I’ve realized recently I haven’t shared much about my own experience as a bride. Here’s the details:

Background: My husband Keith and I met at a mutual friend’s production of “Grease”. We only barely knew each other, but ended up sitting next to one another (after a little encouragement from my mom and his sister). After dating for a few years and being separated for all of them {I was in New York and London and he was in Maine}, we decided it was time to get married!

One evening in July 2007, Keith took me out to a lovely seafood dinner in Mystic, CT {which turned out to be the restaurant where my parents had dinner the night they got engaged!}. He had wanted to propose while climbing a mountain or on a hike with spectacular views, but he was waiting for a diagnosis on a swollen, painful knee and I had just sprained my ankle. Instead, we hobbled out to Ender’s Island and watched the sunset. He pulled out a pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Everything But The…” and we ate it with great views of the Long Island Sound. He explained there was duct tape along the bottom of the pint because it had been leaking, so he encouraged me to take it off. Not wanting to get my clothes dirty, I politely refused. After much coaxing, I finally took the tape off and an engagement ring came with it! He told me the ice cream was “Everything But The…RING!”

engagement sunset

The Wedding: Since we were getting married just after I had graduated college and while Keith was still recovering from chemotherapy and radiation, our budget was tight. To make things more challenging, we both come from huge families and wanted the day to be shared with them. We ended up having a simple English Tea reception after the ceremony and made sure everything was personal and intimate.

Research: Anything and everything I could get my hands on! I mostly spent time on TheKnot.com and other similar sights. Google Images was a huge help. Also, all the Davids Bridal catalogues helped me to decide what styles, colors, and aesthetics I liked the most.

Website/Blog: Our wedding website was through Bed Bath & Beyond. Free and customizable.

Photosharing: Snapfish and Facebook.

Gift Registry: Bed Bath & Beyond and Macys

Rehearsal Dinner: Held in a friend’s backyard with catering by friends of the family and an altogether laid back and relaxing atmosphere. Keith re-wrote the words to “When You Say Nothing At All” and sang it to me. So special!


Ceremony Location & Officiant: Groton Bible Chapel, Groton, CT. Officiant Bob McCoy {my Father In Law}

Reception Location: The Wauregan Ballroom, Norwich, CT

Bridal Party Members:



  • Todd McCoy {Best Man, Keith’s brother}
  • Jonathan Bayreuther {Keith’s best friend}
  • Dan Widlicka {Keith’s brother-in-law}
  • Nick Reed {Keith’s cousin}
  • Josh McCoy {Keith’s nephew}
  • Molly Giannattasio {Maid of Honor, my sister}
  • Margaret Nitzel {my college roommate}
  • Gwynne Widlicka {Keith’s sister}
  • Jen McCoy {Keith’s sister-in-law}
  • Maggie McCoy {Keith’s niece}
  • Avery Widlicka {Keith’s niece}

Flowers: Fresh flowers done by a local gardner. My bridesmaids and I carried hydrangeas and roses. Since pink hydrangeas weren’t in season, the woman who did the flowers sprayed them pink with floral spray. The guys wore hydrangea and rose boutonnieres with gorgeous leaves to contrast the flowers. The two flower girls carried baskets of sweet william potted plants. The reception flowers were mostly wildflowers in vases that we bought on sale at A.C.Moore, Michaels, and Joann Fabric. The ceremony had silk flowers donated by the woman who does the arrangements for the church. The total came just under $200 for all of the flowers. See more pictures of our flowers in these two posts: Silk Flowers and Fresh Flowers.

Music: For the ceremony, we had Keith’s aunt play a selection of hymns arranged by Chris Rice. I walked down the aisle to “For The Beauty of The Earth”. During our lighting of the unity candle and time for prayer, my friend joined her on violin to play “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. It was really lovely. We exited the ceremony to Henry Purcell’s “Trumpet Voluntary” for piano and trumpet. The reception music was simply a playlist on an iPod.

First Dance: “1000 Miles” by Mark Schultz

Caterer: Jen Sanford with Bonne Bouche Catering out of Wenham, MA. Friends of ours work for her and she is an incredible person to work with! Her menu consisted of tea sandwiches of several varieties as well as lots of other yummy finger foods appropriate for our English Tea.

Cake: A gift from a family friend. White cake with a raspberry filling. Decorated with dark brown ribbon, roses, and hydrangea. In the July heat it started to melt a little bit, but it still tasted good!

Bridal Party Gifts: We gave each of our bridal party members a framed picture of us as well as individual gifts such as gift certificates, trinkets, books, coffee, and soaps/lotions. We gave the flower girls lockets and the ring bearer his own personal ice cream bowl and spoons.

Guest Favors: Since not everyone at the ceremony was able to attend the reception, we handed out favors along with the ceremony programs. Each guest got a small heart-shaped cookie cutter {eBay for $0.50 per piece} with our theme verse: “The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3


Pictures: By Sheila Emsheimer of Ian Puwluk Photography, assisted by my aunt. Portraits were taken at the Connecticut College Arboretum in New London, CT. Engagement photos by Keith’s sister Gwynne at Bluff Point in Groton, CT.


Rings: All three of our rings were bought from a local jeweler who works out of his home. My engagement ring is a solitaire and our wedding bands are simple white gold {mine has small diamonds on the top}.

Invitations: From Wilton, Simple Yet Elegant in Ivory. We used thin brown ribbon instead of the white provided and since we printed them at home, it cost just over $1 per invitation {including stamps and ink}.

Wedding Dress: From Davids Bridal. I did not like the picture in the catalogue, but once I saw this dress in person, I knew it was the one!

Bridal Party Outfits: The bridesmaids and flower girl dresses were from Davids Bridal. The guys wore basic tuxedos from Mens Wearhouse.

Bridal Shoes and Accessories: My shoes were simple heeled sandals on sale at JCPenny. The bridesmaids wore Payless sandals died off white. All jewelry was found at Kohls.

Honeymoon: A weekend at The Norwich Inn & Spa and then a week at a family member’s lake house in Ashford, CT.

Thank You Cards: Within a few weeks of the wedding, I sent out the thank you cards since we were about to move and start graduate school. We picked our favorite portrait from the wedding and secured it to the front of an ivory colored blank card {found at Michaels}. This way, our guests got a picture of us from the wedding as well as our gratitude.

Wedding Book: I used Blurb.com to create our own wedding book as well as smaller ones for our parents and grandparents. They pricing was very reasonable!

Blog: Soon after we got married, all of our other friends did too. As an effort to catalogue all my ideas and methods for planning a wedding, I started this blog. I hope it will help other brides gather ideas and encouragement for elegant weddings under a tight budget!

Funny Moments: We forgot to give the bridal party directions to the photography location, so some of them took quite a bit of time getting from the ceremony to pictures. Before the ceremony, I locked my keys in my car – everything was in there except for my dress! Keith’s brother found out the week before that we were calling our wedding day “Happy Naked Day” and honored it by making us t-shirts which he presented during his toast. There were many other crazy and unpredictable moments, but they made the day that much more memorable.


Over a year later, we look fondly on our wedding day and are so thankful to have shared our marriage with so many people! We look forward to the adventures ahead.


If I’ve forgotten to mention anything, feel free to ask: wintheweddinggame@gmail.com


I truly believe the best way to gather ideas about planning a wedding and saving money while doing it is to glean tips from weddings you attend. This past weekend my husband’s cousin got married in Roswell, Georgia at The Great Oaks and Kristie (the bride) did a fantastic job of planning an elegant wedding on a budget. Below are pictures and notes about what I liked best.

Chase-Kristie_ProgramThe program for the ceremony was beautiful. It was on an ecru colored card stock paper with the program of events form the ceremony on one side and list of participants on the other. Double sided is a great way to cut costs and the brown ink with green ribbon tied in very well with their colors.

Chase-Kristie_ProcessionalThe three flower girls (all sisters) were each dressed in different white dresses and each had a clover green bow. Kristie’s dress was gorgeous and I loved the light colored tuxes for the guys! Kristie (and all the bridesmaids) carried silk green hydrangeas. The groom and groomsmen had fresh pink roses for their boutonnieres.

Chase-Kristie_Ceremony FlowersBoth the mother of the bride and mother of the groom carried a small nosegay of fresh pink roses and green berries. The outdoor ceremony setup was beautiful. White chairs created an aisle lined by silk rose petals. Every few rows a rusty metal heart contained more silk green flowers with a chocolate brown bow. These were also carried to the reception and used for decoration there. Kristie’s use of silk was brilliant since the hot Georgia sun made some of the fresh flowers fade quickly!

As you can see in the last picture, they got married in front of a well on site that was draped with gorgeous brown fabrics. The entire wedding, ceremony to reception, was elegance personified.

Chase-Kristie_Reception TableI was so excited to see how the buffet table was decorated! The reception was a dessert reception with fruit, chocolate fondue, and cheese with crackers as well as the wedding cake. This first table of the buffet was arrange like the tables at my wedding (I conveniently have no pictures of them!). Kristie used candles and silk flowers on top of a lovely chocolate brown textured fabric. As you can see in this picture, interest was create using levels underneath the fabric and table cloth. Gorgeous!

Chase-Kristie_Candy BarAlong with the dessert reception, Chase & Kristie had a candy bar. It consisted of several differently shaped glass containers filled to the brim with a variety of candies. The basket in front had small gift bags with Chase & Kristie’s name on them for guests to bring home candy as favors! Each glass container had brown and green ribbons and were so adorable.

Chase-Kristie_RecessionalCongratulations, cousins Chase & Kristie!! Thanks for letting us share in your big day and planning an elegant wedding.

P.S. How gorgeous is her dress?!

I found this article fascinating:

A Wedding to Remember: Shopping for the “Perfect” Dress

The short version is several brides took part in an experiment to see if friends and family would support the bride’s choice of a hideous dress (or wedding outfit, as it turns out), or would they force her to choose something different. The bride had the chance to step out of the room and observe the true feelings of her friends and family as they discussed her choice of wedding gowns.

Most were not gracious.

What do you think? Should you support the bride’s taste and instinct since it’s her day or should you perform an intervention to make sure she looks stunning?

I went with a friend to her dress fitting the other day and everything I learned from planning my own wedding came rushing back — it was as if I was in the think of it myself! I realized that I might really enjoy helping people plan weddings and events, at least part time.

Here are some of the things we talked about:


The Dress…

  • How does it fit? It should bit like a glove; don’t be afraid to spend money getting it altered because alterations can make a slightly uncomfortable dress into something you won’t mind wearing all day!
  • What to wear underneath? Find the perfect bra — it makes a huge difference.
  • Don’t forget your shoes for your fitting…and like the bra, comfort makes all the difference.


  • What style are you looking for? Tight and neat or loose and wild? Perfectly arranged or as if you just grabbed flowers from a field?
  • Monochromatic or vibrant colors?
  • Exposed stems? Ribbons? Other accessories?
  • One type of flower or many? Greens or no?
  • Look through magazines or online and keep pictures saved of what catches your eye.
  • Remember, finding things you don’t like is just as important in deciding what you want!
I was just given this article by the author of The Quillcards Blog and I thought it was really interesting…
It’s an article all about the history of the wedding dress and the many colors (other than white) that has been fashionable. You can read the article here!