Let’s do this! Two local couples describe their wedding planning process
For some, the perfect vision of their wedding has been forming in their heads for years, becoming more and more refined as the relationship and circumstances become settled, so when the time comes to put the plan in place there aren’t a whole lot of decisions left to be made.
But for many, very little forethought has gone into planning for an actual event until after the engagement — when reality strikes.
From there, it tends to be a practice of putting an idea on the table and working through the details of what it would take to make it actually happen.
I recall early in the process of planning our wedding ceremony my partner and I hatched the brilliant idea of finding an overgrown field planted with some tall crop that would reach over the tops of our heads. We would direct all guests to show up at the site and there would be a single path weaving in a labyrinth pattern until it led to a central area that would be mowed in the center of the field.
Of course, reality hit when we started to think about finding such a location and the cost of renting that land and/or compensating the landowner for the lost crop rotation. Then there were questions about bathrooms, seating, accessibility, allergies and all kinds of other considerations that wiped this beautiful vision straight off the table.
Likewise, for two local couples planning their weddings in 2018 the process has been about identifying the elements that are most important to them and making choices and compromises that keep them within their budgets and within a reasonable scope.
Eliza Murawski grew up in Shoreham and Cornwall and always envisioned getting married on her parents’ property by their small pond. She and her fiancé Andrew McAvoy now live outside Barre in Graniteville and will finally have the opportunity to return to Addison County and make that dream come true this coming Aug. 18.
“Originally we wanted to have the ceremony and the reception all on the same property,” Eliza says, “but when we started pricing it all out we decided that shifting locations for the reception was going to make a lot more sense for budget reasons as well as logistically. It will simplify the details and allow my parents to relax more and enjoy the day.”
The couple chose the Middlebury Inn as their reception venue, which offers all-inclusive packages that simplify the planning process while still offering guests an elegant and memorable experience.
“Having the reception downtown also offers the benefit of being walkable to other hotels and inns where our guests may be staying as well as after-party locations for any guests who might want to continue the party after the Middlebury Inn’s curfew,” Eliza says. “We like the idea that any drinking will be downtown so we don’t have to worry about the liability of people getting into cars from my parent’s house and driving to wherever they’re staying or providing transportation,” she added.
Margaret Kennedy and Dylan Teer met as teenagers at Vergennes Union High School and have been together ever since. Last April while hanging out at Bristol Falls, Dylan proposed and the couple started slowly laying out plans for their wedding.
They selected June 9, 2018, for their wedding, which will mark the 11th anniversary of their first date.
Attracted to the natural beauty of the lakeside location and the all-in-one convenience, the couple chose the Grand Isle Lake House for their wedding venue. The classic inn features 13 guest rooms that Margaret and Dylan figure will be filled with members of their wedding party and family. They will host a rehearsal dinner, the ceremony and the reception all on the same site, offering convenience and simplicity to a couple not overly excited about fussing over a million little details.
In lieu of a traditional wedding party made up of bridesmaids and groomsmen, Eliza and Andrew have decided that they will walk down the aisle together, following a small procession made up of their immediate family members. They borrowed this idea from another wedding they had attended; Eliza said as soon as she saw it she knew that she would do the same if she were ever to get married herself.
They will be married by a cousin of Eliza’s, Charlie Vaczy, who Eliza said “has always felt more like a big brother to me.” When Eliza approached Charlie to let him know she wanted him to have a special role in their wedding it was he who suggested he be their officiant. He obtained a certificate to perform the marriage for this single purpose.
Margaret and Dylan, on the other hand, will each have five of their closest family members and friends with them at the altar as bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Margaret will be escorted down the aisle by both her mother and her father and will meet Dylan as well as their close friend and officiant Eric Montgomery at the altar. Montgomery had already been ordained, so Margaret and Dylan said he was a clear pick for the person to marry them.
For many couples, the ceremony itself may be the call that brings all the wedding guests together from near and far, but it’s the piece that is the hardest to plan and often gets cast aside in the planning process or left to the very end.
For Eliza and Andrew, their vision for the ceremony is slowly coming together, but Eliza admits that it’s something they need to spend some more time planning out. She and Andrew will write and deliver their own vows, but neither has started the vow-writing process yet. Eliza says it’s the thing that is most intimidating to her in the whole planning process. “I’m honestly terrified about writing my vows. I’m not always very eloquent and I know I’ll be a nervous wreck. I’m just afraid of not being able to put into words what exactly I want to say,” she says.
Without a religious or spiritual template guiding their ceremony, Eliza and Andrew plan to somehow incorporate members of their family and close friends in a ceremony that communicates the lofty promises the two make with their union as well as keep it true to who they are. They will have cello music played by Carol Fenn, a long time co-worker of Eliza’s dad, Jeff Murawski; they may ask family members to offer short readings or poems that help highlight the significant occasion. Eliza’s mother, Abbey Pope, and Abbey’s sisters practice Indian dance together and are considering a dance during the ceremony too. Eliza says she would really like each member of their families to feel like they are personally invited to contribute to the wedding, so they will be spending a lot of their time connecting with each person and figuring out what role they can play.
One cousin is a carpenter and he and another aunt who has a gift for design may collaborate on an arbor. Eliza’s sister, Annie, has been in several weddings, so will be able to offer lots of advice and assistance with the details of it all coming together. Conveniently, her mother is an excellent gardener and landscaper, so she plans to plant all of the flowers for the wedding right on site and no doubt the grounds will be in top condition for the big day.
However it shapes up, Eliza and Andrew are excited to design a ceremony that will help them and their guests really honor the occasion and make it feel extra personal.
As two shy people who aren’t interested in being in the limelight for much longer than they need to be, Margaret and Dylan are taking a slightly different approach.
“We want a simple, nondenominational ceremony,” Margaret said. “We’re going to exchange vows, exchange rings and head to the party!”
They will be writing their own vows, but Margaret says neither has started yet and in a moment of honesty added, “We probably won’t until the day before.”
Like Eliza, one of the things that most intimidates Margaret is the thought of crying during her vows and making difficult for her guests to understand her when she declares those crucial words.
Following their ceremony and formal photos at the Pope-Murawski residence, the wedding party will shift to the Middlebury Inn, where Eliza and Andrew expect many of their out-of-town guests will choose to stay.
A huge part of the appeal in the all-inclusive wedding packages offered by the Middlebury Inn was the relative few choices they had to make. “We’re going to do a tasting so we can choose our menu and we get to work with Otter Creek Bakery on specific cupcakes we want, but otherwise they pretty much have everything else taken care of,” Eliza said.
For music, Eliza and Andrew plan to have a date with their family when they’ll create a playlist for the evening. “We think it’ll be fun to choose our own songs and be able to transition from musical genres and themes as the night goes on,” she said.
The party may break for a few toasts given by close family members and the one piece that Eliza and Andrew are sure of is that they would like to take the time to introduce at least all of the members of their respective families to one another.
“There will be a number of people there from our extended families who have not yet met and we feel strongly that this is a blending of the two families and we would like to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce everyone,” Eliza said. This idea came from her father, Jeff Murawski, a long time guidance counselor at Middlebury Union Middle School.
With a careful regard for the enjoyment of their guests, as well as a love for local food and drink themselves, one of the things that most appealed to Margaret and Dylan about the Grand Isle Lake House was the local and seasonal menu they offer. The chef will be curating a special menu and the bar staff will have a wide selection of great local beers as well.
“The quality of the food and drinks were really important to us because if they aren’t good, your guests aren’t going to be happy and won’t have a good time,” Margaret said.
To add to the festivities, Margaret and Dylan plan to hire a DJ and have a great dance party.
“We really want to see our guests out on the dance floor, especially after they’ve had a few drinks,” she said.
As for toasts, Margaret and Dylan have asked their Maid of Honor and Best Man to plan toasts, but they have yet to decide if they are going to open the mic for other speeches or keep them short to allow for more dancing.
All the pesky details
Many of the details are still coming together for Eliza and Andrew, but fortunately most of the critical elements are in place. Fortunately, picking the dress was easier than Eliza had ever imagined.
“I went to David’s Bridal in Burlington and was planning on it just being a first attempt at getting an idea of what I was looking for. But the second dress I tried on was it. I just knew it was the one.”
Andrew’s outfit is picked out too, which the couple did together so Eliza could make sure she was OK with the color choices. He’ll be wearing a custom vest and matching pants, but given the mid-summer heat has opted out of the jacket.
Eliza’s parents, Jeff and Abbey, have been critical in the planning effort, nailing down many of the details like the tent and helping to coordinate invitations and save-the-date notices.
“Andrew and I are pretty…laid back…so it’s great to have some help checking some of the details off the list,” Eliza says. “I’ve already had some overwhelmed moments and we’re not that far into it, so it’s great to know that we don’t have to do all of this ourselves and that I have family that I can lean on for support.”
With the experience of having been in the wedding parties of many close friends, sister Annie has also been a huge support person for Eliza. Annie recommended Zola.com for a wedding registry site, which Eliza says has been a really easy and great tool so far.
The couple does plan to exchange wedding rings during the ceremony, but they haven’t quite settled on a jeweler yet, or what style they will choose. Eliza says she is hoping that the jeweler who made her parents’ wedding rings is still in business and may be able to do theirs too.
For a couple not terribly excited by the planning process, Margaret and Dylan have most of their ducks in a row for the big day.
Thanks to the naturally beautiful setting at the Grand Isle Lake House, Margaret and Dylan aren’t planning to need too many more decorations to add to the mood. They are getting flowers from Anne Matthews at Flower Power VT in Ferrisburgh and can fortunately repurpose some decorations used by Dylan’s sister at her wedding. For a fun and unique detail, the couple is going to have cookie cutters made that are shaped like their faces. They’re planning to decorate the cookies to look like themselves as party favors for their gusts.
The photographer they’ve hired is Chris Ingram of Featherwind Creative of Middlebury. He photographed a friend’s wedding last fall and came highly recommended.
Margaret was also lucky enough to find her dress relatively quickly at Fashion Corner in Port Henry, N.Y., just before the shop went out of business. While she said the whole process was a little bit stressful for her, she came out with a beautiful dress that will surprise her groom on June 9.
Help is easy to find for many brides and grooms, and Margaret and Dylan have certainly found that to be true. Both of their mothers have stepped up to help and fortunately Margaret’s maid of honor, Melissa Strong, is a highly organized person who has been offering helpful nudges as well as pieces of advice and encouragement along the way.
The process of planning a wedding ceremony can be overwhelming and details that you never knew needed planning seem to crop up just when you feel like you have a handle on things. For both of these local couples, staying relaxed and accepting help from others seems to be a successful strategy in the planning phase as they work out all of the decisions to be made before the wedding day.
For both, the most important part seems to be the part that is nearly guaranteed: that they will be able to share a huge life milestone with all of their closest family and friends by their sides.
All the best for both affairs!
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