Engagement Photo Shoot

May 06, 2016

With fresh hair cuts and styles from our wedding hair trial, Michael and I went home to change and get ready for our engagement photo shoot!

We were very lucky that our photographer, Kim Ing (Facebook Page), was so easy to work with. Because honestly, who offers to do engagement photos one week before the actual wedding? We were incredibly thankful for the opportunity not only to have some pre-wedding photos taken, but also the chance to work with and get to know Kim before the big day!

Kim spent a few hours guiding us across various sites downtown. Despite being nervous prior to starting (we’ve never been the sole subject of photography before), both her and her assistant were incredibly easy going and immediately put us at ease.

Her gentle reminders of “bra strap!” “other nose!” “shoulders back!” only helped us be more aware of our surroundings and posture for better photos.

We didn’t know how many pictures to expect from the engagement shoot – but were incredibly pleased at the number and quality of photos we received. Of course, as we are our own biggest critic so not all shots are most “flattering” from our point of view. But even with pruning down to our favourite shots, there were still a ton to enjoy!

Here are some of our favourites, we hope you like them too!

Stairs to the canal under Plaza Bridge

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It didn’t hurt that we both lost a little bit of weight working all those night shifts before coming home for the wedding! 😛

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Ring shot!

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Look, we matched! Although if we were doing this shoot again, I think it would look much nicer if we had both worn lighter colours!

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By the Rideau Canal Locks with the Chateau Laurier in the background

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Looking across the Rideau River at our wedding venue – Canadian Museum of History

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On the Rideau Canal Locks with the Alexandra Bridge in the background

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Major Hill Park – just a week shy of the tulips blooming!

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Play is our favourite restaurant to visit in Ottawa! Highly recommend 😉

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My prince charming!

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For more engagement shots, CLICK HERE TO VIEW!


During wedding planning, Michael and I decided that photography would likely be the biggest chunk of our budget (after food of course). We chose Kim Ing Photography for a number of reasons:

  • We both love and appreciate timeless photography. We were looking for a classic, natural lighting style that Kim captures beautifully. Check out her portfolio!
  • During our first meeting, Kim met with us at her home office, which was stylish, comfortable, and put us at ease. Not to mention she served us cupcakes!
  • We did not have conflicting personalities and felt we could work well with her.
  • Even though we came with a huge list of questions, she took the time and patiently answered them all. She was even happy to show us photos from a wedding she had photographed at our venue a few years back.
  • Her photography training (not just ‘self taught’) and wedding photography experience
  • Many photographers in Ottawa that were charging less than Kim had portfolios that often paled compared to my own amateur photography. We wanted someone who would deliver above and beyond our expectations – which is exactly what Kim did.

For those who are interested, our photography package cost $3949.35, which included the following:

  • 10 hours wedding day photography coverage with an assistant
  • Professionally edited high-resolution images on DVD
  • Private online proofing gallery
  • Complimentary engagement session (including high-resolution edited photos)
  • Rights to privately print all photos
  • Photos provided 6-8 weeks post wedding date

Kim was fantastic to work with and we were very happy to have her capture our wedding day as well. I will save the wedding photography for a separate post – stay tuned!

WEDDING DJ & PHOTOBOOTH

May 05, 2016

During the first stages of our wedding planning, Michael had ambitious plans to set up our own DJ system which would allow guests to connect using their mobile devices to play songs. Fortunately, he soon realised that it would be a logistical nightmare!

After a bit of research, we decided to go with Quality Entertainment. They are a bigger company with lots of staff and good reviews online. We weren’t too fussed with our music, as long as we could have some options – which made our decision easy!

We appreciated being paired with a coordinator for consistent communication (mostly over email as we were overseas). We also had to fill out planning forms (30 days prior to ceremony) so that they could get an idea of who we were and what we were expecting. This was also so they could match us with an appropriate style DJ.

Some of the information they ask for include:

  • Names of bridal party and other main vendors
  • Time of set up and tear down
  • Number of guests and their age
  • Preference of music
  • Songs NOT to play (ie. Macarena, YMCA, etc)
  • List of guest song requests
  • Specific song list for ceremony, grand entrance, first dance, etc)
  • Whether we needed extra equipment (projector, photo booth, etc)
  • Whether we wanted our DJ to also act as our MC

On May 5, 2016 – we finally had the opportunity to meet up with the coordinator and finalise all details in person. Nothing was too much trouble and we were offered unexpected discounts which were very much appreciated!


ON THE DAY

We were pretty happy with our DJ services on the day! Jenn was our DJ for the night and here were some points we made note of:

  • Nice instrumental music being played for while guests were being seated for our ceremony (we didn’t specify which songs)
  • We provided all our songs for our outdoor ceremony – which were played in the right order at the correct time – and audible!
  • It was much appreciated that Jenn came up to our table once seated for dinner to introduce herself!
  • During the dinner ceremony, we provided a playlist of Vietnamese songs to play. Unfortunately, the museum sound system was not set up ideally. The dance floor was to one end of the venue and the music was quite loud towards that end and not very audible at the other, particularly because the music was played at a lower volume during dinner service
  • I remember people stayed on the dance floor and had a good time – which is always a good sign right?! 😉 At least until the song “Shots by LMFAO ft. Lil Jon” came on and everyone cleared the dance floor to do tequilla shots at the bar 😛
  • They played our requested closing song “Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond”

We also decided to hire 3 other services through them, all of which were hassle free and the guests definitely enjoyed!

  1. Projector for us to have a photo slideshow played on repeat during the reception
  2. Photo booth with props! Unlimited photos and manned by an attendant to make sure we actually got decent photos! Guests got a physical copy and we got the digital versions after the ceremony.
  3. Kissing game spinning wheel – no more clinking of glasses. Although I’m sure it’s still rigged to make the bride and groom kiss more often than not!

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Total Costs:

  • DJ, equipment (including special effects lights), set up and tear down (6pm – 1am) $749 (with a $100 discount)
  • Photobooth (9:30pm – 12:30am) with props, unlimited photos and attendant $699 (with $100 discount)
  • Projector $100 (with $50 discount)
  • Kissing Wheel – free of charge (normally $75)

We were overall very happy with the prices and services provided by Quality Entertainment. Would happily recommend them to anyone looking for similar services for their event – especially if you are looking for packages, they can definitely work with you!

Wedding Day of Coordinator

May 05, 2016

After our menu tasting with Distinction at the Canadian Museum of History, we ended our visit with our first (and only required) face-to-face meeting with our Day of Coordinator – Philippe Genest.

Phil was easy going from the moment we met him, which was definitely what we preferred. He joined us after our delicious lunch and immediately got down to business.

Some of the important items of discussions included:

  • Floor plan for reception venue (table/seating arrangement, where the gift tables/cocktail tables/DJ/photobooth/bar, etc would be)
  • Seating plan for outdoor ceremony
  • Discussion of bridal procession options
  • Seating plan for indoor ceremony (in case of rain)
  • Confirmation of all vendors including cake, DJ, officiant, etc
  • Ceremony + reception timeline
  • Projector screen set up for any slideshow we’d like to play

Aside from our face-to-face meeting, we were able to keep in contact via phone and email up to the big day.

It called for rain on our actual wedding day. In fact, it was pouring during my ride over to the Museum of History a few hours prior to the ceremony. We held our breath until the last minute when Phil decided the rain was over and the groomsman helped him set up the outdoor seating in less than 5 minutes.

A few glitches to note:

  • Museum posters not covered up in our reception venue. These were meant to be covered but a quick word to Phil and he made it happen before any guests arrived
  • No signs to direct guests to the venue – particularly because the Voyageurs Salon is a separate building from the main museum – eventually everyone made it!
  • The logistics of getting into the parking lot after hours as the museum is closed. We weren’t aware and eventually had to get security to escort us

We were honestly very happy with how the logistics of the ceremony and reception went. The layout was as we discussed and everything seemed to be in order. If there were any mishaps, we were not made aware, which was fine with us!

Overall, Michael and I were incredibly happy with our chosen venue at the Museum of History. The room rental is a little pricey but does include all set up and take down, cleaning, internet, outdoor ceremony set up, parking passes, day of coordinator, and more. For the piece of mind, and the fact that we (and our family/friends) did not have to do the heavy lifting, was worth it.

Wedding Cake Tasting

May 06, 2016

Through a Facebook wedding group, I found the one who would make our wedding cake!

Irina Shainski of Sweet Song Cakes has made beautiful and delicious cakes. It was incredibly easy to communicate with her via email from Australia and she provided reasonable quotes and drafts for our cake based on what we wanted.

You can visit her website HERE and her Facebook page HERE to see what she has to offer.

You can also contact her via the details below for more information:

ishainski@gmail.com
(613) 290-0349

We only had to send her a $50 deposit to secure our date. She assured us that the only thing she needed to know well in advance were the colours and designs of flowers we wanted on our cake so she could make them. The final design and flavours of the cake we could finalise last minute when we finally met her a week before the wedding for the tasting (with fingers crossed)!

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Irina invited us over to her house for the tasting of our 3 pre-selected cake flavours:

  • Carrot
  • Chocolate orange
  • Red velvet
  • Paired with 3 icings: cream cheese, vanilla, chocolate

We liked all 3 flavours, with carrot being our favourite. She encouraged us to go ahead and select all three flavours if we enjoyed them, so we did (cream cheese with both red velvet and carrot)! There were plenty extra so she happily packed them up for us to take home and share the tasting with family 🙂

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The only negative: At the time of the tasting, the red velvet cake had been over-mixed (cake was dry with lots of large tunnels) – as an amateur baker, I knew it’s an easy mistake when you’re busy. We had faith and chose the flavour anyway – was not disappointed!

So the details were finally official! For $500, we ordered a beautiful 4 tier, 3 flavoured wedding cake to feed 120 people (not including a top tier to keep for ourselves). We only had 90-ish people at our wedding – but that meant more cake for everyone! And of course, we decided on carrot cake for our top tier!

This was the first sketch Irina provided us after our initial email communication.

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I had browsed through all the photos of cakes Irina had made and posted on her Facebook page and website, gathering ideas. The final design I chose were a medley of features from a variety of cakes she had previously made. It was especially comforting knowing that these were Irina’s own details and that for sure she could replicate the design I had in mind. For your reference, these were my inspiration cakes:

Flower colours as per this cake:

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Simpler flower placement (just roses and small flowers) like this cake:

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Elegant design of tiers like this one…

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With gold ribbon trimming and simplistic piping like this cake:

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This was the beautiful cake she delivered on our wedding day…

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Irina also made sure to confirm the venue, access roads and time of set up. She and her husband delivered the cake themselves and Irina put the finishing touches on the cake once assembled at the venue.

From feedback, all our guests enjoyed having some cake, which delighted us! We also knew in advance we would have plenty of cake (especially because dinner included dessert) and had takeaway containers ready for anyone who wanted to take some cake home as well!

We would definitely recommend Irina to anyone looking for a delicious and gorgeous cake for their special occasion! Beautiful details, easy communication and wonderful prices!

Michael and I look forward to being back in Canada in the near future to dig into the top tier we’ve saved in my mum’s freezer! Thanks again Irina!

Wedding Officiant

May 05, 2016

Michael and I initially had plans for a Catholic wedding ceremony performed at our venue. We eventually found out (after booking our venue) that it would be next to impossible. Instead, we decided to have a civil ceremony with the intention to have it convalidated at a later date.

After researching costs and customer satisfaction, we decided to go with All Seasons for our wedding officiant.

After reading many of the profiles and reviews, we chose Michael O’Callaghan to be our wedding officiant.

Keeping in mind that we were booking from Australia, Michael was prompt during all our email communication, always kind and polite. Before we met him, he had already given us a number of important documents to look through, including our Declaration of Marriage and logistics form to fill out.

With his years of experience, he was able to give us a number of ceremony scripts to choose from, with clear encouragement that we could customize it further to suit our personalities. He also provided a number of different reading suggestions to explore.

It was a pleasure to meet him in person over coffee on May 5, 2016. He was very caring and thoughtful. We were also pleasantly surprised to see how prepared he was – with a dossier of all necessary paperwork and copies of our customized wedding ceremony. Michael then took the time to run through every step of our ceremony, including any changes, who stands where, facing which direction, prompts, etc. There were no silly questions and we didn’t feel rushed in any way.

He was extremely understanding and didn’t even bat an eye when we told him we still had not finalized our wedding vows!

After the amount of time he spent with us at our first meeting running through the logistics and timeline of the wedding ceremony, it was absolutely not necessary to have him run an official rehearsal. We did, however, invite him to attend our ‘rehearsal dinner’ to meet the family and enjoy some food. He politely declined, saying that it was his personal rule not to attend rehearsal dinners or wedding receptions. He explained that if he accepted one invite, he would feel obligated to accept every client’s invitation – which is often not physically possible given his potential commitments.

On our wedding day, he arrived early and was able to run through a few last minute details. We especially appreciated the opportunity to honour my dad’s absence by lighting a candle in his memory during the ceremony. (Despite practicing ahead of time, it was so windy and cold that we still had trouble doing it!) The only thing we had to complain about was… it was incredibly windy, and cold! As a result, Michael decided not to use a microphone (would’ve been too noisy picking up the wind) and so our guests had quite a bit of difficulty hearing the ceremony. 😦

Overall, we were very happy with our experience in having Michael O’Callaghan officiate our wedding and would definitely recommend his services to anyone looking for an officiant!

Wedding Venue

Michael and I tossed up 2 types of venues during our wedding discussions. Below were our top picks:

  1. Beautiful, modern, all inclusive venues
    • Le Belvedere – Our initial top choice with sprawling breathtaking views of Gatineau Hills and very affordable at $139/pp. Unfortunately, with our guest list and due to its location (at least 1/2 hr from downtown Ottawa), we decided against this venue. Would definitely recommend to another bride!
    • Canadian Museum of History (previously known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization) – OUR WINNER! More information below 🙂
    • Canadian Museum of Nature – multiple facility rentals to choose from with a mix of modern and old architecture and charm. Unfortunately, we never received a reply to our inquiry so eliminated by default!
    • St Elias Centre – Right by Mooney’s Bay, also all inclusive with outside caterers available
    • Canadian War Museum – We eliminated this option after visiting simply due to the ambiance (very gray and dark) – just not what we were looking for but definitely worth considering!
  2. Community halls where we can customise our own set up and food (think multi course Vietnamese food with 2 roasted pigs).

It didn’t take much research for us to decide that we would have to forego the community hall option. For a number of reasons:

  • Many halls did not have the capacity we were looking for (either too big or too small)
  • Most did not offer anything exciting in terms of architecture and potential for transformation post decoration
  • Cost of renting the hall is cheaper. But once you add the cost of hiring all the tables/chairs/linens/dinnerware, etc – it was pricey.
  • Unless you pay for additional labour, it’s a lot of manual work! And we certainly didn’t want to ask family/friends to work leading up to our wedding.
  • We would be coming home from Australia for the wedding. Time = money. The less time we spent on wedding set up, the more quality time we could spend with family and friends.
  • No community halls had cooking facilities onsite, all food would have to come pre/half-prepared and warmed up – not really what we wanted

Canadian Museum of History – Voyageurs Salon

As we would be planning a wedding in Canada from Australia – there would definitely some challenges! First up – booking a venue!

Here’s how we did it…

First step: Pick a date – May 14, 2016. We chose a spring date as it would be the earliest time to get married in beautiful Canadian weather! There was no attached significance to the date, but it also happened to be Michael’s parents’ anniversary date – so additional meaning!

Second step: Choose a venue – After hours of research online, we narrowed down our list of potential venues to the aforementioned. We were lucky to have our annual leave in March 2015 – over a year prior to our wedding date, which was lucky because we could visit the venues in person prior to committing. Be warned, book the venue as soon as you can (especially if your date is considered high season)!

Third step: Book an appointment to see the venue. Come ready with all your questions and something to take notes! Bring your phone/camera to take photos of the space because you will likely want to refer to them at a later time. This is especially true if you are visiting multiple venues! If the venue also does catering (or other services), try to set up a meeting with them at the same time. Don’t be shy – you are ultimately paying them a lot of money. If you have any negotiations or special requests you’d like to discuss, bring them up!

We dealt with a lovely lady named Roxanne at the Museum of History. She was prompt with all our email inquiries, met us in person at our meeting, took us on tour, offered advice, answered all our questions, and made sure we had the opportunity to meet with the caterer on the same day.

We fell in love with the Voyageurs Salon at the Museum of History as soon as we saw it. We also visited the Canadian Museum of War but then decided not to even bother visiting the other potential venues. Mind you, it is a cafeteria during business hours so you will have to use a bit of imagination – but Roxanne carried an iPad with photos of the venue transformed for different weddings to make it easier! (Click here to see photos) It was the perfect size for our wedding, beautiful architecture, amazing views of Ottawa and the Parliament buildings by the river, private outdoor terrace to use, very convenient location close to downtown Ottawa and nearby accommodations, cheap onsite parking, area for outdoor wedding ceremony (with rainy day back up in the upstairs Panorama Lounge available), etc. We would have to use their onsite caterer, Sodexo, but the menu was tantalizing and fit our budget.

Fourth step: Book the venue! We were sent a draft contract shortly after our meeting and after a few days of discussion, negotiations and revisions, we went ahead and booked! The venue was the first major wedding vendor we were happy to lock in well in advance!

Our favourite part about choosing this venue ($3200 at the time of booking) – was everything that was included:

  • Banquet seating for up to 160 people, including room for cocktail reception and dance
  • Set up and tear down (banquet/head/gift tables, podium, dance floor, etc)
  • Cleaning before and after
  • Food service including cocktail hour, dinner, cake, late night snack
  • Internet access
  • Projector screen
  • Security guard
  • Ambiance lighting
  • Set up for outdoor wedding ceremony
  • Private outdoor terrace
  • Museum production coordinator (who is also day of coordinator)

We also paid an additional (discounted) fee to book out the Panorama Lounge (facility upstairs) in case it was raining and we had to have our wedding ceremony indoors. By booking the room, it also meant that there would be no other wedding taking place on the same night, in the same building, and gave us access to more space for storage/getting ready/etc as needed.

After the booking, it was mostly out of sight out of mind until we were back in Canada, over 1 year later! We revisited the location on May 5, 2016 – less than 2 weeks prior to the wedding. I would suggest not leaving it this late, but unfortunately, we had no choice!

It’s great to get another perspective on what we envision and what our guests will be seeing. Here are a few photos the surrounding views:

Views of the Laurier Bridge and Parliament buildings from outside the Voyageurs Salon

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The blossom trees lining the processional walkway, which also gave us an opportunity to practice the walk for timing!

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The open space that would set up for the outdoor wedding ceremony, facing the river.

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Another view of the facilities – outdoor ceremony site right in front of the Voyageurs Salon and the Panorama Lounge upstairs

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Upstairs from the terrace above the Panorama Lounge looking down

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To the right of the Voyageurs Salon is the Grand Hall and main building of the Museum of History – impressive and stunning!

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In between the 2 buildings is a large staircase that would likely be the focus of group photos

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It was also the day we met with the caterers for our menu tasting and the museum production coordinator to confirm layout and set up for our wedding – killed many birds with one stone!

Wedding: Beginning the planning!

My official first wedding-related post!

You may have noticed, I have added a new tab to the menu called “WEDDING”
On this page I will be sharing everything related to our wedding held at the

Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, QC on May 14, 2016❤

I hope you enjoy reading about our journey preparing leading up to the big day!

In addition, I hope some of my posts may help another bride-to-be in her research and planning for her wedding! Please feel free to message if you have any questions!


Michael and I were engaged after 3 years together on March 12, 2014.

Did we start planning our wedding right away? Definitely not!

But here were a few things we knew for sure:

  1. We wanted to graduate first and start working before getting married.
  2. That very likely our wedding would be back in Ottawa, Canada (most convenient location for the majority of our family and friends) – even though an elopement or destination wedding would’ve less stressful! 😉
  3. As international medical students studying in Australia – we were each in debt by $250+K. That meant we couldn’t actually have a real ‘budget.’ All the money we spent would be money that a) We could’ve used to pay back our debt or b) Put us in further debt.

Needless to say, the stress of school and the thought of spending quite a bit of money on a wedding was enough to keep us from any serious planning for a while!

I remember it being quite stressful, for the both of us, to discuss or even think about what we wanted for a wedding. Being international graduates, we weren’t guaranteed a job after graduating, and it was an even slimmer chance of getting a job at the same hospital, in the same city.

But our stars were aligned and when we both got offered positions together at Rockhampton Hospital beginning January 2015 – we breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we would actually be making an income and be able to even pay for a wedding!

The key: Don’t rush into planning a wedding if you are not mentally/physically/financially ready to do so!

We finally started discussing and researching our wedding options. Here are some of our topics that I’ll eventually be sharing in more detail…

  • Venue
  • Ceremony (I’m Catholic and Michael is Protestant)
  • Food (our main priority)
  • Music (self/band/DJ, etc)
  • Photographer (Sandra’s must have)
  • Videographer
  • Bridal party
  • Incorporating cultural aspects
  • Number of guests
  • Officiant
  • Wedding dress
  • Tuxedo/suit
  • Accessories
  • Decor/theme
  • Flowers
  • Cake
  • Hair/makeup
  • Stationary (RSVPs/invites/programs/menus, etc)
  • Gifts for parents/bridal party, etc
  • Wedding favours

Before looking into anything specific, I started my ‘planning’ by spending quite a bit of time browsing wedding boards on Pinterest, saving everything from colour palettes, hair/makeup looks, wedding dresses, etc. It was so easy and such a great platform for me to quickly get ideas and see related looks.

I also read a lot on wedding boards/websites like Wedding Bee and The Knot. I had no experience with wedding planning and I had yet to attend any weddings – there were many things I needed to learn! Questions to ask vendors before hiring them, etiquette for invite wording, ideas for bridesmaid gifts, order of procession, etc! Of course, there is no definite right or wrong way to do anything, as a wedding is your own, but it’s always good to get the general idea of how things are usually done!

I definitely recommend doing the above to get started on your wedding planning! And don’t forget to ask your family and friends for ideas/advice – they are a wealth of information sometimes. But always be careful of the strong personalities!

I also highly suggest discussing with your partner in advance what your priorities are when it comes to the wedding. Gives you a rough breakdown of where the biggest chunks of your money will be going towards. For example:

  • Michael and I both agreed that our venue, food, and photographer were most important to us.
  • I couldn’t care less about spending tons of money on a designer wedding gown I’ll only wear once.
  • We were both easy going with music options.
  • Videography would be nice to have but not essential if we wanted to save money.
  • We both felt it was wasteful to spend a lot of money on fresh flowers for bouquets/decor and were keen to look for cheaper options and fake flowers

Then came the real planning… when we started communicating with actual people about what we wanted for the big day. 🙂

Will share more with individual posts – stay tuned! And thanks for reading! 🙂