coordinator extraordinaire (a must), relax, and let the chips fall where they may. You'll know you did your very best to make the perfect day.




Meggie Strickler and Evan Powers

August 18, 2007

Location: Ceremony at Christ Episcopal Church, reception at Farmington Country Club

Guests: 145

Engagement: 13 months

Budget: I don't know.

Splurged on: Beautiful lighting by Blue Ridge Light Forms– it transformed the room and highlighted key design elements of the reception. The groom's cake (a standing owl with individual chocolate feathers, wearing a hat and sweater, with a baseball bat slung over his shoulder). I wasn't sure it was possible to bake the cake I had envisioned, but Ricky Lasher (of Farmington and Cakes of Art) designed a cake that was more amazing than anything I could have imagined.

Scrimped on: We kept our costs under control by working exclusively with local vendors. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Charlottesville area has a wealth of accomplished vendors— such as photographer Jen Fariello and Pat's Floral Designs— whose products and services are as good as, if not better than, those available in a city like New York (where we lived while planning the wedding). We had the wedding of our dreams, and there was no need to fly anyone or anything in. 

Weather: Clear and 80 degrees with next to no humidity. It was the first day of the summer that the mountains weren't obscured by haze.

Music: Big Ray & the Kool Kats, a wonderful band from right here in Charlottesville!

First dance song: "Fly Me to the Moon" (originally performed by Frank Sinatra)

Best: It's nearly impossible to pick one thing, but the giddy feeling I had as we walked back up the aisle as husband and wife is hard to beat! 

Worst: It was over too soon! I've never had as much fun as I did at our wedding.

Unexpected: For Evan, the owl groom's cake (a well-kept secret!). For both of us: the welcome presence of a close friend from college who we thought would not be able to come.

Advice: (1) At some point during the day, stop, look around, and take it all in. With all that's going on throughout the wedding day, it's difficult— but important— to take time to appreciate how rare it is to have all your closest friends and family together in a beautiful setting.

(2) Consider hiring an event designer. Our wedding was absolutely beautiful and went off without a hitch (if anything went wrong, we still don't know about it) thanks to the thorough preparations of our amazing planner, Jennifer Carroll.




Kate Graw and Scott Lamond

April 21, 2007

Location: Ceremony at Grace Episcopal Church (Cismont/Keswick), reception at Keswick Hall  

Guests: 160

Engagement: 18 months

Budget: Our parents were incredibly generous.

Splurged on: Keswick Hall and all the little details

Scrimped on: Time. We wish we had had more than six days for our honeymoon.

Weather: Perfect. It felt like the first real day of spring.

Music: Marquise– organized by Sam Hill Bands 

First dance song: "It Had to Be You"

Best: Organizing a weekend of golf and events for our family and friends to meet each other before the reception 

Worst: Nothing

Unexpected: We had an after-party with mini-burgers, Oreo milkshakes, and a DJ– we never thought we would stay up with our guests dancing until 4am!

Advice: Have an event coordinator, even if just for the day of the wedding. It will really help alleviate stress for everyone!  




Beth Duffy and Scott Cox 

November 10, 2007

Location: Ceremony at Christ Episcopal Church, reception at Glenmore Country Club 

Guests: 250

Engagement: 6 months

Budget: Very generous fiance and parents

Splurged on: Reception. We had an open bar, and the food was great at Glenmore!

Scrimped on: Invitations and flowers. The flowers were beautiful, but I didn't go overboard.

Weather: Partly cloudy and in the upper 40's

Music: Our guests enjoyed the music so much that we had to move tables and chairs away from the dance floor to expand it! We played everything from country to rap and '70s and '80s songs. We set the stage for a fun and energetic reception with the introduction of the wedding party. The bride graduated from Virginia Tech, and the football team takes the field to the song "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. The wedding party was introduced to the instrumental part of that song.

First dance song: "Someone Like You" by Van Morrison

Best: Scott surprised me with our getaway transportation. Since he's a Sergeant with Albemarle County Police, I thought he was planning a police escort or something like that, but when we left the reception surrounded by our guests holding sparklers, a horse-drawn carriage was waiting for us at the end of the line. It was the most romantic thing.

Worst: Not being able to have the late Robert Cox (groom's dad) there

Unexpected: We had an unexpected treat for our guests. Since we both come from sports-oriented families (and even met on the field at UVA's Scott Stadium), we set up a pub room off the dance floor where we aired the UVA/Miami and Virginia Tech/Florida State games. (Both UVA and VT got the wins!).

Advice: Try to find a moment to step away from the action to take it all in.  



Heather Farquhar and Michael Banchi

Date: November 10, 2007

Location: Ceremony at UVA Chapel, reception at Veritas Winery & Vineyard 

Guests: 100

Engagement: 18 months

Budget: More than we expected, but my husband says it was worth every penny!

Splurged on: Our two biggest splurges were the photographer and the dress, and we couldn't have been happier with both. Jen Fariello is a very talented photographer and was so easy to work with. My dress was a simple, elegant gown made of gorgeous fabric from Priscilla of Boston.

Scrimped on: We opted for a DJ instead of a band, and were very pleased with our choice. We also decided to forego having a videographer.

Weather: Cold! but no rain. You'd never know from our pictures that our bridal party was numb from head to toe by the end of the photo session. I was thankful that we chose an indoor ceremony.

Music: To honor my Scottish heritage, we had bagpiper Robert Mitchell before and after the ceremony. We had the Encore String Quartet inside the church, and DJ Derek Tobler for the cocktail hour and reception. All were excellent choices. Derek really kept people on the dance floor, which was important to us. He also doubled as our dance instructor for our first dance!

First Dance Song: "She's Got a Way" by Billy Joel.

Best: The vows, of course! Second to the ceremony was probably the first dance. I truly felt like a princess being twirled around the ballroom by my prince charming. Having all our family together was also priceless.

Worst: I ended up with a stomach bug for part of the reception and two days following. It was a little blip in an otherwise perfect day.

Unexpected: I was floored when three of my bridesmaids chose to give heartfelt toasts, since I had asked only the maid of honor. We also hadn't expected that the best man would be dancing on one of the candle-laden tables half way through the evening!

Advice: One of the best decisions we made was to take a day in between the wedding and honeymoon to unwind. We packed, opened presents, and decompressed. We stayed in D.C. Sunday night and flew to our destination Monday morning. We would also highly recommend having someone help coordinate the wedding weekend. While I didn't have a wedding planner throughout the process, two friends offered their time and organization skills to run the rehearsal, ceremony logistics, and reception coordination. They were incredible, and I didn't have to think about a thing on the day of the wedding. 




Nicole O'Brien and Ashley Snyder

April 22, 2007

Location: Ceremony at UVA Chapel, reception at Veritas Vineyards

Guests: 210

Engagement: 9 months

Budget: n/a

Splurged on: An oyster bar!

Scrimped on: I don't feel like we "scrimped" on anything.

Weather: Beautiful– 75 degrees and sunny all weekend

Music: The Jangling Reinharts– they're the best!

First dance song: "Tupelo Honey" by Van Morrison

Best: The whole event went incredibly smoothly, and we were so lucky to be surrounded by our friends and family.

Worst: Prices seem to double as soon as you say "wedding."

Unexpected: Ashley surprised me and rented a white 1961 Cadillac convertible for our getaway car.

Advice: So many of our guests commented on our personal details– it really makes the day so much more special if you forget about the conventions and do what makes you both happy. For example, we had a bonfire with s'mores and Greek pastries instead of a wedding cake.





Colleen McMorrow and Jeff Tuman

June 15, 2007

Location: Ceremony in Garden VIII of the UVA lawn, reception at Keswick Hall

Guests: Approximately 115

Engagement: A little less than a year

Budget: Thanks to our gracious parents, enough to allow us our perfect wedding

Splurged on: With a little extra time, tons of money need not be spent on all aspects to have a beautiful wedding. However, we knew pictures were very important to us, and we weren't going to settle. Also, we wanted a dinner and reception location worth flying across the country for. 

Scrimped on: As much as possible. For example: 1. Why get a limo when the groom's Jeep will do? 2. A wedding dress need not break the bank to look beautiful. 3. A little creativity saves money on stationery.

Weather: Touch and go early on, appearing as though our guests might get a little wet in the garden. But as the vows were said, the sun came out.

Music: At the ceremony, two of our good friends played the violin. At the reception, a DJ from Manny Green Entertainment provided a good mix for dancing.

First dance song: "Everything" by Michael Buble

Best: Having a great weekend with friends and family

Worst: Waking up the morning of your outside wedding to rain (just make sure you have an alternative even though you may not need it)

Unexpected: A well-planned day with lots of help from family and friends prevented anything unexpected. Don't do it all yourself.

Advice: We strongly encourage other couples to take a few minutes before the ceremony to enjoy a private moment together. It takes much of the pressure off, and may be the only time alone to reflect on the day.




Kelly Morgan Taffe and Hunter Kyle Lynn

September 29, 2007

Location: Ceremony at Oakencroft vineyard, reception under a tent at Oakencroft

Guests: 150. And when you're both from Charlottesville, it's very hard to limit to 150!

Engagement: 12 months

Budget: $25,000 (reception and ceremony) 

Splurged on: Photographer Jen Fariello, and she's worth every penny! If there's one thing you want to take from a wedding, it's the pictures for memories. 

Scrimped on: Flowers. When I say scrimped, I'm referring to the amount of money spent on them, not on the way they looked. My mother and her friend Peggy Zunka arranged all the flowers, and they were gorgeous!

Weather: Absolutely perfect! Gorgeous sunny day– and since it was an outdoor ceremony, the weather was crucial.

Music: DJ Rob Garland had everyone dancing all night!

First dance song: "Everything" by Michael Buble. We wanted to surprise everyone with a fast dance that we took lessons for.

Best: We had a horse and carriage bring my father and me. It was a special moment for us before he gave Hunter my hand in marriage. 

Worst: We didn't have a bad moment all night, but the funniest was when the priest (a close family friend to my big Catholic family) announced us husband and wife by Hunter's father's name Kyle and Kelly Lynn! Actually, it was so funny it may be the best moment.

Unexpected: At the end of the night, all nine of the groomsmen came out with no shirts and simply their tuxedo vests and danced in a line to NSYNC "It's Gonna Be Me." They were priceless. I don't think they had anything planned; it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing.  

Advice: At some point during the night, take a second to breathe it all in. Hunter and I took a moment when we were getting our pictures taken in the vineyard to realize that we were actually married. Don't let the entire night go without taking a romantic moment for the two of you!




 Jody Knowles and Chris Brasted 

October 13, 2007

Location: Ceremony at Northridge Community Church, reception LaTaza Coffee House/ Saxx Jazz Club 

Guests: Hundreds!

Engagement: Officially since April 26, when Chris proposed after dinner at Zocalo, when the Paramount marquee, UVa Pep Band and Channel 29 all announced our engagement! (" film clip)

Budget: What's that?

Splurged on: The reception– the most important part of our wedding was to celebrate with those who have loved and supported us for so long. So when it came time for the reception food, we didn't go elaborate, but we made sure that there was plenty for people to munch on as they drank and stayed to dance through the night. 

Scrimped on: The dress! Jody can say this now that it's over: after trying on dozens of dresses, the one that got the most "wows" in the bridal salon was under $100! Also, the invitations. We made them ourselves, thanks to the artistic nature in both of us (and Sir Speedy)

Weather: Awesome– a beautiful Virginia October day with deep blue skies, the leaves beginning to turn, warm in the afternoon, cool in the evening

Music: Music has been and is important to us in our relationship, so we knew that both the wedding ceremony and reception music had to be exceptional. At the ceremony: Jody's 12-year-old son, Niko, played "Simple Gifts" on cello; Chris' brother Cameron composed and sang a beautiful personal song "Live (Again)"; friend John Powell directed and sang most of the musical selections with his own guitar accompaniment: Cat Stevens' "How Can I Tell You?" (when Jody walked down the aisle); Bob Dylan's "Covenant Woman" (during communion); Neil Young's "When God Made Me"; Chris Tomlin's "Indescribable" 

Reception: Chickenhead Blues Band!

First dance song: We missed it the first time they played it because we were having so much fun! But they played it again for us to dance: Van Morrison's "Crazy Love"

Best: Marrying your best friend; relatives from out of town; gathering of friends in a welcoming, loving, joyous atmosphere

Worst: Not one thing comes to mind.

Unexpected: Forgetting to make arrangements to get home! We were the last ones to leave the reception; that's what we wanted because we didn't want to leave our own party! How embarrassing when we had to call Chris' Dad to come back to pick us up to take us home– kinda like two kids who needed a ride home from the prom!

Advice: Enjoy every moment with your family and out-of-town friends because they leave too soon. After an extremely long wedding day, we chose to sleep in our own bed that night. The next morning, we woke up to smell fresh coffee, omelettes, waffles, and other breakfast fare made by Chris' brother Cameron and his wife, Geneva. Family and friends gathered at the house for an all-day open house brunch visit, and we got to stay in our bathrobes. 

More advice: When possible, add a dog to your ceremony. Chris' four-legged companion of 14 years, Skye Dawg, served as our ring bearer. 




Alyson Smith and JP O'Sullivan

August 25, 2007

Location: Ceremony at St. Paul's Memorial Church, reception at Farmington Country Club

Guests: 165 

Engagement: 10 months (although we got engaged just 2 months after we met! We knew within a couple weeks of meeting that we were going to marry each other.)

Budget: $30,000 (Actual: $45,000)

Splurged on: Photography. Your wedding day goes by so fast. We had no idea just how fast until ours was over. So, having an excellent photographer is well worth it. Also, a white Rolls Royce: It actually wasn't that expensive, but it was such a beautiful classic car. I loved it! Also : personalized M&Ms. My husband and I are M&M addicts. So we had M&M's personalized with our names and wedding date in the colors of our wedding. I put them in little pails with a flower tag on a pin with each guest's name on it. These served as one of the favors and as place cards for all our guests.

Scrimped on: The invitations. I couldn't see spending thousands of dollars on a piece of paper that gets thrown away. Luckily, a friend of ours gave us her company's discount, and we were able to get 250 beautiful invitations for about $300. 

Weather: Hot! Hot! Hot! It was 105 degrees. Plus, we had severe thunderstorms after the dinner started. It did provide entertaining fireworks for the guests, though.

Music: We had a live six-piece band. They played everything from beach music to classic rock to current top 40. I love to dance, and having a band created an atmosphere I don't think you can find in a DJ.

First dance song: "At Last" by Etta James

Best: The ceremony. It sounds clichéd, but my husband and I were so excited and thrilled to be getting married. We couldn't stop smiling at the altar. We were both completely giddy. (My father told me in his speech at the reception that August 25 was also his mother's wedding day–whom he says I look like, but whom I never had the chance to meet. This was extraordinarily special to me.) 

Worst: The lightning did wreak havoc on our wedding after all. Around 10 o'clock that night, my parents got a call from a neighbor saying there were six fire trucks in front of my parents' house, and that they thought it might be on fire. Two and half years ago, the top floor of my parents' house caught fire. Needless to say, there was a lot of panic associated with hearing this news. My parents had to rush out of the reception and head home to make sure everything was okay. Luckily, it was a false alarm. However, my parents didn't make it back to Farmington until the last song, and I remained nervous and unsettled while awaiting word on how the house was.

Unexpected: Friends and relatives knocking on our door at 5am on our wedding night! As you might imagine, we were both irritated. We had hosted an after-party in our suite at the Omni. At 5am, a couple of relatives thought it was the perfect time to retrieve their belongings. Of course they apologized later.

Advice: Get absolutely every last thing done at least a week before the wedding. I had an assembly line of friends helping me with the menu cards and programs at all hours of the night and up until an hour before the wedding. If I could have done anything differently, I would have left more time for relaxing and relishing those few hours right before the wedding with my mom, dad, and my girlfriends.




Carolyn Hiller and Joe Jenkins

Noon, July 21, 2007

Location: Ceremony at UVA Chapel, reception at Colonnade Club

Guests: 130

Engagement: 10 months

Budget: We haven't gone back to do an exact tally, but about $30k.

Splurged on: Dress. I couldn't have been more comfortable, and it made a big difference all day long. I was pretty flattered when people kept trying to get a photo both front and back. 

Scrimped on: Nothing

Weather: Sunny, mid 70's and not humid!

Music: Jazz from the Jeff Decker Quartet

First dance song: "Come Fly With Me"

Best: Looking back at the photos and reliving it. We have them all over our apartment now. 

Worst: Not expecting bone in the chicken. It was bone-free at the tasting. Make sure you're specific about likes and dislikes with your caterer.

Unexpected: Perfect weather.

Advice: Set your budget early, and trust the people in the wedding business for a living. Our coordinator, Barb Lundgren, was a lifesaver the day of.




Stephanie Cutts and Kristofer Cheney

September 2, 2007

Location: Ceremony and reception at Keswick Hall

Guests: 90

Engagement: 13 months

Budget: $30,000- $35,000 (by the time we were done, we spent around $50,000)

Splurged on: Wedding dress, invitations, venue, food and drinks

Scrimped on: Paper products for wedding day and flowers to decorate the outdoor cocktail hour 

Weather: An absolutely perfect late summer day, warm and sunny without being hot

Music: The Dickens Band from Greensboro, NC. They were a very fun, upbeat band who impressed everyone.

First dance song: "Can't Help Falling In Love" original by Elvis, performed by friends, singer, songwriter Michael Krejci and singer Zack Prout

Best: Truly having everything else fade to the background as we read our vows to each other, and watching all of our closest friends and family enjoy themselves at the reception. (Everyone loved that we had cigar and candy bars set up for guests when they were taking a break from the dance floor.)

Worst: Noticing moments before I walked down the aisle that all the candles that belonged on the altar for the ceremony were on the reception tables. (This amazingly was fixed as people were watching me walk down the aisle.)

Unexpected: Not having time to write our vows until the day of the wedding, and then having everyone tell us how beautiful the ceremony was and that the vows were their favorite part.

Advice: Plan early. Try to finish everything ahead of schedule, because planning such an event always takes more time than you think it will. This will allow you to enjoy the process as the wedding draws near. Be flexible with ideas and options, but also don't be afraid to be explicit about the details with vendors. If you can afford it, hire a wedding planner to be the drill sergeant the week of the wedding to make sure everything comes together and happens as you want it to on your wedding day. You don't want to have to worry about the minutiae the day of the wedding.




Sharon Ann M. Miller and Tracy V. McMillan

Sunday, April 1, 2007 (Palm Sunday)

Location: Ceremony at UVA Chapel, reception in gardens of Pavilion III on the Lawn, cocktail reception and after-supper drinks and dancing in the gardens; dinner and dessert inside the house

Guests: 60

Engagement: 2 months

Budget: No answer

Splurged on: We don't feel like we splurged on any particular thing; we got exactly what we wanted! The flowers, tent, food, and my dress were exceptional!

Scrimped on: Again, we don't feel like we scrimped on anything because we got everything we wanted. I did my own make-up, but I always do. I wanted to be sure not to have my make-up look like something other than me. I had my stylist from CT do my hair; she's one of my closest friends, so I'm blessed.

Weather: 60 degrees and cloudy. At first we were upset because we didn't have sunshine, but the heated tent in the garden and being inside the house made the clouds seem insignificant. And our pictures are phenomenal because of the "grey" day.

Music: Classical guitar at ceremony; jazz quartet and vocalist at the cocktail reception and after-supper drinks and dancing.

First dance song: "At Last" by Etta James

Best: We had only 45 days to plan, but if we had had a year to plan, we would not have done anything differently! Best part of the day was when we presented our girls with Tiffany bracelets during the ceremony. We called them to the altar, said some special "vows" to them and presented them with the bracelets.

Worst: Nothing

Unexpected: Nothing

Advice: Make sure you know and agree on those things that are the most important to you both. Once you've agreed on those things, don't give in on having those elements incorporated into your day.