My Parents’ Wedding Story: Wedding Planning

Ok guys… I think this may or may not be my favorite blog post EVER.

I recently asked my brides about what questions they may have for me. Some were quick answers, some were perfect to address in the Facebook community I have for my brides and others were better suited for the blog! There was one question, or set of questions rather, that stopped me in my tracks. The specific set of questions and apprehension had to deal with the pressure for a wedding to be perfect.

I say this to my brides a lot: Yes, pre-planning is SO important (this is how you can cut a ton of stress out of your day!), yes the details are really fun to dream about (and to photograph!), yes, you want this day to be all that you have been dreaming about and more, but in the end, things could go wrong, and all that really matters at the end of the day is that you are marrying your human. I can say this again and again, until I am blue in the face… but as someone that has never planned their own wedding and is not married herself, I started to wonder: is this really true?

So… I decided to consult the one person that I consult to on just about everything: my mom. I started with the simple idea of learning more to help my couples and ended up learning so much about my parents in the process. It was a win-win situation! Though my mom was a bride during a different time of wedding planning season (she constantly remarked at how different the wedding industry is now vs. in the 80’s!), she was still a brand new bride that had been dreaming about her wedding since she was a little girl.

Maybe I thought this was extra sweet because of my tie to the wedding industry or fascination with family history or the journalist in me (putting that Penn State journalism degree to use for this blog post!), but I found writing and interviewing for this post to be a lot of fun! After 31 years of marriage, three kids, a few big moves (both around the world and across the country), and a whole lot of life let’s start where it all began for my parents… I’ll be putting my commentary in italics, for easy reference!

A huge shoutout to my mom for playing along and for only thinking I’m a little crazy! If you have the interest and haven’t done so yet, I highly recommend asking your parents about their wedding day. Feel free to steal my list of questions! What you learn will be so special!

My parents wedding photos are by Marsella Studio. They’ve been scanned by my dad and then converted into image files from their wedding album. This is why the quality may look a little different from what you are used to seeing!!

Background: My parents both lived and grew up in and right outside of Philadelphia, PA! 


Can you tell me about the first time you met? When did you realize Dad was “the one?”

The first time I saw Dad, he was wearing short red gym shorts and playing basketball on the Penn State Ogontz campus. (This is now called Penn State Abington!) One of my friends thought he was cute. I knew it was hopeless for her because I was going to marry him!

The first time we talked, he coached me down a ski hill. We were on a ski trip with a big group from Penn State, and I had borrowed a whole ensemble and looked professional. I was terrified, and Dad talked me down. 

I knew he was the one from the moment I saw him in his red gym shorts!

What was your first date?

We went to see The Amityville Horror on our first date and didn’t even make it 20 minutes. We walked back to his house, and his dog threw up all over me. (I actually died laughing at this story.)

The Proposal

Tell me a little bit about your proposal. What were you most excited about after Dad asked the big question?

We dated for 7 years before Dad popped the question over the phone! He was living in Japan at the time. It was still exciting! (When my parents graduated college, my dad worked in the States for a bit before moving to Japan for work! My mom was teaching elementary school in Pennsylvania while he was overseas. Talk about a long distance relationship… they didn’t even have texting back then!) 

How did you pick your ring?

Poppop (My dad’s dad & my grandpa!) and I picked Dad up from the flight in from Japan. Poppop said: “We are going right to the jewelry store while he’s jet lagged to get a big diamond!” I picked out my ring with help from the two of them! We were engaged for 4 months before I got the ring.

Do you have any advice for someone that is newly engaged?

Don’t sweat the little things. Focus on the day and the people who will be coming to your wedding. Include things that make you happy throughout the day. (I love this advice!!)

Wedding Planning

What was your wedding planning process like? Do you remember any of it?

Fast! We were engaged in September and married in January!

How did you pick your wedding date? (January 9, 1988)

We had to pick a date around Christmas because that was when Dad would be home from Japan. We did it as soon as we could after the holidays when he was still home. I think it was the Saturday right after New Years.

When it comes to your wedding planning, do you remember if anything went well? Would you have done anything differently?

I don’t remember it being a big deal. We needed to get it done fast, and fortunately, were able to get all the venders we wanted. (Shoutout to January weddings in PA. PSA: Vendors book very quickly these days! Grab your crew well in advance whenever possible!)

Do you remember vendor shopping? How did you pick your photographer, caterer, venue, florist, etc.?

Because our wedding was in January in the Northeast, we didn’t have too much trouble getting everyone set up. It helped knowing what my sister did for her wedding!

I think it is important to remember that, in the last 20 years or so, weddings have really started to take on more individuality and uniqueness, and therefore, the planning process has become more involved. In the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s and even before that, there was a pretty standard “frame” that most couples pulled from when planning their wedding. First you got ready at home, then you went to your church or synagogue to tie the knot, and finally, you celebrated in a local ballroom or banquet hall. Searching long and hard for the perfect venue wasn’t really a thing back then because, if you were getting married in your home church or synagogue, pretty much everything you needed was already planned for you! With the current shift in the wedding industry, couples now have more freedom to plan a wedding custom tailored to fit their dreams, vision, and love story. I don’t quite think there is a right or wrong way between the then and the now. I just wanted to point this out! There ARE huge differences between the wedding industry 30 years ago and the weddings you see (or are planning!) today. 

Do you remember dress shopping? How did you pick your dress?

Yes! We found the most beautiful dress on the sale rack. It was still quite pricey but Mommom (her mom my grandma!) insisted it was the one!!

Did you have any little details at your wedding that you were really excited about?

I was excited about the bridesmaids headbands. We had them made. Immediately after telling me about the headbands, she laughed about how very on trend they were at the time and how they were a “little weird” now. 

What was something that seemed small during planning but was actually important?

The guest list and the timing of the day. The music for the ceremony. We needed an earlier mass at noon so a specific priest could do the ceremony. He was older, and it was just better that way. That way, he was able to make it to the reception too! I emphasize planning and having a logistically sound timeline a lot, but I don’t always talk about the importance of crafting an intentional guest list! Maybe a blog post for the future? 

The Wedding

I think I need to preface this entire section by reminding you that my parents got married right at the middle of January in Pennsylvania! So… it was really cold! In fact, they got over a FOOT of snow the night before their wedding. While that sends me into a total panic, my mom just shrugged and told me about something else! When it comes to things NOT going as planned, it is all about perspective, y’all! 

Do you remember what your venue was named or where your wedding was hosted?

Our reception was at the Blair Mill Inn, and the wedding was held at Our Lady of Good Council in Southhampton, PA.

What was getting ready for your wedding like?

I definitely recommend having someone come style your hair (and maybe makeup!). I had someone style my hair, and I can’t stress how nice it was to have to sit in a chair and relax for a little bit on the morning of my wedding.

The girls got ready in my mom’s parent’s house (seen in the bridesmaids picture above!). 

What was your fondest memory from your wedding day?

Our ceremony was so special! Both priests from the school where I taught came and performed the ceremony. (My mom was an elementary school teacher in a Catholic parish at the time!) I invited my class to watch the ceremony, and so many of my kindergarteners came and stood in the aisle to watch me get married! A first grade teacher that I worked with and was close to at the time sang during mass, and the principal at my school did some of the readings. There were also a few family members that did readings, and my brother filmed our ceremony. It was a total family affair!

When we talked about this on the phone, she emphasized the point that it is so much more about the PEOPLE that you are there celebrating with than it is about the THINGS. It meant so much to her to have her kindergarten class there to watch her get married! 

Was there anything that went wrong during your wedding? What did you do?

Oh get ready for this story y’all! Talk about one chill bride! 

It was a really cold day, and a pipe burst in the room where we were going to take photos. It flooded the area. We followed the fire engines into the reception venue after our ceremony… that was pretty terrifying. We didn’t know that it was a pipe that had burst, so we were freaking out a little bit. (Understandably so!!!) We ended up using another room for the photos. We managed to do ok! It wasn’t worth getting upset over. I didn’t want to let that ruin our day.

What was your first dance song? How did you pick it?

Neither one of us really remember the song we danced to. (Upon further research, we all learned that my parents danced to Just You and I). I wanted to dance to a song called Somewhere Out There from An American Tale, but Dad said he wouldn’t dance to a song from a cartoon about a mouse. Still to this day, it is the one everyone remembers!

OK the song might seem a little silly, but the thought behind it was really cute! At the time they got married, my mom was teaching in Pennsylvania and my dad was working in Japan. If you look at the lyrics of the song, it makes total sense! “Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight | Someone’s thinking of me and loving me tonight…”

What were some of your favorite moments from your reception?

I have a clear memory of dancing to “We Are Family” at the reception! (Some things never change about wedding traditions, y’all!) Also, Dad’s brothers (My Uncle Jack and Uncle Tom) were Dad’s co-best men. I remember their toast being absolutely hilarious. Uncle Jack told a joke about Dad flipping a quarter that I think I’ll remember forever! I also loved visiting the table and all of our guests. A lot of the guys from dad’s job overseas came for the wedding, and that meant a lot. They stayed in the Red Roof Inn! (Insert giggles from my mom here.)

Newlywed Life

What was one of your favorite memories from your first year as a married couple?

I loved starting our marriage in Japan. It was just the two of us, and it was amazing touring the country. (My mom got to be one of those super cool international school teachers in Japan!)

Ok… so I know this post was long, but I just couldn’t help but share ALL of my mom’s answers. Part of the reason I love this post so much is because it allowed me to get to know my parents during this season of their lives AND because I know it will be encouraging to a lot of people that are planning a wedding. It is true that you get to control what you do and don’t remember about your wedding day! My mom laughed off a burst pipe and a foot of snow and instead remembers the amazing time she had with her friends and family. 31 years later, and she still remembers just how happy they were that day! When I asked, she couldn’t remember much about the favors on the tables or the linen that they selected. It really was all about the people!

I know the saying “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react” is pretty dang cheesy, but it is so true, and it totally applies to your wedding day too!

DO included personal touches and details that make you happy, but don’t stress about them if they aren’t your thing. DO plan a timeline that makes sense for you, your vendors, and your guests. DO invite the people that you know will make you smile. DON’T stress over things that are totally out of your control. Roll with the punches, grab a glass of champagne, and keep the party going!

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