If it hasn’t happened yet, eventually some of the thrill of being a bride-to-be will give way to reality. And the truth is, you’re ultimately in charge of planning an event that’s supposed to be memorable and entertaining for family and friends. Even with a short guest list, the task can seem daunting – especially considering how many components comprise a wedding – and the hardest part can be living up to the expectations of your boss: you.
How do you actually plan the wedding you’ve been planning all your life? Push those other bridal magazines aside, clear your mind and read this. The wedding of Alexandra Dillard and Craig Lucie was one of the largest recently held in Arkansas. And if their wedding, which included thousands of flowers, can be done, so can yours. We asked the August 2009 bride and her wedding planner, Todd Bagwell of Delaney T. Bagwell Associates, to share their experience and expertise for your benefit. Here’s what they had to say:
Find Your Inspiration
“If you are really familiar with what you want, you should provide vendors with as many pictures and examples as possible so they know exactly what you’re asking for,” Alexandra said. “If you don’t know, look in magazines, interior design books and on blogs.” Alexandra drew her inspiration from the architecture and interior design of two posh settings – the opulent BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City and the contemporary Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif. “I also wanted to create a sense of a grand affair with lots of draping, statement flowers and candles.”
To blend her inspirations, Bagwell created a design book that included photo examples, sketches and fabric swatches and later storyboarded the entire event for Alexandra. Whether you hire a wedding planner or not, you can – and should – use the same process to get organized, Bagwell says. Piecing plans together as you go along usually ends in a disjointed affair. “I don’t believe in jigsaw puzzles; I believe in masterpieces.”
Sync Stationary, Wedding & Reception
After laying out your inspiration blueprint, stationary is the next step. Consider spending more money here than on flowers – invitations are the most important aspect, Bagwell says. “This is the first time your guests will see what you are planning; it sets the tone.” Alexandra wanted to incorporate a custom monogram throughout the wedding, so save-the-date cards, invitations and subsequent stationary featured distinct graphic design elements as well as unique aspects. The wedding programs, for example, featured the same font and design but were made into fans and decorated with ivory ribbon and painted gold handles.
Once you send the first piece of correspondence, don’t shift your design scheme, Bagwell says. A design statement has already been made to guests, and they’ll be anticipating the event to make the same statement.
Feature the Flowers
Don’t worry about having little arrangements on every table, Alexandra says. Instead, focus on statement pieces – arrangements people will remember – and spotlight whatever you want to show off. “I feel like if you are investing any significant amount of money into something – like the cake, ice sculpture or a dramatic flower arrangement – you should spotlight them. It makes a huge difference,” she says.
Floral designer Chris Norwood of Tipton & Hurst created voluptuous bouquets for the bridal party and dramatic floral focal points among the drapery. The columns were wrapped in flowers and staggering 10-foot-tall flower arrangements framed the dance floor, crowned the lounge chairs and towered over tables – all capturing the essence of romance Alexandra envisioned.
Vary the Décor
A couple of décor decisions made a major impact on the overall design, Alexandra said. “I’ve always noticed that when people don’t do anything to the dance floor, their pictures kind of fall flat, so we went with a black and white dance floor. It’s not a huge expense and it really looks incredible and is impactful.”
Just as the floor was different from the rest of the décor, not everything at your wedding should come from the same inspiration, Bagwell says. Instead, blend complementary accessories. Alexandra used custom-made lace overlays for the tables, gold velvet banquettes, white lounge furniture and other architectural elements to bring out the best in her initial inspirations. The Lucite bar’s backsplash harkened a room at the Viceroy; the gold chiavari chairs emulated elements of the BG Restaurant; elaborate draping at the church created dramatic entryways and a glamorous backdrop at the country club; and a monogram throughout tied everything back to the couple.
Be Gracious to Your Guests
Cater to your guests’ needs from arrival to departure – think about their comfort levels with food, navigation and accommodations. If you give them information, they can make choices on their own. “The last thing you want two days before your wedding is a ton of inquiries about where to eat,” Bagwell says. They’ll also appreciate other activities hosted by family and friends.
Alexandra and Craig wanted their out-of-town guests to experience the South, as many had never been to Arkansas. Gift boxes – designed in step with the rest of the event – left in their hotel rooms were filled with personalized water bottles, Little Rock-made J&M Cheese Straws, Community Bakery cookies shaped as miniature wedding cakes and a weekend itinerary outlining daily events.
The reception fare gave guests a sample of Southern cuisine. Shrimp and grits, mini twice-baked potatoes and Pettit Jean sugar-cured ham, as well as mint juleps and peach mojitos, were all on the menu. Whole Hog Café miniature barbecue sandwiches with French fries from Burger House in Dallas – the couples’ favorite on-campus eatery at Southern Methodist University – were served for late-night snacks.
Call Eyes to the Cake
As a teenager, Alexandra visited the New York City bakery of famed cake decorator Sylvia Weinstock with her mother and sisters and was mesmerized by the desserts decorated with delicate sugar flowers. In similar fashion, her six-tier wedding cake, created by Lisa’s Cake Boutique in Conway, stood more than four feet tall and featured hundreds of sugar flowers. “It looked as if it were growing,” Alexandra said. Still, your cake doesn’t have to be this tall or elaborate to make a dramatic statement. Set it atop a tall table and fix a spotlight on it to wow guests and water their mouths.
After you’ve done all the planning and the day arrives, leave some things to chance. Trust those you’ve hired to do their jobs, and don’t sweat every detail because you can’t control everything. “You can’t think about it on the big day,” Alexandra said. “Think about how you’re surrounded by all your friends and family and how you only get to do this once.” She said that her most special memories from the day weren’t of the décor. Instead, they are the bouquet toss that her sisters caught and the surprise she received when Craig jumped on stage and sang “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got” to her during the reception. “It was so adorable,” she said.
Alexandra’s shoes were a gift designed for her by her father’s close friend, Vince Camuto, and his staff. They actually made her two sets – one for the ceremony with her maiden name embroidered inside and the other for the reception with her new married name.
Alexandra’s two sisters chose one-shoulder, floor-length ABS by Allen Schwartz frocks with rosette details as the bridesmaids’ dresses. Alexandra wore a Monique Lhuillier gown she first saw on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily.
The Rest of the Story
Alexandra Dillard (yes, that Dillard) met Craig during a greek function at SMU, where they were both pursing degrees. A romance quickly ensued and followed the pair around the country and the world. Their eight-year, long-distance relationship flourished despite Craig’s work as a news anchorman in changing markets and Alexandra’s travels to Asia and Los Angeles for her budding fashion career. “We’ve had an unconventional relationship, but I wouldn’t do again it any other way,” she said.
Their cross-country dating culminated with a charming proposal. Craig planned a surprise trip to Cumberland Island, Ga. – known for beautiful beaches, wild horses and as the location of Carolyn Bessette and John F. Kennedy Jr.’s wedding – and proposed to Alexandra on the beach nearby a Southern plantation. “[It] couldn’t have been a more perfect and meaningful location for the two of us,” she said. “I couldn’t have dreamed of a better engagement!”
They married at Trinity Episcopal Church of Little Rock and held their reception at the Little Rock Country Club. They’re currently living happily ever after.