I’m a travel blogger, eh? So it seems as though a destination wedding was in the cards to begin with. Forewarning, I’m opting to use the word “destination” extra loosely right now. After getting an engaged on October 9th, 2017, we promised ourselves we’d enjoy this pre-wedding planning bliss for at least a week. No venue talk, no booking appointments, and definitely no guest list docs. Simply having the time to look forward to our marriage was the perfect way to mentally (and emotionally) prepare for the whirlwind ahead of us. That being said, after a peaceful ten days, we are now in the midst of planning our ideal wedding weekend.
We went into the wedding planning with *very* different mindsets. While I had hoped for an elopement on the edge of a mountain somewhere off the map, Dan’s views were a bit more traditional. While I might always have the inkling for a wedding with just the two of us, this truly is the only excuse we have to get all of our loved ones together. Plus, being from different states, it’s not often our families get to hang. Once we compromised on a wedding of 125 (eek!), we got into the dirty work.
I quickly mourned the loss of my elopement dreams and switched gears into full on planning mode. Although I’m not particular I hate having things stack up on my to do so I like to knock them out as soon as possible. Luckily, Dan is much more focused on enjoying the process, and liing each other throughout it, that we’ve found a balance that works for us. Despite having to acceptance the generous increase in wedding size, I did not have to lose hope for a glorious mountain escape! Since hiking and adventuring is such a huge part of our lives (see here and here) we knew that the only place to start our marriage would be in the place we both feel home. Although we tossed around the idea of Shenandoah, a beautiful national park an hour or so outside of our home near D.C., the limited nearby airports to the park itself would be a pain in the butt for my family and friends. So we decided to open our doors. After all, I live and breath travel, so what makes this day any different? Still on the lookout for a nature-centered event, Dan had the genius idea to check out the parks in Pennsylvania. Halfway between my side in New York and Dan’s in Maryland, it made perfect sense to explore all the Pennsylvania Poconos mountains had to offer!
So, is this the Hawaiian beach getaway most destinations are made of? Not quite. Although we’re aren’t exactly packing up our flip flops, we’re still planning our wedding..from afar. Luckily, we can reach the general area in a mere four hours if D.C. traffic fees like cooperating.
Once we drew our target circle on the map, we began to research venue and venue. Having been to weddings-a-plenty, we knew we were a bit more rugged than the stunning formal ceremonies we had been to. We easily crossed out all the ballrooms, then all the hotel centers, and finally agreed that an oversized tent wasn’t for us. Luckily, this area is known for rustic wineries, cozy ski lodges and authentic farmhouses. Once we knew what we didn’t want, it was so much easier to narrow down our options. Because, to be honest, most wedding venues are gorgeous so beauty alone is no way to make a selection. By first identifying the feeling we wanted to convey (relaxed, fun, outdoorsy, adventurous, rustic, enchanted…I could go on with all the Pinterest searched), it was easier to plan our visits.
We decided to find one weekend to hit up all the places that made it onto our “Must” list. Despite having over-extended ourselves with seven venues in two days, I was hopeful!
We constructed our route efficiently, stopping at places that were close by first, and making sure we had time for meals in-between visits. (Pro tip: hunger makes fiances less than enthusiastic.) We began early Friday morning heading up north to beat the rush hour traffic. We created a wedding google doc ahead of time (you know we love shared google docs!) that put down the pros and cons of a place that we could see from their webpages and information. We also put an estimate of cost per person so we wouldn’t be *too* blindsided. This allowed us to go into each venue with a little background knowledge and didn’t end up at a place that was way over our budget. We started off with two beautiful ski lodges in the Poconos that were definite contenders, but the lack of nearby hotels and less-than-stellar indoor ceremony options weren’t totally winning us over. Plus, Saturdays in 2018 were few and far between. We had a couple hours before our last visit so we stopped at our hotel feeling a bit defeated that perhaps an outdoor ceremony was too much to hope for. We added one more venue last minute since we’d be in the area anyways and went in with low expectations.
So, of course, this would be the one place that was better than all the images I’ve pinned on Pinterest combined. It was not a question of should we book this, but when. While I can’t share much yet, a ceremony on the edge of the lake next to a rustic wine cellar built below a breathtaking barn with little lights illuminating the exposed beams was a no brainer. They only had one Saturday open but we decided to sleep on it before making a decision the next day. We went to one other lovely lodge for kicks, which ended up only cementing what we already new. Barn=winner winner wedding dinner! After canceling all of our other appointments, we headed back to our number one choice with fingers crossed *our* date was open. After the next hour and half of paperwork and menu options and contract-details-you-never-look-at-but-have-to-now, we had a time and a place! While I’d like to think we’re done, it’s far from over. More for me than for you guys, here’s our next plan of action to make sure we enjoy this process and avoid the dreaded bubble of stress that we so often hear about. May the odds be in our favor!
Since a wedding hadn’t been on my mind, I had very few details picked out. Luckily choosing an inclusive setting made it so much easier on us. Our location allows for all the events to happen on site, including lodging so we don’t have to worry about the minute details of shuttles and timelines and can everyone enjoy the open bar (they better!). This also includes all the set-up and a lot of the decoration items. Anything that limits the choices we have to make is a plus for us, though I definitely know this isn’t always the case. With these major choices taken care of, we could pay more attention to the important stuff. Like where I’m going to put the donut bar.
I found a million wedding checklists online but needed something that was concise and didn’t make me want to curl up in cry. After printing out a nine page list and trying to calm my breathing, I instead opted to use an app that would send my notification only if something needed urgent completion. This way, Dan could also we in the loop of what needed to be done so we could start this whole what’s-yours-is-mine business early…at least when it comes to to-do lists. I started with WedHappy and am also using Zola. Do I need both? No. But the two suggestions for when something has to be required is calming. Since we scheduled our wedding only ten months away, these apps cater to our timeline instead of constantly making me feel like I already missed the boat.
Decide What’s Already Done
This was a biggie. Although the checklists were already cut down to weekly and monthly tasks, there was still A LOT to do. Yet since we’re sans bridal party (and everything that goes with them), we could check off a ton of things right off the bat. Not only was it rewarding to cross things off, it tailored our list to our particular needs.
Once the app was set, we used the app Zola to create our webpage. I absolutely love their themes…and the ability to have an online RSVP is a dream! I enjoyed this process and liked having all the information in one place, which means less stress for guests on arranging their weekend away. We included our story, travel information, lodging, nearby sites, faqs and RSVP info onto ours. We plan to share the web address on our save-the-dates!
Simplify the Biggies
The real bonus of a destination wedding is there really isn’t a ton we can do when at home. While we plan to make our centerpieces and decor items (wedding-themed Jenga? You bet.) most of our other decision will need to be made on site. Since we have to go up in the next couple months for our tasting menu and to finalize our food options, we’re spending the long weekend meeting with photographers, DJs, florists..ya know, the good stuff. Instead of constantly worrying about hiring vendors and interviewing this and that over a period of months, we’re stuck making our decisions within two days and not have the pressure hang over us. Again, this works our flawlessly in my mind, so fingers crossed the real world reflects that.
And here we are. Excited and calm, which we hope to continue to be over the next nine months. While I’ll be sharing some wedding updates here and there (some Poconos overview to come!), Namastay Traveling will be backed to its regularly scheduled programming next week.
Have you ever planned a wedding? What’s your one best tip to keep sane? HALP.