EngagedA Wedding Planning Survival GuideBy Andi Mahoney

Congratulations! You just made one of the most important decisions you will ever make; you are getting married. Now buckle in because planning a wedding is one wild ride.

Long gone are the days of simply booking the church and getting a cake. For many couples, their wedding is a statement of who they are as a couple and involves planning intricate details from venues to menus and flowers to favors.

When you are under pressure to pull off the perfect wedding without a hitch, it is usually the little things that cause bridal meltdowns. It is important to begin the planning process organized and prepared so you can enjoy the experience and avoid bridezilla appearances when possible. Stick to the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” outlined below and you are sure to bask in bridal bliss throughout your engagement.

 New wedding trends appeal to bridal couples who love old-fashioned touches like this vintage-styled “chariot.”  Photo by Kansas Pitts

Do set a budget and stick to it. Before you can book a venue or find a dress you need to know how much money you can spend overall, where you want to splurge and where you can cut back.

“When setting your budget, take into consideration who will be contributing,” said Emerald Coast wedding planner Beck England. “The days of the parents of the bride paying for the entire wedding are no longer set in stone.”

Don’t forget your manners. Let your bridal party, friends and family know that you appreciate their support and be considerate of the time and money you ask them to contribute.

Do create a timeline and organize your “to-do” list. Much of the stress in wedding planning comes from feeling unprepared. In order to avoid extra stress, plan a timeline for when certain projects need to be done. Break out your timeline into weekly “to-do” lists. This will allow you to focus on one project at a time and each detail will be accounted for at the appropriate point.

“When I first meet with my clients they are all over the planning map, wondering about cakes, linens, colors, entertainment and food,” said Tammy D’Agostino, owner of The Eventful Planner. “I recommend concentrating on one vendor at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.”
Do collect pictures of wedding ideas you love and concepts that you would like to incorporate into your wedding. Visuals will help you identify the look you would like to achieve on your big day. They will also prove helpful when you communicate that look to your vendors.

Do ask friends, family or a wedding planner to be responsible for wedding day tasks so you can enjoy the day and all of your hard work.
Don’t let little mishaps steal your joy. No one else will notice if the florist uses the wrong flower or if your ring bearer is 10 minutes late. Make an extra effort to enjoy your wedding day, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Do write thank you notes. Keep track of the gifts you receive, large and small, so that you can easily send thank you notes no later than three months after the wedding.

Amidst all the joy, chaos and excitement that comes with planning a wedding, remember to keep your eye on the prize. Whether you are dreaming of a fairy tale wedding or a small intimate gathering, things may not go exactly as planned, and that is okay. At the end of the day you are going to be married and embarking on your honeymoon (sans the mother-in-law).

Who takes the cake?

Wedding cakes have come a long way from stacked round cakes with white butter cream frosting and miniature bride and groom figurines. Today, wedding cakes are colorful and bold and reflect a couple’s style, personality and interests. The wedding cake no longer blends into the background, and often times it is the focal point at the reception.

 Memories of your special day will last forever with a memorable vignette wedding photo like this circus-themed portrait by HBB Photography.Memories of your special day will last forever with a memorable vignette wedding photo like this circus-themed portrait by HBB Photography.

Kim Weideman, owner of Kim’s Cakes, said that the biggest trend this year has been color on the cakes. In recent years, couples had white cakes accented with colorful ribbon or flowers. Couples are now icing their entire cakes in colors like lime green, pistachio and orange.

If you are not sure what you want for your cake, don’t worry. Many couples begin the process inundated by all the options and confused about what to do.

“A bride came into my shop and told me she liked topsy turvy, zebra and polka dots,” said Weideman. “This allowed me to draw out a personalized cake specific to her preferences and unlike any other. Clients are no longer bringing in pictures of what they like, rather creating something completely unique.”

Television shows like “The Ultimate Cake Off” and “Cake Boss” have put a great emphasis on baking extremes. Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa Pastry Chef, Yascha Becker, welcomes extravagant requests from elegant to over the top.

“While wedding cakes are usually the centerpiece of the wedding reception, the show stoppers lately have been the groom’s cake,” said Becker. “[My] favorites include a sea turtle, a record player, a top hat and a travel bag with airline tickets to Hawaii.”

Many brides along the Emerald Coast are choosing a relaxed beachy feel for their wedding cakes and including items like Adirondack chairs, white picket fences and sea shells, according to Cheryl Pietrcollo, owner of The Cake Destination. Pietrcollo also noted that cakes are heading towards floating tiers with hydrangea balls, huge garden roses and delicate stephanotis between each layer.

Using cupcakes instead of a wedding cake is a trend that is becoming more prevalent. Pietrcollo first noticed this trend in 1997. “It took almost five years to convince any of our brides to take a leap of faith and leave the traditional wedding cake for the fun of having individual tiny cakes,” said Pietrcollo.

The trend has evolved over the years, and now nearly 25 percent of Pietrcollo’s clients choose cupcakes over the traditional wedding cake. Cupcakes offer versatility when it comes to flavors and can help capture the mood of the occasion.

“Think Piña Colada with pineapple filling, Lemon Chiffon with lemon curd, Key Lime with whipped lime mousse or Bailey’s Irish cream with chocolate mousse,” said Pietrcollo.

Whether they choose cupcakes or the traditional stacked cake, couples are taking every opportunity to add personality, design and drama to their wedding cakes.

“Brides want more bling, sugar-work and lights with sculpted custom pieces on the cake,” said Sara Pliscofsky, owner of My Custom Cake. “Table Cakes are also coming into full swing, where each table has its own tier cake decorated in a different way for guests to admire.”

A Picture Perfect Day

To many couples, capturing the excitement of their wedding day is almost as important as the day itself.

“Your wedding day cannot be recreated, so there is only one opportunity to capture the joy, tears and emotion on the faces of your friends and family,” said Andrea Young, owner of Point of You Photography. “It is crucial to choose a photographer that can capture a memory before it happens.”

 Pure 7 Studios added a modern twist by framing this pretty bride with an unexpected backdropPure 7 Studios added a modern twist by framing this pretty bride with an unexpected backdrop

Wedding photography has evolved from the bride and groom posing at the altar to anything imaginable. When we say anything imaginable, we mean it. Photographers like Hannah Brown with HBB Photography are recreating photos into themed backgrounds, such as a circus with exotic animals.

A decision proving to be difficult for many couples is when to take wedding photos. Couples can do a first look before the ceremony, or take photos after the ceremony while the guests enjoy cocktail hour.

“More couples are choosing to do a first look because it calms their nerves and allows them to see each other in private and have an intimate moment together before the festivities of the day,” said Kansas Pitts, owner of Kansas Pitts Photography. “This also allows the photographer to get a better variety of locations and images without compromising reception time with the guests.”

With a backdrop like the Emerald Coast, it is hard to take a bad photo. To help you start your search, here are a few locals that have a unique perspective worth sharing.

•  Kansas Pitts Photography’s signature style is dramatic yet classy.
•  HBB Photography shoots to capture personalities and emotions.
•  Point of You Photography seeks the moments that will evoke emotions.
•  Pure 7 Studios is a modern version of vintage, with a touch of drama and romance.
•  Michelle Castle Photography has a romantic sensibility that makes an ordinary moment extraordinary.

Venues with Views

Choosing a venue is one of the most crucial elements to planning a wedding. The venue sets the ambiance for your event and can determine the date and size of your wedding. Couples from near and far come to the Emerald Coast to tie the knot for its spectacular views. Here are a few standout venues that are worth looking into.

SunQuest Cruises’ Solaris was voted Best Wedding Reception Venue in 2010 and 2011 by The Knot magazine. The 125-foot luxury dining yacht accommodates up to 150 guests and offers an unparalleled view of the Choctawhatchee Bay. The Solaris is docked at the Sandestin Marina and can take your wedding on a 14-mile round trip of the Bay.

 Some brides forsake their gowns for a great waterfront shot like this one by Michelle Castle PhotographySome brides forsake their gowns for a great waterfront shot like this one by Michelle Castle Photography

Formerly known as Commander’s Palace Restaurant, the HarborView Room is located five floors above the Destin Harbor and HarborWalk Village and offers panoramic views of both. HarborView Room holds up to 130 guests and also offers private spaces for more intimate events, such as a rehearsal dinner or bridal luncheon.

The Destin Bay House is situated on Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin and provides a unique waterfront view of Crab Island. Nestled among magnolia and oak trees, the Destin Bay House provides a touch of Southern charm with 8,000 square feet of outdoor entertaining space and over 2,000 square feet of indoor space and can accommodate up to 200 guests.