Wedding experts: Four couples talk about planning their nuptials

For some insights into what planning a wedding is really like, the Addison Independent reached out to several couples who recently married or became engaged. Each couple answered a few questions about the process to help give hope or warning to others planning their own nuptials.
Meet Andrea and Cody, who married this past September; JoAnne and Kenneth Meyers, who married in Dec. 15; Rachel Benjamin and Neil Solis, preparing to tie the knot in 2015; and Liza Perrin and Ethan Raymond, getting ready for their wedding in June of 2013. Each has a unique perspective to share. Read about it here and then browse through our special Weddings section.
1.  What aspect of being married are you most excited for?
Andrea: The commitment … the love, respect and security that we share now, is only going to grow as we are married.
JoAnn: After being a widow for the past two years, I’m glad to be with someone who loves me and wants to be with me.
Liza: We’ve been together through so many milestones in our life already; we’re excited to finally be reaching this one! This is something that we’ve talked about and is now reality; it just makes life feel so real!
Rachel: I am really excited to have children. I grew up with four older siblings, several of whom have kids and it has been so much fun to watch them grow! I can’t wait to start a family with Neil.
2.  What has been/was the most fun or rewarding part of the planning process?
Andrea: The most rewarding part of the planning process was looking and back and realizing that it all went according to plan, everything was beautiful, and everyone had fun.
JoAnn: I loved it all. God answered any obstacle we had along the way and that was very exciting to see, the answers to our prayers.
Liza: Getting to finally put into action all the things we’ve talked about having take place at our wedding. Also, with all the planning, it’s given us the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends who are in our wedding party. You have to take the time out of your schedule to plan, but it’s so worth it when you get to spend the time with the people you love most! I think dress trying has been the ultimate highlight, whether it was trying on bridal gowns in crazy styles or watching my bridesmaids jump into dresses that range from bright pink to rainforest tree frog camo!
Rachel: Since we aren’t getting married for over two years, we haven’t done much planning yet. Neil proposed at the beginning of an 18-hour road trip to Indiana, and we talked about our wedding for most of the car ride. I would say that was the most fun part of the planning process so far!
3.  What has been/was the most challenging part of the process?
Andrea: The most challenging part was trying to find a balance between what we envisioned and suggestions from others. We couldn’t include everything, nor did we want to, but being able to combine ideas and put others to the side was difficult at times.
JoAnn: Being apart, he was in Florida and I was in New Hampshire most of the time.
Liza: Prioritizing everything that has to get done. If it wasn’t for a pre-designed timeline/checklist, I wouldn’t know which direction to go!
Rachel: One challenging part of the process is where to have our wedding. All of Neil’s family lives in Indiana and all of my family lives in Vermont. Since we live in Vermont too and so do most of our friends, we will probably have our wedding here. However, we have considered getting married in the Outer Banks in North Carolina, where we vacation every year, since it is about the same distance for both families. We’ll see how we feel in a couple of years!
4.  Are you anticipating any major changes in your relationship after your wedding? If you are already married, please describe any changes you have experienced since your wedding.
Andrea: Our lives have not changed much since our wedding, but when you marry your best friend, your true love, and your confidant, what is there to change?
JoAnn: There will be adjustments because he was married 58 years and I was married 17 years but both of us were widows, so there will be adjustments. He is moving up from Florida so that’s a major change geographically.
Liza: Well, we already live together and have for awhile and we’ve been together for seven years, so I can’t think of any major changes that we won’t be able to handle.
Neil: Now that we are engaged, one change in our relationship that I have noticed is that we are able to talk about “when” things are going to happen in the future instead of just “if.” I think that once we are married, that sense of permanence will be even stronger as we move toward buying a house, having children, etc. We will have the ability to more freely and concretely discuss our future.
5.  What have been/were the most helpful resources?
Andrea: Family! If it wasn’t for our family and friends we would have been lost. They helped us in every way possible. Also theknot.com was a great resource for the guest list; it allows the bride to enter all guests, addresses and guests can reply right there as well. The site automatically counts who has replied and who has yet to respond. The site also has many different checklists, a tool we used over and over.
JoAnn: Didn’t really use any resources. I’ve been married before so just figured it out.
Liza: Pinterest! There is so many options out there and Pinterest.com has made it so easy to save things that we want to make our wedding unique and memorable. Also, “The Knot” website has been great with helping us stay on track. You can never go wrong with a hard copy planning binder either!
Rachel: The most helpful resources I have found throughout the planning process are my family and friends who are married! Two of my brothers got married during the summer of 2011; they and my sisters-in-law are great resources to help with planning since they recently went through the process.
Neil: My connections with the culinary community in Vermont will definitely be great resources for planning the food for our wedding.
6.  In a single word, how would you describe your feelings about the wedding planning process?
Andrea: Fun. It’s your special day, you should have fun. Once the fun stops, the stress starts.
Liza: Memorable.
Rachel: Excited! It’s been hard to wait to start planning….
A note from Andrea: Cody and I met many years ago … I was graduating sixth grade when I moved to Whiting and joined 4-H. At that time Cody’s parents were the 4-H leaders, so naturally I was introduced to Cody when I joined the club. Two short years later, I moved from Whiting and lost contact with Cody. Years later we reconnected as friends, went out a couple times as friends and it went from there. We started dating, and on the day that marked our one-year together, Cody got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was a definite yes, not only was I in love with him, but so was my daughter. By that point in our relationship I couldn’t imagine our lives without Cody.
Cody grew up on his family farm and worked there as well so it was no surprise that we wanted to be married on the farm. We picked out a field away from the main road, with a beautiful fall backdrop on one side, and the mountains on the other. The wedding party and I rode in a hay wagon to the field where our immediate families and Cody waited. Our ceremony was sweet and simple: We exchanged our vows in a field. Our wedding party consisted of family and close friends: his brothers, one of his sisters, my sister, our daughter, my childhood friend and his best friend. Our reception was held in Middlebury, where we were announced to our entire families and friends; we ate food our family and friends had prepared, we laughed as our shy and nervous maid of honor and best man delivered their speeches, and we danced the night away.
A note from JoAnn: We have known each other for almost 20 years. I went twice to Israel with Ken and his former wife, Jean, and have kept in contact through the years. His wife died a year ago and my former husband, Dwight, died two years ago, both had cancer.
A note from Liza: Ethan Raymond and I were high school sweethearts. We met through the wrestling program, where I joined the team as a manager. Ethan wrestled through his four years of college at Bridgewater State University, became a New England Champion and now coaches the Middlebury Varsity wrestling program in addition to working for his father’s construction business. I graduated from Middlebury Union High School in 2008, attended UVM, and received my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. I’m currently working as a Special Education Paraprofessional at Mary Hogan Elementary School and working at my family’s restaurant, Green Peppers.
Given that Ethan and I attended different colleges in different states, we had to make time for travel to see each other. I attended the majority of Ethan’s wrestling events through the four years. With the amount of time we spent together, we grew together. By the time we finished college, we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our life together. Getting through the colleges years had taught us a lot, but mostly it helped us build our trust in each other and strengthened our relationship.
Ethan and I got engaged the day we picked up our puppy, Jax. Ethan coordinated the secret with our breeder and I was completely taken by surprise by his romantic letter stating the life changes that day was going to bring. Next thing I knew, he was down on one knee, dog by his side, holding the ring that only meant our seven year relationship was going to last a lifetime.
The big date is July 5, 2013. Although we’re having a big wedding, it’s mostly family and close family friends. The ceremony and reception will be taking place at the Old Lantern in Charlotte.
A note from Rachel: Neil Solis is from Evansville, Ind. He came to Vermont in May 2007 to work as a chef at the Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes. He has worked at several restaurants in Vermont since then, including Café Shelburne, The Starry Night Café, and the Inn at Shelburne Farms. He is currently the Executive Chef at El Cortijo in Burlington.
Rachel Benjamin is from Middlebury and graduated from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., in 2009. Rachel is a full-time student at UVM, pursuing her Masters of Science in Mathematics.
Rachel and Neil met while working at the Basin Harbor Club during the summer of 2007. After Rachel graduated from college, they went on a two-month trip to Europe where they visited France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. They now live in South Hero, Vt., where they enjoying hiking, cross-country skiing, foraging wild mushrooms, gardening and swimming with their German shepherd Hunter. Rachel and Neil plan to get married in the summer of 2015, most likely in Vermont.

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