Well, we blinked and now we have been married FOUR YEARS!
So much has happened in four years, but most importantly, our love has grown leaps and bounds each and every day. That might sound cliche, but it really is beyond crazy looking back years ago how much I loved him then, but comparing that to now, there is no comparison. I didn’t even know it was possible to love him more and for our love to grow stronger. But here we are now and my heart somehow has grown bigger and deeper for him beyond words being able to describe.
I was working in NYC at the time and Drew was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But it was the offseason so he was living and training back home in Georgia at the time. Of course, we talked about taking our relationship to the next level all the time and dreamt of getting engaged to become married. He had just lived with me for one month in my tiny studio apartment on Central Park South. (Yes, we shared a closet and a tiny living space, so that was a huge testament to our relationship, right?!) I think any girl who tells you that they aren’t anticipating an engagement during a certain time frame is simply lying. There comes a time in a serious relationship where it’s all you talk about for so long and all you dream of. All of us ladies (if you’re being honest with yourself) know that time period I’m talking about. For us we had been doing long distance for a little over 3 years and my lease was about to be up and I was in the talks about getting a promotion at work, so it was a critical time of are we going to do long distance for at least another year or are we going to take this huge next life step that we both are beyond ready for and eager to take? We both knew we wanted to get married. We both knew we couldn’t wait to live in the same city, let alone state! With all of that said, I wanted our engagement to be a total surprise. I didn’t want to have any clue when it was going to happen. And boy, was I surprised!
Drew and I had just spent the weekend vacationing with his sister and brother-in-law in Chicago and we had a total blast! That Sunday I literally watched him board a flight to Atlanta and I boarded my flight to NYC about an hour later. The next day, Monday, I went to work per usual, missing him like crazy after such a great weekend together. Weeks earlier, my best friend in The City invited me to dinner, for that Monday, with her family because her parents were visiting from Boston. Of course, I said yes! Anywho, after work I was pooped and was walking home to quickly walk Kodi and wait for my girlfriend to meet me at my place for us to head to dinner. Per usual, I called Drew on my walk home and we had a totally normal conversation about how our days went, how much we missed each other, and our plans for that night. He told me to have fun with Cara’s family and to call him later. I then called my mom to check-in with her on how she was doing and talk about our days. She knew about my dinner that night and told me to wear something cute since I was meeting her family for the first time. (This didn’t even register as weird to me because she had taken Cara and I to dinner before at nice restaurants so she told me they would probably take us somewhere nice also). I told her how exhausted I was from the weekend in Chicago but that I didn’t want to cancel on dinner plans with a family.
I got home, walked Kodi, took the fastest shower ever, and before I knew it, Cara was in my apartment. (She was actually on time, which is hugely surprising because she always ran late from work, but once again, I didn’t think anything weird because I didn’t think she would want to be late for her family). We hopped in a cab (she only takes the subway so this part is a major hindsight is 20/20 moment) and we headed up Central Park West. She even pulled up the dinner menu of the restaurant we were going to and everything. We got out at the restaurant (which happened to be directly across from a Central Park entrance). She called her mom (I could hear her mom’s voice so she was in on all of this too) and her mom said to come meet them at Bow Bridge because we were running early for dinner. (Once again, not weird at all, they are from out of town so of course they would want to walk the park). We walked in the entrance and Cara was looking down at her phone like crazy texting her “brother.” Little did I know she changed Drew’s name in her phone to her brother’s name and Drew was texting her step-by-step directions on where to find him in the park. The two of us were chatting away and she said, “Do you know where Bow Bridge is?” I said, “Of course I do! That is mine and Drew’s favorite spot in the park,” so I started to lead us there. When I say it was the MOST PERFECT GORGEOUS UNREAL evening in the park, there are no words. The sky was painted over like cotton candy and there was not a single soul roaming. For anyone who has been to Central Park even once knows that is downright impossible. There was a big event going on on the other side of the park so literally no one was in the area we were in. I swear to this day I legit heard an orchestra in the background and I legit turned to Cara and 100% remember saying, “This is the most romantic night ever I feel like.”
I turn the corner and there is Drew, standing at the end of Bow Bridge, with a bouquet of beautiful flowers. I was stopped DEAD IN MY TRACKS. I was speechless. Cara had to push me, smiled, and said, “have fun!” Drew walked to me grinning like I had never seen before. He grabbed my hand and escorted me to the middle of the bridge. It was just the two of us on the bridge – in the park – in New York – in the world. That moment was all ours. I remember thinking, “OMG. Is this it?! This can’t be it! OMG. It has to be it! Wait. Drew is in Atlanta. No, Drew is right here. OMG!!!” He said the sweetest sentences there ever were. Got down on one knee. Opened the little box. And asked me to marry him. To be his wife. To be his for the rest of our lives. I couldn’t even talk. I couldn’t even answer. He had to ask twice. I OF COURSE said YES and we hugged and kissed and (I) cried and the world stopped and was all ours. We didn’t move for 30 minutes and no one passed us, nothing. It was all ours. I vividly remember him saying, “You’re my fiance, we aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend anymore.” I can go on and on and on about every single detail. I remember it all. I remember the feeling in my heart, my head, and most importantly the expressions on his face. I seriously never even looked at my ring for the longest time because I was in such shock, happiness, and pure bliss. I remember him telling me to look at it! After quite some time I turned back looking for Cara because I had completely forgotten about her and dinner with her parents! She had legit climbed a tree and was snapping pictures capturing the entire engagement! I told her come down and she came over so happy congratulating us. I asked her about her parents/dinner still thinking we had plans and she explained how Drew reached out to her forever ago planning everything and how her parents aren’t even in town! (Her mom was in on it and I didn’t even meet her mom for like 2 years after that day)! Drew and I frolicked around the area to our favorite spots and she took pictures of us as we called our family to tell them the wonderful news! They knew everything because Drew had told them every detail in advance so they were all in Atlanta together anxiously awaiting our phone call at a bar to pop the bubbly! They were ecstatic, I was on cloud 9 and it was a fairytale.
We went to dinner at The Boathouse inside Central Park next to the bridge and it was magical. Drew went there earlier that morning to set up our table and everything (he thought of it all). We had the terrace all to ourselves overlooking the water, champagne, the whole nine yards. There were even fireworks. I can’t make this up. (No, Drew did not plan the fireworks. Remember that event I told you about on the other side of the park? They were for that. But we had an unobstructed view of them right over us and it was so romantic.) I remember once people started finding out about our engagement, my phone was blowing up with congratulatory texts and asking if the fireworks in the park were for us haha. After dinner, as if this night couldn’t get ANY MORE PERFECT, he had one last surprise. He got us the penthouse suite overlooking Central Park, where we got engaged, for us to stay the night. There were rose petals EVERYWHERE. Kodi joined us (and ate as many red rose petals that he could fit in his mouth). There were champagne bottles from friends who sent them to our room and Drew and I stayed up all night long. I wouldn’t take my ring off my finger, even to get the tiniest bit of shut eye, it never came off. The giddiness and pure bliss of that night in New York City was one that will go down in the books for the rest of our lives.
Drew planned the most perfect engagement for us and the most special night I couldn’t have even of dreamt about it. He knew NYC was so special to me. It’s where we officially took our relationship to boyfriend/girlfriend years prior and it’s where we took our relationship to husband and wife-to-be. He wanted to propose somewhere that has meaning to both of us (we roamed Central Park together almost every day that he lived with me for a month and where we roamed the day years before when we became bf/gf). He wanted to propose in a place we could always return to years and years later, somewhere that won’t get knocked down and will always be protected. He wanted to surprise me and he wanted it to be perfect. I can definately say he checked ALL of his desired boxes. Everything to the millisecond was SO planned out and SO perfect for us. I can’t imagine it any other way.
Everything moved along pretty quickly during our engagement. With having to work around football season, either we were going to have a 7 month engagement or a year and a half engagement. We had known each other our whole lives and we knew we couldn’t wait to get married, so the 7 month engagement was hands down the right way to go for us. I put in my notice with work, and left on good terms with them helping me get a job at NBC in Pittsburgh. I left NYC after years of working in my dream company and dream city, closing out a very special, important and independent chapter in my life. I went home to Atlanta for one month while Drew was at training camp in PA so I could jump start on wedding planning! I then moved to Pittsburgh (for all of a few days before football had other plans for us, but that’s a whole other story). So I luckily planned our Atlanta wedding from Atlanta while football was in limbo. It’s really amazing how timing in life works out.
–Get an invite list together before you look at venues. The people that are going to surround you on your special day are most important and you want to make sure you pick a venue that can hold everyone you want instead of picking out a venue, finding out they’re not capable of accommodating your number of attendees, and having to exclude loved ones from your invite list. For example, we had 300 people at our wedding and there were only limited venues that could hold that many people. So we knew our number, THEN looked into locations. When you do look into venues after gathering your numbers, choose what speaks to you. For instance, like I said earlier in our engagement story, Drew wanted to propose somewhere we can always go back to forever. When we were looking at venues, we fell in love with the location immediately. It was so us and once again, we wanted somewhere we can go back to years and years from now. Our venue is a historic building in Atlanta so it will always be protected just like our engagement location is. Of course, we looked at a few more venues after the one we fell in love with because we wanted to be 1000% sure, and after looking at more venues, it only solidified even more that location #1 was right for us.
–Make sure you ask your family members for who they want to invite. Yes, everyone is coming together in your honor and it’s your special day. But, it’s also about the joining of two families. They want their loved ones to be there as well. What Drew and I did was we literally gave each of us a third of the invites. Drew and I got 100 people, my mom got 100 people and Drew’s parents got 100 people. We wanted everyone happy. With that said, you will hear rules of thumb on how many people you should invite to get the number of attendees you’re wanting. I would say scratch that. Almost everyone we invited came. You know your list best. So don’t over-invite and assume you will get a bunch of no’s. You should have a good idea in your mind who will attend when you create your list because the last thing you want is to be over-capacity for your venue and be stuck between a rock and a hard place.
–Trendy vs. Traditional. You’ll need to decide which one you are very early on. This will affect everything from your venue, to decor, dresses, etc. Go with your gut. For me personally, I loved the trendy look and thought it was fun and knew it was popular. However, it was so not me. When it comes down to it, you know deep down what style you are. Always make sure you are making decisions based off what you’re wanting instead of being the popular decision amongst friends or maybe even family.
–First items on your checklist should be finding your venue, finding your dress, and ordering your save the dates. (I also recommend finding your bridesmaid dresses asap also because those can take awhile to come in and you want to give your bridesmaids plenty of time to get their dresses altered).
–Gather your team. Are you going to have a wedding planner? Are you just going to have someone help out the day of? Does your venue allow outside vendors? Do they have required outside vendors you have to choose from? Don’t forget photographer. Do you want a videographer? Interview everyone. You want to surround yourself with the people you feel most comfortable with so make sure you meet everyone and get a great feel for their work and personalities.
–Send out save the dates about 6 months in advance. You want to give people plenty of notice to pencil in your special day. Especially out of town guests.
–Plan with your photographer and/or videographer/first look. First of all, you and your husband-to-be need to plan if you’re going to do a first look or not. 99.99% of couples do this now and very rarely do you find couples who don’t. Whatever your decision is, make sure you two decide if you’re going to do one or not before you let your photographer peer pressure you into doing one. It’s a major trend and the photographer will try to talk you into it if you haven’t decided to already. Why? Because it gives them more opportunities to get the best pictures aka takes the pressure off of them. Drew and I decided not to do one. (Yes, we are one of those rare couples). I wanted the first time he saw me to be walking down the aisle towards him. That was important to me and it was important to him. There are two more big things to plan with them in advance. One, the kind of package you are doing. Lots of packages now include an engagement photo session. Drew and I had so many great pictures taken from our actual engagement that we asked instead of having an “engagement photo shoot” to just include more pages in our wedding album. You can also ask for them to go to your rehearsal dinner to take pics instead of doing an engagement session. So be aware of your package and make sure you get the most out of it/get what you’re paying for! Secondly, plan in advance the style of pictures you want them to take and the people you want to be in them. Literally look up pictures you love whether it’s their work or not and describe to them what you love about it so they can recreate it for you. And in regard to people, your mind is going to be in the most blissful state on wedding day, don’t let your brain have to work on who you need pics with. Literally type out a list to your photographer of people’s names to call out after the ceremony, while everyone else is on their way to cocktail hour or already at cocktail hour.
–Prioritize what matters most to you. You will literally have endless options for everything and prices will go up to exorbitant prices. Vendors have no problem spending your money and suggesting the most elaborate ideas, so figure out what your must-haves are and what is most important to you. For example, I know lots of people who say flowers die so why spend crazy amounts of money on flowers to literally have them for one day? I personally love flowers and flowers were important to me. I wanted to spend money on flowers. If flowers don’t mean a ton to you or aren’t in your vision, save your money there and spend it elsewhere.
–Definitely take part in cake and food tastings. Why wouldn’t you want to taste everything ahead of time?! Make this a fun get together by inviting your families.
–Register for more than you think. You’ll be surprised with how kind people are with your registry. Some people will look for expensive gifts (so don’t feel bad putting expensive items on your list) and also put inexpensive items on your list. Don’t feel bad for putting a lot on your registry. There is no such thing as “over-registering.” You’re giving people options, not telling them they have to buy something for you. They will buy what they feel comfortable gifting you. Also, make sure you register well in advance so people can view your list for showers as well, not just your wedding gift. Drew and I registered four months before our wedding.
–Band vs. DJ. There are potential pros and cons to both. It comes down to your style and preference. Either one you go with, make sure you listen to their work and gather a long list of songs you want them to play. Drew and I had a very long night we set aside just to work on music and e-mailed it over to our band. This is important because 1. you deserve to have the music you want played, played. 2. most bands (and maybe DJs) will send you a list of a ton of songs they know. If there are songs you want them to perform that aren’t on their list, you need to make sure you get songs to them well in advance so they can learn them before your wedding day during their practices. That brings me to my next point. Make sure you discuss with them what happens if you want them to play a song they don’t know. Go with an accommodating band. They should agree to learn it as long as you give them enough notice. Also, make sure you know when your band or DJ are going to start performing. For example, if you don’t want to start paying them until the reception, then you need to plan on what you’re going to have as background music during dinner, even if you make the playlist yourself and hookup your iPhone or iPod. And make sure you talk to your venue about their music system/speakers for dinner and if they have any. If not, you’ll need to reach out to your band or DJ and ask for their speakers at least a few hours before they perform.
–Arrange room blocks. This is so helpful for your guests. I suggest partnering with at least two hotels (one fancier/more expensive option and also a more reasonable option so the guest can choose what they’re most comfortable with). Make sure you do this well in advance because hotels can book up quickly if there happens to be a conference or event in town. Also make sure you are thinking of your guests best interest in mind. You want the hotels to be close to your ceremony, reception and rehearsal dinner.
–Arrange transportation. Setting up transportation for your guests from your designated hotels for the ceremony, reception and back to the hotel is so helpful for your guests. Think about it. When you’re a guest at a wedding, isn’t this always a nice compliment to the weekend so you don’t have to worry about driving or calling an uber?
–Welcome bags. Have welcome bags at the hotel for when your loved ones check-in to the hotel for the weekend. I would say at minimum, this should include some sort of itenerary and welcome note from you and your hubby-to-be thanking them for their presense, recommendations for places to go while they’re in town, and water/drinks, snacks.
–The rule of thumb is sending out your invitations one month before your wedding date. I sent mine out a tad before because our room blocks were going to expire and I wanted to give our guests ample time to book them. Also, check with your vendors on when they need their final numbers by because this also will affect when you want to send them out. Keep in mind that even though you’re giving an “RSVP by date” that you will still have to track plenty of people down with phone calls and text messages asking if they’re coming. So give yourself time for that as well.
–Make sure you do a hair and makeup trial. I don’t know about y’all but I have definitely cried after getting my hair styled before for prom. You picture something flawless in your head and somehow leave with the most terrible updo. You don’t want ANY surprises on your wedding day that you can control ahead of time. Do trial runs and make sure you do them both the same day so you see the complete look together! Make sure you take pictures of both for reference, and with makeup that you also write down the exact products and color names. Also, plan in advance and confirm that they are either coming to you where you’re getting ready the day of your wedding or that you have time to go to their location. Same goes with a tan!! If you’re getting a spray tan, make sure you test out that exact person or booth in advance before your wedding weekend.
–Don’t switch up your style. The closer you get, don’t play around with a new eyebrow wax place or hair stylist/colorist. Stick to what you know and what you love. I don’t know about y’all but I have absolutely left a haircut crying more than once because they cut it too short or something along those lines. Don’t get a cut or wax close to your big day.
–Take care of your bridal party. All weekend long. Just make sure they know the plans in advance and are going to have a great time. One of my favorite things we did was we had our wedding coordinator take all of their drink orders before the ceremony and got drinks delivered to them right after the ceremony (since they were missing the beginning of cocktail hour because they were watching family pictures & taking pictures with us). Also, we included their plus ones at the head table so they could sit together. It’s never fun going to a wedding when your significant other is in the bridal party and the two of you sit separate for the night and don’t know anyone you’re with (or don’t care to be with the people you’re with…) Just courteous to think about your besties and make sure they’re happy!
–Plan your honeymoon! In the midst of all your wedding planning, don’t forget to plan your honeymoon for you and your honey!! I personally am a HUGE proponent of going on your honeymoon immediately following your wedding weekend. After the months of planning, stress (yes, there will be stress), and total whirlwind of the best weekend of your life come wedding time, the best thing you can do for you and your husband is hop on a plane and soak up uninterrupted, totally devoted, one-on-one time. I absolutely understand if you can’t sneak away right away due to work or money purposes but if you can, then DO IT!
BIGGEST PIECE OF WEDDING DAY ADVICE
*If you read one thing in this entire post, this is it*
I tell this to everyone close to me. And all of you mean so much to me, so we’re basically besties right?! So, here we go. You will hear over and over and over again that your wedding day will fly by. You will hear over and over and over again that you plan and plan and plan and then you blink day of and it’s all over with. Let me let you in on a little secret: DON’T LET IT!!! Here is what Drew and I did and it was the absolute best thing that Drew and I could have done for ourselves. I arranged ahead of time with my wedding coordinator that I wanted Drew and I to have 30 minutes all alone, just to ourselves, after the pictures following the ceremony. What do I mean by this? We got married. We toasted with our family and bridal party, took pictures with all of them, then let them join the cocktail hour, and then Drew and I took pictures with the photographer. After Drew and I were done with our pictures, our wedding coordinator snuck us into a room that we didn’t even allow our photographer into. It was just Drew and I. I can’t begin to tell you how needed and how special those 30 minutes were just the two of us. It gave us time to be giddy in love together, talk about how our day went, how we were feeling, how elated we were, stare at each other’s rings, laugh, love, be so giddy, and so on. Our wedding coordinator made sure that there were drinks and appetizers in the room ahead of time for us so we got to nibble on food (because let’s be real, you probably won’t have time to during the dinner and party because everyone is so excited to come congratulate you!) When I think about our wedding day, I think of so many things and I think of us in that room. That time grounded us. It brought us together. It gave us time to catch our breath and most importantly celebrate our marriage. That’s what you’re there for right?! Getting married and being able to truly feel that with your love is much needed instead of being pulled in a million directions for the entire night. What was happening to everyone while we were in that room? They were finishing up cocktail hour and finding their place cards for dinner and being seated. They didn’t even know we were gone. They just assumed we were taking more pictures or something or just waiting to officially be introduced. Once everyone was completely seated, then our wedding coordinator came and got us and brought us to dinner where we were announced as Mr. & Mrs.! When I say NO ONE does this, no one does this. They usually are with their bridal party celebrating waiting to be announced. I have never heard of anyone doing this other than us. PLEASE, for your own good, steal this idea from me! And seriously, don’t let your photographer in because then it won’t feel the same either. It’s not always about the picture, y’all 🙂
ALSO, along the same lines of not letting the day slip you by: don’t get separated from your spouse. During the reception so many family and friends are going to come up to you and hug on you and give you their well wishes and compliments. After all, they came all this way to celebrate you. With that said, don’t get separated from your hubby. Make it a point to tell him before the wedding day that you want to make it a point to stick together all night long. That might sound insanely obvious, but I promise you it’s not once everyone starts trying to congratulate you and talk to the newlyweds. Just make sure that if you see that you’re literally being pulled different directions or being drifted apart because of people grabbing you, excuse yourself, go back to each other, and join in on the festivities with everyone AS A COUPLE! I’m absolutely not saying don’t engage with everyone, I’m simply saying make sure you’re doing it together. It’s your night.
I just threw A TON of info at you!! Holy moly! I hope you find all of this helpful and I hope you have the best wedding ever. Don’t forget the reason for the celebration and union in the first place. Don’t get too stressed. Love on your love and enjoy the ride. It will be a time in your life you will never ever forget.
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