Being in this industry, many people often ask about my & Mr. Swann Soireés’ wedding… “It must have been perfect!” “I bet it had spectacular details!” “You probably weren’t stressed at all!” -Since today is our Third Anniversary, I figured it would be a good time to share with you what the Swann Wedding Planning experience was like.
While I am quick to share that our wedding was a beautiful & unforgettable day, I’ll also admit to a day full of highs, lows, the unplanned for, and puppy dog tails- literally. We loved every last minute of it- including the jean-wearing crashers, lost Rolls Royce limo’s, and the cocktail hour which was spent at the hospital with the Mister’s 82 year old grampa who had caught pneumonia while traveling to our wedding. Overall I remember it as SOOO MUCH FUN and it is the way I typically describe it despite anything that was a challenge around it. Oh, and there was challenges, but that’s a blog for another day…
When Dayton proposed, we were both in the midst of making some pretty big life changes which included him getting ready to deploy on what ended up being a 399-day tour to Iraq, while I was gearing up to go study abroad in India. Neither one of us will ever deny the serious consideration we gave to eloping, we (or he, rather) was ready to pay to just fly our parents to Fiji & get hitched. We would have too had it not been for, hhmm…well, I am pretty certain it had something to do with his mom & grandma… not entirely sure anymore… So Alas, I was left here with what started out to be a $5000 (I know! GASP!!) budget to plan a wedding over a year and a half while he went off to war. Occasionally, we joke that if he hadn’t gone to Iraq and gotten the little bit of extra pay for being in a war zone… we wouldn’t have had a wedding at all.
The planning, oh the planning >insert awkward laughter here<… At the time, I was a day-of coordination hobbyist, doing weddings here and there for my friends (for the fee of fancy dinners OR a whopping $75 dollars if I didn’t know them directly). Because I had been involved in other people’s weddings, I knew that planning weddings was hard, time consuming, and expensive “Really Dayton, you are just giving me $5000?!!?” (If only I would have known then that getting married in a barn was going to be all the rage!) I was overwhelmed by the thought of it all… I mean, when I was coordinating (ahem, yes, coordinating, not planning) other people’s weddings, THEY had already thought of nearly everything, made their DIY items, organized themselves, designed it, etc. They had done it all… all I had to do was take all their work, call people to make sure they were showing up, pull it together, and carry around this huge bag of emergency “stuff.” I knew right from the start that this was going to be a very looong process & I wasn’t looking forward to it (is it sin to admit I as more excited about going to study in India?). Thankfully, because I had made several good relationships along the way, and had the BEST Matron of honor & Bridesmaid, all came together and turned out to be a Swanntastic day!
I’ll give you the basic run down of our priorities:
- Location: We HAD to have our dogs with us all day, so the location had to allow off leash dogs
- Location: We had to have plenty of free parking
- Location: It had to be in central San Diego, or what we dubbed it: Swann Diego
Outside of the above items, I had NOT A CLUE what I wanted for a “theme” or colors or touches…I didn’t know what kind of menu I wanted, shoot I don’t think we had a date set for what seemed like ages! But, I knew what I wanted my hair to look like, and that I wanted to wear comfortable shoes so that I could dance all night (which we did!)….I spent months looking for a dress all over, from Florida with D’s grandma & aunt to Mexico with brides I used to take down there to get custom-made veils, finally, I bought my Pronovias gown about five months before the wedding- I know, GASP again, just five months out!! Oh, did I mention I bought it for about 2/3s of the budget D gave me for the whole wedding? EEK!
The first person booked for our team (sans location or date) was our DJ, Primo from Primo Deejays. I had met Primo in 2001 at a Bridal Bazaar I attended with a girlfriend when she was planning her wedding, she loved him. I loved him… I had worked with him twice (in 2002 and 2004) and knew he was who I wanted, even if he didn’t remember who the heck I was. After booking Primo, he urged me to lock down a location & date, which I did… eventually… ceremony would be held in the courtyard of the Old Naval Hospital (mostly because it was within the now $2500k remaining budget) and had loads of parking, plus being that it was a public place the permit was inexpensive and it was semi-private since not many people tend to tourist around that part of Balboa Park (AND I figured the chances of a park ranger coming to yell at me for having my dogs wandering around off leash were slim). The reception was a toughie, but we ended up at a”hall” where a friend of mine who worked for a caterer said they’d let me bring my own alcohol and most importantly, they allowed dogs! The “hall” was actually the Cypress Room which belongs to the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church on Park Blvd, exactly one mile from the ceremony. So, no, we aren’t Greek nor orthodox BUT they had plenty of free parking and allowed dogs, even served them a hot meal of boiled chicken breast cut up into little pieces. Did I mention they gave me a military discount too? So there, reception site found. Oh and for Catering? The only preferred vendor for the venue: California Cuisine. Great, done. pheeww.
With the “big stuff” in order (right), I went away to study in India where I became obsessed with linens & colors…India will do that to you folks- be ready if you ever visit. I bought sooo many linens out there it was ridiculous. I used NONE of the textiles I scoured the streets of New Delhi for… I know, crazy. wasteful, so typical of a girl who’s not dreamed about her wedding day… well ever. Instead, upon my return, I looked into a lady that one of my clients recommended, Haydee, at Concepts Event Design (then Concepts Party Rentals) and rented from her the most exquisite of linens for my reception, black and damask satin… oh it was gorgeous, but nowhere near as inexpensive as my treasures from India. So just like that, I ran out of $$ and wrote D an email- “I need more $$ for Your wedding, I was all about eloping remember?” -LOL! After he reluctantly gave me a little more money, that’s when I found a photographer, Alice Hu (who’s shots are below), and made about 53 trips to Michael’s to buy materials for the centerpieces- which were just bowls and floating candles (did I mention I had everyone at my day job collecting Michael’s coupons for me? Ha Ha! Then, I fell in-love with our wedding invites from Wedding Paper Divas… after ordering them, I wrote D another email: “I need more money.” We still didn’t have flowers, or cake, decor, favors, or shoes, >insert over dramatic panic< “omigosh I have nothing!” I was getting married and I had nothing!!! “Whaaaa!! I needed more money!!!”
So I got more money.
Then I booked NR3 Video Productions. I had fallen in-love with Norma from the moment I saw her website, I tried to go to other places, but I kept coming back. So… I wrote D another email: ” I need A LOT more money.” The way I saw it, this was an investment, not just uncle whoever shaky recording from the fourth row back (or worse, standing in the middle of the isle thinking he’s James Cameron!
He gave me more money (and I added to the pile from my secret pile of cash, aka my 401K- GASP! I know, blog for another time!), which I also used to book Rolls Livery, a Rolls Royce Limo to transport us to the ceremony and from ceremony to reception…. and you guessed it, I needed more money after that too. When I got it, I booked Dan Libertino to play our ceremony music… he basically got me with his charming personality and the fact he suggested playing the “Peanuts” theme song for when the dogs walked down the isle. Genius. I love you. You’re hired. Just when D was about to get the email that said “Yay! All done booking stuff! Now just get home…” I decide I need more money… for white-wooden-padded ceremony chairs instead of plastic, for red Steve Madden wedding shoes, for $200 custom dog collars for the pups, oh and dance lessons… I (I mean we) need dance lessons. Did I mention we had no cake or flowers yet? So I got more money, upgraded our photographer’s package, got my red shoes, oh and a custom made lariat necklace for me… it matched the dog’s collars. Oh yea, and I started to look into cake and flowers. Just as I was going to ask for, you guessed it… more money… A colleague in the industry offered to do my flowers as a gift (her: “What do you want Brenda?” Me: “Uhm, whatever…red, timeless, unique, blah blah, uh, you pick”). I found a baker that gave us a sweet deal and didn’t hate on my idea of doing multiple cakes that I wanted to place on the multiple heirloom platters D’s Grandma gave to me, plus! She concocted the best triple coconut cake ever (D and I loooove coconut!). I still asked D for more money though “I might need it, you know, for like lipstick and stuff..” Ha Ha Haa. The last piece of the puzzle was the coordinator, a position that was not originally up for grabs since I was stubborn and thought I could do it all myself because I did it all the time (I know! I undermined my own role!) but eventually ended up with my former assistant and a former colleague as my coordinators. They were incredible.
So- that my dear friends is how this Swann planned her Soireé (or let the Soirée just plan itself because I was busy going to India, putting together care packages, asking for more money, and watching Law and Order with my dad till the wee hours of the night, etc, etc,)- as it was it took over 18 months to plan (and I was honestly faaar more interested in my clients events than my own!). When it was all over, it really was quite the simple and intimate affair, nothing was over the top. We had 105 guests, served chicken & vegetarian (YUM couscous!) entrees, our fave beer, wine, and signature cocktails, which we called the “Something Old,” “Something New,” “Something Borrowed,” and “Something Blue”- I can’t for the life of me remember what any of them were. I didn’t have favors ( gave some $ to charity instead), place cards (decided seating chart was waaay easier), and we live happily ever after. People that talk about our wedding, remember it the way we do: It was SO MUCH FUN! We danced the night away!
Whoa this blog is way too long. It really was just supposed to be a little old thing with pictures for all of you to see, and another place where I could say “Happy Anniversary” to my sweet husband, who gave me the wedding that I didn’t know I wanted.
So, Happy Anniversary to Mr. Swann Soirées, who actually let me start using his name for my company before we were technically married. Also, Happy Birthday & Happy Anniversary to Granny Pat & Pa. Love you two very very much!! Enjoy the photos!
~All Photos by Alice Hu Photography~