"Love is All You Need"

Everyone has a thought or two about marriage and weddings. Some of you dream about small weddings with only family, some want to invite the whole town and close down Main Street, while others are just as happy jumping on a plane to Vegas and getting married by "The King" himself.

We love "LOVE." We love weddings, celebrating and hearing two people make promises to one another that are selfless, perfect and amazing.... "I Erik take you Ariel to be my wife, to have and to hold, through sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, as long as we both shall live." It's okay, wipe away the tears.

Were The Beatles right? Is love all we really need? I think so! There is nothing that cannot be accomplished with the love of friends, family, and "the one." But I will admit, there were times, wedding, and receptions where I didn't think that there was enough love in the world to pull it off. In the end, I am happy to say that I have never had a runaway bride and I have never had a reception not happen. It has been close, but so far in my wedding planning career - I am batting a thousand.

I hope you enjoy my stories and journey, but like any fabulous Lifetime movie - the places and names have been changed to protect the lovely people I have had the chance to work with, but believe me....everything else is pure fact. I couldn't make this stuff up.

So with this ring, I thee wed.
The "I Do" Expert

Five Alarm Fire

“Love is a burnin’ thing,
It makes a fiery ring.
Bound by my desires,
I fell into a ring of fire.”
Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash

After my first meeting with Sarah and Billy, I knew that this wedding was going to be a roller coaster. She was probably in her late 30s and he in his early 30s. She already had two children, and he was not the father. Sarah definitely wore the pants in the relationship.

Sarah knew exactly what she wanted to happen at her wedding reception during our first meeting which took place about two years prior to the wedding day. A month later, when we met again, everything changed. Then three months later, a complete change again. I do not like to use pencils, they always smudge, but I found that anytime I had an appointment with Sarah I automatically reached for a pencil because I knew something was going to change. At one point, we had to change the whole bridal party because they all had an intervention with her about how controlling and demanding she was and that they were through with it. Hello, red flag! Of course they were all just jealous of the love that she and Billy had and she had SO many friends it would be easy to find replacements.

This will be a wedding that will always stick out in my mind. Why? Because it was themed. My only experience with themed weddings at this point had been watching “A Wedding Story” on TLC. Sarah and Billy wanted a firefighter themed wedding. Nope, this wasn’t a birthday party for Sarah’s four year old son; you read correctly, this is for their wedding. Maybe the “Volunteer Firefighters Do It For Free” T-shirt the groom to be was sporting should have tipped me off, but sitting at the table it was like a backdraft swept through the room and took my breath away.

A firefighter themed wedding. What do I know about a firefighter wedding? Thinking that maybe the theme would change the next time we had a meeting, I didn’t put too much thought into it except having the bride and groom arrive at the wedding reception in a fire engine. I guess I wrote this down only because I never thought that it would be allowed. I mean what would happen if there was an actual fire and the fire truck was joy riding around town. I can see the head lines now. “Million Dollar Homes Burn So That Bride Could Make A Red Hot Entrance.”

Well, apparently, volunteer firefighters have a lot of pull in the department. We had the fire truck on loan for the arrival of the bride and groom. I shared the news at our meeting. “Sarah, Billy, great news! We have a fire truck secured for your wedding reception to bring you to the party!” Yes, I successfully accomplished my first theme wedding. “All of your guests know you are a firefighter, so I was thinking we could use red flowers, black linens, and make it very elegant and incorporate colors associated with firefighting.” I was proudly patting myself on the back for making a “themed” wedding as classy as possible on the budget we were working with, but not going too cheesy like four year old birthday party with fire trucks, helmets, hoses, etc. When I looked across the table smiling at Sarah and Billy, their blank stares indicated that they either hated the ideas or that I was now speaking fluent German. “And what else?” Sarah finally said.

OK, think......think......think.....channel your inner Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, and James Taylor. They all sang about fire, how can we make it work? "Ring of Fire” Nah. “Standing Outside The Fire?” Definite possibilities, firefighters try to keep people standing outside the fire. “Fire and Rain.” Yes! Mix some blues in the color scheme, maybe smoke, fire and water?

“I know!” Billy says. I was relieved because at least they were talking to me and I wasn’t fired. “Let’s use our fire hose,” Hmmmmmm. Really? Interesting idea. “And fire protection gear.” Billy continued. Waiting for a reaction from the mousey bride, I bit my lip. “Please say no, please say no, please say no” I chanted in my head. “I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!” she squeaked. “That’s why I love you! Isn’t he great!” she gushed. Seriously? You want fire hose, helmets, boots, and toy trucks at your wedding? Ok, to each his own right?

Decor and color scheme. Check!

When it came to guests and food, I have never been involved in such a harebrained scheme in my whole life. The bride wanted to have a wedding reception and wedding that maxed out the reception hall and church. She wanted no less than 500 guests. Great! The more the merrier! Well, except for the fact that dear little Sarah only wanted to actually serve dinner to thirty guests, just close family and friends.

After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I tried logic and reason to get Sarah to understand this was not acceptable. You cannot feed only a small fraction of your guests! “Well,” she says very matter-of-factly, “it is not like we aren’t going to give them anything.” Phew! Maybe she just wanted a private dining room for those thirty guests and I misunderstood. They will definitely do some food for the other 470 guests. It is the only thing to do, who only serves 30 people at a wedding. “We will have the bar open while the others are waiting for us to eat.” As she smiled at me and tapped her acrylic nails accented with “diamonds,” All I could hear was my mom’s voice run through my head. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” So I smiled back at her, meanwhile my brain was moving a mile a minute. “You can’t do this! You can’t serve only 30 guests!” I wanted to scream at her, but I couldn’t.

“Great!” she says “Thanks for your time! We will talk to you soon.” And off into the sunset drove the volunteer fireman and his blushing bride to be.

Stunned and Speechless,

The I Do Expert

When a heart is on fire, sparks always fly out of the mouth

Mid-morning my phone rings.  “Good Morning, the I Do Expert.  How can I help you?”  I said as cheerfully as possible for a Monday morning.  “You could help me by doing what you told me you were going to do!!!” screeched the voice on the phone.  

Robin Williams’ voice fills my head saying “GOOOOOOOOOOD Morning Vietnam!”  As soon as Mr. Williams finishes, my mind begins racing as to who this caller could possibly be....and it hit me.  Who could be that rude on the telephone?  The only bride in the world who would be so rude as to serve only thirty guests dinner at her wedding reception.  “Good Morning Sarah.  Something seems to be bothering you,  what can I do to fix it?”

It had been months since I had heard from “sweet”, “kind” Sarah.  Actually, I was glad I hadn’t heard from her in a while.  I had followed up with her via email immediately after our meeting with the estimate for her wedding reception and the fifth floor plan we had worked up.  As we were still over a year away from the wedding, the firefighter themed wedding, I could not imagine what on earth she was so upset about.  Then I thought, Billy realized what he had gotten himself in for and the whole thing was going to be cancelled.

To the silence on the phone line I said “Sarah, is everything okay with you and Billy?”

“Of course it is!  Everything is not okay with me and you!” she barked.

“Sarah, what has you so upset this morning.  You said that I haven’t done something that you wanted me to do?”

“Yes, where’s the floor plan you said you were going to be sending me?”

The floor plan that you have changed eight times? The floor plan that you insist on setting up completely different than anything I recommend?  I wanted to say, but instead I kindly said “I am sorry you are so upset over this.  I sent the floor plan the day after our meeting three months ago.  Why don’t I go ahead and send it to you again.....”  Well long story short, and I will spare you the obscenities that she called me, Sarah changed her email address and forgot to give it to me.  She had changed from her maiden name to her married name already.  Not once did she apologize for jumping off the deep-end over a floor plan for an event over a year away, but she shoved the blame off on me saying “Maybe you aren’t as good as everyone says you are because if I were you, I would have known that I would change my email eventually.”  

Sure Sarah, aside from being a stellar wedding and party planner, I forgot to mention I am a mind reader!  So I have her new email address and sent the floor plan on.  

A few more months fly by, and Sarah, Billy, and I sit down to go over some details to finalize them (in pen this time)!  We have a meeting scheduled.  I had blocked off a good portion of my afternoon for the loving couple.  We discussed decorations, menu, seating charts, etc.  All and all the bride and groom were thrilled.  

Let’s fast forward six months to the glorious day of the wedding and reception.  Everything runs smooth at the wedding ceremony.  The second string bridesmaids did a stellar job of looking like a fairy-tale for the bride.  We finish up pictures at the church while the guests are headed to the reception location.  Everyone is loaded into the fire truck and they are off.  It was like a dream come true....sirens, flashing lights, and people staring to see what was going on.  Sarah was thrilled.  She was perched on the fire engine like she was the prom queen at a county fair parade.  

We arrive at the reception hall and guests are lined up to see the spectacle.  Once inside, we get everyone arranged to be announced into the reception when I hear something coming from the back of the line.  I rush back to find the bride in the midst of a three year old temper tantrum.  She was crying, stomping her feet, and all but flailing on the ground.  

“What’s wrong, are you alright?” I say rushing to her and looking for any sign of serious injury.

“I saw someone wearing my shoes!  Can you ask them to change?  This is my day!”  


Seriously?  I am looking around for the a guy to jump out and say “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” I want to say “Where’s Ashton Kutcher?  Did I just get Punked?” 

Instead I look at her and she is dead serious.  She was the tiniest little bride and her dress was beautiful and full, you couldn’t see her shoes.  When she pulled her dress up to reveal the prized possessions that someone dared to wear at her wedding, I lost my breath a little.  No they were not Manolo’s, not Louboutin’s, not any designer.  They were your run of the mill, clear heeled stripper shoes!  I am surprised they didn’t have glitter or real fish floating around in the heels.  It literally took every ounce of me not to bust up laughing at this point.  

Out of my handy wedding emergency bag I pull a pair of white, glitterized ballet slippers.    “Here Sarah,” I say passing them to her.  “Slip these on, you are going to want to be comfortable the rest of the night and I can guarantee you no one else in here has a pair of these!  I hand made them just for you!”  

With tears in her eyes, she threw her arms around me and gave me the biggest hug.  She was thrilled.  So she was announced, went into the reception and had a fabulous time.  

In the end, I convinced her to take the money she would have spent to serve thirty  guests lobster and steak, and instead serve all of the guests a nice buffet dinner.  So everyone ate!  Yippee!!!!  

6 Firefighter Uniforms (pants, boots, helmet, and suspenders) for Decor - $300.00 deposit to the Fire Chief

500 Buffet Dinners - $3,000

2 Fire Hoses for Decor - Free (they had holes in them)

Happy Bride and Groom - Priceless

I am so glad to have been able to give Sarah and Billy their dream wedding.  I think that every wedding, reception and couple have a lesson they teach me.  

Lesson Learned:  Dream weddings come in all different shapes and sizes.  It is not the final dollar amount spent on a wedding and it is not even doing things by the book.  It is sticking to what makes you happy and enjoying every minute of it.  Sarah especially taught me patience, smiling through it all.  I definitely had to take a “kill them with kindness” mantra to get through this one!  


The I Do Expert