It’s Magazine Monday! And today we have the go-to guide for all you mothers of the bride (and groom!) — straight from our 2020 glossy pages. Utah Valley Bride’s founder, Jeanette Bennett, had two children get married last year, and below she shares her 20 dearly-beloved lessons. It’s the mother of all wedding articles — and you won’t want to miss it.
My oldest son and oldest daughter got married four weeks apart. During the holidays. Gasp.
I’ve never received so much sympathy or so many sincere offers to help. Friends and strangers with married children have showered me with questions about the tight timing of these two winter celebrations. Even though I started Utah Valley Bride Magazine in 2002 and have written/edited thousands of pages on local weddings, I still had a steep learning curve as I played my debut roles of Mother of the Bride for my daughter Hailey (bride on left) and then Mother of the Groom for my son Nathan (his bride, Tory Merrill, on right).
Now after crossing every T-strap and dotting every I-do, I have a gift for you: A registry of 20 tips from the view of the momma.
1. Be prepared for time-consuming emotional work.
Every checklist will remind you to hire a photographer and to send your invitations 4-6 weeks in advance. None of them will give you a heads up that you’ll need time to help your child — and yourself! — work through the emotions of new roles. Combining families with different budgets, opinions, senses of humor, texting styles and conflict-resolution patterns will require energy. Be prepared. Be realistic. Be a good listener. Drop everything when one of these conversations needs to happen. You’re going to love this chapter of life — even the part when you walk out of the ceremony with flower buckets, makeup bags, suitcases and grandma’s fur!
2. Don’t announce your date until you have a venue.
It may seem to you there’s a wedding venue on every corner. You’ll change your mind when you go to book a reception on a weekend night when a UVU/BYU semester ends — and all that’s available is the Taco Bell parking lot. Many venues have online calendars. If there’s a pending engagement on your family tree, start looking at venues and get your date booked! My son’s reception was in the versatile Vista Room at Cedar Hills, while my daughter’s Saturday night party was at a private location in Alpine (below). Both venues fit the size and style of each event perfectly, but it caught me off guard how hard it was to match a date to a venue. If you wait too long, you’ll be lucky to find ANY venue.
3. Hire a top-notch photographer — AND have friends take phone pics for you.
Our community is full of camera geniuses. Select one who has the style you prefer (both in composition of photos and in editing style). The photos are what you’ll still have 25 years later, which is why we put Hailey’s late fall wedding in the hands of photographer Brooke Bakken. You won’t see wedding-day photos from your photographer for days or maybe weeks. The night of the wedding when you are exhausted but have insomnia, you’ll want to flip through pics to get a feel for how the room looked and whether your makeup held up throughout the day. Ask friends and relatives to snap and share with you before the day is over. Then once you get the high-quality photos back, remember to give credit to the photographer on social media.
4. Hire a DJ.
My least favorite moment from my daughter’s wedding was when it was time for the first dance, and I was frantically trying to find the person I asked to help with the playlist. Seconds felt like long minutes as we tried to find the song on a separate phone and figure out Bluetooth. What should have been a tender moment involved me behind the crowd shaking with frustration. Lesson learned! We hired Life of the Party Entertainment for my son’s reception, and the dance party was epic with several of my family members catching air throughout the night (daughter-in-law Tory below). Your DJ can be the emcee for the night. The glue. The problem-solver who adds humor and brings the thunder sauce. Give yourself a gift and have someone else worry about AV.
5. Think through your corsage preferences.
There are pros and cons to moms wearing wrist vs. pinned corsages. For our first wedding, I had a pinned corsage. It’s beautiful! It shows up in the photos! It was also hard to manage and was upside down within an hour. The wrist corsage goes on easy peasy, but it doesn’t show in many photos when that arm is around someone I love. Overall, I prefer the look of the pinned corsage, but I would ask a family member to be the flower police throughout the wedding day. This person would know which side all bouts and corsages should go on, he/she would know how many layers to put the pin through, and she would watch the wedding party throughout the day in case flowers fall off, turn sideways or need an additional pin.
6. Be a theme player.
Having a theme for a wedding actually makes decisions easier — not harder. My daughter picked a French theme because her fiance, Jeff Sundwall, served his LDS church mission in France and because the two of them had performed in “The Secret Garden” together (a musical set in Europe). This made our menu obvious! French desserts, breads and cheeses from Culinary Crafts. For my son’s wedding, we chose a star theme. Tiny stars and constellation patterns were embedded in the bouquets, cake decor (thank you, Sweet Cravings by Marcia), table decorations and invitations. A theme helps tell the story of the couple and ties the event together.
7. Document the process.
Take pics and screenshots of every meeting and potential decision. The next vendor may have you reconsidering. The choices will become a blur and you won’t remember the size of food carts you selected from The Penguin Brothers and Cocoa — or whether you picked white or green lights from Moonlight Wedding + Event Lighting (we chose white). Have a system of organizing easy-to-find pics on your phone of every decision you consider along the way.
8. Create an inspiration board early on.
Once the engagement ring slips on your daughter or future daughter-in-law, you’re going to be drinking from a bedazzled firehouse of information — even from Utah Valley Bride (print and digital — #sorrynotsorry). If you’re not careful, you’ll buy rustic picture frames, but order a modern cake. You might fall in love with a white dress, but order an ivory veil. There are more good ideas than you can shake a sparkler stick at. Start your planning season by creating a simple inspiration board of colors and styles. Only allow yourself to fall in love with ideas that fit the right vibe. This step will save you time and money in the long run.
9. Don’t get sticker shock on the dress.
Remember what you paid for your dress in the 1980s or 1990s? Yeah, that’s not what they cost anymore. In addition to the amount on the tag, prepare your budget and your emotional bank account to pay for alterations. This is a once-in-a-lifetime purchase and rest-of-the-lifetime photos, so select the right dress (and right fit!) for the bride. Tip! Have a money chat with both families early on when things are still “in theory” instead of waiting until the awkward “this is what we spent and what you owe.”
10. It matters what Mom looks like. Kinda.
Let’s be real. You don’t want to hate the photos of yourself. But losing weight shouldn’t be your top priority right now. It’s too difficult and emotionally draining to switch to Keto or to do an irritability-inducing juice cleanse during the same time you’re learning to bond with the in-laws. If you find a well-fitting, quality dress and get your hair and makeup done, this will do more for your confidence than losing 10 pounds. And speaking of MOB dresses, the ones I purchased (and kept!) came from Nordstrom, Dillard’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. Also, don’t overdo tanning. If you want a spray tan, do a trial run a couple weeks before so you know how light/dark it looks on you. Take a few sample photos to see how your skin looks next to another member of the wedding party. You don’t want to be Ross from “Friends.” P.S. I learned some lessons the hard way.
11. Remember, a wedding leads to marriage.
In all the wedding planning, don’t forget to talk to your children about being MARRIED. Communication styles, stress management, goal-setting, conflict resolution, intimacy, and budgeting will all matter more in the long run than whether the guest book was gloss or matte. Set lunch dates with your child — and some with their future spouse, too. Keep relationships strong and fun by not focusing exclusively on wedding tasks.
12. Just jump in and start!
It doesn’t matter WHICH decision you make first. The dress. The venue. The colors. Just jump in! You may consider starting with the decision that seems the least overwhelming to you … or the one the bride cares about the most. Get the wedded wheels rolling, and each vendor can help connect you to the next. My brides started with rings (Forge Jewelry Works), dresses (Pritchétt Bridal) and invitation design (Pro Digital Photos). As you move forward, you’ll create your dream team of vendors. The Utah wedding industry is tight. Cake designers, florists, photographers and invitation designers often know each other and collaborate. My daughter’s photographer Brooke Bakken and florist The Potted Pansy coordinated a “details” photo shoot for my daughter’s wedding without me knowing or stressing about it. Sweet Cravings by Marcia contacted the florist directly to coordinate colors for the cake. Awesome vendors make the process and the wedding day itself a dream. Just be prepared to pay vendors the going rate. They work hard and long hours for you.
13. Videos are optional but oh-so-incredible.
My own wedding video from 1995 was a hodgepodge of home video clips on a VHS tape, which sadly got taped over with a grad school documentary. But luckily this wasn’t my daughter’s mother’s wedding! We hired Kalli White Video to do five videos between our two weddings: First Look, Engagement, Wedding Day Highlights, Wedding Dinner Program, etc. Videos tell the story without you combing through hundreds of photos and writing captions for social media or Chatbooks. With the right music and editing, the video says it all. Wedding guests love finding themselves in the movie about the day.
14. Line or no line. It’s up to you!
We tried it both ways. With my daughter, only the bride and groom stood in the floral wedding arch and formally greeted guests, while the two sets of parents “worked” the crowd. For my son’s wedding, both sets of parents stood in line with the newlyweds. With the no-line wedding, it was hard to keep conversations short. I didn’t get a chance to greet some guests. I spent most of the night away from my spouse as we were involved in separate conversations. A line ended up forming around me despite my desire to NOT make people wait. Whatever you decide, communicate with both families so they know the expectations (and agree on them). Communication is key on each decision. Case in point, if you want siblings on both sides to help with sparkler distribution or igniting, let them know BEFORE the reception starts. Don’t leave anything to chance. Nobody can read your mind. (Surprising, right?)
15. Think of ways friends can help.
Everyone will say, “Let me know what I can do.” But what can they truly take off your to-do list? They won’t know which college roommates you want to invite nor how to track down addresses. Even stuffing invitations was hard to walk away from because I was sorting (hand deliver, take these to work, insert luncheon cards, etc.) You could ask friends to help you setup/cleanup. (Don’t forget Rubbermaid containers or laundry baskets to pack up and haul out items.) You could also identify things you need help gathering — such as silver containers or wooden easels — and ask friends to find and deliver those items to you.
16. Don’t plan to have a brain on the wedding day.
You want the only thing on your mind to be soaking up every moment with the beautiful couple and your family and friends. Don’t put yourself in charge of picking up or dropping off anything. If possible, go to the venue with each vendor days or weeks beforehand and talk through placement, electricity, timeline of the wedding day, etc. My daughter’s reception had a high guest count because both families are from the same part of the county, own businesses and have large families. The layout of the catering and guest line were essential in accommodating 500+ guests. I was relieved we already had a plan for layout and flow — and we weren’t moving tables the hour before the reception. P.S. In my two-wedding experience, guests start popping in 45 minutes before it starts. P.P.S. Don’t be one of those guests at future weddings.
17. Don’t wait! Rush fees add up.
The guestbook (or its creative equivalent) will sneak up on you. Figure that out early. Order enlargements with plenty of time to spare (which means you need to take bridals earlier than you originally thought). Pick out bridesmaid dresses in time to return and rethink if needed. For my daughter’s wedding, we ordered multiple jumpsuits to see if we liked the fit and fabric. The items we loved kept being backordered. So we eventually ran out of time and ordered all of the hot pink jumpsuits at one time from Asos — sight unseen. #stressful (This was the one decision my daughter and I disagreed on. She wanted velvet jumpsuits; I was worried. Once I saw the hot pink fabric on the steps of the Provo City Center Temple, I caught my daughter’s vision.) Also, remember to schedule your wedding-day hair and makeup appointments early on so you get your desired time. Having a well-orchestrated wedding day schedule will greatly affect your happiness.
18. Think of a wedding as a giant coordination project.
To pull off bridals, for example, you need a dress (alterations complete!), a bouquet, a photographer, a videographer, Mother Nature, a location, open schedule for bride/groom/mothers, wedding shoes, veil, nails, toenails, hair/makeup done. You’re going to start making lists on every spare piece of paper. You’ll start talking to yourself. As your magazine therapist, let me tell you … You CAN do this! But it’s going to take concentration and effort. You’ll alternate between thinking it’s all unnecessary fluff to believing each detail is vitally important. Then you’ll experience denial over the budget. Followed by excitement. Time will go fast. Time will go slow. Just buckle up for the ride and be present for every emotion and decision!
19. Be a weatherwoman.
Think through how the temp and precip might affect your photos. We had both weddings on cold days, and I didn’t realize until we were at the temple that my 7-year-old brought a non-photo-worthy coat. And then it was a battle to get her to take it off. If it’s going to be cold or rainy, consider purchasing coats and umbrellas that will fit the look of the wedding. If it’s going to be a hot day, think through how that might affect clothing and food. Don’t let the weather surprise you! Consider Mother Nature one of your vendors. Bonus! She’s free.
20. Smile. You have the best role in the party!
Enjoy getting to know the other family. Celebrate having so many people you love in one place! Yes, it’s stressful. But your attitude will be contagious, so keep breathing and finding joy. A close friend sent me this text the morning of my daughter’s wedding: “If there are any live grenades today, just throw yourself on top of them and keep the blast zone small. Only moms can do that.” My “grenade” was my daughter getting sick during the reception and running off multiple times to throw up (including during the highly-photographed cake cutting). We took care of business, shrugged it off, and most of our guests didn’t know there was a problem. Yes, only moms can take care of many wedding highs and lows. How lucky we are to say “I do” to this pinnacle of motherhood.
HAILEY BENNETT + JEFF SUNDWALL
November 23, 2019
Photographer Brooke Bakken (a #UVBvendor!)
Videographer Kalli White Video (a #UVBvendor!)
Floral The Potted Pansy (a #UVBvendor!)
Reception Catering Culinary Crafts (a #UVBvendor!)
Linens 360 Canopy
Cake Sweet Cravings by Marcia (a #UVBvendor!)
Invitations + Enlargements Pro Digital Photos (a #UVBvendor!)
Rings Forge Jewelry Works (a #UVBvendor!)
Wedding Dinner Blue Lemon Catering + Ivory Ridge
Getaway Surrey Provo Beach Rentals
Venue Private location in Alpine
Ceremony Provo City Center Temple
TORY MERRILL + NATHAN BENNETT
December 21, 2019
Photographer Emilie Ann Photography (a #UVBvendor!)
Dress Pritchétt Bridal (a #UVBvendor!)
Videographer Kalli White Video (a #UVBvendor!)
Suit Mr. Mac (a #UVBvendor!)
Venue Vista Room at Cedar Hills (a #UVBvendor!)
Venue Lighting Moonlight Wedding + Event Lighting (a #UVBvendor!)
Floral Eleanor Floral and Design + Liza Fotheringham
Invitations + Enlargements Pro Digital Photos (a #UVBvendor!)
Cake Sweet Cravings by Marcia (a #UVBvendor!)
Rings Forge Jewelry Works (a #UVBvendor!) + Sierra-West Jewelers
DJ Life of the Party Entertainment (a #UVBvendor!)
Luncheon Catering Café Rio
Ceremony Logan Temple