My wife and I got married in early January of this year, so talking about wedding planning is still pretty fresh on my mind. It is amazing that even three months later, we still have friends tell us how personal, thoughtful, and special our wedding was. I don't think that many people can say that their weddings went off without a hitch, normally there is some domino that doesn't fall down, or a drunk 'uncle' that wants to make an inappropriate speech, but thankfully our weekend was absolutely amazing, went off hassle free, and besides the venue briefly mis-placing our cake topper, really was a magical and special event.
So here is what it takes. First off- I'll mention that we had a year and a half to plan all of this. We booked our venue early, a rustic-industrial space in the middle of the city with easy access to hotels, parks, numerous other amenities, and a cool vibe, known as Liberty Station. I say Liberty Station is the venue, because honestly we used the whole area over the weekend for various activities, not just Stone Brewery which was also an amazing space for the wedding itself. We knew that we wanted to have a whole weekend of events, since we had family and friends in from out of town and wanted more time to hang out and catch up than just the wedding alone. Wedding Myth- you will have tons of time to connect and chat with everyone on the day of your wedding - FALSE. Between running around, trying to be on time for everything, take pictures, eat, etc, you will not have much quality time on your actual wedding day to speak to anyone. Thus- for immediate family who arrived a week early, we planned quality time of breakfasts at their hotel, outings to local parks with the kids, Sea World, museum tours, just fun stuff to show them around and catch up.
For other friends and family coming in for the weekend, we planned a great Friday evening get together at the Hilton Homewood Suites, one of the Liberty Station hotels, on a balcony overlooking downtown and San Diego bay, and brought in wine, cheese plates, snacks- really nothing too expensive or fancy. This hour or so long "opening event" allowed us to officially welcome everyone for the weekend, hand out hotel goodie bags, introduce important weekend contacts (like our wedding planner, maid of honor/best man, basically people who should be contacted instead of us for questions or concerns). Afterwards everyone headed to dinner at Liberty Public Market, where they were able to choose from a wide assortment of different restaurants and all come together outside to enjoy the evening, catch up, and meet new people. When we first planned our wedding and booked Stone, Liberty Public Market was still under construction- we knew that it would turn out to be an amazing space, which is has.
We continued events throughout Saturday, leaving the morning for people to explore San Diego on their own, and for the bridal party to do a mid-morning rehearsal. In the afternoon/evening, we gathered, again informally, for a "rehearsal dinner" and open hospitality room at the Hilton Homewood Suites, where we brought in baked goods, drinks, and tacos for dinner. We opened it up to local friends, family, anyone really- which allowed people to bring kids, come and go as they pleased, take a snack and catch up. It was amazing having this time throughout the afternoon and evening, with no timelines and the ability to speak to each person or group and not be strapped down by other needs. Later that night, I had the opportunity to go out to Liberty Public Market for some late night drinks with friends, and sat around an amazing fire-pit across the street near the aptly named Fireside Grill.
By Sunday, during the actual wedding at Stone Brewery and reception afterwards, we had already been able to talk to and catch up with almost everyone. Stone is an amazing venue which I highly recommend. They have gorgeous spaces, including a garden with a massive pine tree that we were married under. The Trio played wedding music that was arranged by Dave Burnett, our Sax/Flutist, and we handed out personalized "brochures" to all of our guests, with our individual histories, how we met, other fun facts, and an itinerary for the day. We tried to make it as funny and informative as possible, since so many questions from guests that haven't seen you include "how did you meet" and "tell us about the proposal" etc. Our officiants both knew us and our families personally, so there was no awkward moments of forgetting a name, or cookie-cutter sayings, it was incredibly personal and meaningful, and most importantly down to earth.
The afternoon after the ceremony was filled with lawn games, lots of food and drinks (we're at a brewery, so it's good stuff!). We tried to incorporate so many little personal items into the wedding and reception- our center pieces were made from science test tubes and glassware since my wife is a science teacher. Our cake topper was an awesome little clay-mation of the both of us, me holding a bassoon and Michelle next to a classroom chalkboard and microscope, which also included our small pups Watson smiling and looking cute. Nothing was over the top, it was all just fun, relaxed, and enjoyable, which is why I think people keep coming up to say how great of a day it was and how much they enjoyed being there. I know a lot of that had to with the impeccable timing of our day-of coordinator, and a good friend of my wife, Kirsten Shelley.
I can't say that every wedding needs to copy this exact pattern to be successful- people are married everyday and I'm guessing most of them are special in their own ways. I'm just passing along my story of how to make sure to have a successful, personal, and meaningful weekend by spreading out events and incorporating a lot of "you" into your special day. Feel free to contact me if you have questions, I'm always available to help out engaged couples with ideas and location recommendations!
Dan is the bassoonist & one of the founders of the LCQ.