The "To Do"s Before the "I Do"s

Our flowers...English Garden Roses and Peonies

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a wedding planning post series, for all the budding brides out there. We’re just about three months away from our 1 year anniversary, so doing a series like this just felt right.

Kind of like the guy I married.

Funny how that works.

I call the first part of the process the “Big Three”. The “Big Three” is composed of three important decisions: The ceremony venue, the reception venue and the dress. Things book up fast, so you’ll want to nab your favorite locales pronto!

The Wedding Venue

For us, the decision on where we wanted the ceremony was easy. Our church is stunning and grand, the type of venue we were seeking. The architecture, the stained glass, the multi-level stage and alter…it truly is one of the prettiest churches in Northwest Arkansas. Stephen and I are both traditionalists and we always wanted to get married in a church. (Maybe we’re old fashioned, but for us, this was the best option.) And since we were members at Central United Methodist, it just made sense.

I suppose choosing an officiant could also fall into this category, but since we love our pastor, it was a no-brainer.

A few tips for choosing a ceremony venue

When deciding on your wedding venue, be sure to ask the venue coordinator (even if it is a church) the following:

  • Will we be allowed to set up the day before and take down the day after?
  • Do you allow real petals to be tossed onto the aisle?
  • What is the seating capacity?
  • Will there be someone to operate sound/lighting/etc.? (Most churches provide this.)
  • Will our musicians be able to utilize the instruments at the venue? (Piano, etc.)
  • Are there rooms for the bridal party to change and get ready prior to the ceremony?
  • Do you allow real candles?

The Reception Venue 

Secondly, grab a reception hall. For me, I wanted something that could be decorated beautifully, but that was equally impressive on it’s own accord. We both also wanted somewhere that reflected the Southern theme of the wedding.

We had looked at a ton of reception venues, but none really knocked our socks off. Until we ventured over to Springdale Country Club. It has a richly Southern feel and exquisite lighting, (another mucho important component for this bride!) The ceilings were really tall and there was plenty of room for guests to dance, drink and eat, as well as a second ballroom for quiet sitting in front of the floor to ceiling fireplace.


A few tips for choosing a reception venue

  • Does the venue require you use their caterer?
  • How much of a deposit is required to secure the venue? (Most require about 25%.)
  • Does your venue allow adult beverages? Do you provide a bartender?
  • Do you allow the use of real candles?
  • What is the maximum capacity of the venue?
  • Will the set-up and tear down of tables, food service, etc. be executed by a staff?
  • Does your staff conduct the clean up?
  • Does the venue have adequate space for a dance floor and D.J.?
  • How far from the site of the wedding is the reception venue? (According to many of the magazines we looked at, 30 minutes is the maximum time you should require guests to drive.)

The Dress

Surprisingly, the easiest part of the process was deciding on a dress. I knew I wanted something that hugged my waistline and created a nice, form-fitting silhouette. I think ball gowns are beautiful, but I’m pretty petite and knew that I needed something more body-con. After all, you wear the dress. Not the other way around. I also loved the one-shoulder look and wanted something with a little bit of sparkly detail.

Full length view of the dress : ) Can you spot the bride in Stephen's massive family? Haha

The dress I ended up buying was actually the first one I tried on. Of course I tried on a few others too, just to make sure, but in the end, I knew it was the right dress for me.

A few tips for choosing a dress

When deciding on your wedding, remember the following:
  • Does it make you look like the best version of yourself?
  • Is it slimming, particularly around the waistline? You’ll like your pics thismuchmore if you like your waist…promise.
  • Does the dress need to be ordered from the design house? If so, how long will it take? (This is the case 80% of the time. It took a month for mine to come in, which is really pretty good.)
  • What style and theme of wedding will you have? Our “theme” was Southern Chic, so a form fitting yet classic dress fit well.
  • Where are you getting married? 55 lb. Ball gown + Sandy Beach = Potential Disaster. Pick your dress according to where you plan to wed.

Do you LOVE it? I know you love it, but do you LOVE it?


Next time, we’ll cover cake, bridesmaids and photographer. Until then, hang tight, you lovely blushing brides!

Be blessed, lovelies-


  1. love it! my wedding is in 31 days and this post made me feel like i've checked so much off my list. HA!

  2. Such an awesome idea! We are about a month out from our 1 year anniversary and I was thinking about doing something similar to celebrate. I love your flowers and the venue is gorgeous! You were a beautiful bride!

  3. I know this is probably not standard for most churches, but when I was looking, I went to a church that did NOT allow photos in the actual sanctuary! For obvious reasons, this was a huge turnoff!

  4. I'm a September bride and am thrilled you're doing this! It's crunch time and I want to make sure I'm covering everything :)

  5. You are gorgeous and organized! Dish out the bridal advice, many should listen to you!

  6. Good tips! I loved everything about our wedding...except my dress. And that's a big thing to not like.

    I liked the way it looked from the front when I tried it on, but not the back, but I was getting tired of looking... I thought I was happy with it, and then about a month before the wedding, decided I was very unhappy with it. My mom said "if you really feel that way, let's go find something less expensive off the rack," and I said that would be wasteful and ridiculous, and it would have been! But I didn't know that six years later I would still be bummed about it.

    My hubby and mom still say I was gorgeous, of course, but I hope you learn from my mistake and don't settle!

  7. I'm getting married on July 21. Great tips. We picked our reception place first, then the church. It just worked out that way.

    and i LOVE MY DRESS. I just had my bridal portraits last week and it's killing me not to show the future hubs. I'm dying for him to see it :)

  8. I love this!!! Every wedding blog/site I've seen is always about money money money, so this is a wonderful change of pace! I love that you focus on how much the bride and groom are supposed to love the wedding, not just the guests or how much money you can save!
    I'm looking forward to the rest of this series!


  9. Nice post! I see we think alike! I just started a wedding series on my blog too!


  10. You made the most beautiful bride. ADORE you :) XOXO

  11. This is such a helpful post! I am definitely following and hope you post a wedding planning series! We're getting engaged this summer :)

    xo Georgina

  12. Keep the wedding posts coming! I'm getting married in November and could use all the wedding advice I can get!

  13. Great idea for a post series! I will have to file these away for when the right time comes! :)

  14. Omgoshhh you were such a beautiful bride! I wanna see more pictures! Haha! Love this blog idea!

  15. My wedding is coming up in October, so I'm looking forward to reading your posts for some "last-minute" tips!

    I also ended up choosing the first dress I tried on, like you did! I even tried on about 10 more after it, and still went back to the very first one :)

  16. Great series Leslie! I believe my husband and I got married the same day as you & your man? Sept 17th? We picked a great day!

    ~Lindsay @

  17. Excellent suggestions all around!!! I am excited to read more. My biggest issue was that we set a date, and I discovered that my dream photographer wasn't available that weekend. So I'm going to say if photos are HUGE on your MUST list... find out the dates available with the photog before signing your venue on the dotted line :)

    Can't wait to read more your wedding was so beautiful I love hearing your thought process.

  18. New to your blog, and love it!! My dream occupation would be wedding planning so I think this a great post!

  19. This is a great post!!! Makes me want to get married again! We are celebrating 3 years on Tuesday :)


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