So yeah, one of my worst wedding fears came true – I was sick with a nasty cold at my wedding. I’m going to talk about that in a minute, but first I want to give you a full list of wedding tips in this wedding survival guide that I wish someone would have given me before my big day. I was a wedding first-timer (and not planning any more in the future haha!). Before the ceremony, I read lots of well-meaning wedding prep articles with some good advice as well as some terrible advice. My best friend got married a week before me, and I’ve learned lessons from her wedding and from mine. I’m going to skip the unnecessary fluffy stuff and just give you the real intel you need to survive your wedding (plus photos and behind the scenes details from my wedding)!
A Wedding Survival Guide. Here’s what I wish someone had told me before my wedding.
Wedding Survival Tip 1: Figure out what’s most important to you and your partner.
This one is important. Sit down with your partner for a “wedding meeting” as Gregg and I called it, and discuss which parts of the wedding are most important for you. For me, it was the hair/makeup/photography (duh – I’m a beauty blogger!), and having a beautiful venue. For Gregg, it was the venue, the photographer and a nice suit. For both of us, it was important to have our closest friends and family there. Our families had not met yet, and this was a big deal for them to meet. We both wanted a small, destination wedding, because we wanted to add travel into the mix, and we didn’t want 100+ people to come. We ended up with 24 guests (including my two nephews and niece), and that was just perfect for us.
For my BFF, Sharon, and her partner, Rocky, it was important to have really great food and alcohol (because they are big foodies). For Gregg and I, it was important to just HAVE food. I’m kind of kidding – we wanted it to be good but it wasn’t a very important part of our planning (and we couldn’t do a tasting because we were planning from across the pond). What WAS important was making sure our vegan guests and guests with allergies had food they could eat.
So, because venue, hair/makeup and photography were essential elements for me, I spent a lot of time researching them online. I found a lot of great leads on Offbeat Bride, The Knot, and by searching specific hashtags like #scottishmua on Instagram. I also talked to makeup artist and hairstylist friends to ask for recommendations. Gregg and I were stoked to find several castles that did weddings by searching online, and after creating lots of spreadsheets with pros and cons, we chose Dalhousie Castle. After lots of research, I was also very lucky that I was able to find Lauren McGlynn for photos, and AMM Team for hair and makeup. More about these amazing vendors below!
Wedding Survival Tip 2 – Easily stressed? Choose an all-inclusive venue.
If you love planning, and are thinking you may even want to go into wedding planning as a career, obviously this one doesn’t apply to you. If you’re like me, and feel that planning a wedding is like a second job that sucks money out of you instead of pays you, this may apply to you. 😉
We chose Dalhousie Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland for our destination wedding venue, and almost every single person I talked to wanted to know if it was me or Gregg who was Scottish. Well, I think that’s normal human curiosity, but also kind of weird. If I was getting married in Hawaii, no one would have asked if I was Hawaiian! 23 and Me says I have a lot of British and “broadly northwestern European” ancestry so maybe there are some Scottish ancestors in my family, but that’s not why we chose Scotland for our wedding. Neither of us had been, but we knew it was going to be a be a blend of beautiful Scottish countryside mixed with a big, bustling city full of history and old Gothic architecture. Plus, I mean dude – a freaking CASTLE! I think a lot of my friends and family were baffled by our choice, until they attended the wedding (or saw the pics). People were especially baffled since we were doing it in chilly October – but Halloween is our anniversary so we knew we wanted it in October!
One of the best things about Dalhousie Castle, is that they took care of a lot of little details that I didn’t want to worry about. If you’re a big planner, and you enjoy details, by all means, rent an empty hall, outdoor space, or Air B&B and bring in everything yourself. If you’re NOT into that (like me), I strongly recommend finding a venue that will do as much as possible for you. Dalhousie Castle provided the food, alcohol, tables, plates and silverware, chairs and chair covers, servers and bartenders, cake stand, etc. They also provided us with an amazing house piper to lead guests into the chapel and to lead the cake cutting ceremony (he was quite a character), an owl named Bonnie to deliver the rings during the ceremony (OMG!), a day-of-event planner to make everything go smoothly (priceless!), and of course, a STUNNING venue that needed no decoration other than flowers for the tables. The castle is also a hotel, so my guests were able to stay the night without having to drive home after drinking, which is a bonus.
My BFF got married in a public garden in Pasadena, so she had to bring in everything (even a fancy portable bathroom). She made that garden look like an enchanted wonderland, and it was truly magical! She had great colored lighting, candles, gold gothic place settings, greenery, pumpkins, beautifully mismatched drinking goblets, and a ton of vintage and gothic-inspired furniture and props (think gramophones, Victorian sofas, gold frames, bird cages). There were long tables for dining, a beautiful arch with dramatic lighting for the couple to sit for dinner, a dance floor and a photo booth. All of this was up her alley, and it was what was important to her. It was truly amazing to attend this wedding, but I know it was a lot of work for her to set it all up.
Again, this goes back to figuring out what is most important for you and your partner. For my BFF, setting the stage for a vintage, gothic, Tim Burton-esque, Disney-esque, Halloween-inspired wedding, was important, and was well worth the extra work that it took to create. I would have had a mental breakdown if there was anything more than what I already had on my plate with a venue that did a lot for me! Bottom line – figure out what you can handle, and what is important to you, and do that.
Wedding Survival Tip 3 – Hire a wedding planner.
I didn’t think I needed a wedding planner. Then about half-way through my planning I found Lisa Bauer of Tartan Weddings. It turns out, I DID need her help! For one thing, unless you’ve been married before, or had a hand in planning a wedding, there might be things you don’t know. One good example is a shot list for the photographer. It hadn’t occurred to me, but Lisa told me I needed one, and she was right. On the day of the wedding, you are SO distracted, and it’s important for the photographer to know in advance which shots are important to you (i.e. shot of the engraved wedding flutes, shot of me and my sister together, shot of the owl ring bearer, etc.).
But Lisa did so much more than that. I magically found her by accident through a friend, and after talking with her, came to realize that she not only got married in the SAME CASTLE (there are actually a lot of castles in Scotland), but she also walked down the aisle to the SAME SONG (an instrumental version of The Pixies “Where is My Mind”). How crazy is that? Not exactly a common wedding theme! Lisa connected me with a string quartet (led by Morag Swietlicki) who had already learned the Pixies song for her wedding (so no extra charge for that!), and they were able to learn an Arcade Fire song for the recessional. The quartet was unexpected (we were just planning on using an ipad and a speaker), but added SO much emotion and beauty to the ceremony. Just hearing their beautiful music made a lot of people cry!
Lisa is FROM Scotland, so she helped us figure out a lot of the customs. (Why they call the wedding dinner a “wedding breakfast” I will never understand!) She lives in New York now but travels to Scotland often. She drove several hours from where she was staying in Scotland to visit Dalhousie Castle, meet with our wedding coordinator at the castle, and Skype with us. It was really nice to visually see how the castle was laid out and where our guests would be having drinks and dining. She also finalized a lot of last minute details with the castle that Gregg and I wouldn’t have even known to ask. We couldn’t afford a pre-wedding trip to Scotland to do a tasting and take a tour, so Lisa did that for us.
Wedding Survival Tip 4 – Don’t skimp on the photographer!
Finding an amazing photographer was very high on the list of important wedding must-haves for myself and for Gregg. Even if a really great photographer is not an immediate “must have” for you, please consider that after the wedding is over, and everything is a blur, your photos will stand the test of time. You’ll want to share them with friends and family (those who were there and those who were NOT there will want to see them), and you’ll probably want to frame some for your home. You may even want to send out holiday cards or thank you cards with images from the wedding.
We spent a lot of time researching to find someone who we thought could capture some amazing photos from our big day. I found Lauren McGlynn (a Texas girl who lives with her family in Scotland) through Offbeat Bride and Instagram, and was blown away by her dark, saturated style, and ability to capture photos of couples that didn’t look posed. Her images were somehow dramatic and light-hearted at the same time. When we had our first, pre-wedding photo shoot with her in Edinburgh, we realized that we had picked the right one! She made us feel so comfortable (and we were both quite nervous), and the photos we have received so far have been EPIC! Check out more of Lauren’s work on Instagram.
Wedding Survival Tip 5 – Hire a videographer or ask a trusted guest to take video clips.
This is one of the things I regret. I didn’t hire a videographer, because I didn’t think I’d want to watch the whole wedding again. I still don’t think I needed a full video of the day, but some clips during the ceremony would have been nice. Gregg’s brother shot some cell phone video of the owl ring bearer, which was awesome. I would have liked more, but I didn’t think to ask anyone to do it! My photographer didn’t want people to take photos during the ceremony, because a bunch of cell phones doesn’t look good in the photos. I should have designated ONE person to take amateur video/photos and discussed it with my photographer in advance, so she was aware. Learn from my mistake!
Wedding Survival Tip 6 – Use an app to collect photos taken by guests.
I didn’t think about how long it would take for professional photos to be edited. Our photographer, Lauren, was nice enough to send some RIGHT away (about 20 or so), but I won’t get the rest for about a month and a half. I should have known this, because even for a blogger, editing photos is a LOT of work, and I imagine a professional photographer has even more to do. So because of that, I’m glad some of my friends and family were snapping photos. As I mentioned, it was a very small wedding, and not everyone in my family or Gregg’s are accustomed to taking lots of photos at events. Some of them are from a pre-digital generation (like our parents) and barely use smart phones at all.
But luckily, a few friends and family members (who weren’t IN the ceremony) snapped some great photos. It’s hard to wrangle all the photos after a wedding, but I sent out a link to The Guest wedding photo sharing app before-hand, and I got some great shots from those who signed up to use it. One thing to be aware of – this app has a setting to auto-capture photos from those who sign up, so it automatically uploaded all of my photos from the 24 hours or so on the wedding day. It auto-uploaded EVERYTHING – including those I didn’t want to share. I was able to go in and delete any I didn’t want in there, and was able to toggle the auto-upload off. The GOOD part of that, is that it shared lots of photos from my friends and family automatically, without me having to ask!
If you’re having a big wedding, you may also want to put out signs asking guests to use a specific hashtag, so you can find photos on social media. Even though I’m a social media freak, I knew my wedding was too small (and many guests not being social media users) for this to be useful.
Wedding Survival Tip 7 – Not everything has to be a keepsake.
The billion dollar wedding industry makes us think we need to have every single thing engraved, customized or in our “wedding colors”. I’m ALL for getting some keepsakes, but be picky! Not every thing you buy for your wedding has to be a keepsake. Do you really want a room full of junk after your wedding, or a few really special pieces that will remind you of your special day?
Gregg and I spent A LOT on our cake topper. Way more than I ever thought was even possible (apparently it’s common but I had no idea). This doesn’t have to be your thing, but it was our thing, and I’m glad we did it. We found a beautiful custom lion and bunny wooden cake topper Heartmade Cottage on Etsy and I hemmed and hawed over it for a long time. The bunny represents me (My Beauty Bunny obviously!) and the lion represents Gregg (his Hebrew name means lion cub). We looked at other wedding toppers but I couldn’t get this one out of my head. It was so specific to us, adorable, and something we could keep forever. I finally bought it, and was delighted to see that Heartmade Cottage could even customize the flowers to match our wedding flowers!
It looked amazing on our beautiful cake (made by Rustic Cakes by Annie). Annie created a vanilla cake with pink berry frosting. Originally we were going to do a half-naked cake, but after seeing a beautiful pink (fully iced) cake on Pinterest, I changed my mind. Our florist, Narcissus Flowers, gave Annie some sprigs from our ceremony to add, and the whole thing was just beautiful.
Speaking of our amazing florist, Narcissus Flowers, here are some more shots of my bouquet and the table settings. JUST BEAUTIFUL. I loved that I was able to give them a general idea of what I wanted (wild-looking, trailing bouquet, burgundy and pink mixed with lots of greens) and they just ran with it. I was mesmerized by that bouquet. I noticed that they even put in a thistle, which is Scotland’s national flower!
The other major keepsake we had was a pair of champagne toasting flutes from Things Remembered. We got the Fifth Avenue Toasting Flutes because they looked like they were made for the king and queen of the castle! I was sick, and not drinking that night so I had some sparkling fruity cider and Gregg had champagne. Everyone at our table commented on them because they were so gorgeous. I plan to have a drink with Gregg on our one year wedding anniversary (hey maybe EVERY year – we’ll see!).
I also got some personalized gifts for our maid of honor and best man from Things Remembered. I gave my sister this gorgeous feather cuff bracelet in silver, engraved with my nickname for her (her name is Eva but she was always Evie to us growing up). Gregg gave his brother, Bruce, a set of silver cufflinks with engraved initials. I meant to give them their gifts BEFORE the wedding so they could wear them, but of course, I got distracted and didn’t give them out until the reception. Doh!
For wedding favors, we bought some royal-inspired bottle openers. One we received them, we thought they were kind of boring on their own, so we took them to Things Remembered to get them engraved with our initials. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Beauty Bunny wedding without beauty products! We were thrilled to give our guests the gift of Skin Nutrition Active Serum from Marinical, a natural and cruelty free Scottish-made skincare brand. the hydrating serum made with rose hips, carrot seeds and sacha inchi, was perfect for our guests who had traveled on long overseas flights to a cold climate. Their skin needed the love!
Wedding Survival Tip 8 – Don’t wait too long to find a dress.
I waited WAY too long to start dress shopping. Honestly I was very anxious about it and I was actively trying to lose weight and get into better shape. So I put it off until almost the last possible minute. It takes a long time to choose, order, and alter/fit a wedding dress, so I’d advise at least six months minimum. I started shopping about four months prior to getting on a plane to Scotland.
I was lucky enough to find an amazing company called Coco Melody that was able to help me find a dress and then customize it to my exact needs. Coco Melody has an online shop and boutiques all over the world. Luckily, they also have one in downtown Los Angeles! I knew I wanted a vintage-inspired, long sleeved, v-neck dress. My BFF and I shopped there at the same time (she got an amazing custom black lace over white sheath dress), and it was really nice to go through this experience with her. We told them, “No we don’t want to look like princesses – we are queens!”
I was happy to find a shell with an ivory sheath with lace overlay (I didn’t want anything poofy) and a bodice with built-in cups (no strapless bra needed – hooray!). Abigail and the team at Coco Melody looked at photos I showed them, and added in the v-neck and long, lacy sleeves. We also added a belt or sash with some bling to add interest and create a slimming effect. The lace and beading on the sleeves and on the back of the dress was just beautiful. The fitting took two tries, and I did lose some weight, so it had to be taken in (and a few other tweaks made). Because I waited so long, I had to ask them to rush a bit more than usual. Luckily, they were more than happy to help, but because I waited, I didn’t get my dress until three days before I had to leave for Scotland!
I wore a STUNNING tiara by Cassandra Lynne. I mean, when else do you get to wear a tiara? Our photographer, Lauren, told me the day before the wedding she hated tiaras. Then on the day of the wedding, she told me she completely changed her mind after seeing this one with the final look!
My mom also bought me a gorgeous faux fur shawl for the outdoor photos (I think she found it on Etsy). I bought a dainty garnet necklace from Shail Jewels on Etsy (to go with my custom, art deco-inspired garnet and diamond wedding ring).
My sister, Eva, the maid of honor (and ONLY bridesmaid) picked out a bridesmaid dress from JJ’s House. I love that they have so many colors to choose from and the prices are reasonable. Another bonus tip – don’t make your bridesmaids pay too much for dresses or pre-wedding events – don’t be that bride! My sister was able to find a style to fit her taste and body type with the color I picked (a burgundy/wine called “claret”). I recommend ordering color swatches before you choose the color, as it’s VERY hard to tell by looking at photos online.
Wedding Survival Tip 9 – Have a hair and makeup trial.
I actually didn’t really think I NEEDED a trial, but since it was included in my package from AMM Team, I thought I’d take advantage of the offer, and get it done on the same day as our pre-wedding photo shoot while in Edinburgh. As it turned out, the hair and makeup I had planned for the wedding were pretty, but not really me. I originally planned on hair extensions with lots of curls, a tiara, a pink holo eye look with minimal eyeliner, pink lip, and lots of lashes. I felt like I looked like a princess, but at heart I knew I was a queen! 😉 So, with the advice from my friends, I completely changed things up, and went with a red lip, smoky neutral eye, and looser waves with no hair extensions. I still kept the tiara, but I think it looked so much better (and more ME) with the more dramatic glam look.
Anne Marie and Donna from AMM Team were so gracious and patient when I told them I was changing it all up. They told me that’s what a trial is for, and I couldn’t agree more. Big shout out to them for making me feel comfortable and being really good at what they do. Anne Marie even helped me into my dress right before the ceremony! They were both easy-going, professional and fun to talk to. Somehow they made me look glamorous even though I was SO sick with a cold! True experts! And nothing makes me feel more glam than my Too Faced Matte-tallic liquid lipstick in “Bitch I’m Too Faced!” I consider this my new signature red lipstick – it’s amazing. Click here for full details on my makeup, hair and skincare for my wedding day!
I was also thrilled to have Hollywood Mirrors (despite the name it’s a UK company) bring in a Julia Hollywood mirror for the day. When you’re getting married in a dark castle, it’s important to have good lighting for makeup and hair! I don’t think they ship to the US just yet, but if they ever do, I want one for my vanity!
I also set up Mona B Bride and Groom makeup and cosmetic bags for me and Gregg for the day of the ceremony. I put in beauty and grooming things we would need the day of the wedding, so we wouldn’t have to go through all our luggage to find what we need. I also carried day of the wedding essentials in my “Bride to Be That’s Me” shoulder bag. It was so helpful for both of us to have these things set aside, plus how cute are the bags?!
As a side note, the Katana Femme kimono robe I bought on Etsy for the “getting ready photos” was pricy, but so worth it. I’ve never owned any robe or lingerie this beautiful before. I bought it because I wanted a robe that would be glam, but also cover me up. The obi closure on this kimono not only looks amazing, it keeps you from spilling out when you’re getting ready in front of a photographer and half a dozen people! I felt very “Old Hollywood” while wearing it!
Wedding Survival Tip 10 – Plan a pre-wedding FUN event with close friends and family.
Okay sure, the wedding rehearsal dinner can be fun, but in my experience it was a bit stressful. It turned out okay, but I’m really glad we planned some other fun events with friends and family before the wedding. We had an informal dinner in Edinburgh with just Gregg, myself and our parents (since they hadn’t met yet), and I’m so glad we did that. It was a really nice chance for them to get to know each other.
Not long after we got to Scotland we did a Rabbie’s Tour of Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Scottish Highlands that turned out to be just “friends” since none of our family members could make it. That turned out to be a great thing, because it was a smaller group, and I got some bonding time with my good friends: Sharon, Rocky, Courtney (you may know her from Phyrra.net) and her husband Ray. We got on the tour bus early in the morning for this all-day trip. Our tour guide, Iain, was full of information and very sweet. He entertained us with lots of Scottish trivia and even songs on the way to Loch Ness. We stopped at several scenic points along the way to explore, take photos and get snacks and potty breaks. It was a day trip, and it was long, so I did doze off a few times along the way.
We saw some of the most amazing views and my photos can’t do them justice. It was breathtaking. And no – we didn’t see Nessie (although Gregg claims he did), but we stopped at a pub in Loch Ness with non-memorable food, but quite memorable whisky (Fun Fact – Scots spell it without an E)! Gregg was never a whisky drinker, but now he’s obsessed with Highland Park Whisky! Rabbie’s also has a great Edinburgh city tour that I wasn’t able to go on, but a few of my friends did and they enjoyed it.
Wedding Survival Tip 11 – If you’re having a destination wedding, plan events for your guests.
At first we were going to let people explore Scotland on their own in the five days leading up to the wedding. Then it occurred to me that it would be crazy stressful to have 24 people calling and texting me to see where we were eating or what we were doing. I worried that I may not get to hang out with some people at all, or that some might feel left out.
So instead I scheduled group tours for each day of the trip, and everyone was invited to attend the ones they wanted to go to. I basically just said – “Here’s what we’re doing, come join us if you can”, and had everyone fill out a Google survey to let me know which tours they wanted to join. We also had the rehearsal dinner (which was just a dinner – not an actual rehearsal) at Twenty Princes Street in Edinburgh. That was the only dinner we planned other than a last minute dinner with our parents, because it was hard to find a place to accommodate such a large group (and most would want us to put down a deposit). Note to travelers – many of the restaurants in Edinburgh are on the small side (kind of like New York City), so even a group of 6 or so was often a challenge without reservations.
In addition to the Highlands tour I mentioned above, another noteworthy tour that everyone loved was the Ghost Bus Tour! We got on a really creepy, cool, black, two-decker “Necrobus” that was outfitted with velvet curtains and vintage-style lamps. The tour guide was funny and there was lots of campy, creepy humor, but safe for kids because there’s nothing super scary. Nothing jumped out at you (which is good because that would have been a deal-breaker for some of my friends)! The best part was that we got to explore old St. Cuthbert’s church and cemetery at night. Lots of beautiful monuments to take in while the tour guide told ghost stories. Overall, it was a really fun experience and I think everyone enjoyed it! There’s also a Ghost Bus Tour in London.
We also did the Real Mary King’s Close tour which is again, not really scary, but very cool. You go through the old closes (or alleys) and learn what it would have been like to live with your whole family in tiny, almost underground stone houses that are smaller than many people’s living rooms. Be prepared for a lot of standing for that one.
Wedding Survival Tip 12 – I was sick on my wedding day, and no one died. There WILL be problems, get ready to roll with them!
So, Gregg and I were sort of fighting off colds leading up to the wedding (and my BFF was sick for HER wedding a week prior), and we thought we were winning. We were taking all our immunity supplements, taking hot baths with CBD bath bombs to reduce inflammation (shout out to Kush Queen!), using tons of hand sanitizer, even wiping down the seats on the plane! Unfortunately, the stress of wedding planning, long-haul overseas travel, lugging around 200 lbs of luggage (literally – I’m not kidding!), and LOTS of walking and stair climbing did us in.
About an hour after our rehearsal dinner, I got SO sick. Gunk was pouring out of my nose, I had a headache and muscle aches and I was exhausted. I took some meds, hoped for the best and went to bed. The next morning I was even worse. I was so upset, but what could I do? I googled “bride sick on my wedding day” to see what other people were saying. Someone mentioned going to urgent care to get a cortisone shot, but I wasn’t sure how to do that in Scotland, and quite frankly, I didn’t have time. I ended up staying in my hotel in Edinburgh and skipping a lot of the pre-wedding prep that was supposed to happen at the castle (which was about 30 minutes south of Edinburgh).
I skipped out on meeting the florist and cake baker (which was sad – I wanted to meet them) and I missed a lot of the pre-wedding stuff, but you know what? It was fine. In addition to sleeping in, I was lucky enough to borrow some very strong medicine from a family member, and my good friends drove all around town to pick up more meds, tissues and energy drinks for me! It was really sweet to see everyone rally to help me. I also was sure to drink a lot of water and electrolytes, plus, I had a great makeup artist and hair team. They made me look glam and un-zombie-like, which is why no one can tell I was sick in the photos!
I also ended up canceling the after-dinner drinks portion of the evening. I could tell that most of our guests were tired, my meds were wearing off and I was DONE by then. No one even know it was canceled (or that it was going to happen in the first place), and I could tell some of my family was very happy to go to their rooms to sleep! There were a few party animals (including Gregg’s parents!) who stayed up drinking and mingling at the castle bar, and that worked out perfectly. The castle is open to the public, so it’s not like the whole venue shut down when I went to sleep!
This is going to sound weird, but being exhausted and sick actually made me so much less nervous. I wasn’t even stressed or anxious at all until right before it was time to take first-look photos and head in to the ceremony. And if you know me at all, you know I’m prone to anxiety, and especially in a situation like this. I’m not saying I would have wanted it this way, but looking on the bright side and all… 🙂
SO – moral of the story is that stuff WILL go wrong and you have to get creative with solutions, think positive and say “the show must go on!”
Do you guys have any other great wedding survival stories? I would LOVE to hear them! Leave me a comment below.
You can also check out my wedding beauty prep guide. I have to be honest and say I didn’t take my own advice when it came to threading my face. I normally wax my brows and pluck any rand-o hairs that show up on my chin, but when my waxing guy suggested he could also thread my face, I thought, what the hell. Turns out, that was a bad idea, because not only did the hairs grow back before my wedding day, I broke out with tons of red bumps (a la razor rash). So do as I say, not as I do, and be very cautious with beauty prep before your big day!
And if you want to see more pics from my wedding day, be sure to follow me on Instagram!